Before beginning, I want to take a moment to acknowledge those who have contributed positively to an otherwise frantic and scary situation.
- Thank you to all of the media staying on the scene, including Royce Young and Erik Horne. Their reports were essential, as many of us received very little information from the NBA or individual teams.
- Thank you to the medical staff, including the OKC Thunder doctor who stopped gameplay before it began. Without their help who knows how many more could be infected.
How It Started
The Utah Jazz first reported Rudy Gobert was out with an illness at 12:24PM ET the day of the game. This is approximately seven hours before tipoff. Now cross reference this news with their released statement last night.
“This morning a player on the Utah Jazz tested negative for influenza, strep throat and an upper respiratory infection. The individual’s symptoms diminished over the course of today. However, in a precautionary measure, and in consultation and cooperation with NBA medical staff and Oklahoma health officials, the decision was made to test for COVID-19.”
Something doesn’t add up here. During the days leading up to this, all NBA news was about proposals to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 around the league. When someone on your roster is ill, COVID-19 should be the first concern.
According to the statement, other tests for the flu, strep, and an upper respiratory infection came back negative. Medical staff should know that this is a sign it could be COVID-19. Detection of the flu and this disease are not the same. Again, no decision was made to test until later.
It should be noted that the CDC requires teams to test for the three aforementioned infections prior to a test for COVID-19. Given that information, it is understandable that the COVID-19 test came later. However, if there is not enough time to perform the required tests, and the results will take up to eight hours, the logical decision is to keep Gobert and Emmanuel Mudiay (who was also sick but later confirmed safe) in Utah until it is 100% safe for them to travel. Instead, they were sent to OKC anyway.
Fast forward to the game. Literally minutes before tip-off, the results for this COVID-19 test are complete. This forces OKC medical staff to take drastic measures to stop the game, causing panic in the arena. Finally, it is announced the game is cancelled and fans are asked to leave. Because the results are still in their preliminary stages, there is very little information provided to the fans who are naturally concerned for their own safety and well-being.
News and speculation begins to swirl, as some believe a staff member of Chesapeake arena may have been infected, some believe it was a player on the court. About an hour after the cancellation, reports of Rudy Gobert’s diagnosis begin to circulate.
Are the Jazz to blame?
An interesting report to highlight is Chris Paul’s confrontation with the Jazz bench.
Prior to tip-off as the game was delayed, Chris Paul ran over to the Utah bench and said “what’s wrong with Rudy?” and they all yelled for him to get away. Now all the players are quarantined in their locker rooms, being tested for the virus.
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) March 12, 2020
Based on this description, it seems clear that the Jazz players knew the gravity of the situation. According to other reports, the Utah roster waved goodbye as they returned to the locker rooms, seemingly sure they would not return.
Did the Jazz roster believe there was a possibility that Gobert was infected? If so, why did the team allow Gobert on the plane?
My speculation is this: the Utah Jazz intentionally dismissed the unlikely yet catastrophic possibility that their star center was infected with COVID-19. They badly wanted him to play, and in the hopes that he recovered, the Utah Jazz decided to send Gobert on the plane to OKC. A decision that, ultimately, could infect a city that had no confirmed cases of the virus at that time.
He resided in a room of the 21c Museum Hotel, where most visiting teams stay the night. He likely made contact with some hotel employers, staff members, and residents of the Oklahoma City area.
Today, we know about his infection and the underlying consequences in the Oklahoma City area. His fellow All-Star Donovan Mitchell, who attended an event at Del City High School the day prior, was also diagnosed with COVID-19.
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell worked out at Del City High School before testing positive for the coronavirus. https://t.co/j3guVgFrMZ
— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) March 12, 2020
Rudy Gobert’s Carelessness
Although I believe the Jazz have much to blame in this situation, Gobert’s acts should not go unnoticed. At this point, most people have seen the clip. Gobert jokingly touches all the microphones on the podium before leaving. Days later, doctors confirmed his diagnosis. Because of the incubation period of COVID-19, Gobert was likely carrying the disease at the time of the video.
Here's Rudy Gobert on Monday touching all the microphones in the media room on purpose.
Here we are on Wednesday, and Rudy Gobert was just confirmed to have coronavirus, causing the NBA to suspend the season.
— matthew ashlock (@themattashlock) March 12, 2020
We later discover that Gobert’s careless actions have created some concern among his fellow teammates.
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has tested positive for the coronavirus, league sources tell ESPN. Jazz players privately say that Rudy Gobert had been careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings. Now a Jazz teammate has tested positive.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 12, 2020
Although I don’t believe this to be as egregious as the Utah Jazz’s decisions, it is still wildly disrespectful and irresponsible. In all likelihood, Gobert’s decisions will impact another member of the Jazz organization.
We know now that the NBA will stay suspended for at least 30 days. Someone was bound to become infected anyway, but last night’s events really forced the league’s hand.
Had Utah been more precautious, the spread could have been mitigated. Instead, they made a basketball decision to bring a sick Rudy Gobert so he could possibly suit up for an important game, rather than a human decision to leave him in Utah until the proper tests were complete. The result is one of the craziest situations in NBA history.
No one knows what’s going to happen. It seems like every minute there is a new development, and the whole picture changes once again. The only thing we can do is protect ourselves. Be smart. Stay hydrated. Leave your residence only if necessary. And be sure to help your loved ones.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!