SALT LAKE CITY — An NBA agent who’s dealt directly with the Utah Jazz over the years is grateful for the way the organization has handled the coronavirus crisis but has concerns about how others are dealing with this growing ordeal.
For one thing, agent Bernie Lee, whose client list has included former Jazz point guard John Lucas III and Miami star Jimmy Butler, would prefer if the world didn’t know that two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and fellow All-Star Donovan Mitchell were infected with the coronavirus.
Though Gobert has received some public support, including from French forward and friend Evan Fournier, the Stifle Tower has also been the recipient of a large dose of scrutiny because he jokingly touched microphones after a press conference before being diagnosed with the virus.
“I think the way the Jazz is handling it is beyond words in terms of their respect and care for the people involved,” Lee said. “And I think the industry people have to get all of the way out of the way and stop leaking people’s health info like it’s transaction news.”
The NBA ended up suspending the season after Gobert’s diagnosis was made public Wednesday night. News of Mitchell also being infected with coronavirus broke Thursday morning. Fortunately, the other 56 players and personnel in the Jazz’s travel party, along with the five reporters sequestered at the Oklahoma City arena on Wednesday, all had negative tests (in a positive way).
But Gobert is taking a lot of flack on social media and around the world for his actions leading up to the testing.
That attitude concerns Lee, who believes support is needed more than ever in these difficult circumstances.
“The trend of outing or shaming any players for falling victim to this virus is asinine and will push other players not to proactively get the answers they need to protect themselves and loved ones,” Lee said. “All of this is no one’s fault and wasn’t anyone’s intent, and we need to group together and work through it for the greater good of everyone.”
Lee’s advice as the NBA and other organizations try to help quell the spread of this pandemic?
“I would just say that I think it’s important to follow the advice of experts at this time and follow protocols,” he said. “It’s a changing and adapting situation that we all have to be respectful of.”