Dennis Lindsey has been publicly quiet since Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 in early March, which precipitated the league shutting down and going on an indefinite hiatus.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Jazz’s executive vice president of basketball operations broke his silence, speaking to Utah media in a videoconference Q&A that addressed myriad shutdown-related topics, including — most pressingly for local fans — the relationship of stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
Despite a report a few weeks ago characterizing their relationship as “unsalvageable,” the Jazz exec suggested he expects both players have gotten over their issues with one another.
“They’re ready to put this behind them, move forward, act professionally,” Lindsey said. “Look, the night of March 12th was really unprecedented, it brought a microscope to our team, and we get it. With that said, we’re very pleased with the collective makeup of our group — Donovan and Rudy in particular — and we look forward to moving forward. They’ve said their piece to each other. They’ve both visited at the ownership level, at management level, at the coaches’ level, the players’ level with each other, they’re fully participating in our Zoom workouts. There’s going to be another level, I think, for the whole team to get back to each other.
“We fully expect the team to come together in a great way and continue to move forward as a group,” he added. “… And I think at the end of the day, Donovan and Rudy — I don’t want to speak for them on every matter, they’ll speak to themselves, moving forward — but I think at the most basic level, they know they need each other to accomplish the goals that we want to accomplish of being the last team standing in the NBA.”
As for when they can get started with that process, for whether there should be optimism or pessimism about the chances of a potential restart, well, that remains very much a mystery.
With the coronavirus epidemic ongoing, and the safety of players, coaches, staff, fans, officials, media, et cetera in mind, Lindsey noted that such conversations throughout the league still inevitably come to the same conclusion — there is simply no way yet of knowing what will be feasible when.
In that respect, Lindsey repeated a phrase uttered by Disney CEO Bob Iger on a conference call to the league, and since adopted by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: “Our return will be based upon data, not dates.”
That said, the league has given one definitive date, with this Friday being the earliest that teams can reopen their practice facilities to players under limited circumstances — provided that those teams are in locales where city and state governments have lightened stay-at-home restrictions.
Lindsey said he was “not at liberty to give the exact date yet” when the Zions Bank Basketball Campus practice facility will open, but that he suspects it will be after May 8.
“We have worked closely with state health officials, our own medical team and health performance team, as well as the health performance team coming from the NBA. We’re going to ramp up systematically,” Lindsey said. “… We want to make sure the facility meets all of the league specifications, local/state health officials’ protocols, and then we’re going to be even a little bit more stringent to those standards, creating our own standards.”