It’s been a long couple weeks for the Utah Jazz, who were subject to not only mandated two-week quarantines, but also all sorts of unwelcome attention as a result of having the first two NBA players to be publicly diagnosed as testing positive for COVID-19 on their roster.
Friday, however, featured some welcome news, for a change.
Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, those aforementioned players infected by the novel cornanvirus, were medically cleared (alomg with the rest of the team) by the Utah Department of Health, the team announced.
“The Utah Department of Health has determined that all Jazz players and staff, regardless of prior testing status, no longer pose a risk of infection to others,” the team said in a statement.
The organization added that though the entire team has now completed its mandated periods of isolation and quarantine, all players and staff will continue to practice social distancing, and will limit time outside their homes to “essential activities.”
Which means they’re going to have to continue to find new ways to amuse themselves — something they’ve gotten lots of practice at over the course of their two-week self-quarantining sessions.
While Gobert mostly kept a low profile on social media, save for a tweet at the beginning of this week about the disease having affected his senses of smell and taste, Mitchell became a familiar presence, whether it be tweeting his dismay about Mets star pitcher Noah Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery; streaming “Call of Duty” games with and against fellow NBA players Zach Lavine, Meyers Leonard, Mario Hezonja on Twitch; or earning a well-publicized NBA 2K20 victory over the video game series’ public face, Ronnie 2K (aka Ronnie Singh).
Forward Royce O’Neale, meanwhile, has gotten in on his fair share of gaming, including some of the same competitions as buddy Mitchell. However, the 3-ad-D wing known for doing a brief dance at the conclusion of each game’s starting lineup announcement has broken out in his own right as something of a sensation for his dance videos shared through the TikTok app.
A couple of his teammates have embraced a slightly older medium and launched their own podcasts.
Veteran forward Joe Ingles co-hosts “Ingles Insight” with his wife Renae, as well as utahjazz.com features writer Aaron Falk. Together, they’ve put out a few episodes, focusing thus far on the challenges of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic as a family with young twin children. One episode featured guest spots from state epidemiologist Angela Dunn and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. Joe Ingles’ signature mix of faux brash arrogance and selective reticence is nicely counterbalanced by Renae’s take-no-guff straightforwardness.
And the humor is there right from the outset, as the show opens with the Ingleses encouraging Falk to try the Australian food spread — and decidedly acquired taste — Vegemite.
Meanwhile, forward Georges Niang, in a radio appearance on the Zone Sports Network, announced the launch of his own podcast, the “Georges Niang Drive & Dish,” which will debut this coming Tuesday with inaugural guest Jordan Clarkson. He promised a future appearance from Mitchell, and stumped for a guest spot from Gov. Gary Herbert, in order to bring more COVID-19 news to the masses.
Niang has also been getting nostalgic about the basketball program at his alma mater, Iowa State, getting into some light-hearted back-and-forths with with ex-players and fans of the rival Iowa Hawkeyes. He’s also made the occasional post showing the virtual workout groups he and teammates are taking part in along with assistant strength and conditioning coach Jasper Bibbs.
Rookie big man Juwan Morgan did an intriguing interview with hoopshype.com, which gave some compelling details about what it was like that fateful night in Oklahoma City, when it was discovered that Gobert had tested positive, and the sports world was shut down soon thereafter.
“When the refs brought it in, we kind of knew what was going to happen. We weren’t very surprised. It just came a little bit earlier than we expected,” Morgan said. “…It did feel like a movie, just being back [in the locker room], waiting to see, taking all the steps that the doctors were giving us and everything like that. … It was pretty surreal, but I was looking at the positives at that point. Everybody came to the realization that it was here, it was real.”
As for the time since, Morgan acknowledged the difficulty of having had to forgo playing basketball, noting that he’s “probably never gone this long without playing,” and hasn’t been able to much more than dribble a ball around his home a bit.
As for the rest of his time, there have been lots of video games — from “Call of Duty” to “Tekken” to boxing, plus, of course, some NBA2K. He even admitted that, when not playing the online mode, he likes to play with his own avatar — after bumping up a few of the skills sliders, naturally, not to mention making a few select other changes.
“I make my post defense and my post offense better. I make my 3-point shot better, too, just because who wouldn’t want that,” he said. “Also, my beard is not there in the game but I have one in real life.”
Many Jazz players have largely stayed off of social media. Guard Mike Conley did post one photo of himself with his two young children. Forward Bojan Bogdanovic put up an Instagram photo of himself sitting on a swings somewhere outdoors. Emmanuel Mudiay had a few inspirational words accompanying one picture. Florida native Tony Bradley made a post or two celebrating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ signing of quarterback Tom Brady. Clarkson had a few hiking photos, and a brief video of himself playing an acoustic guitar.
Mitchell, meanwhile, took to Twitter on Friday morning after the news broke about the medical update. After initially posting a celebratory gif of a child dancing on a chair, he followed with “a more serious note:
“Let’s continue to practice social distancing and remember... even though you may not have symptoms you still may be infected!! Let’s keep everyone in our prayers and stay safe,” he wrote.