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Utah Jazz president Jim Olson: Team preparing for every possible scenario for NBA's eventual return

by Aaron Falk

No one can say for sure when your favorite NBA players will be back on the basketball court. As league leaders continue to process information regarding the global Coronavirus pandemic, every contingency is being discussed. But Utah Jazz president Jim Olson promises this: when it is safe to resume games, the Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena will be ready.

“We’re focusing on every scenario that could roll out in the next 30 days, 60 days, 90 days,” Olson said in a Thursday morning radio interview with The Zone Sports Network. “We know this is going to end. We know we’re going to play basketball again. … So what is the scenario? If for some great opportunity, that happens in 30 days, we will be ready to open up these doors and put on all the events that we do. If it’s 60 days, we’ll be ready. If it’s 90 days, we’ll be ready.”

It has been just over a week since Utah Jazz All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell tested positive for the virus, and the NBA season was suspended. Since then, Olson said, the Jazz and Larry H. Miller Group of Companies leadership team have been working “nonstop around the clock, trying to figure out what lies ahead” as our community—locally, nationally and globally—faces the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver originally said the league would suspend for 30 days, though he admits that timeline will likely be longer, with the potential to push regular-season games back until June.

“There have been a lot of calls with experts and people trying to guess how long this thing will go,” Olson said. “What I’m going to tell you is, every waking moment, we are considering scenarios to make sure we're in the best position for when those doors open. Yeah, that's an interesting thing. You're preparing for stuff to happen that might not happen, but yet you still have to be prepared for it, no matter if it happens or not. …

“As an example, we've experienced lockouts before and you know, a lockout can end any day. And boy, the minute that lockout ends, we're in business. And so we've got people that are experienced and understand that scenario.”

Utah Jazz players have remained in quarantine since returning to Utah following the positive tests last week in Oklahoma City, but have daily contact with doctors and staff to make sure they are healthy. Olson said the health and wellbeing of Jazz players and staff, as well as the other 10,000-plus LHM employees, has been at the forefront of his mind.

“We've already reached out to every employee,” Olson said. “There's been email communication, conference calls, one-on-one phone calls, making sure people are safe, making sure people aren't experiencing any symptoms of the illness. We are, we are focused on developing both long-term and short-term plans to try to protect our employees the best that we can. I can tell you those, those discussions are still in the works right now but, but there is an enormous commitment to protect our employees.”

Gobert has personally donated $200,000 to help cover the wages of hourly arena employees who are out of work because of the pandemic.

“I'm telling you that 100 percent of the $200,000 that Rudy donated will go to those part-time employees,” Olson said. “There’s the discussion of how it best gets divided up and, and how it gets dispersed and, but that's a huge priority and we're going to have that wrapped up here in the next couple of days.”

Olson urged everyone to practice caution and to adhere to the advice of medical professionals as this community feels the effects of the Coronavirus. He also urged patience and hope that will, eventually, lead to the return of normalcy.

“We're going to be playing basketball games again,” Olson said. “I don't know when, but I know that we will. We're going to have concerts at this venue. We're going to have conventions in this venue. There is going to be an end to this but we don't know exactly what the timeline is going to be.”

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