Rudy Gobert re-opens the season his COVID-19 test closed with first points in NBA bubble

Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert shoots the ball in a pregame warmup before an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)
The NBA is back. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)

The first points of the NBA’s Disney World reboot came from the man whose positive COVID-19 test originally shut it all down.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had the first touch, shot and score of the team’s first game back against the New Orleans Pelicans. After winning the tip-off, Gobert got the ball in the post and went to work, just like he had been four months ago.

That would be the first basket of a solid game for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, who finished with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks in a 106-104 Jazz win. Possibly the most encouraging moment for the Jazz might have come on the final possession.

With the ball in the hands of Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz guard found Gobert in the paint to set up two free throws in a tie game with seconds left. Seeing that connection come through in crunch time is a good sign for two players whose relationship reportedly fractured after Mitchell tested positive for the virus shortly after Gobert.

Things come full circle for Rudy Gobert

Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 all the way back in March, at a time when the NBA was still handling the spreading coronavirus through muted warnings and barring reporters from locker rooms. It was the first known coronavirus case among athletes in the professional sports world.

The NBA suspended its season mere minutes after word broke of Gobert’s diagnosis, leading to months of waiting and a new plan in Disney World that would have sounded fantastical when the year began.

Gobert caught an enormous amount of flak — including from his own team — for the carelessness he showed before the test, the most infamous moments coming when he jokingly touched reporters’ recorders following a news conference.

Gobert apologized repeatedly following the test and urged people to not repeat his mistakes. He is still reportedly recovering his sense of smell, underscoring the long-term risks of even elite athletes contracting the virus. But he still made it back to the court with the Jazz, scoring the first and final points of the game as the team prepares for the most unique postseason in NBA history.

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