With coronavirus cases mounting inside the NBA’s 30 organizations, the league informed teams to close their practice facilities to players and staff by Friday. The decision was confirmed by a league official not authorized to speak publicly
The proclamation, which came via memo Thursday morning, occurred before three teams announced or had reported positive coronavirus tests inside their buildings.
Three members of the Philadelphia 76ers organization and one from the Denver Nuggets tested positive for the virus, the teams announced early Thursday. Late Thursday afternoon, the Lakers announced two players were infected with the coronavirus.
Shortly after that, the Boston Celtics announced one of their players had tested positive for virus. The player is asymptomatic and has been in isolation for several days. The Celtics said testing was initiated because of exposure to a known positive patient.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart later posted on Twitter that he had tested positive.
“I’m OK and I feel fine. I don’t feel any of the symptoms,” Smart said in a video. “But I can’t stress enough practice social distancing and really keeping yourself away from a large group of people — washing your hands and help protect yourself and help protect others by protecting yourself.”
Smart brings to 10 the number of NBA players infected. Utah’s Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, Detroit’s Christian Wood and Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, along with three of his Nets teammates, have also tested positive.
Neither Denver nor Philadelphia said if their positive tests were for players.
The 76ers said in a statement that they had “in consultation with medical experts and the NBA, received the recommendation that certain individuals from the organization, including players, coaches and specific basketball operations support staff, be tested for COVID-19. The tests were secured and processed privately.”
The Nuggets said the member of their organization who tested positive for the coronavirus had been experiencing symptoms.
The NHL, which shares arenas with NBA teams in Philadelphia, Boston, Denver and Los Angeles, said they still only have one positive case of the coronavirus — an unidentified player on the Ottawa Senators.
In a televised interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on Wednesday, Commissioner Adam Silver said NBA players could be considered “super spreaders.”
“They are young people who are working in close proximity to each other,” Silver said. “They are traveling at great frequency. They are regularly in large groups, including the public, and for young, the young cohort in particular, large numbers of them are asymptomatic, and if they do have symptoms, they’re relatively mild.”
It’s why, in part, the NBA instructed teams to close their facilities.
Since the suspension of play on March 11, players have been allowed to work out in team practice facilities provided they do so individually with one other staff member, distanced from the rest of the players, coaches and staff.
But with positive tests mounting and social distancing normalizing, the NBA made the decision to close the doors to team facilities. Players are not allowed to work out in any non-NBA gyms, largely forcing them away from the game while the league and the country tries to slow the spread of the virus.
The rapid spread of the virus among NBA players was always a concern since the league first began wrestling with the pandemic. Without factoring in officials, who bounce between teams throughout the season, the NBA operates in a tight system.
You can connect all 30 teams to the Lakers with only four degrees of separation in the final week before the NBA called off games.
Within minutes of Gobert’s positive test being reported, the NBA suspended its season, helping trigger the same response of other pro and college sports leagues and conferences.
Asked Wednesday about the four Nets players who tested positive, Silver said he was expecting it.
“I honestly was not all that surprised,” he said. “I’d say that based on what we’re hearing and given the lack of testing that’s available, my sense is that, especially in the New York area, that if you took almost any random group of New Yorkers, that it’d be likely, increasingly likely, that there are gonna be some positive tests.”