By Anthony L. Cuaycong
A lot has happened since Rudy Gobert playfully mocked in a presser last week safety precautions against the transmission of the novel coronavirus. Prior to leaving the premises, he went to the trouble of touching every microphone and voice recorder laid out in front of the table — effectively belittling its capacity to spread. Never mind that the National Basketball Association had just instituted measures distancing players from members of the media in an effort to minimize, if not altogether eradicate, infection. And never mind that France, from which he hails, was then already hard-hit and fighting to contain it.
Within two days of Gobert’s media conference, he wound up being affected by the virus first hand. His test came back positive, prompting a wave of actions and reactions that ultimately led to the NBA’s decision to suspend the remainder of the 2019–20 campaign. His fellow Jazz and the Thunder, whom they were supposed to face at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, had to be checked and quarantined until cleared. And, as things turned out, teammate Donovan Mitchell carried it as well. The development further cast a pall on his cavalier attitude during the presser, caught on camera, and, evidently, in the locker room, where he also touched the belongings of others.
Needless to say, Gobert was contrite in the aftermath, apologizing for his “careless” consideration of public welfare. His mea culpa was as remarkable as his decision to donate half a million dollars to a handful of causes working to alleviate and combat the virus’ short- and long-term effects. Unfortunately, there was already damage, not least to relationships within the Jazz. At stake is the very spirit of camaraderie that had him making light of the situation. Mitchell appeared especially affected, and it’s fair to speculate how and when the two most vital cogs will move past the discord.
The good news is that both Gobert and Mitchell look to be on the road to recovery. And, considering how well the two hitherto got along, and how tight officials run the Jazz, there is every reason to think all will be fine. Meanwhile, fans are wondering when the NBA will resume play, if at all. To argue that it has been a tumultuous season would be to vastly understate the obvious. It has gone through one deep dive after another — from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet to China’s pullout of support for the league to Kobe Bryant’s shocking death to the effects of the global pandemic.
All things considered, the NBA can thank its stars it has Adam Silver at the helm. He has blazed trails other sports organizations have seen fit to follow, and, under his watch, the league figures to recover. It’s why stakeholders’ worries are on everything but the sport. It’s in good hands. It will survive, and then it will thrive.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.