High on the list of sacrifices in the NBA bubble, most players put family time at the top.
Many struggled with the isolation of their wives, children, and other loved ones during its three-month run at Disney World. Even though guests were allowed half way through, some players – such as LeBron James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – made the difficult decision to leave their children at home in more familiar environments instead of dragging them to quarantine in Orlando, Florida.
In preparation for a slightly more conventional season, where the Lakers will travel but also be at home, that family time will be restored. But when the season gets going again they are also beginning to realize how risky that trade-off can be.
“Many people have children; we don’t want your kids to get it, ”said Anthony Davis. “We have a veterans group – so I think our boys know what’s at stake outside of basketball.”
As the NBA’s regular season begins on Dec. 22, much attention has been focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic will threaten players and teams. An NBA memo stated that players and staff who test positive for the coronavirus will be out for a minimum of 12 days, potentially wreaking havoc on the league and its slightly reduced 72-game schedule if enough people are sidelined. The first NBPA report of 48 positive tests in 546 cases and several team facilities closed in the past week due to testing concerns is warning signs of the extent to which the pandemic will affect the season.
But games can be rescheduled, and many players don’t live alone. The Lakers roster is not as old as last season, but many players and coaches have families. The NBA memo applies not only to those in the league, but also those in their households, adding extra stress to staying safe.
One of the rules that’s been discussed a lot in the locker room, Caldwell-Pope said, is that if players ‘or coaches’ kids play sports, their fathers can’t be there.
“That’s going to be tough for guys who like to support their kids with basketball and everything else they do outdoors,” he said. And then having a conversation with your wife about her friends is more stressful. It is much.”
Of course, many people across the country have had similar talks, either because of national and local regulations or self-imposed as the pandemic threat has become more widespread. But after a season in the bubble, players and staff had the luxury of not worrying about that level of risk: no one living on campus tested positive once they passed quarantine.
Davis said he began to appreciate that safe haven more as time went on. When the Lakers travel to Phoenix next week for a few preseason games (the team’s first proper road races since March), it will bring a nerve-wracking sense of caution.
“We had to worry less about COVID because of all the protocols and the health situation they set up for us,” he said. ‘So I miss that. Because you never know with the trip and when you stay in a hotel you just don’t know if they are doing everything they should to keep everything protected, healthy and sanitized. ”
NBA guidelines allow players to engage in some league-approved road activities, such as outdoor dining or fully privatized restaurants. It won’t roam quite as freely as typical road trips that can range from clubs and fine dining.
Several seem ready to do what much of the world is already doing: stay indoors.
“The more time we can just spend at home and here, the better, and minimize the other things you need to do, there are clearly people left in your life,” said coach Frank Vogel. “But we try to stay as safe as possible and I think that also applies to families. I know that my wife and my daughters are aware of minimizing the situation they are in and try to be as risk-free as possible. They don’t want to put me in a position to miss games. ”
Missing games may be the lowest bet. After a recent outbreak among the Baltimore Ravens that led to a widespread shutdown of the NFL team’s operations, Robert Griffin III pointed out that family members had also been diagnosed with COVID-19, an unreported cost of the spread. Last week, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns told media that seven members of his family have died from COVID-19, including his mother, Jacqueline Towns.
“I feel like I’ve been a little bit hardened and humiliated by life,” he told the Minnesota press.
Those grim memories underscore how serious the challenge of basketball will be during the crisis. If it wasn’t clear enough for players and staff to follow the suggested guidelines in the bubble, the bets now seem stuck without the added barrier of protection.
“We’re listening to the experts and what’s going on with the climate as far as COVID,” said James. And wear a mask for your family when we leave home or whatever the case may be. And be careful where we travel, be careful who we are around. At this point, you are just trying to do everything you can to protect your family. And hopefully you will stay safe and healthy. ”