Serge Ibaka stood slightly crouched at the centre of the Utah Jazz logo at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Monday. His arm, bent at the elbows arched upwards, readying itself to tap the orange basketball that would soon be mid-air away from Rudy Gobert. As referee Rodney Mott sent the ball on its course, the two centres rose and collided, Gobert coming away with the decisive tap to Mike Conley.
On Utah’s second possession, Donovan Mitchell received a pass from Royce O’Neale a few feet beyond the top of the arc and attacked Norman Powell with a dribble going left. Ibaka came over to help after Powell was beat, his contest forcing a miss from Mitchell’s left-handed layup attempt. Over the next 47 minutes, both rosters would jostle for rebounding position, shoot over outstretched arms, and dive for loose balls. Ibaka even performed his customary ritual of kissing the ball after a Gobert free throw.
These were much simpler times, of course, but the NBA’s announcement that the 2019-20 season would be suspended with immediate effect on Wednesday in recognition of a global pandemic in the coronavirus threw each event involving the two players who tested positive, Mitchell and Gobert, under a microscope. As a result, members of the Toronto Raptors, from players to coaches to training staff, were asked to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days, with the hope of addressing priority No. 1 for all right now: social distancing to buy time and minimize the amount of treatment necessary.
Thankfully, the team confirmed Friday night that all the tests conducted Wednesday through Thursday morning on the back of a pair of public appearances—Nick Nurse’s charity concert and Norman Powell’s annual bowling night in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto—came back negative. It appears the Raptors’ defence is capable of even more than we thought.
Still, based on the advice of Toronto Public Health, those who were asked to self-isolate will continue to do so. Gasol hopefully has the accompaniment of several wines of his choice while Lowry is probably watching his beloved Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl and his spectacular 26-point, 10-assist NBA Finals Game 6 performance against the Golden State Warriors on repeat. Chris Boucher and Stanley Johnson have shared through their respective social media accounts that they’re passing time by playing video games, while Malcolm Miller even shared his Twitch account for people to follow him.
Since commissioner Adam Silver confirmed on Thursday that the league will not resume for a minimum of 30 days, these three will have plenty of time to improve their skills. Serge Ibaka revealed that in the absence of his cooking show How Hungry Are You? or his fashion advice show Avec Classe, he will be making plenty of time to work out.
Hell, he's even taken the time to make a new DIY workout show, How Bored Are You?
Who will OG Anunoby troll now and how? Is Pascal Siakam just spinning around his house like the Tasmanian Devil? Is Fred VanVleet going to work on moves for the eventual And1 mixtape? These are questions we can only hope to have answered in the next few days.
There may not be another game played for this 2019-20 season—that is the worst-case scenario for the league. The best-case scenario, though unlikely, would see play resume without fans in mid-April with a possibly truncated regular season before going full steam ahead with the playoffs. The minimum 30-day stoppage also means that the defending champions will, ironically, have a chance to be completely healthy if play resumes. Through 64 games, Nurse has had his best roster available to him for a grand total of five games. Powell is currently nursing a minor ankle injury while Fred VanVleet hasn’t played since a Feb. 25 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Any further cut-down would rule out anymore regular season games, thus assuring the Raptors the No. 2 seed in the East and a first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets.
All of the possibilities are out of Silver and the Board of Governors’ hands. Like the rest of the world, they are in wait-and-see mode, and whatever amount of time is required to minimize the impact of this outbreak will dictate outcomes for the foreseeable future. For now, the next step is for the Raptors to make it out of self-isolation, and just like us all, see where the world stands in its fight against COVID-19 in a couple weeks.