Photo courtesy of Ricardo Cazares
March 11 was the day that seems to have halted what the majority of sports fans know as normal life as the NBA announced the suspension of the season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with other professional leagues quickly following suit.
On the same day, Sacramento State alumnus and Stockton Kings’ guard Cody Demps played what was his final game of the season against the Oklahoma City Blue.
At the beginning of the day, Demps was already aware that the sports leagues were prepared to play games without fans in attendance.
But just hours later, reality hit Demps and his team when they realized their season might be in jeopardy when the Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game was canceled after Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“We were getting ready to warm up right when they said the Thunder (and) Jazz game was canceled,” Demps said. “I was like ‘this can’t be good’.”
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Unlike the Sacramento Kings whose game was canceled, the Stockton Kings were able to play that night against the Oklahoma Blue that ended in a 127-104 loss.
That same night, the NBA suspended all basketball activity.
The Stockton Kings had been using Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena, but now that the arena is being converted to serve as a field hospital for COVID-19 patients, Demps has had to find alternative ways to stay in shape.
“It’s been a struggle,” Demps said. “Usually I’d been able to have access to the Sleep Train practice facility that we’re practicing at for the Stockton Kings. Now (I’m) having to workout on my own, out of the garage with a bunch of random things; a lot of dribbling drills.”
At the time, Demps was under the impression that the season would continue once it was safe to return.
“We (were) still under the impression that it has just been postponed for now,” Demps said. “They haven’t given word on it if it’s been canceled or postponed.”
On March 15, an announcement was made that the G League was expected to cancel the rest of the season.
Story continues below tweet.
Reporting with @malika_andrews: NBA teams operating G League franchises expect rest of the minor-league season will soon be cancelled, sources tell ESPN. Regular season runs thru end of March, playoffs into April. Players have been informed they’ll be paid thru end of schedule.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 15, 2020
With the season canceled, many athletes started to worry that their pay contracts were no longer valid.
“The president of the league, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, has let us know that salaries are basically guaranteed,” Demps said. “(We would get paid) what we get paid normally and then if the season were to continue on down the line, they would be able to pay us.”
The G League informed the players that they would get paid through the end of the schedule. Originally, the season was supposed to end on March 28 with playoffs running through mid April.
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Just like Demps’ season was lost, Sac State senior athletes also lost out on their season.
“If my senior season got cut short, especially if I had dreams of going on to the next level, trying to prove myself again would be a bigger disadvantage,” Demps said.
Demps was happy and shocked by the NCAA granting the spring seniors an extra year of eligibility.
“I’m actually kinda surprised that they gave it to them,” Demps said. “I’m happy for them, that’s good.”