The Kings and Pelicans were on the floor warming up at a little after 7:30 in Sacramento when the announcement was made that fans in attendance could go to Kings.com and put in for a refund for their tickets. There was a chorus of boos from the stands.
Alas, the fans’ protestations held no sway. What was slated to be the last game played in the NBA before a season suspension goes into effect was put on hold early. On Thursday, the league will halt play in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. In Sacramento, that happened early.
The Pelicans, apparently, were concerned that referee Courtney Kirkland—who was to be an official in the New Orleans-Sacramento game—had been one of the referees in the Jazz-Raptors game on Monday night.
Utah’s Rudy Gobert has reportedly tested positive for coronavirus, which led to the postponement of the Utah-Oklahoma City game and helped to prompt the league to take the dramatic action of suspending the season. Because Kirkland was the referee for that game, the Pelicans were reluctant to leave the locker room.
Ultimately, the game was called off.
Pelicans Were Ready to Play
The turn of events in Sacramento was surprising. About an hour before the game was officially postponed, the Pelicans put out a tweet stating that the game would be played as scheduled.
Around the same time, New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry met with the media and did not betray any reservations about going ahead with the game. He said that team president David Griffin was keeping him informed.
“All we’re doing is trying to prepare for the game tonight,” Gentry said. “I know that Griff is in constant contact with the league, I’m sure everybody is in constant contact with the league right now. I am sure it’ll be handled in the very best way possible. But all of our energies are on what’s going on on the court here. And then we’ll deal with it after the game, whatever that might be.”
About a half-hour after that, though, the Pelicans announced the game was being postponed and subsequently put out his tweet:
Coronavirus Already had Impact on Northern California Sports
The Kings’ crowd was already sparse to begin with as officials in Northern California had begun to move against holding games in front of large crowds out of fear of the spread of the virus.
In the NHL, the San Jose Sharks are preparing to feel the brunt of the problem. Santa Clara County, where the team plays, has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people, beginning at midnight Wednesday, through March.
In light of that, the Warriors took criticism from California Gov. Gavin Newsom for playing Tuesday’s game against the Clippers with a full stadium. Golden State had announced that it would play its next home game without fans in attendance, which appeared to be the precedent the league would follow before Wednesday’s dramatic events.
During what turned out to be an empty broadcast on ESPN, former NBA star Richard Jefferson speculated on what it must be like to head into an unknown period of league suspension.
“It’s similar to being in a lockout,” he said, “where you have to stay prepared, you have to stay ready, you have to make sure that you’re mentally locked in which can be difficult when you don’t have an end date or a date you’re working towards. But I think players and fans need to understand that this is the best case possible for making sure everyone stays healthy.”