Utah Jazz and rest of the NBA are finding life a challenge outside of the bubble

The league is not about to isolate itself from the world again, but there could be more restrictions coming that will further diminish the “communal” nature of the sport.

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder talks with Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) during a game at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Snyder, Mitchell and the rest of the Jazz are finding the NBA's post-bubble environment ot be a challenge.

Ahead of the Utah Jazz’s Sunday afternoon’s game in Detroit, Pistons coach Dwayne Casey was asked about the constantly-shifting season and noted, “This year is all about adjusting, being flexible. You can’t read anything into anything. The only thing that’s absolute is going to be change itself.”

And sure enough, the Miami Heat at Boston Celtics game which was slated to take place several hours later wound up being postponed. Meanwhile, on Monday morning, two more games were pushed back — a Monday night tilt between the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans, and a Tuesday matchup between the Celtics and Chicago Bulls.

The new normal is that there is no such thing as normal right now.

After the Jazz’s Sunday win, Donovan Mitchell was asked about the Heat-Celtics postponement. He initially expressed surprise before pointing out that such developments are all but inevitable given the parameters of this unprecedented season.

“You know, that’s life. It’s bigger than the game,” Mitchell said. “The biggest thing is being cautious — COVID’s a real thing. We need to wear our masks as much as possible, be smart, and just follow the rules. I’m not saying those teams weren’t — but at the end of the day, it may happen. It’s not like we’re in the bubble.”

No, they definitely aren’t.

And while that’s an unavoidable problem, it’s still a problem nevertheless.

Given these three recent postponements — owing to the combination of positive tests and, more extensively, the related contact tracing — plus the Philadelphia 76ers’ lingering ire that their Saturday matchup vs. Denver was not afforded a similar postponement, there is growing sentiment for the league to review and alter some of its current practices.

No, there isn’t another single-site bubble coming, with commissioner Adam Silver having noted before the start of the season that such an idea is “untenable,” given both the expense it would take and the players’ lack of appetite for spending that many months sequestered from their families.

Rather, a meeting was held Monday morning among the league’s general managers, in which they discussed ways to tighten the health and safety protocols in existence.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported these means could include “re-examining shootarounds and practice lengths, pre- and post-game socializing on court (for example, hugs), further restrictions on restaurant dining and tighter rules on mask-wearing.” The New York Times’ Marc Stein added that benches, locker rooms and planes “are among the areas of prime concern for the NBA, sources say, in combatting COVID-19.” Stein also reported there was some preliminary discussion of adding two more players to each roster.

Wojnarowski also revealed that a special Board of Governors meeting has been called for Tuesday to further discuss increased restrictions.


When • Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. MST


Jazz coach Quin Snyder has spoken at length about all the changes his team is dealing with simply to stay in compliance.

“Being able to eat together, for example, [is forbidden] at this point; keeping your mask on the whole time when you’re on the plane, it’s not something that’s normal, but guys are doing that,” he said. “… You’re around each other, but in order to be safe, it’s more difficult to interact in any kind of significant way. And that’s not something — at least for myself — that you can prepare yourself for mentally. Being a part of the team is such a communal event, and the bonding that occurs — whether it’s eating, being on the bus, on the plane. … The games, and going to the gym itself, is that opportunity to connect, but as far as practice and shootarounds and meetings and dining together, those things are just much more difficult.”

Indeed, Snyder has disclosed on multiple occasions that he is limiting the number of practices and shootarounds the Jazz hold this season because, with the amount of time it takes in getting all the COVID-19 tests taken ands to get the results back, they’re simply difficult to pull off at this point.

Which is not to say he’s complaining about the restrictions in place — he knows why they’re there.

“There’s good reason for that, obviously, because the most important thing is to keep everybody healthy and safe so that we can actually go out and compete,” Snyder added.

Mitchell added that, as a single person living alone, he doesn’t necessarily have the same number of interactions with the outside world that come from, say, having a spouse that works, or children who go to school.

That said, he not only can’t be any less vigilant than Joe Ingles or Mike Conley would be in trying to protect their families, he keeps them in mind as a guideline to his own behavior.

“Those guys in particular — because they have families at the house — have to be on a different level, a higher awareness. So [I’ve] got to be selfless and think [of] them, not just for myself,” Mitchell said. “And I think that’s all you can really do.Just be thankful that we are where we are, and continue to just be safe.”