Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert (left) dunks past Golden State’s Draymond Green Image Credit: AP

Washington: It’s been more than three months since Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert contracted the novel coronavirus, but he still hasn’t completely regained his sense of smell.

“The taste has returned but the smell is still not 100 per cent,” the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year told the French newspaper L’Equipe, which published his quotes Wednesday. “I can smell the smells but not from afar. I spoke to specialists who told me it could take up to a year.”

Gobert told the paper he still feels “strange things” but doesn’t know whether that’s attributable to lingering effects from the virus or the time that has elapsed since he last played a game.

“I’m starting to train thoroughly,” Gobert said. “I still haven’t played five-on-five but I train individually. I do boxing, swimming, I run in the mountains. Today I would not say that I feel more tired than before. But I had experiences a month-and-a-half ago, which scared me. I felt like ants in my toes and wondered what it could be. There were quite a few little things like that.”

Gobert reported losing his sense of smell days after testing positive for the coronavirus on March 11. His positive test led to the postponement of the Jazz’s game that night against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. The NBA suspended its season hours later.

The 28-year-old received backlash over mockingly touching reporters’ microphones two days before his positive test. Days later, he pledged $500,000 to employee-related relief efforts connected to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There was a lot of fear,” Gobert told the French newspaper Le Parisien on Tuesday. “The NBA was waiting for a first case to stop the championship. It fell on me! I became the image of the coronavirus for the Americans, the domino that triggered the end of the season, but it was not me who brought the virus to the United States.”

Gobert averaged 15.1 points and a career-high 13.7 rebounds before the NBA suspended its season. The league is set to resume play on July 30 at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando. On Friday, the NBA finalised a 22-team schedule, which has the Jazz facing the New Orleans Pelicans in the first game.

With a rise in coronavirus cases across the country after numerous states relaxed their physical distancing restrictions, several players have opted out of joining their teams in Florida for the league’s resumption. Out of more than 300 players returning to their home markets this past week, 16 tested positive for the coronavirus and will self-quarantine.

Others have debated whether resuming play will dilute the power of the message in the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement that has resulted in worldwide protests this month.

Gobert told Le Parisien that the movement is “justified” and that the money made by the players in these games can further help the cause.

“The situation is special in the United States,” Gobert said. “It is abnormal to be considered differently by the police or the justice system depending on your skin colour. There is no perfect society but justice must be the same for all.”