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No more autographs? Jazz, NBA figuring out how to deal with coronavirus

No more autographs? Jazz, NBA figuring out how to deal with coronavirus

(Sarah Stier, AP Photo)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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NEW YORK — More than an hour before tipoff on Wednesday, eager fans clutching Donovan Mitchell jerseys in their hands positioned themselves near the tunnel hoping for an autograph from the Utah Jazz’s young star.

But they wouldn’t get a chance on this night.

A Madison Square Garden security guard approached the group and informed the fans that players wouldn’t be signing anything due to growing league concerns over the coronavirus.

The NBA sent out a memo on Monday detailing some suggestions on how to handle the outbreak. It recommended using fist-bumps in place of high-fives in exchanges with fans and for athletes to refrain from taking pens, balls, jerseys or really anything else to autograph, among other things.

On Wednesday, the Jazz were in one of two NBA cities that have a confirmed case of the virus. So, naturally, there was a bit of talk in the Jazz locker room about it.

“We have discussed it a lot,” Mike Conley said, “just a lot of washing hands and staying away from big groups of people, and washing hands and hugging and kissing people too much. Just trying to back away as much as possible. Hopefully, not letting it into our team.”

Conley said that he wasn’t too worried about things. At this point in his career, he has seen pandemics come before. He remembers the H1N1 scare and that didn’t end up affecting him or the NBA too much.

“I have played in the league since all of those have happened, travel a lot, and have been fine,” Conley said. “But you are always trying to take care of yourself and be healthy.”

Conley was a little extra safe on Wednesday. Instead of high-fiving Emmanuel Mudiay, he bumped elbows with him. Instead of going right to his locker, he went to the sink to wash his hands. And when he read that Utah was suffering from a shortage of hand sanitizer, he even considered going online to stock up. When he was informed about the high cost of it now, he laughed. “I knew they would shoot the price up.”

The team has gone over it with the players and pondered what would happen if an NBA player got the virus. So far, there are no answers to that — just hope that they can prevent it from reaching the players.

“It’s definitely real; it’s a real thing and guys should be mindful of washing hands and who you are around and different situations and stuff, but I’m not thinking it’s the end of the world yet,” Conley said.

New York has 11 confirmed cases of the virus. Some of them are in Manhattan (where the Knicks play) and Westchester (where the Knicks practice).

“Medical staff came in last week and gave them the information they needed,” Knicks interim coach Mike Miller said. “What it was about and (how) they needed to be alert and kind of educated them.”

That’s why the league sent the memo. At this point, it's about education and prevention. There isn’t a real worry of it impacting games yet, like it has in professional sports in Italy — where fans have been banned from games in some places — but it can always get to that point.

“I’m OK. I’m not thinking about it too much,” Mudiay said.

Then Ed Davis chimed in: “We all gotta die someday, right?”

“What Ed said,” Mudiay said, laughing. “But that day ain’t soon for me though.”

It was a fun interaction, but there's a reason why the league doesn't want them signing anything right now.

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