Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tests positive for COVID for second time, enters NBA health and safety protocols

In March 2020, Gobert’s diagnosis shut down the NBA. His second positive shows how much and how little has changed in two years.

Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert (27) talks to Rudy Gay during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Monday, Dec. 27, 2021, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

No one would blame Utah Jazz fans for feeling déjà vu.

But here it is again: Rudy Gobert has tested positive for the coronavirus — no longer so novel, anymore — and will be inactive for at least the next five days as he enters the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

The French center, the league’s Defensive player of the Year last season, missed Wednesday’s Jazz game against the Denver Nuggets due to what the team called a non-COVID illness — thanks to two negative rapid tests during the day. But overnight, a PCR test taken returned positive. Gobert, who said in September that he had been vaccinated, entered into the league’s protocols.

Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus on March 11, 2020, and his positive test resulted in an immediate suspension of the NBA season. The next day, teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive.

In all, 666 days have passed between Gobert’s two COVID diagnoses.

But Gobert’s second test was reflective of how much things have changed, even as the virus has remained. In March of 2020, Gobert’s illness caused panic: a moment in which Gobert touched the microphones of Jazz reporters days earlier went viral. The team, staff, and those reporters immediately flew home from Oklahoma City on a charter flight, and all were asked to quarantine for 14 days after Gobert’s exposure.

Now, the Jazz are still anticipated to play against the Toronto Raptors on Friday, provided that they have the league minimum eight players available. While the Raptors have reduced fan capacity at ScotiaBank Arena to just 1,000 fans as the omicron variant has spread in Canada, the game on Saturday in Indiana has no such restrictions.

Overall, 35 NBA players are currently in the NBA’s COVID health and safety protocols. Until this week, the Jazz had escaped having a player test positive for the virus this season, until Joe Ingles was first on Tuesday. They were the last team without a positive test.

The duo are part of a lengthy Jazz injury report that will see the team’s best players miss Friday’s game.

Donovan Mitchell is out due to a lower back strain that has caused him reduced movement in recent days, while Bojan Bogdanovic is out due to a left middle finger sprain after scoring 36 points against Denver. Mike Conley is sitting for the game, as he frequently does on one end of the back to back, due to his knee injury.

All five of the players who are officially out for the game didn’t board the team’s flight to Canada, instead, they’ll meet the team in Indiana for their next game Saturday. While all have official injury statuses, it probably isn’t a coincidence that they’ll all skip this game in particular — in doing so, they’ll avoid the possibility of having to quarantine in Canada if they, too, receive a positive test.

Meanwhile, Royce O’Neale (right patellar tendonitis), Hassan Whiteside (concussion protocol), Jordan Clarkson (lower back tightness), and Rudy Gay (right heel injury recovery) are listed as questionable for the game.

New signing Danuel House is on the team’s flight to Toronto, and with the numerous entries on the Jazz’s injury report, is expected to play a significant role in the game. He joins Udoka Azubuike, Jared Butler, Trent Forrest, Malik Fitts, Elijah Hughes, and Eric Paschall as players who have no injury status — meaning that the Jazz will likely need one player from the list of questionables to reach the league minimum.