NEW YORK – More than an hour before kick-off on Wednesday, enthusiastic fans, clasping Donovan Mitchell’s jerseys in their hands, positioned themselves near the tunnel hoping for an autograph from the young Utah Jazz star .
But they wouldn’t stand a chance tonight.
A security guard from Madison Square Garden approached the group and informed fans that the players would not sign anything due to the league’s growing concerns over the coronavirus.
The NBA sent a memo Monday detailing some suggestions on how to manage the epidemic. He recommended using punches instead of high-fives when speaking with fans and refraining from taking pens, balls, jerseys or anything else to autograph, among other things.
Utah Jazz was in one of two NBA cities on Wednesday with confirmed virus infections. So, of course, there was a bit of discussion in the Jazz locker room about this.
“We have discussed this a lot,” said Mike Conley. “Just a lot of washing your hands and staying away from large groups of people and washing your hands and hugging and kissing too many people. I’m just trying to back up as much as possible. Hopefully not to let him join our team. “
Conley said he was not too worried about things. At this point in his career, he has already seen pandemics. He remembers the fear of H1N1 and it didn’t affect him or the NBA too much.
“I have played in the league since all of this has happened, I travel a lot and everything is fine,” said Conley. “But you’re still trying to take care of yourself and be healthy.”
And Conley was a little safer on Wednesday.
Instead of Emmanuel Mudiay, he hit his elbows with him. Instead of going straight to his locker, he went to the sink to wash his hands. And when he read that Utah was suffering from a shortage of hand sanitizer, he even considered going online.
When he was informed of the high cost of it now, he laughed. “I knew they would drive up the price.”
The team discussed this with the players and also thought about what would happen if an NBA player caught the virus. So far there is no answer to this – just hope they can keep it from reaching the players.
“It’s really real, it’s real and the guys have to be careful about hand washing and who you are, and different situations and things, but I don’t think it’s the end of the world” said Conley.
New York has 11 confirmed cases of virus. Some of them are in Manhattan (where the Knicks play) and Westchester (where the Knicks train).
“The medical staff came last week and gave them the information they needed,” said Knicks’ acting coach Mike Miller. “What they were about and what they needed to be alert and somehow educate them.”
That’s why the league sent the memo. It is education and prevention at this stage. There is still no real concern about games like professional sports in Italy – where fans have been banned from games in some places – but it can still happen at this point.
“I’m fine. I don’t think about it too much,” said Mudiay.
Then Ed Davis replied, “We all have to die someday, right?”
“What Ed said,” said Mudiay, laughing. “But that day is not soon for me.”
It was a fun interaction, but there’s a reason the league doesn’t want them to sign anything right now.