Utah Jazz urges continued COVID-19 vigilance after Wizards’ Kyle Kuzma misses Saturday game


The Washington forward’s entry into NBA health and safety protocol ahead of the Utah road final serves as a final reminder that while getting back to normal is the goal, it isn’t. still there.

Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma takes the ball onto the court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, December 8, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo / Carlos Osorio)

Washington • Saturday’s Utah Jazz game lost some of its luster early on when it was announced that Wizards forward and former University of Utah star Kyle Kuzma would not play in because of the need to enter the “NBA’s COVID-19-based health and safety protocol.”

In a season of trying to regain a little semblance of normalcy – with arenas fully populated by fans, a full 82-game schedule running from mid-October to mid-April, et cetera – it was a callback. brutal that yes, there is always a pandemic raging, and a little complacency or even just bad luck has the capacity to change a team’s fortunes.

Donovan Mitchell, who counts Kuzma among his close friends in the league, noted after the Jazz’s 123-98 victory that vigilance remains a necessity, and the Jazz are aware of it.

“I texted him, and luckily for him he doesn’t have any symptoms at the moment so he’s fine,” Mitchell said. “The most important thing is that it helps that we’ve already played a season through this, so being able to navigate, to understand, ‘OK, if you have a group of people [together], you have to get tested. ‘ Be smart about it. Because you are trying to get back to normal we all are so be smarter understand [the situation], and being boosted and after being vaccinated helps. This mindset, just being able to do the little things, use hand sanitizer, be very clean, do what you can when you can. It really is.

Whether through extra effort or sheer luck, the Jazz have for the most part been fortuitous in terms of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic after Rudy Gobert and Mitchell became the first and second NBA players to test positive. Juwan Morgan got it last season, and Royce O’Neale was in protocol for a very brief period before he was cleared, but that’s it.

No one on Jazz has had an incident this season so far. A myriad of other teams weren’t so lucky. With the Knicks’ Obi Toppin joining the roster on Sunday night, that brings the number of players in the league currently in protocol to 17. The Bulls and Hornets have five each right now.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to be going anywhere soon,” Gobert said. “So we have to be smart, keep moving forward, be smart, and that’s it. It’s unfortunate when someone tests positive, but it’s going to be our reality for a while, so we just have to live with it. “

Jordan Clarkson called the situation “just crazy enough,” noting that while being fully vaccinated and having a follow-up booster are all positive steps, they do not guarantee avoiding a positive test.

And yet, on a day when franchise icon John Stockton was in the news again for his final anti-vaccine comments, Clarkson added that the lack of guarantees shouldn’t stop people from taking these important steps.

“I hope everyone is vaxxed and [aware] of the situation, ”Clarkson said. “And if not, it’s your choice, and that’s life.”

Coach Quin Snyder addressed the wave of additions to the league’s health and safety protocol after Utah’s win in Philadelphia on Thursday night.

He declined to say who had recalls or not, but added, “I think everyone is doing what they can do.”

Elaborating a bit more, he noted that the team kept abreast of the league on best practices, regulations, etc. And yet, he added, it’s hard to really feel in the know, due to the groundbreaking cases and the delta and omicron variants that are currently making their way into the population.

“It’s fluid, the whole situation,” Snyder said. “… I don’t know if we can do anything about it except try to stick to the things that we know can help. And if we happen to be one of the unlucky ones, you deal with it when it happens. We were on the front lines when it first broke, and I think our guys are aware of everything. But to a certain extent, there isn’t much you can control.

The ultimate conclusion, he concluded, is that everyone “understands that this can happen.”