The Utah Jazz were thiiiiiiiis close to being short-handed for their season-opening game Wednesday night in Portland.
Because of COVID-19. Because of the guy on the team who has been the most vocal by far about the need to be diligent about taking proper precautions.
It was something of a shock on Sunday afternoon when a request to the Jazz PR team for a post-practice interview with Joe Ingles returned a reply that he was unavailable on account of the league’s health and safety protocols.
On Tuesday afternoon, just a short time before the Jazz were set to fly out to Portland, Ingles recounted his own shock at how the situation unfolded, and gave a harrowing glimpse of the availability issues the Jazz and other teams will be facing this season with the coronavirus pandemic ongoing, and playing in a bubble for the duration of the season “untenable” in commissioner Adam Silver’s own words.
First off, the good news: “I just got, I guess, a false positive, as they call it,” Ingles said.
And after returning numerous negative COVID-19 test results in the subsequent few days, Ingles will be with the Jazz and eligible to play against the Blazers.
As for the full extent of Ingles’ ordeal …
“I got a positive [test result] two days ago, and obviously, I mean, the first thing that came to my mind was the kids, to make sure they were OK. So I got the kids to come down, they were all negative, the whole family was negative,” Ingles said. “So I retested again, another rapid [test] — that came back negative. So then I was obviously incredibly confused.
“Ended up going to a hotel for the night, did a few more tests. They lost my test and then miraculously found it a lot of hours later,” Ingles continued. “So, stayed the night in the hotel, did another rapid [test] the next morning, it was negative; then did another test through another hospital so I could go home. Basically ended up having three, four, five negatives after that. So, yeah, just a false positive obviously — don’t want to say the word — screwed me for a few days, but I’m glad everything was OK, and I mean, I guess, really that the family was OK, too.”
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The veteran forward was clearly a bit shaken by the situation, though not so much as to keep him from later joking that he was just now hearing of Rudy Gobert’s contract extension, on account of his isolation and hatred of news consumption.
Still, the timing of the situation was not lost on him.
“It’s just going to be the way it is for the year — it’s going to be frustrating if this situation happens,” Ingles said. “I mean, if it happened today, for example, I would have missed the game [Wednesday].”
Mike Conley, who had to miss the first several days of Jazz training camp to self-isolate after coming into close contact with a family friend who tested positive, said that he was one of the first teammates to reach out to Ingles because he could commiserate with what he was going through.
He said Ingles’ situation was yet another reminder that, with teams traveling to games this season, and with six teams (including the Jazz) allowing some fans at the outset, there must be that much more vigilance than ever.
“We, as a team, have just stressed the importance of being diligent in what we do, being respectful, responsible by wearing masks around each other, just because you never know,” Conley said. “… It can easily be given to one of your kids, or somebody that works around your house, or your wife, or anybody. It can touch you in so many different ways, so [in some ways] it’s out of our control. But we do the best we can of limiting our risk and understanding how important it’s going to be for us to keep guys healthy throughout the year. We’re going to be missing guys in and out in certain cases.”
Weeks after Ingles made a public plea for everyone to treat the pandemic with the seriousness it deserves, given that some 1,500 Jazz fans will be allowed into Vivint Arena on Saturday night, his initial positive test sent reverberations throughout the team.
The implications of COVID-19 making its way to an extremely conscientious, not to mention 33-year-old, self-described “boring,” married father of three, was not lost on anyone.
“All the guys were saying the last couple of days, texting me and stuff — I literally do not do anything, so they were all saying, ‘If you’re going to get it doing nothing, then we’re all screwed,’” Ingles said.
He added that the uncertainty of it all is unnerving — knowing that even with precautions taken, there are simply no guarantees.
And that is something the Jazz are going to have to reckon with for the foreseeable future.
“It was frustrating as well because I knew and felt like I’d done basically everything I could possibly do to not get it. But with [this comes] realizing there is chances, here’s a chance any of us can get it at any time,” Ingles said. “… I think we all are well-aware of the situation this year, and it’s probably going to happen more than once, to not just our team but every team.”