The 2019-20 NBA season was suspended on Wednesday, March 11 due to the increasing threat of novel coronavirus. In Day 4 of this ongoing diary, we examine the state of the Utah Jazz under trying circumstances.
Welcome to Day 4 of the Life Without NBA Basketball Diary, where yours truly will be taking a daily look at NBA and sports news related to the coronavirus pandemic, but also trying navigate through our universally shared sense of dread with a touch of optimism.
Before we dive into the current state of the Utah Jazz, however, we take a quick look at all the relevant COVID-19 developments of the last 24 hours in the sports and entertainment industries.
Since our last entry:
As you can see, thankfully, the bullet point recap is growing shorter and shorter with each passing day. Sure, it’s partly because the first 48 hours featured almost every major sports league and event being canceled, but it could also be construed as a positive: With sports no longer there to distract us from the stress of everyday life, Americans may finally be grasping how serious the situation is.
All it took was an NBA player testing positive for coronavirus for us to get here.
Speaking of the league’s unofficial Patient Zero, the last few days must have been tough for Rudy Gobert. There’s no way of knowing where coronavirus originated in the NBA. There’s no way of knowing who gave it to whom, how Gobert got it or who he might have passed it on to before realizing the error his ignorance.
But one thing’s for certain: Gobert’s reported carelessness in the Jazz locker room, touching other teammates and their possession, either helped it spread from him to Donovan Mitchell or vice versa. Mitchell was his only other teammate to come back positive out of all those who were tested, but suffice it to say that he is probably not happy with his fellow Jazz All-Star at the moment.
According to Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix, Mitchell is “extremely frustrated” with Gobert for his callousness in this matter. That means the two best players on the Jazz, the current 4-seed in the Western Conference, aren’t on the greatest of terms over a not-so-easily-ignored issue of a global pandemic.
That report backs up Mitchell’s caption in a recent Instagram post, where he appeared to take a shot at his teammate when he wrote, “hopefully people can continue to educate themselves and realize that they need to behave responsibly both for their own health and for the well being of those around them.”
Mitchell’s latest video update on Twitter let the world know he’s doing all right and in self-quarantine right now, and he appeared to be in good spirits. But this is a locker room situation that could fester if it’s not addressed properly, even with the NBA on hiatus for at least a month.
To be fair, Gobert has already issued a public apology on Instagram, saying:
“The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus.”
Then, he put his money where his mouth (and hands, and germs, and other exposed skin) was with a $500,000 donation to Vivint Smart Home Arena workers and coronavirus relief efforts in Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and his homeland of France.
Does Gobert deserve a lot of the flak he’s getting for his irresponsible actions? Undoubtedly. There’s no telling who may be impacted by his inability to understand how serious this situation was. Coronavirus has a mild impact on the vast majority of people, especially among people in his age bracket and in such excellent physical condition, but that doesn’t mean the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions for whom the illness can be deadly should just be overlooked.
There’s a reason this video will live on in infamy for a very long time:
With that being said, Gobert is doing what he can to make amends. Even for a multimillionaire, a donation of half a million dollars shouldn’t be overlooked. Rather than hide away, dwelling in regret and embarrassment, he’s being proactive in owning up to his mistake and trying to help make up for it.
The question is whether a broad public apology on Instagram and a financial pledge will be enough to patch things up with his only teammate who also tested positive for coronavirus. Before the league was suspended, the Jazz were finally starting to round into form, winning five of their last six contests to rise up to the No. 4 spot in the West. A month-long layover obviously brings all of that momentum to a grinding halt, but that loss could hit even harder if these two aren’t on good terms by the time NBA action resumes.
Time heals all wounds, and hopefully in the case of coronavirus, all illnesses too. Nobody wants to be in this position, least of all Gobert and Mitchell. But the Jazz had better hope their Defensive Player of the Year who managed to lock down the entire league is being as driven in his desire to make amends with his most important teammate as he is with everyone else who’s been impacted by this outbreak.
There are far more important things than basketball and team chemistry to think about right now, but our bonds with friends and family come to the forefront at times like this. They keep us sane and measured in these dark times. It may be an uncomfortable conversation for the seven-foot Frenchman, but Gobert and Mitchell need each other’s support and friendship now more than ever — both on and off the court.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.