Utah Jazz All-Star center Rudy Gobert, the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus, in March, won’t be relying on the league’s anonymous safety tip line to hold others accountable within the Orlando bubble.
“I don’t know if someone’s gonna use it, but I think it’s sort of petty,” said Gobert, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. “At the same time, you want to make sure that people respect the rules.
“But I don’t think the line will really help at that point. I think it’s more about respecting each other and all do it as a small community. Everyone is pretty much educated about the virus at this point, and it’s more about respect. At the same time, you want to make sure you socialize and do all those things, but still respecting each other’s space and try to wear the mask inside, especially when it’s crowded.”
As recently as last month, Gobert’s sense of smell still wasn’t 100% as he experienced ongoing symptoms after his initial March 11 test, which led to the suspension of the NBA season. His teammate Donovan Mitchell tested positive the next day.
Since arriving on July 7, the Jazz have practiced in Orlando from July 9 to 14 before taking Wednesday off. Mitchell has compared the overall setup to previous AAU experiences.
“I think the biggest thing is just being able to mentally stay locked in. That’s going to be the toughest part,” Mitchell said. “It’s gonna be lonely not seeing our friends and family, so being able to stay locked in — and that just doesn’t go for myself.
“… Just staying mentally ready, mentally engaged, because I can’t tell you the last time I’ve had practice at 6 o’clock every night. So, being able to take care of yourself throughout the day, get some rest, be ready to stay locked in, because it gives you that feeling of AAU, summer camp or summertime vibe, and that’s not really the same as an NBA season.”
The Florida Department of Health on Wednesday reported 10,181 new coronavirus cases along with 112 new deaths. Florida has also surpassed 300,000 total cases, with 4,521 deaths related to COVID-19.
Still, some players aren’t relying on the hotline to police others around campus.
“At this point, I think we’ve all been through enough meetings, each team individually, about the coronavirus and understanding the importance of practicing social distancing and wearing a mask and all those things,” Jazz guard Mike Conley said. “So, at this point, we’ve got to trust each other. We’ve got to trust the other teams, the other players. We know our guys are gonna do the right thing and kind of just trust the process.”
When asked if the hotline could be a problem, Clippers coach Doc Rivers instead made light of it before saying he also understands the reasoning that the hotline is in place.
“I turned in LeBron [James] yesterday. I’m turning in Pop [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] today. I’m trying to turn all these guys in,” Rivers joked. “I think it’s phenomenal. We are going to be the only team left when I am done with this hotline thing. No, it’s funny. I don’t think it’s a problem at all. I think it’s good.
“This is not some normal thing. COVID is obviously … it’s not only that you can get sick, but you can get other people sick, so this is very important for all of us. We want to do our jobs. So I think having a hotline, I guess that is what they are calling it, I guess that is important.”
Not everyone has been following the rules inside the bubble, but the NBA is enforcing strict guidelines when players and staffers don’t follow directions.
For example, Sacramento Kings center Richaun Holmes was forced to return to an additional 10-day quarantine in his hotel room Monday after leaving the NBA’s bubble to pick up a food delivery. Holmes said in a statement that he “briefly and accidentally” crossed the campus line.
So far, multiple tips have been placed into the anonymous hotline to report protocol violations on campus, with some players receiving warnings after violations, according to The Athletic.
“I’m more so worried about myself and the guys on our team, and I know that we’re taking every precaution, following all the protocols,” Milwaukee Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo said. “… We’re not worried about anything else going on but ourselves and our team, so I don’t think I would use [the hotline].
“For me, it’s more so about, we trust the NBA, we trust the protocols in place and we trust ourselves. … I think we’re just policing ourselves and kind of focused on ourselves. If we follow it, I think we feel good about everything. It’s not about getting into it with other teams.”
ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk contributed to this report.