Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr., the NBA’s reigning Slam Dunk Contest champion, has tested positive for coronavirus, a league source confirmed to the Sun Sentinel.
The Heat and the rest of the NBA began mandatory testing for COVID-19 on Tuesday in advance of the league’s planned July 30 resumption of play on the Wide World of Sports campus at Disney World complex. Jones is the first known Heat player to test positive.
According to the guidelines established by the NBA, a player with such a positive test is required to self-isolate and, “must rest and refrain from exercise training for two weeks from the later of the date of the first PCR test and/or resolution of viral symptoms.”
Jones, according to the source familiar with the test, is asymptomatic.
Such a timetable could have Jones back available to travel with the Heat for their projected July 9 team bus trip to Disney.
According to an NBA memo, travel to the league’s “bubble” setting at Disney will be allowed, “only for those who (i) have not returned a positive test for COVID-19 since June 23, (ii) have tested positive, but thereafter have been medically cleared to travel (based on lack of symptoms, at least two consecutive negative PCR tests, and clearance to discontinue isolation), (iii) report no symptoms on day of travel, and (iv) do not live with a household member who has or recently had COVID-19 or symptoms.”
Jones, according to a source familiar with his situation, remained intent on playing when he learned of his test result, although now could be positioned to bypass further play and still collect the balance of his 2019-20 salary.
The Heat continued testing Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena, with players and staffers required to report for testing every other day. While the team’s facilities remain open, the team has put off workouts on their practice court until next week. The facility undergoes a deep clean after each use. Teams remain limited to individual workouts until reporting to Disney.
The Heat’s policy is not to identity or confirm test results, other than to acknowledge the testing is ongoing.
An impending free agent, Jones, 23, is expected to receive a significant raise from the Heat or elsewhere this offseason from his current $1.6 million salary. This season, he is averaging 8.9 points on .514 shooting and 4.2 rebounds in an average of 24.5 minutes, having started 15 of his 51 appearances.
While the NBA has increased insurance protection for returning players against career-ending injuries, amid the unusual circumstance of the resumption, such coverage provides little comfort to players early in their careers.
Jones joins Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon and Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield, forward Jabari Parker and center Alex Len among those with positive tests from the NBA’s current round of testing. Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic tested positive earlier this week in his native Serbia.
Several players in the wake of the league’s March 11 shutdown had previously tested positive, including Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart and Utah Jazz teammates Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
The Heat, at 41-25, have already clinched a playoff berth, positioning the team with ample time to work a player back into condition amid the eight-game schedule each of the 22 teams at Disney will play to conclude their regular seasons.