NBA star Russell Westbrook revealed Monday he has tested positive for coronavirus as the league gears up for its return in Florida later this month.
Houston Rockets star Westbrook, the 2017 Most Valuable Player and one of the biggest names in the NBA, said in a statement he was feeling well and was in isolation.
“I tested positive for Covid-19 prior to my team’s departure to Orlando,” Westbrook said on Twitter.
“I’m currently feeling well, quarantined and looking forward to rejoining my teammates when I am cleared. Thank you all for the well wishes and continued support,” the 31-year-old added.
“Please take this virus seriously. Be safe. Mask up!”
The NBA halted play on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
The season is set to resume on July 30 with 22 teams jockeying for a spot in the 16-team playoffs that start August 17.
All games will be held at the ESPN Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where players will stay in a quarantine environment.
Westbrook was one of several Rockets players who did not travel to Orlando. As well as Westbrook, fellow superstar James Harden and Cameroon international Luc Mbah a Moute also did not travel, although the team has not given a reason for their absence.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni on Sunday said Westbrook, Harden and Mbah a Moute were “working in their own home base.”
“We’re still expecting them in a few days,” D’Antoni said.
“You never know, but we think we’ll get them back in here by the middle of the week.D’Antoni would not comment on why the players had not travelled with the team.
“These are things that people are dealing with,” he said.
“We’re not going to get into why not. They’re on their way.”
Westbrook is one of several NBA players to have tested positive for Covid-19, joining a list which includes Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, Boston’s Marcus Smart and Utah Jazz duo Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
Two more test positive
The NBA said ,later on Monday two players have tested positive for coronavirus since teams began arriving in Orlando.
An NBA statement said out of 322 players tested at the NBA Campus at Disney World since July 7, two returned positive tests.
However the league said neither player had cleared quarantine, which would have allowed them to fully enter the NBA’s protective “bubble.”
Both players have since left the Disney World Campus to isolate at home or at isolation-housing.
The league said since July 1, a total of 19 NBA players had tested positive for the coronavirus during in-market testing. Those players were staying in their home markets and recovering until they are cleared to leave home isolation and join the NBA Campus in Orlando.
Adam Silver issues warning
NBA commissioner Adam Silver had reiterated last Tuesday that a “significant spread” of coronavirus could burst the league’s safety “bubble” and cause a second shutdown of the season.
Silver had said he expected some players who gather in Florida to resume the suspended season will test positive for coronavirus, especially as teams first arrive in Orlando from their home markets.
But he said fresh outbreaks after players go through quarantine procedures could prove more damaging.
“Certainly, if we had any sort of a significant spread at all within our campus, we would be shut down again,” Silver had said at Fortune’s virtual Brainstorm Health conference.
“It would be concerning if once (the players) sit through our quarantine period, and then were to test positive, we would know that, in essence, there’s a hole in our bubble.”
Coronavirus testing and contact tracing measures are expected to be in place, which Silver hoped will make the campus safe for players and NBA personnel despite the rise in Covid-19 cases in Florida.
“But again, this virus has humbled many, so I am not going to express any higher level of confidence than we are following the protocols and we hope it works as we designed it,” he had said earlier.
(With AFP inputs)