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Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert Tests Positive For COVID-19, Sports World Doesn’t Shut Down This Time

James Murphy
by in NBA on
  • Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be inactive for at least the next five days.
  • Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive on March 11, 2020 and his positive test resulted in an immediate suspension of the NBA season.
  • The Jazz were the last NBA team without a positive COVID-19 test this season.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has tested positive for COVID-19 and will enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Gobert will be inactive for at least the next five days after a PCR test came back positive. Gobert had missed Wednesday’s Jazz game against the Denver Nuggets with what at the time was characterized as a ‘non-COVID illness’ after the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year returned a pair of negative rapid tests.

Trivia experts will recall that Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 on March 11, 2020. This was something of a ‘shot heard round the world’ as it set off a chain reaction of events that would ultimately see the majority of the sports world go into a hiatus in the early days of the pandemic. The NBA was the first US professional sports league to postpone play due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league shut it down the day after Gobert’s positive test–by that time teammate Donovan Mitchell had also tested positive. The NCAA had already made the decision to conduct the ‘March Madness’ college basketball tournament without fans in attendance. One day after the NBA pulled the plug, the NCAA followed suit cancelling all championship events for the 2019-2020 academic year. Here’s how ESPN recounted it:

Gobert was originally dealing with flu-like symptoms on March 11, 2020, when the Jazz were in Oklahoma City for a game. He eventually tested positive for the virus, a result that the Jazz and the NBA learned of just moments before the game against the Thunder was to begin. That game was called, and about 90 minutes later, the 2019-20 season was suspended.

The NBA — and the entire sports landscape — hasn’t been the same since.

The early days of the pandemic were downright bizarre. I was in Portland, Oregon when all of this was going down and in addition to my usual duties I was helping the team at BetOnline.ag with a live blog that kept a running tally of all of the sports that had announced the cancellation of their season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I figured that it was getting serious when the restaurant in the Dossier Hotel closed down. Sadly, it would not reopen as Portland’s tourism plummeted due to circumstances beyond their control (the pandemic) as well as self inflicted wounds (riots and looting). Within the span of two years, Portland was transformed from one of the most livable cities in the country to what more closely resembled the set of a zombie apocalypse movie. Even as many cities have started to see their tourism rebound, Portland’s hotels are empty. Portland’s economic base has packed up and will likely never return.

Thankfully, the sports world did return and although COVID-19 is still a significant issue things are dramatically different from the hysteria of the pandemic’s early days. The omicron variant has created a huge surge in the number of infections though it looks to be less severe than previous iterations. In the NBA, 35 players are currently in COVID protocols though many players can be back in action in as few as 5 days. Here’s how CBS Sports explained the new reality:

With the omicron variant running rampant, NBA rosters are in flux. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Milwaukee Buck guard Jrue Holiday and Dallas Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis are among the many players in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. In related news, since Dec. 26, tighter protocols — stricter mask requirements, increased testing — have been in effect. These rules will be in place until Jan. 8.

Another change: Some players can now clear health and safety protocols and return to play as soon as five days after testing positive, provided that they are asymptomatic, vaccinated and likely not contagious (i.e. their cycle threshold is above 30).

Ironically, Gobert’s second positive COVID diagnosis came exactly 666 days following his first. The symbolism of the number aside, it underscores that much has changed in that time but the world is still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic nearly two years later. There’s virtually no chance that the NBA will shut down the season once again though the league has postponed games here and there. Until this week, the Utah Jazz had managed to get by almost completely unscathed–Joe Ingles positive test on Tuesday was the team’s first of the season. The Jazz were the last team in the league without a positive COVID-19 test. There are concerns that Utah could be below the NBA game minimum eight available players for Friday’s game at Toronto due to injuries and COVID. Here’s how the Salt Lake Tribune’s Andy Larsen ran down the list:

Overall, 35 NBA players are currently in the NBA’s COVID health and safety protocols. Until this week, the Jazz had escaped having a player test positive for the virus this season, until Joe Ingles was first on Tuesday. They were the last team without a positive test.

The duo are part of a lengthy Jazz injury report that will see the team’s best players miss Friday’s game.

Donovan Mitchell is out due to a lower back strain that has caused him reduced movement in recent days, while Bojan Bogdanovic is out due to a left middle finger sprain after scoring 36 points against Denver. Mike Conley is sitting for the game, as he frequently does on one end of the back to back, due to his knee injury.

The Jazz also have four players listed as ‘questionable’: Royce O’Neale (right patellar tendonitis), Hassan Whiteside (concussion protocol), Jordan Clarkson (lower back tightness), and Rudy Gay (right heel injury recovery). The only players without an injury or in COVID protocol are Danuel House, Udoka Azubuike, Jared Butler, Trent Forrest, Malik Fitts, Elijah Hughes, and Eric Paschall. This means that the Jazz will have to get a player back from injury or sign a short term addition to the roster if they’re to have the eight players necessary for a game to be played under league rules.

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