Sorry, no handshakes, high-fives or autographs: Jazz and other NBA teams taking coronavirus precautions
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jordan Clarkson sign autographs as the Utah Jazz host the Portland Trail Blazers, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019.
New York • So, Emmanuel Mudiay, given that the NBA issued a leaguewide memo on Wednesday addressing the coronavirus outbreak, are you concerned at all?
“Nah, I’m OK,” answered the Jazz point guard, who nevertheless politely declined all proffered handshakes from the New York media members who covered him for a year and a half.
“We all gotta die someday, right?” the nearby Ed Davis retorted with playful sarcasm.
“What Ed said, but that day ain’t soon for me, though,” Mudiay responded.
Not all of the Jazz were quite so casual about it, however. Given that their jobs require them to be in and out of airports, and hotels, and arenas filled with, you know, thousands of people, there’s naturally some level of fear about the COVID-19 disease.
“For sure — I’m worried about it,” rookie guard Miye Oni noted in the Madison Square Garden visitors’ locker room. “I don’t wanna get sick.”
For what it’s worth, Knicks security told fans admitted early and gathering near the player tunnels that the temporary league protocol was encouraging players not to high-five fans or accept items for autographing.
Veteran point guard Mike Conley, meanwhile, conceded that while he will be smart about it, because “It is definitely real,” he also wasn’t on the verge of panic over it, on account of having “a little more perspective” than some of his younger teammates.
“Swine flu, H1N1, whatever it is — I’ve played in the league since all those happened, and obviously travel a lot, but have always been fine. But you always wanna take care of yourself and just be healthy,” he said. “… I’ve been in the league when there’ve been other viruses that have broken out, or situations where you’re just like, ‘I don’t know what I should do or how I should go about my day.’”
Multiple Jazz players confirmed that, between the news about the outbreak in general, and Wednesday’s league memo specifically, there have been myriad conversations held amongst themselves about it.
There was also an official team meeting Wednesday, in which the team’s training staff discussed best practices for health and safety. The takeaway?
“Obviously, just a lot of washing hands and trying to stay away from big groups of people, or shaking hands, or hugging and kissing people too much,” Conley said. “Just kinda trying to back away as much as possible.”
“Just wash your hands,” Oni added with urgent seriousness.
In spite of all of Conley’s professed perspective and his claim that “I’m not thinking it’s the end of the world yet,” he was also greeting people with elbow-to-elbow taps, and when asked if he’d looked into stockpiling supplies, a sly grin crept over his face.
“I actually thought about it yesterday when they said the hand sanitizer was out in Salt Lake City. I was like ‘Oh no!’” he said with a laugh, before being told that a pair of eight-ounce bottles were now going for $70 on Amazon. “… I knew they would shoot the price up! I think I got a good amount, [so] I’ll wait until it starts to die down a little bit.”
With Wednesday’s game marking Mudiay’s return to Madison Square Garden for the first time since signing with the Jazz as a free agent this summer, the former Knicks guard was making the rounds, saying hello to old teammates, staff and arena personnel.
He was also waxing poetic about playing in the Garden — perhaps a bit too poetic, he apparently thought.
“In my opinion, it’s the best place to play, honestly,” he said before pausing, glancing at the Jazz PR staffer nearby, and surreptitiously adding, “… other than the Vivint Arena.
“Playing here is definitely a great thing, but Vivint Arena is special as well,” he continued. “Over here, it’s more so just the stars, and you get to play at the world’s most famous arena. And Salt Lake, you just feel more like it’s a family, and they got your back at all times. That’s one thing I really support about Vivint Arena, too.”