Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
WASHINGTON D.C. — Quin Snyder knocked on the desk slowly. It wasn't wood, but his message was clear: Please, let his team's luck continue.
The NBA, at large, is experiencing an increase of positive COVID-19 cases. Former University of Utah star Kyle Kuzma sat out of Saturday's Jazz win due to a positive test, adding his name to a growing list of players who have contracted the virus recently. Some teams have had isolated cases, while others — like Charlotte and Chicago — have had full on outbreaks.
This season, the league sought to bring back a sense of normalcy to the players and teams after they endured the bubble and a mostly fan-less truncated year. The schedule was back to usual — 82 games running from October to April — and the fans had returned to stadiums.
The new variants that continue to emerge have served as a reminder that normal — whatever that means nearly two years since the Jazz were at the epicenter of the pandemic — is still difficult to find.
"It doesn't look like it's going to go anywhere soon," Rudy Gobert said. "So we have to be smart, keep moving forward, be smart, and that's it. It's unfortunate when someone tests positive, but it's going to be our reality for a while, so we've got to just live with it."
After a player tests positive, he must isolate from the team for 10 days or return two negative PCR tests in a 24-hour period before they can get back to action.
Currently, there are 22 players throughout the NBA going through the league's COVID health and safety protocols, with the number growing by the day. On Saturday, it was Kuzma and New York's Obi Toppin joining the list; on Sunday, it was Chicago's Zach LaVine, joining several of his teammates. The Bulls are nearing the point where they could be at risk of not being able to dress the league-minimum eight players.
"Hopefully it's not one of those years," said Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers. "Honestly, it looks like it's headed that way. You look at football, a lot of guys are getting it all of a sudden — same thing in our league. And you just hope for a lot of reasons that it doesn't happen."
Rivers' team went through an outbreak last month, with multiple players, including star Joel Embiid, suffering some severe symptoms. Rivers said players are still feeling the effects of their fight with COVID.
"I think anyone who had it in the league, for the most part, those guys are still struggling," Rivers said. "They're playing; that doesn't mean they're playing at a 100% clip."
In other news, former Jazz guard John Stockton did an interview with "DNP-CD Sports Podcast," which will be released Monday. In his interview, Stockton criticized both vaccine mandates and applauded Brooklyn Nets guard Kryie Irving for his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Irving has yet to play a game this season due to his stance.
"There's not a chance I would risk any of that to play," said Stockton, as quoted by a New York Post report. "My hope would be other guys would join in. And all of us lock arms. And none of us play."
Stockton previously appeared in a vaccine conspiracy and misinformation documentary. In that documentary, he said COVID-19 is "not very dangerous" compared to other viruses. Medical professionals, however, continue to stress that a vaccine is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus.
Mitchell said he texted with Kuzma after hearing his close friend tested positive. The former Utes player told him that he doesn't have any symptoms and that he's doing well. Mitchell said the biggest thing as more and more players contract the virus is to simply stay smart.
"It helps that we've played a season through this already, so being able to navigate, figure out, 'OK, if you have a group of people (together), you've got to get tested.' Being smart about it," Mitchell said. "Because you're trying to get back to normal, we all are, so being smarter about it, understanding and getting boosted and after being vaccinated helps. That mindset, just being able to do the little things, using hand sanitizer, being extra clean, doing what you can when you can. That's really it."
The Jazz are fully vaccinated, but Snyder didn't elaborate how many players have received the booster shot. He said the situation is something the team needs to continue to be aware of, especially as things continue to change.
"It's fluid," Snyder said. "The whole situation. I don't know that there's anything that we can do about it except try to abide by the things that we know can help. If we happen to be one of the unlucky ones, you deal with that when it comes."
But he knocked on wood — or, more accurately, some plastic — that they won't be.