The Utah Jazz were the last team in the NBA to have a player in the COVID-19-related “health and safety protocol” this season — a distinction that ended when Joe Ingles tested positive on Jan. 4.
“’Joe Ingles was the first player on the Utah Jazz’ — you can put that as your headline if it gets you more clicks,” the sarcastic Aussie declared in response during his first interview back on Wednesday morning.
Naturally, we had questions about what his experience with COVID-19 was like.
He mentioned he was asymptomatic, but was deemed a “close contact” when a family member tested positive, thus leading to him getting tested when the Jazz were playing in Denver. His test came back positive. He then got his entire family tested, and they all came back positive.
With all of them in the same boat, a medical transport back to SLC was arranged (he and Rudy Gobert, who subsequently tested positive, were both on it), and, “I actually got to spend the last however many days with my family, which was nice,” he said.
Ingles said that despite all the precautions that he and his Jazz teammates were taking, it still seemed like an inevitability that they’d face it, just given how widely the omicron variant is spreading. He noted that his hometown of Melbourne just had 51,000 positive cases in a day. Given that, he added, his family took some calculated risks.
“I’m not gonna stop my kids from going to school to limit that risk. My 5-year-olds need to go to school, Jacob needs to go to therapy. I was willing to risk that way of getting it if that was going to be the case,” he said.
Ingles himself never developed any symptoms and “felt fine the whole time,” while his wife, Renae, probably had the most within the family. Mostly, they were just worried about the kids.
“Jack, [who’s] 14 months now, he had a fever for a few days, which is a little concerning as a parent,” Joe said. “Kids have fevers all the time, but just as a dad, and Renae as a mum, you never want your kids to be sick or your children to struggle.”
They’ve all gotten the all-clear now within the past few days. Still, he acknowledged that, even with things going as well as could be expected, there were a few tense moments for him.
“If I could have [been like the movie] ‘Green Mile’ and stood there and taken the virus out of them, I would have taken it out of all four of them and taken it on myself,” he said.
Brief chats with some 10-day guys
Reporters haven’t had a chance to talk to the Jazz’s latest 10-day guy, Zylan Cheatham, just yet, but we’ve have had some short convos with the other temporary reinforcements. Here’s what stood out:
• Danuel House: First of all, his name is not just “Daniel” spelled differently — it’s pronounced “Dan-you-ell.” Meanwhile, even as a guy who’s had success as a 3-and-D wing in the league, he’s not looking down at 10-day contracts: “I just look at it as a new opportunity. I feel like it’s another door opening.” That said, he’s fully aware the Jazz have some open roster spots: “Hopefully it can turn into a longer venture. … Initially what was going through my head was coming here and getting that spot. Come here and help this team. That’s all I’m thinking about — help this team on any level.”
• Denzel Valentine: Another NBA vet, he noted that three-team deal between the Cavs, Lakers, and Knicks being delayed by Rajon Rondo having COVID and having to clear the protocol made things tough. Denzel having to wait to clear waivers made it tougher: “It’s been a roller-coaster week.” Still, he was at his home in Chicago when he got the call that he was signing with the Jazz, so he hopped in his car and met them in Detroit. He’s found the 10-day situation “a little nerve-wracking,” but also sees some serendipity in joining the Jazz — the first team he had a draft workout for. “Everybody’s cool, I love the culture here, I love what they’re doing. Everybody is on the same page — the chemistry, you feel it as soon as you walk in the building.”
• Norvel Pelle: As a guy who’s bounced around the league the past three years, always on short-term deals, the center acknowledged, “Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but it is what it is, and you just take it with a grain of salt. I’m blessed just to have the opportunity to play and be on a team.” He didn’t really know too many people on the Jazz before, aside from working with assistant coach Sergi Oliva when they were both with the Sixers. But his agent kept telling him to be ready. And then the call came quickly: “Literally as I got to the gym, I got a call from my agent saying, ‘Hey, it’s time to go! The Jazz want to sign you.”