NBA suspends season, as Bulls look for exit strategy out of Orlando

In the wake of Jazz big man Rudy Gobert reportedly testing positive for the coronavirus, the NBA announced that after Wednesday’s games the league was shutting down. Meanwhile, the Bulls were trying to get back to Chicago, with their game against the Magic cancelled.

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The NBA had been hinting for days that it was prepared to take drastic steps if the COVID-19 virus hit close to home.

On Wednesday, it couldn’t have hit any closer.

In an official statement, the NBA has suspended the rest of the season following the Wednesday games, after Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus minutes before the game with Oklahoma City tipped off.

The statement did say that it would stop the season “until further notice,’’ and “The NBA will use the hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.’’

Meanwhile, the Bulls were down in Orlando, hearing the news and trying to figure out the logistics of their exit. According to a source, they were looking to get back to Chicago as soon as possible, but likely had to spend the night in Orlando.

Team personnel, however, was not commenting on any details, especially because the staff was still in fact-gathering mode.

What this will mean for the Bulls immediately?

The NBA was looking at the teams that played Utah the last eight days, and the Bulls were not directly affected. According to a report, the NBA will look closely at Toronto, Detroit, Boston and New York. The Bulls played the Knicks on Feb. 28, and then hosted Utah on Mar. 4.

The problem is those four teams have also played games since interacting with Gobert, and with so many unknowns it’s easy to see why the NBA wants to simply shut everything down until it can get a grasp of the situation.

Bulls players talked about the virus on Tuesday, and for the most part didn’t sound overly concerned with the magnitude of it.

“I’m definitely doing more of the fist-bumps right now,’’ guard Zach LaVine said. “You just got to be safe. I’m not the biggest germaphobe, I mean anyone that plays sports, I don’t think you could be a huge germaphobe.

“I wash my hands and things like that. My girlfriend is the one that’s the huge germaphobe when I come home from the game and things like that, she damn well wants me to take another shower, so … ‘’

Rookie Coby White, who was just named a starter, was hoping for more clarity on the medical front before drawing his final conclusions.

“Because I’ve just been curious about how do you stop it?’’ White said. “You know what I mean? Like how do you stop it? And things like that. We talk about it a little bit, about how crazy it is and how it came out of nowhere and how it’s spread so fast like in Italy and stuff. Other than that, it’s not like a topic of the day or anything like that.’’

That obviously changed on Wednesday.

Coincidentally, most of the Bulls players stayed away from interacting with fans before the win over the Cavaliers, but center Wendell Carter Jr. was in that minority, signing autographs after his pregame warm-up.

Those are obviously the last autographs going out from Carter for the foreseeable future, as the NBA now has entered uncharted territory.

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