Detroit Pistons drillmaster Dwane Casey was pacing the sideline, barking at the officials, bottomward bifold digits aboriginal in the fourth division of a March 11 bold adjoin the Philadelphia 76ers and aggravating to acquisition a way to blemish aback in it. That’s aback Jim Scholler, the team’s able-bodied trainer, aback sprung up from the bench. Scholler strode adjoin Casey in the average of the action and yanked on the coach’s sleeve.
“You gotta booty Sekou out of the game,” Scholler said urgently.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Casey responded. “I aloof put his ass in the game!”
“I know,” Scholler responded, “but Rudy Gobert aloof activated absolute for the coronavirus. Sekou was blind out with Rudy afterwards our bold adjoin them the added night. He ability accept been exposed.”
Sekou Doumbouya, the adolescent advanced who was built-in in Guinea but aloft in France had, in fact, spent time with Gobert afterward the March 7 bold amid the Utah Jazz and the host Pistons. Retired NBA best — and French civic aggregation alum — Boris Diaw was additionally in boondocks and abutting his countrymen.
Now it had been accepted that Doumbouya had absolute acquaintance with the aboriginal NBA amateur who had activated absolute for COVID-19.
“We took him off the attic immediately,” Casey told ESPN. “We brought him out in the aback to the locker room, abroad from the team, and accomplished the game.”
Information was still trickling in apropos Gobert and the Jazz, while the Pistons were accompanying commutual their bold in absolute time. Casey alternate his focus to the cloister and how to put the clamps on Sixers centermost Joel Embiid.
In the meantime, conversations affiliated amid the Pistons’ medical staff, training agents and advanced appointment on how to advance with Doumbouya, who insisted he was healthy. “When I took Sekou out, he looked at me like I was crazy,” Casey said. “So did Tony Snell, the I had taken out for Sekou, and afresh put aback in for Sekou.”
At that juncture, Casey said, he wasn’t annoyed about the achievability that added of his players — and he himself — ability additionally be at risk.
“To be honest, that didn’t admission my mind,” Casey admitted. “At that point we weren’t thinking, ‘Oh, this is huge, it agency they’re action to abolish the season.’ In that moment, I was thinking, ‘This is apparently an abandoned case.”’
Doumbouya, who addled to acknowledgment to action, eventually reentered the game, afterwards abundant debate, with 4:40 left.
“He capital to play,” Casey said. “He had already been out there. I assumption it’s accessible in hindsight to catechism it, but at that time we had none of the advice that’s out there now. We were in the average of a game, and the amateur was cogent us he acquainted altogether fine, and we had no advice that adumbrated that he was sick.”
Once the bold concluded and the aggregation aloof to the visitors locker room, Detroit admiral were abreast that abettor Adam Silver had indefinitely abeyant the NBA season. The alliance appointment additionally abreast the Pistons that because they had been apparent to Gobert and the Jazz (Gobert’s Utah assistant Donovan Mitchell would additionally afterwards analysis absolute for the virus), Detroit’s traveling party, including all players and coaches, would accept to be abandoned for 14 days.
Suddenly, the Pistons were in the crosshairs of a above communicable that has thousands.
Casey says the aberrant about-face has been “nothing like annihilation abroad I’ve anytime accomplished in my life.” It was the ambiguity of what would appear next, Casey said, that bedeviled his team’s allotment flight from Philadelphia aback home to Michigan in the wee hours of the morning of March 12.
“These young, advantageous s, able athletes, they don’t anticipate about accepting sick,” Casey said. “It was a quiet ride on the plane, but cipher seemed absolutely that afraid about whether they had it. It was added that cipher knew aback we’d get to comedy afresh — or see anniversary added again.”
Once the Pistons landed, anniversary affiliate of the traveling affair was accustomed the advantage to be activated for COVID-19 if they had either affection or apropos about actuality exposed. Casey said he beneath the test, forth with a cardinal of players who did not feel ill.
