Dwane Casey has experienced just about everything imaginable during his 25 years as an NBA coach.
But he’s never seen anything like how the coronavirus is affecting the NBA and the rest of the sports world.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Casey, the Pistons’ head coach, prior to Wednesday night’s game against the 76ers. “It’s the only time I’ve ever been in a situation where health is at risk and it’s very serious.”
While fans were allowed into the game and filled most of the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday, they won’t be permitted to attend any games for the foreseeable future as the league suspended the season after Wednesday’s play.
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, resulting in the NBA’s drastic action.
The Jazz and Thunder teams were ready to play in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night when the fans were sent home and the teams quarantined in their locker rooms.
The Golden State Warriors had already decided to ban fans for home games in response to the San Francisco Health Office’s order prohibiting gatherings of 1,000 people or more, though that became a moot point once the league sprang into action.
To be honest, I’m surprised fans were permitted into Wednesday’s Sixers-Pistons game.
“You are completely aware that this is looming and a possibility,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown beforehand of a potential severe move by the league. “To go further than that and to say that I’ve projected out and I can see it and feel it, I cannot. I think when the time comes, you better because you’re going to have to prepare to coach and plan in that environment.”
The Sixers improved to an NBA-best 29-2 at home with Wednesday’s 124-106 victory over the Pistons. Joel Embiid returned from missing five games with a sprained left shoulder to lead the way with 30 points and 14 rebounds.
The news broke as reporters were waiting for Brett Brown’s traditional postgame interview. Brown and general manger Elton Brown answered a few questions and that was it. No players were made available.
While players weren’t looking forward to competing in empty arenas, they can’t be too thrilled to have the season suspended with 15 games remaining in the regular season.
The Sixers put out a release Wednesday afternoon requesting fans who are feeling sick, have traveled to or been in close contact with someone who has traveled to one of the high-risk areas outlined by the Center for Disease Control in the past 14 days or been diagnosed with the coronavirus stay away from games.
Fans won’t be permitted at NCAA Tournament games, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tourneys. Only “essential staff and limited family attendance” will be allowed. The men’s tournament is a huge moneymaker and this will affect the host cities significantly in lost revenue from hotel rooms, dining and other areas.
If that and Wednesday’s other developments don’t illustrate the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m not sure what does.
NBA athletes, and other professional and college players, are in uncharted waters, waiting to find out what happens next.
“I don’t know how we would handle it,” said Casey before the game of anything drastic occurring. “I think we’d go by the seat of our pants.”
That’s pretty much what everybody is doing these days.
Tom Moore: email@example.com; @TomMoorePhilly