Rudy Gobert

76ers star Joel Embiid wearing mask
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Joel Embiid fully suited, masked, and gloved for 76ers flight (video)

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76ers star Joel Embiid said of the NBA bubble at Disney World, “I don’t think it’s going to be safe enough.”

I don’t understand that comment. If it won’t be safe enough, why go?

But however exactly he feels, Embiid looks the part of someone who’d say that.

NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Embiid is listed at 7 foot, 280 pounds. Where did he get a suit so large?

If he desires protection from contracting and spreading coronavirus, the mask is great. If the noted jokester desires laughs, the suit is delivering.

This is definitely better than Rudy Gobert‘s attempt at coronavirus humor.

Rudy Gobert to replace name on jersey with ‘Equality’ as first social justice messages leak

Jazz center Rudy Gobert
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“Equality” and “Vote” have proven popular among the first social justice messages on the back of NBA player jerseys have been leaked to the public.

The choices of nine NBA players were leaked by Chris Haynes of TNT and Yahoo Sports on Tuesday during Inside the NBA on TNT. Here is the first list:

Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz) – “Equality”
CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers) – “Education Reform”
Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers) – ‘Equality”
Kent Bazemore (Sacramento Kings) – “Education Reform”
Matisse Thybulle (Philadelphia 76ers) – “Vote”
Pat Connaughton (Milwaukee Bucks) – “Equality”
Meyers Leonard (Miami Heat) – “Equality”
Ivica Zubac (Los Angeles Clippers) – “Enough”
Moe Wagner (Wizards) – “Vote”

The NBA is a multi-billion dollar business, so it wanted to allow for social justice messages on jerseys — but not any social justice message. It had to come from a pre-approved list (read: things that felt “safe” and would not offend the core audience). That did not sit well with players, but everyone is headed to Orlando for the restart for financial reasons, so of course this was a business decision. The list of approved messages is:

Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; Mentor.

NBA players will be arriving in Orlando through Thursday as the NBA starts to form its bubble and begin practices.

Utah’s Rudy Gobert ‘in a good place,’ trying to move forward

Rudy Gobert
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There were the tweets from strangers.

“I hate you.”

“You ruined the whole world.”

“You deserve it.”

And there was the scorn from inside his own locker room, the presumption that he infected a teammate with coronavirus, the suggestion that his recklessness somehow caused the entire sporting world to come to an absolute standstill.

Utah center Rudy Gobert is still standing tall, after all that and more.

Plenty of eyes will be on Gobert when the NBA season, the one that shut down March 11 when he became the first player in the league to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, takes a giant step toward returning by having teams gather at the Disney complex in Central Florida over the next few days. The Jazz will be a fascinating case study during this restart, particularly regarding whether or not Gobert and Donovan Mitchell — a fellow All-Star who was diagnosed with the virus shortly after the shutdown began and did not hide his anger with Gobert about it all — can coexist peacefully again.

“I’m happy now. I’m in a good place, you know,” Gobert told reporters Friday. “And I’m happy that I get the joy back from playing basketball with my team and the competitiveness is back. I’m ready to try to go out there and try to win the championship. That’s the goal. And to be honest, after everything we’ve been through as a team and as human beings, it would be a great comeback.”

Gobert answered questions for about 11 minutes. He talked about the relationship with Mitchell. (“It’s never going to be perfect,” he said, acknowledging strains that have been no secret.) He talked about the potential of signing a lucrative extension — he’s supermax-eligible — with the Jazz, which could happen before next season. (“I don’t plan on leaving right now,” he said.) He talked about his recovery from the virus, which is ongoing, at least in how his sense of smell hasn’t totally recovered. (“Smelling, I took that for granted too. It’s back now, it’s back at 80%, I’m not worried,” he said.)

He spoke softly, calmly, thoughtfully. And even though he is the two-time reigning NBA defensive player of the year, he didn’t swat any question away.

“Obviously, when you have the whole world judging you and threatening you or sending you a lot of negative energy and stuff like that, it’s something that I would say is not easy as a human being,” Gobert said. “But at the same time, people just judge you on the perception they have and the perception they get. Sometimes it can be one picture, one video, one interview, one action.”

In this case, that’s pretty much exactly what happened.

A picture, a video, an interview, an action. It was the start of the downfall.

