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Q&A: Jazz writer talks about being in the arena when the NBA suspended its season

Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder meets with Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan and officials before before an NBA basketball game was postponed in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, March 11, 2020.(Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman via AP)
AP

OKLAHOMA CITY — Wednesday night in Oklahoma City, the NBA world came to a halt.

The game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Arena was postponed just before tip-off. It was later announced that a Jazz player, whom the Deseret News confirmed through league sources is Rudy Gobert, had tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA later announced that it was suspending its season.

Deseret News Jazz beat writer Sarah Todd was at the arena covering the game. Sports writer Jody Genessy spoke to her about how it all unfolded.

Jody Genessy: What’s the latest update on the situation?

Sarah Todd: The latest thing I know is that the health department and law enforcement are at the arena. I overheard law enforcement saying that the health department is in the locker room with the team right now. It’s rumored but not confirmed that players are being tested tonight. I’ll probably have an update on that within an hour or two. Outside of that, communication from the NBA is shut down. The season’s been suspended. Players and coaches will not be made available (for comment).

Sarah Todd poses for a photo at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

We do have word that the team is going to try to help us, us being the three writers that are traveling (with the Jazz), that the medical team is going to be in contact with us.

We are sitting by the team buses waiting. We’re not allowed to go into the hallway that connects to the locker rooms.

(Update: Players were being tested, followed by associated personnel.)

JG: What’s the scene like at the arena right now?

ST: Signs say “Essential staff only.” Normally we’d just be able to walk (in). The arena is empty.

It was really strange at first because it was literally seconds before tip-off. Someone sprinted onto the court and then within a matter of seconds the teams were walking to their respective locker rooms and Jordan Clarkson turned around and waved to the fans. It seemed like they understood they weren’t coming back out. A minute later, the P.A. announcer said we’re waiting for league confirmation to start the game.

Media was not allowed into the tunnels off the court to get information. Then they started to stall before giving the official word. ...

The P.A. announcer said, “The game has been postponed. You are all safe.” Which obviously made everyone feel not safe at all.

Since then, it’s been a slow trickle of information and very little help.

None of us are showing any symptoms. But it doesn’t help us at all to feel any better because two days ago Rudy wasn’t showing any symptoms. We’re all as equally freaked out as if we were showing symptoms.

JG: What about Rudy Gobert’s joke where he touched reporter’s microphones on Monday?

ST: I thought it was funny, too. I feel bad because he’s getting flack on Twitter. It’s not like Rudy’s intentionally spreading coronavirus. … He wasn’t having symptoms.

It was the very first day they changed media availability. They set up with mics in front of him and not people.

It was weird for everyone and we all laughed when he touched the microphones.

As someone who’s scared and needs a test, I have zero ill will toward Rudy at all. Any sort of situation like this needs a bit of levity and he wasn’t being malicious.

JG: As a member of the media, what’s been most frustrating?

ST: The most frustrating thing is knowing there is an expedited sense of urgency to get everything the players and team officials need, meanwhile reporters with the team every day and in direct contact with players, we’re still sitting here wondering what’s going to happen to us.

JG: When was your last interaction with Rudy?

ST: Monday night (after the Toronto game).

As of right now, unconfirmed — Emmanuel Mudiay is sick with similar symptoms as Rudy. We’ve had contact with other players on the team as late as this afternoon.

My Mom is flying to Salt Lake City on Friday. I had bought a ticket for her. She’s in her 60s. I don’t want to potentially infect her. I don’t know how long I’m going to be in Oklahoma City. We don’t know anything right now.

It’s not the kind of stress I wanted.