The New Orleans Pelicans were ready to take on the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night at the Golden 1 Center when word broke that the NBA had suspended its season due to the coronavirus outbreak. They were the last game of the night, and the NBA was going to let them play out.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday night just before Utah’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, prompting the move that sent ripples across the sports world.
After Pelicans players realized that Gobert had tested positive for the virus, and that one of the officials set to work their game had officiated a Jazz game on Monday, they were done.
“Our guys don’t want to play,” one Pelicans source told The Athletic.
And they didn’t. The game was quickly canceled just before it was set to tip.
The game was set to be officiated by Marc Davis, Courtney Kirkland and Justin Van Duyne in Sacramento.
Kirkland was part of the officiating crew for the Jazz’s 101-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Salt Lake City on Monday. Gobert played 32 minutes in that contest.
While it’s unclear if Kirkland has the coronavirus, or is even showing any symptoms at all, the Pelicans apparently didn’t want to take any chances. That feeling was apparently mutual, too. According to ESPN’s Andrew Lopez, Kings players also expressed concern to the league over playing with Kirkland on the officiating crew.
The players, unlike the Jazz and Thunder, were not quarantined at the arena but left for team buses, per Lopez.
The NBA confirmed later on Wednesday that the game was canceled “out of an abundance of caution” due to Kirkland’s presence on the officiating crew.
Kirkland did not take the court on Wednesday night. Most of the Pelicans players didn’t leave the locker room, either.
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