Update: The NBA announced Wednesday evening that it is suspending its season immediately.
Bouncing off a Los Angeles Clippers’ foot early in the third quarter Tuesday night, an orange Spalding basketball flew into the sixth row behind the scorer’s table at Chase Center.
Typically, the ball would have been tossed back into the game without a second thought, but this time, officials responded with screams, ordering game referees to wipe it down before sending it back into play.
“Sanitize it!” someone screamed at Tony Brothers, the crew chief of the Warriors and Clippers game Tuesday night, as the 55-year-old ran a Clorox wipe around the surface of the game ball.
The fear surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the fast-spreading coronavirus, has amplified over the last several days, forcing athletic organizations around the Bay Area to make drastic adjustments in the interest of public safety.
The latest development came Wednesday morning as the city of San Francisco banned all public gatherings of 1,000 people or more.
As result, the Warriors’ scheduled game against the Brooklyn Nets Thursday night will be played without fans in attendance while the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s exhibition game on March 24 has been postponed.
“This is a first for me and probably a first for all of you,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday night before facing off against the Clippers. “It’s brand new and it’s strange. I really don’t know what to think just in everyday life… It’s all very strange and awkward and we’re just going to do what we’re told to do.”
On Monday, just the day before Golden State played what is expected to be the final game this season at Chase Center with a live audience, Santa Clara County announced a similar moratorium after its first death was confirmed to be in direct relation to COVID-19.
The San Jose Sharks, who play at SAP Center in the heart of San Jose, released a statement shortly thereafter in response to the county’s decision.
“We will adhere to the mandated guidelines. No events are scheduled at SAP Center until Tues., March 17,” the Sharks said. “We will be reviewing each scheduled event due to take place for the rest of the month and provide an update in the coming days.”
In San Francisco, there are already 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as that number is expected to increase over the next few weeks. Responding to this, the NBA began taking precautions to keep players, coaches and staff members out of harm’s way.
The first measure was to ban all media members from entering locker rooms pre and post game after the NHL implemented the same policy over the weekend. This news was announced Monday as the MLB and MLS also followed suit.
For the Warriors, however, becoming the first NBA team to bar attendance by fans comes as a massive progression in preventative measures, similar to those made in Italy last week as the country prohibited fans from attending games.
“I feel like as professional basketball players, we can adjust to it,” Warriors forward Eric Paschall said. “I think about it like college when you have those secret scrimmages in the beginning of the season and there’s no one in the gym except you and your team.”
Paschall also voiced his concern about stopping everyday life. He referenced the cancelation of the Ivy League tournament, which was axed due to concerns over COVID-19, also preventing Penn State star Devon Goodman from reaching the 1,000-point mark this season.
“It wasn’t fair to all of those seniors,” Paschall said. “There’s a kid from Penn [State] I know, Devon Goodman. He had 998 points going into the tournament. That’s not fair. This shouldn’t stop everything.
“I know a lot of people are in fear of it, obviously because we don’t know. Some people just don’t know that much but it is what it is.”
As for the Giants, they, too, released a statement Wednesday afternoon stating that their scheduled game against the Oakland A’s, scheduled for March 24, will be played at a later date, which has yet to be determined.
“The health and safety of our community is of the utmost importance to us,” the Giants said in their statement. “We are in the process of working with Major League Baseball and the A’s to finalize alternative arrangements. We will make that information available as soon as possible.”
As COVID-19 continues to spread around the country with more cases of infection being confirmed each day, it’s expected that more teams around the country will take similar precautions in order to mitigate the risk of exposure and contraction.
In fact, ESPN reported that the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases told a congressional committee Wednesday afternoon that they recommend the NBA prohibit all fans from attending NBA games for the foreseeable future.
NBA owners are scheduled to meet later Wednesday afternoon to discuss these measures and are expected to make a decision shortly.