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Jazz's Mike Conley leaves NBA bubble for son's birth; Bruins' Tuukka Rask opts out

Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Utah Jazz veteran point guard Mike Conley has left the NBA's bubble in Orlando, Fla., for the birth of his son, the team announced Sunday.

The Jazz said in a statement that Conley departed Orlando on Sunday morning and returned to Columbus, Ohio. According to ESPN, the former Memphis Grizzlies guard plans to rejoin Utah at some point in the playoffs.

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"The whole organization -- the players, coaches and everyone here -- completely supports his decision to be with his wife and his new baby," Jazz forward Joe Ingles said. "Obviously he's a big part of our team. Whenever Mary and Mike feel comfortable that it's the right time for him to come back, we'll obviously bring him in with open arms.

"But until then, it's one of those things that's bigger than basketball. Being there with his family is priority No. 1 right now."

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Under the league's COVID-19 policies, Conley will be required to quarantine for at least four days upon his return to the bubble, meaning he will miss at least the first two games of the Jazz's first-round series against the Denver Nuggets.

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Later Sunday, Conley posted a photo of his newborn son -- named Elijah Michael Conley -- on social media.

Since the NBA restart, Conley has averaged 18 points, five assists and three rebounds in six appearances.

Conley becomes the second prominent athlete across all major American professional sports leagues to leave his respective team before the start of postseason play or during the playoffs. On Saturday, Boston Bruins star goalie Tuukka Rask decided to opt out of the Stanley Cup playoffs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Rask made his decision less than two hours before the Bruins' 3-1 win in Game 3 of their quarterfinal series against the Carolina Hurricanes. Veteran Jaroslav Halak started in his place and posted a .967 save percentage in the victory.

"I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that's being with my family," Rask said in a statement Saturday. "I want to thank the Bruins and my teammates for their support and wish them success."

The Bruins -- much like the Jazz -- now will be forced to compete in the postseason without a significant member of their team. Conley will be allowed to return to the team if he chooses to do so but likely will miss at least two games because of COVID-19 protocols and the mandatory quarantine period.

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According to the rules and protocols created by the NHL and the players' union, Rask also will be eligible to return to his team if he changes his mind.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said Sunday that he hasn't spoken directly with his netminder and is unsure whether he could possibly return to the club later in the postseason.

"Should circumstances change where he feels he can come back to the club, I think we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Cassidy said. "The NHL is OK with it. That's how we'd handle that."

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