According to ESPN Senior Writer Jackie MacMullan, Pistons’ Coach Dwane Casey was told by the team’s athletic trainer, Jim Scholler, during the Philadelphia 76ers game that his rookie forward, Sekou Doumbouya, had been exposed to the coronavirus days earlier but he still decided to let him finish the game.
Following the Pistons-Jazz game on March 7, Sekou, who was raised in France, had dinner with his fellow Frenchmen, Rudy Gobert. A few days later on March 11, during the Pistons-76ers game, it was announced Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus. Once Scholler found out he immediately told Casey to take Doumbouya out of the game.
“You gotta take Sekou out of the game,” Scholler said urgently. “What the hell are you talking about?” Casey responded. “I just put his ass in the game!” “I know,” Scholler responded, “but Rudy Gobert just tested positive for the coronavirus. Sekou was hanging out with Rudy after our game against them the other night. He might have been exposed.”
At first, Casey did take Sekou out of the game but after much debate, he decided to put him back in with 4:40 left in the fourth quarter.
“He wanted to play,” Casey said. “He had already been out there. I guess it’s easy in hindsight to question it, but at that time we had none of the information that’s out there now. We were in the middle of a game, and the player was telling us he felt perfectly fine, and we had no information that indicated that he was sick.”
This is not an indictment on Casey or the Pistons’ coaching staff. Far from. This is more of a reflection of America’s ignorance in the face of this deadly new virus. Just a few days earlier the President of the United States compared the virus to the common flu and assured the American people nothing would change because the virus was not that deadly.
Just two days after Trump’s tweet the NBA was suspended indefinitely. Gobert testing positive for the coronavirus was not only a watershed moment for the NBA but for the entire country. Since then all American sports have been put on pause including the NCAA tournament, the MLB season, and even the summer Olympics. The only businesses that remain open in many major cities are ones deemed essential for the survival of the country.
At the time of the 76ers game, Casey didn’t even think about the far-reaching implications of Gobert’s diagnosis.
“To be honest, that didn’t enter my mind,” Casey admitted. “At that point we weren’t thinking, ‘Oh, this is huge, it means they’re going to cancel the season.’ In that moment, I was thinking, ‘This is probably an isolated case.”’
Ultimately, Sekou tested negative for COVID-19 but his teammate Christian Wood, who primarily guarded Gobert during the game against the Jazz, unfortunately, did test positive. Thankfully, earlier this week Wood’s agent declared he was “fully recovered” from the virus.
After Gobert’s diagnosis, the entire Pistons team went into self-quarantine but as of last week, it has been uplifted. Moving forward, the Pistons, like the rest of the league, are now working out in isolation from team facilities.
“If you think about it,” Casey said, “this is the first time in these guys’ lives that no gym is available to them. They don’t have access to any state-of-the-art NBA facilities, no college gyms, no high school gym, no health clubs. It will be a challenge for all of us to get everyone reengaged mentally go back and play.”
At this time, the NBA and most of the world stands in limbo on how to survive this pandemic. However, one thing is clear, we are definitely taking this virus more seriously and will no longer view it as the “common flu.” The NBA hopes to finish the season soon but we will have to wait and see.
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