Detroit • The Utah Jazz were the last team in the NBA to have a player put in the NBA’s health and safety protocol due to COVID-19, but they’re catching up in a big way.
Two more players and three assistant coaches were added to the list Sunday night. Then two more players joined them Monday afternoon.
In addition to Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert, who tested positive the last week and have missed the team’s past several games, the Jazz will now conclude their five-game road trip without big man Rudy Gay, wing Elijah Hughes, rookie guard Jared Butler, and second-year center Udoka Azubuike.
Quin Snyder’s bench will also be missing assistants Alex Jensen, Vince Legarza, and Sergi Oliva.
Meanwhile, the Jazz have added veteran wing Denzel Valentine on a 10-day hardship contract, they announced Monday afternoon. News of Valentine’s addition was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who also noted that Utah initially had been set to add James Ennis III, but he was considered a “close contact” to someone who recently tested positive, and thus would not have been eligible to play Monday vs. the Pistons.
Hughes — like Gobert — had previously been on the team’s injury report as out due to “non-COVID illness.” A Jazz spokesman confirmed that, like Gobert, the second-year Syracuse product was experiencing COVID symptoms, but returned negative results on a pair of rapid tests, before subsequently getting a positive result on an overnight PCR test.
His illness comes after he scored 26 points against the Toronto Raptors in a game where the Jazz sat out all five starters and eight total rotation players.
Gay has been a central part of Utah’s bench after signing with the team in the offseason on a taxpayer-midlevel contract, averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game, while shooting 37.7% on 3-pointers. He has served as the Jazz’s primary reserve power forward and as a small-ball center.
He played Saturday night in the Jazz’s loss in Indiana, totaling seven points and five rebounds in 16:58 of game time.
Butler and Azubuike, meanwhile, were added to the protocol on Monday, about two hours apart. Butler has appeared in 20 games for the Jazz, averaging 2.6 points. He totaled 17 points and four assists in his last game played, in Toronto. Azubuike has only appeared in six games, averaging 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds, though he made a surprise start in Denver last week when Gobert and Hassan Whiteside had both been ruled out.
In between Butler and Azubuike being ruled out, the Jazz announced that Ingles had cleared the COVID-19 protocol, but would still miss Monday’s game (his injury status was officially designated as “OUT — Return to competition reconditioning”).
Valentine is a five-year veteran out of Michigan State. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has career averages of 7.0 points and 3.4 rebounds, and has shot 36.0% from 3. He appeared in 22 games this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was part of a three-team trade on Jan. 3 involving the Lakers and Knicks. He was waived by New York two days later.