Friday was supposed to be the day the Timberwolves played at Chesapeake Energy Arena against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It’s the same arena that witnessed the start of the domino effect of sports leagues at all levels across the country either postponing or canceling their seasons and postseasons.
Shortly before a Jazz-Thunder game, Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, an illness associated with a novel coronavirus strain, and the NBA postponed its season shortly after the news broke. Many others followed.
The Wolves had not played the Jazz since December, nor had they recently played any team that played Utah. As such, Wolves CEO Ethan Casson said that no player or staff member on the Wolves has been tested for coronavirus because nobody has been displaying symptoms.
“The recommendation from the State Department is to not test asymptomatic individuals at this time,” Casson said. “So we haven’t tested our players or any of our staff.”
The Wolves returned from Houston on Thursday after playing there Tuesday against the Rockets, their last game before the league suspended the season. Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday he expects the postponement to last at least 30 days.
Casson said the Wolves had assembled a task force weeks ago to deal with the coronavirus, a group that involved him, President Gersson Rosas and vice president for basketball performance and technology Dr. Robby Sikka to educate the team and prepare for scenarios around the coronavirus, including possible suspension of play.
The league has mandated that teams refrain from holding group workouts and meetings through at least Monday. Casson said the Wolves have told all players and coaches to remain at home.
“We feel really good about how transparent [we] have been with our players and our traveling party,” Casson said. “Current state of players and coaches — they’re remaining at home. We want them to be at home as much as possible and at the same time our medical staff are checking in with them daily.”
Casson mentioned the Wolves and other teams in Minnesota have been in frequent contact with the governor’s office and the Minnesota Department of Health over the past few weeks.
“This has been elevated to something much more important,” Casson said. “I think that’s when our country, communities like ours that are strongly represented with sports teams led by great leaders really come together and lean on one another. And this too shall pass, but we’ve got to be diligent, disciplined and maintain a level of calmness and we’ve got to work our way through this one day at a time.”
Casson said the Wolves have encouraged their business staff to work from home for the next week. As it pertained to people who work at Target Center during Wolves games and rely on that income, Casson said the Wolves were aware how the suspension of play impacts these thousands of workers.
“Anyone that is affiliated to the Timberwolves organization directly or indirectly is at the top of our mind and top of our thoughts and top of our planning … ” Casson said. “It’s not lost on us that there are a lot of people impacted by this.”
The city owns Target Center and it is not operated by the Wolves, but rather ASM Global. Casson added the Wolves were going to evaluate where things stood over the next month as it pertains to the arena’s workers and how the delay impacts their livelihoods now and potentially beyond the next month.
“I would just tell you from our owner [Glen Taylor] to myself, along with our entire organization, we recognize the impact this is having on a lot of people and every stakeholder that’s a part of our organization directly, indirectly, full time, part time,” Casson said. “We’re going to be very deliberate and mindful and thoughtful about how go about managing through this crisis.”