It would be two added canicule afore Casey would ascertain that Doumbouya had activated abrogating for COVID-19 afterwards all. But on that aforementioned day, March 14, he abstruse addition one of his players — 24-year-old ability advanced Christian Wood — had apprenticed the virus. It was Wood who had primarily attentive Gobert during the team’s March 7 bold adjoin the Jazz.
Wood had complained of a abscessed throat to the medical agents the morning of the March 11 Pistons-Sixers game, according to Casey. But by tipoff, Wood declared he was action bigger and accessible to clothing up. Wood responded by scoring a career-high 32 credibility in Philadelphia, afore the 30-point career aerial he had set four nights beforehand adjoin Gobert and the Jazz.
“He had no added symptoms,” Casey said. “No fever, no headache, no nothing. It’s one of the affidavit this virus is so difficult to diagnose.”
When the Pistons abstruse Wood had activated absolute for the coronavirus, they were thoroughly abreast by the hospital apropos the Bloom Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) laws, which assure the aloofness of patients.
“That’s why we were so addled aback it leaked out,” Casey said of a address in The Athletic. “Christian was agitated his name got out there. He didn’t absolution it. And the affliction allotment was it got out afore Christian alike had a adventitious to acquaint his mom.
“I was actual black about that. I told our staff, ‘This is unprofessional. This can’t appear again.’ It was so arbitrary to our player.”
Casey said Pistons er Tom Gores and carnality administrator Arn Tellem were proactive in authoritative arrange for the teamwide quarantine, ambience up circadian buzz calls with a physician so players could accept their questions answered, accouterment the advantage for players to accept commons delivered to their doors, and authoritative brainy bloom experts accessible to anyone who was action afraid about the virus and its ramifications. They additionally recorded temperatures alert circadian from anniversary player.
Meanwhile, Casey alternate home to his wife and two children, ages 12 and 9. But Casey cloistral himself in the basement for the abutting two weeks while his ancestors lived on the aerial floors of his house.
“I was in jail, downstairs, with the aperture locked,” Casey said with a chuckle. “My wife fabricated dinner, and larboard my aliment alfresco the door. One night it was pasta, addition night chicken.”
Casey did his best during the apprehension to break affiliated to his administration and his players, decidedly Wood. “He’s a adolescent , active alone, so we capital to break affianced with him,” Casey said. “From what I can tell, he spent best of his time arena video games.”
The Pistons’ apprehension has clearly ended, and Casey has rejoined his ancestors at the kitchen table, area his accouchement are demography online classes while their academy is shuttered. Wood, Casey reports, has recovered from COVID-19 and been accustomed a apple-pie bill of health.
Casey accustomed Detroit’s medical agents for potentially attached the advance of the virus central his locker room. He said in the canicule arch up to both the March 7 Jazz bold and the March 11 Sixers game, his agents was already affirmation the charge to ablution easily thoroughly for 20 abnormal and casual out duke sanitizer and wipes to admonish the players of the calmness of the virus. The players were initially affronted with the badgering, but now attending aback on it with some admeasurement of relief.
The NBA appear that due to the advancing coronavirus pandemic, the 2019-20 division would be abeyant able March 12.
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“We were appealing religious about accomplishing that appropriate up until they apoplectic the season,” Casey said. “I anticipate it fabricated a difference.”
The Pistons, like all NBA teams, anticipate chat aback they can resume approved activity. In the meantime, the backbone and conditioning agents has delivered treadmills, exercise bikes, weights and bands to house-bound athletes acquisitive to shoot some hoops. Best of them do not accept their own courts in their homes, so conditioning is the focus for the moment, Casey said.
“If you anticipate about it,” Casey said, “this is the aboriginal time in these s’ lives that no gym is accessible to them. They don’t accept admission to any advanced NBA facilities, no academy gyms, no aerial academy gym, no bloom clubs. It will be a claiming for all of us to get anybody reengaged mentally go aback and play.”
Casey estimated teams would charge a minimum of two weeks to adjust the players aback into the NBA rhythm. He said he was assured his aggregation would comedy basketball afresh afore summer ends.
“It’s already a season,” he said, “that no one will anytime forget.”
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