Coronavirus: LeBron James says NBA suspension adds to year of woe

By Sports Desk March 12, 2020

LeBron James reacted to the NBA's move to suspend its season by saying he wished the whole year could be cancelled.

The Los Angeles Lakers superstar had his say after the league was put on hold for an indefinite period, in response to a Utah Jazz player testing positive for coronavirus.

Basketball suffered the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash in January, with James left "heartbroken" by the death of his fellow Lakers great.

Now the season is on hold and may not resume, leading James to post on Twitter: "Man we cancelling sporting events, school, office work, etc etc. What we really need to cancel is 2020! Damn it's been a rough 3 months. God bless and stay safe."

Rudy Gobert, the Jazz's French centre, reportedly contracted COVID-19, spurring the NBA to make its decision to call off all games.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry backed the decision to put basketball on hold as he called for a sense of perspective.

He tweeted: "2020 ain't [sic] it. Don't know what to compare this situation to…just gotta buckle up and take care of yourself and those around you. Basketball will be back at some point but right now, protect yourself and stay safe out there!"

The Orlando Magic's Evan Fournier, a France team-mate of Gobert's, said his international colleague was bearing up well.

Fournier wrote: "Was just on the phone with Rudy. He is doing good man. Let's not panic everyone. Love you all."

Speaking in a news conference after a 136-131 loss to the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young spoke about the post-match discussions in the team's camp.

He said: "We didn't really talk anything about the game or how it ended. It was more about the next steps for us, about moving forward and what we need to do to stay safe and try to stay [as far] away from getting this as possible. It was about how we can be more cautious about it."

Young said the players had an inkling the NBA would call a halt to the season.

"We kind of knew it - we didn't know about all the details until 30 minutes before the game. Maybe tonight was about thinking what the next steps are for us," Young said.

He bowed out with 42 points, albeit in a losing cause.

"Someone told me it was our last game for right now," Young said. "We weren't going to have fans probably for the rest of the season anyway. I wanted to go out and put on a show for the fans. I was going to go out fighting and playing hard and putting on a show."

Mike Malone, coach of the Denver Nuggets, spoke after his team's 113-97 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Malone said: "I don't know what this means. I know instead of flying to San Antonio we're going to fly home tonight.

"We support the league's decision, obviously being putting the players', the fans', the officials', the coaches', the staffs' best interests at heart, and we have to get our minds wrapped around what this coronavirus is doing.

"We support their decision and we wait to hear from them as to what this means moving forward, because honest to God I have no idea. And I just hope we can figure this out and get back to playing basketball in a timely manner when it's deemed safe."

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    The NBA season is set to resume on July 30 after the 2019-20 campaign was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March.

    Orlando's Disney World complex will host 22 teams, with the Los Angeles Lakers headlining the league's comeback against rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on July 30 after the New Orleans Pelicans face the Utah Jazz on the same day.

    Defending champions the Raptors – second in the Eastern Conference and trailing the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) with a 46-18 record – will restart their season against the Lakers on August 1.

    Raptors star Ibaka said his team-mates are ready to return, telling reporters via a conference call on Saturday: "I saw just how everyone is in great shape. 

    "They came here in great shape and as soon as we got here everyone was starting to put in work.

    "I've been in the league for 11 years. You can see when people's locked in and they are ready mentally, and when they are not.

    "So I can tell you right now, mentally, everybody is ready. Everybody is ready."

    Ibaka, who helped the Raptors win their first championship last season, added: "It's been a little bit weird [this season] with everything that's going on. But one thing we know is that it's over.

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    "We know it's going to be hard, it's going to be a challenge, and everyone is going to come for us because we are the champs, so we have to be ready."

    Meanwhile, the 30-year-old center admitted he is worried about the rising number of coronavirus cases in Florida.

    "Honestly it's really concerning," he said. "Hopefully everybody has to follow the rules, every player, when we get in the bubble in Orlando, we can respect all the notes that they're going to give us.

    "But I have my daughter who lives here in Orlando, and it's kind of scary a little bit. It's something where you have to make sure you look at it."

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    Oladipo announced his decision on Friday in an article with The Athletic.  

    The two-time All-Star – who has played just 13 games this season after taking the floor only 36 times in 2018-19 – cited his lengthy injury history when explaining why he has opted out of the rest of the season.  

    "I feel like I'm at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent," Oladipo said. 

    "With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble, I just can't get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing." 

    The Pacers are fifth in the Eastern Conference at 39-26 this season as they prepare for the NBA's 22-team plan to finish the 2019-20 season in Orlando starting on July 30. 

    The first of Indiana's eight seeding games is on August 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers.  

    The team is also without guard Jeremy Lamb, who tore the ACL in his left knee in February.  

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    The second overall pick in the 2013 draft, Oladipo's best season was his first with the Pacers, averaging 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals over 75 games in 2017-18.  

    It looked as if Oladipo had finally blossomed into a player worthy of his draft slot but rupturing tendons in his quadriceps twice has prevented the 28-year-old from making consistent contributions over the last two seasons.  

    Oladipo joins a growing list of players who have opted out of the restart, including Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans, Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley and Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza.  

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    Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward said he will exit the NBA's bubble in Florida for the birth of his next child if his team is still playing at that stage of the league's revised season. 

    Hayward's wife is due to give birth to the couple's fourth child in September. The NBA's current plans for its restart have the Eastern Conference semi-finals beginning no later than August 30 and the conference finals starting by September 15. 

    At the time of the NBA's stoppage on March 11 due to the coronavirus outbreak, Boston occupied the third seed in the East, three games behind the first-place Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division.  

    "There'll be a time if and when we're down [in Orlando] and she's going to have the baby, I'm for sure going to be with her," Hayward said of his wife, Robyn. "We'll have to cross that bridge when we get there." 

    The NBA has put in stipulations for players who have received permission to leave the Walt Disney World Resort complex. If a player is gone for less than seven days and continues to test negatively for COVID-19, he would be required to quarantine for four days after returning. 

    "I know the NBA has a protocol for that type of thing, and hopefully I can do the quarantining and testing the appropriate amount of time and then be back with the boys," he said.  

    Hayward was in the midst of his best season with the Celtics at the time of the league's shutdown. The former Utah Jazz star is averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 39.2 percent from three-point range in 2019-20.  

    The 30-year-old added that the time off has been beneficial for him physically, but admitted that he still deals with occasional pain in his left foot. Hayward fractured his left ankle in the 2017-18 season opener, his first game as a Celtic after leaving the Jazz to sign a four-year max contract. 

    "Everything is definitely a lot better. There is no doubt about that," said Hayward. "For sure, I'm feeling great, it's just the foot still is a little sore. It is what it is." 

     

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