The Utah Jazz lead the NBA in a handful of categories. Most of the 3 points, like they did last season. The most points per game. The most rebounds per game.
They are also the last to use the word “protocols”.
It is not accurate – as of yet – to say that every team in the NBA has had a coronavirus problem this season. No Jazz player has yet been on the league’s health and safety protocol list this season, making Utah the only team to have yet to lose a player due to an issue with the virus. .
It’s particularly impressive considering what’s going on. Right now, 27 of the league’s 30 teams are currently waiting for at least one player to be taken off the roster, with some of those teams waiting for more than one player to be eliminated.
“I don’t feel any particular pride,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said when asked if he was the last team to participate in the Protocol Race. “I think we were lucky. We tried to be smart about a lot of things. A lot of teams have done it, just in terms of awareness. I think we were lucky. I also think it’s kind of a shock situation on some level. ”
He doesn’t really think the luck will last. Snyder knows it’s an “inevitability” that the Jazz will join the rest of the NBA. The numbers around the league indicate that day is coming sooner rather than later.
December 2021 has been a tough month for the NBA, by all accounts, possibly the toughest since March 2020. That’s when the decision to shut down came on the night jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for COVID-19.
More than 500 players spoke this month, a record for a month in league history. More than 100 players have entered protocols and the list of deferred matches has increased to nine. The NBA had no choice but to give teams unlimited slots for tough contracts, agreeing not to count emergency calls into a team’s salary cap or luxury tax numbers.
But as any new year should, January is likely to bring new optimism.
The league has now implemented a shorter return-to-play plan for those who have tested positive. It’s reasonable to think that the percentage of players who received recalls – 65% was the last known figure – will increase soon, especially as every team has been ordered by the NBA to host an event to put them on. available to players, staff and family members. by Friday. And even though more than 100 players tested positive in December, few were known to have much more than a bad case of sniffling, likely in large part due to the league’s 97% vaccination rate.
“We all want this to be behind us,” said Portland assistant Scott Brooks, who will coach the Trail Blazers while head coach Chauncey Billups is in protocols.
Brooks pointed to the silver lining he sees right now – the opportunities that the roster expansion has created for G League players and others to enter the league.
A prime example of the new odds comes from Indiana and newly signed Keifer Sykes.
He’s undersized, a 6 foot guard. Was not heavily recruited prior to signing up at Green Bay to play college ball. Made stints in the Summer League with Cleveland, Golden State, Denver and Indiana. I went to training camp with the Pacers and San Antonio. Played for a few G League teams in the US, as well as the winner’s summer event, known as the Basketball Tournament, and wore jerseys for professional teams in South Korea, Turkey, Italy, China, Greece and Australia.
And now, finally, he’s in the NBA.
Sykes got the call from the Pacers on Sunday night. The first person he spoke to was his mother, who wanted to cry out for joy.
“Don’t shout yet. I have to take the COVID test, ”Sykes told him.
He spent. Mom can scream now.
“Happy for him,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. It’s a great opportunity for him. This is his first official stint in the NBA and he has been an opportunist in his career. And I know he will do well. ”
Even in tough times for many in the NBA, there have been stories worth savoring. A difficult month finally ends. The league can only hope that the best of this season is yet to come.
Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for the Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds (at) ap.org