The Pistons had just wrapped up a disappointing loss in Philadelphia, falling by 18 points to the Sixers in what might be the final game the team plays in some time. The players were in the locker room, beginning their individual marches to the showers when coach Dwane Casey got word that the Pistons, slated to play in Toronto on Saturday, would be going home and staying there.
The NBA season had been suspended because of the coronavirus. Casey went out to speak with reporters before he even had a chance to speak with his team.
“They’re all concerned and rightfully so,” he said. “Everyone in our league should be concerned. But everybody in our country, more than just basketball, we all have families—I’m concerned with my family, my kids and so we all have to take care of ourselves and look out for our fellow man.”
Casey said that he had spoken with Pistons owner Tom Gores during the day after Gores participated in the league’s conference call with commissioner Adam Silver. Later in the evening, when it was revealed that a member of the Jazz had tested positive for the virus, the league took action on putting the season on hold.
“It shows you how fragile it is,” Casey said. “Here is a player that is in our league, a lot of players have come into contact with. So that’s a concern. That’s why it is prudent for Adam to suspend the season until we get a grasp on it.”
Michigan Affected by Coronavirus Cases
There was to be only five weeks left for the Pistons, who are well out of the playoff picture and were already in the very early stages of a rebuilding process.
But, beyond the NBA, there had been concerns in the state of Michigan about the presence and potential spread of coronavirus within the state, which announced its first two cases on Tuesday night. One of those cases was in Oakland County, where some members of the Pistons organization live.
The patient is being treated in the University of Michigan hospital system, which released a statement: “We are confident that we are using proper precautions with this patient who was carefully isolated to minimize the risk of exposure to our employees and patients. Based on that, risk of infection is low for our employees and visitors, even if you work in our hospitals or near the unit where the patient is isolated. Risk is considered high if you have prolonged exposure to someone with symptoms without appropriate protective equipment.”
Casey referenced that reality on Wednesday.
“The quarantine situation, I think, is real not only for just basketball but for everyday people,” he said. “I know there’s people that tested positive back in Michigan. So it’s all a concern.”
Sports Can’t Provide Comfort During an Outbreak
That human concern, Casey reiterated, was most important. The idea that players could spread the disease among each other and that it could so easily be spread from there weighed heavily.
“I want to make sure my family is healthy, our players are healthy and go from there,” Casey said. “Just take directions from the league and our organization. I texted with Mr. Gores before the game and he was on the conference call—he said they’re trying to get a grasp on it. The league is working hard and we’re trying to get a grasp on the whole situation.”
One unfortunate offshoot is that, through times of crisis, the games our athletes play so often buoy the spirits of the nation. But in this case, that won’t happen.
“It is unprecedented,” Casey said. “It’s always been where you can lean on sports to kind of ease your nerves or ease the situation. But now we’re just like everyone else. We’re involved. We’re looking out for each other, we’re looking out for fellow team members, our families. It’s unprecedented territory for the whole sports world.”