SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell's return trips to New York City have often come with some pomp and circumstance. Some visits have featured Mitchell as the guest speaker at Adidas events; others have had his mother Nicole bringing dozens of students from his alma mater Greenwich Country Day School to games all dressed in Mitchell's jerseys or Spida merchandise.
This one will be a little different.
"It's gonna be weird going back home," Mitchell said. "I really don't know how to feel with the whole not being able to see my family and friends."
If the Utah Jazz weren't already comfortable with the new COVID-19 protocols on the road, a seven-game trip lasting over 10 days should do the trick. But they already know the big rule: when in doubt, stay in your hotel room.
"A lot more video games, to be honest with you," Mitchell said when asked what the biggest difference was traveling in a pandemic.
That's due to not having much else to do.
Team dinners? Those will be limited to only three restaurants per city, which was approved by the NBA for team dining — though those are just "strongly recommended," according to the NBA COVID-19 protocols. Players are permitted to go to any restaurant on the road, "so long as the restaurant complies with all state and local laws or regulations."
Meeting up with friends and family? That is discouraged — though allowed.
"While on the road, members of the Traveling Party are strongly discouraged from congregating, visiting, or socializing in person with friends, players, or team staff on other NBA teams, or anyone else not associated with their team," the protocols read.
There is some wiggle room, however, with the protocols stating: "members of the Traveling Party may be visited in their individual hotel rooms by up to two guests (e.g., family members or longtime close personal friends who reside in the city where the team is staying)."
Practices? Game prep will even be different with practices, meetings and shootarounds all being limited due to access and the time it takes for players to return negative tests.
"The biggest thing is not being able to leave the hotel and being kind of restricted in our movements," Mitchell said. "Which is why I said more video games or more kind of time in the hotel. I think that's the biggest difference just kind of the downtime. We're not gonna really practice that much. It kind of feels like you're just in a moving bubble, per se, for lack of better words — just being kind of in one spot throughout the whole road trip, even though you're going to different cities."
There's a reason the NBA wants to keep things so locked down: contract tracing can really put teams into a bind.
The Brooklyn Nets will be without Kevin Durant on Tuesday due to the league's COVID-19 protocols, and the Los Angeles Clippers support staff had to be quarantined after a positive coronavirus test among eight people who attended a New Year's Eve meal at a presidential suite in the team hotel in Salt Lake City last week, per an ESPN report.
No Clippers players were included in the party.
"We've gone through similar things, and I'm sure everybody will at some point this season," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said of the Clippers situation. "Everybody's in the same boat, and you control what you can control. Then other parts of it, you have to be, I don't know if accepting is the right word, but you certainly have to adjust when those things happen."
The hope though is that they won't.
That's why the Jazz will be playing a lot of video games over the next 10 days.
"For myself, it won't be too much different. I don't really do much anyway," Mike Conley said. "Staying in the hotel room is what I did for the last 12 years but I figure it'll be a business trip. There's not a lot that we can do on the road. We've got some tough games — tough stretch of games, good teams — and we just need to be locked in on each and every one of them."