It was the morning of March 9: Before leaving a media session at shoot-around in Salt Lake City on Monday in advance of a game against Detroit, Gobert touched all the tape recorders that were placed before him on a table, devices that reporters who cover the Jazz were using. He meant it as a joke. When he tested positive two days later, it was no laughing matter.

The Jazz were in Oklahoma City, just moments away from starting a game against the Thunder, when word came that Gobert tested positive. The game was called off. The season was suspended that same night.

Just like that, Gobert was a center of negative attention.

“First of all, you make sure he’s OK,” said Orlando guard Evan Fournier, a fellow French national-team player, who reached out often to check on Gobert. “You know, you call him and once we’re on the phone or just talking, text, whatever, you just ask him a few questions. How is he feeling, blah, blah, blah. And then once he starts to open up and say things about how he sees the whole situation, then you just try to give your best judgment to him. And you know, that’s what I did.”

Gobert immediately started trying to show remorse. He donated $200,000 to a fund established to help those who work part-time at Jazz games, people who lost income because contests were canceled. More money — about $310,000 — went to families affected by the pandemic in Utah and Oklahoma City, plus in his native France. He taped a public-service announcement for the league.

“I won’t be able to control everyone’s perception of me, but I can control my actions,” Gobert said. “I can control, you know, the things I do for the people around me, for the community, the things I do for my teammates on the court, off the court. All that stuff, I can control and that’s what really matters to me.”

For his part, Mitchell said the relationship with Gobert has improved.

“Right now, we’re good,” Mitchell said Thursday. “We’re going out there ready to hoop.”

The Jazz have secured a playoff berth. They’ll be without the injured Bojan Bogdanovic for the remainder of the season, yet still have enough depth to be considered a contender in the Western Conference.

And Gobert expects he and Mitchell, on the court anyway, will be fine.

“As long as we respect one another and we both share the same goals and we both do what’s best for the team, that’s what matters,” Gobert said. “And, you know, I think over the last few years that’s what we’ve been doing and that’s what we plan on continuing doing.”

Rudy Gobert says he’s not fully recovered from COVID-19

Rudy Gobert COVID-19
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Rudy Gobert is considered patient zero in the NBA for COVID-19.

Utah’s All-Star center was the first player to test positive for the coronavirus (he very well may not have been the first to have it, and other players would have gotten it eventually elsewhere). When he tested positive back on March 11, the league shut down.

Gobert has still not fully recovered from the disease, he told the French sports publication L’Equipe (HoopsHype has the translation).

“The taste has returned, but the smell is still not 100%. I can smell the smells, but not from afar. I spoke to specialists, who told me that it could take up to a year.”

It could have been much worse. Fortunately, Gobert had a mild case of the disease and expects to be playing in Orlando when the NBA restarts next month. But the fact a healthy 28-year-old is still feeling the effects of the disease three months later speaks to how everyone — regardless of age — needs to take both the coronavirus and mask wearing seriously.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell also tested positive for the disease and believes he got it from Gobert. That led to some friction between Utah’s two All-Stars — and trade speculation by fans of other teams — but the two have reportedly worked out their differences. Gobert is eligible for a contract extension this offseason and will be a free agent in 2021 without it.

Utah heads into the restart with their two stars but without Bojan Bogdanovic, which makes them far less of a threat in the stacked West.

Report: More NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus than reported so far

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Jazz center Rudy Gobert
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At least 19 NBA players have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus:

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

I can tell you for a hundred percent fact: There are more players that have tested positive than have been reported or revealed.

To some degree, I understand players wanting to maintain their privacy – especially once they stopped interacting with masses of fans who’d benefit from being alerted.

But that’s generally not how the NBA works. Player injuries are announced, and we have repeatedly been told – as the NBA tries to resume its season – to treat coronavirus like an injury for players. The NBA’s push to draw revenue from gambling has been bolstered by promoting transparency, at least on paper. This violates that spirit.

It’s especially troubling as the league launches an ambitious plan for playing amid the pandemic. There are reasons to believe the plan is sound. There are reasons to believe the plan has shortcomings. But the NBA should be open with the underlying data.

As of mid-May, all the diagnosed players reportedly recovered in short order. Hopefully, the fact that other players have kept their diagnoses secret suggests they also recovered without complications.