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'There's not anything you can really do': As COVID again descends upon the NBA, Jazz are thankful to still be playing

Carlos Osorio, AP photo

'There's not anything you can really do': As COVID again descends upon the NBA, Jazz are thankful to still be playing

By Ryan Miller, | Posted - Jan. 10, 2021 at 7:16 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — As the Utah Jazz travel around the country on a seven-game road trip, the league is increasingly facing more and more COVID-19 issues.

Philadelphia played with just eight players Saturday, Dallas closed its practice facility on Sunday, and Miami's game against Boston was postponed due to the Heat not having the required number of players available.

"Oh, wow, I didn't even know that," Donovan Mitchell said when he found out about the postponed game.

Mitchell, like everyone else in the league, also doesn't know what's ahead. In a statement to ESPN, the NBA explained that postponed games were planned for before the season and there are no current plans to pause the season. So the league is set to play through the current spike in exposures — for better or worse.

In one sense, it's good that there have been only two postponements. In another, though, things have been trending in the wrong direction.

On Dec. 30, the NBA announced there had been no new COVID-19 cases among league players. Less than two weeks later, things have spiraled quickly. Boston star Jayson Tatum tested positive for the coronavirus Friday, per the Boston Globe, and entered a 10- to 14-day isolation period. The league's health and safety protocols mandated that six of his teammates sit out as well.

And yet, it was the Heat — not the Celtics — who couldn't field a big enough team to take the court Sunday.

Tatum's positive test also forced Bradley Beal of the Wizards, who the Celtics played Friday, to miss a game on Saturday due to contract tracing.

It all just shows one positive test can be pretty far-reaching.

That fact has the rest of the league in a state of limbo wondering: What's next?

"There's not anything you can really do," Mitchell said, following Utah's 96-86 win over Detroit. "The biggest thing is just being cautious. COVID's a real thing. We wear our masks as much as possible, be smart, and just follow the rules. I'm not to say those teams weren't, but at the end of the day it may happen."

At this point, it seems the only question remaining is when it will happen to Utah. The Jazz have already had some scares this season. Mike Conley and Royce O'Neale both missed time in training camp due to the league's health and safety protocols. Conley said his was due to close contact with a family friend that had tested positive; O'Neale was less specific.

Joe Ingles also had a false positive test and Juwan Morgan has missed the last few games due to health and safety protocols — the blanket reason for any COVID-19 related absence. For the most part, though, the Jazz have avoided the effects of the virus.

"I think the protocols themselves are really specific and detailed. I think the League has done a great job with that as they did in the bubble," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. "The virus itself is difficult. There are so many situations that you can potentially be exposed — and particularly when you're traveling."

Players have kept masks on during the entirety of flights, the team has not dined together as a group, and for the most part, the team has been distanced from each other outside of games. At this point, with the NBA determined to continue while rosters thin, that's really the best the Jazz can do.

"As players and coaches and support staff become even more aware, we're learning a little bit as we go, but I think the League has done a great job," Snyder said. "It's just a really difficult thing ... it's more difficult to interact in any kind of significant way and that's not something that I think, at least for myself, that you can prepare yourself for mentally."

But at least — up until now — they are still playing.

"The most important thing is to keep everybody healthy and safe so that we can actually go out and compete," Snyder said.

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