New York Knicks v Utah Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 8: Georges Niang #31 of the Utah Jazz smiles before the game against the New York Knicks on January 8, 2020 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Georges Niang explains the new COVID-19 safety measures in place at Utah Jazz practice facility

by Aaron Falk

Georges Niang likened it to the first day of school.

On Monday, the Utah Jazz forward re-entered the Zions Bank Basketball Campus to work out and shoot for the first time since the NBA suspended play on March 11.

“I had some crispy new Jazz gear when I went in,” a smiling Niang said on Friday, after his fifth day of workouts at the team’s practice facility.

But much has changed at the ZBBC as coaches, trainers and players work to stay safe and healthy while returning to the building during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“The way I looked at the facility before, it was kind of a safe haven. It was a place where you could be carefree and be yourself,” Niang said. “It was tough [at first] when you don’t feel as safe when you’re looking across and your trainer is wearing a mask and gloves and you have a mask on and you’re constantly sanitizing.”

Niang detailed some of the precautions the Jazz staff has taken to ensure players’ safety at the ZBBC.

“I’m in there really early, so I’m on the only one in the weight room. I’m the only one in the training room,” Niang said. “The guy on our training staff has to be in full PPE (personal protective equipment), a mask and gloves. He’s carrying a spray bottle and a towel. So basically every step I take, wherever I go, the place is getting wiped down.

“… They’re spraying down every piece of equipment that I touch. Every spot that I’m down on the floor, whether it’s one knee, two knees, my back, my stomach.”

On the court, Niang and other players shoot alone, working only with a rebounder in a mask and gloves. Players are not allowed to scrimmage or do drills together.

“Everyone is allowed one basketball and that basketball is sprayed down with Clorox,” Niang said.

When it’s time to leave, players head to their cars through an exit-only door in the facility to avoid running into each other.

Niang said he is optimistic the NBA season will resume this summer.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to play this season and finish it out,” he said. “Right now, I’m just taking it day by day. If we play, I’ll be thrilled. The Minivan will fuel up and get going.”

After five days back at the ZBBC, though, Niang said he is just happy to be back in a familiar spot, back on a basketball court, back to working on his game.

“It was tough because I wasn’t used to it, but you’re kind of just happy to get to a place that has gym equipment and a basketball hoop,” he said. “My guest bedroom only has 25-pound dumbbells and a stationary bike.”

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