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With COVID-19 spreading through team, Jazz officially sign Denzel Valentine

Cleveland Cavaliers' Denzel Valentine drives against the Golden State Warriors in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Cleveland.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Denzel Valentine drives against the Golden State Warriors in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Cleveland. (Tony Dejak, Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — With COVID-19 continuing to spread through the team, the Jazz have signed fifth-year wing Denzel Valentine.

On Monday, the Jazz had two more players enter health and safety protocols after both Jared Butler and Udoka Azubuike returned positive tests.

They join Rudy Gay, Elijah Hughes — who both entered the league's health and safety protocols on Sunday — and Rudy Gobert. Joe Ingles has been cleared but is in "return to play" protocols. The virus has fully hit the Jazz with three assistant coaches — Alex Jensen, Vince Legarza, and Sergi Oliva — also testing positive.

That situation meant Sunday was quite the roller coaster for veteran swingman James Ennis.

Ennis, who has played for nine NBA teams over an eight-year career, thought he was headed for Utah to help fill gaps as players recover. That's at least what The Athletic's Sham Charania reported Sunday afternoon.

The Jazz, however, were forced to change course. Wojnarowski was the first to report the Jazz were no longer planning on signing the 31-year-old wing. A classic Shams vs. Woj battle over a 10-day hardship deal? Not exactly.

Ennis was in close contact with someone with a recent positive COVID-19 test, which put his own availability at risk and forced the Jazz to look elsewhere.

Valentine was the next man up.

Valentine appeared in 22 games this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 2.9 points and hitting 40% of his 3-point shots. Valentine was traded to New York in a three-team deal that landed Cleveland Rajon Rondo from the Los Angeles Lakers. He was immediately waived by the Knicks, making him a free agent.

The fifth-year wing has averaged 7.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in his career.

Hughes missed Saturday's game against Indiana with what the Jazz designated as a "non-COVID illness." Hughes had symptoms for COVID-19 but had returned negative tests up until Sunday. The same thing happened with Gobert earlier this week when he missed Utah's win over Denver with an illness. He then ended up testing positive for COVID-19 a day later.

Even with symptoms, the Jazz can't list a player in its health and safety protocols until a positive test has been returned.

The Jazz will finish off their five-game road trip Monday in Detroit against the Pistons.

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