From Players to Coaches to Execs, Here’s What NBA Quarantine Life Is Really Like – Bleacher Report

Posted: April 18, 2020 at 5:44 pm


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This season had already veered beyond recognition from that of any recent memory for the Golden State Warriors. For half a decade, the Warriors steamrolled through the regular season, spending each June vying for an NBA championship.

Steve Kerr didnt need any reminding of his good fortune. He always regarded himself as charmed for joining the Warriors at a beneficial juncture, during an ascent that only leveled off last fall. With few wins this season, he focused on his communication with his coaching staff and players, putting on blinders to building losses and prioritizing productivity. Small, consistent steps forward are difficult, yet paramount, during a down season.

The COVID-19 pandemic first brought the NBA and then much of the world to a standstill. The Warriors are like much of sports and the worldsearching, scratching for ways to stand still and move forward at the same time.

Kerr retired as an NBA player in 2003 before becoming a television analyst, a general manager in Phoenix and a coach. In retirement, he most missed the smaller, trivial moments the bus rides, the laughter, the joking. You just miss the interaction, Kerr said. Its what he misses most now, during a suspended NBA season, although he is currently giving his team space.

Were all just in a holding pattern, and so theres nothing we can really do, Kerr said during a recent telephone call. And especially our team, were in a situation where even if we are to get back to playing a few games, were not going anywhere. Weve already been eliminated from the playoffs, and so theres no sense of, Oh my gosh, I got to keep these guys motivated. For what?

"What are we motivating them for while were all sitting home during a pandemic? Id love to say were holding virtual practices and going through shell drills, but its all bulls--t. Its just, its fake hustle. The whole world has stopped. So, that means the NBA has stopped. And if you cant actually be together, theres not a whole lot you can do.

He takes comfort in small things like spending time with his family, making spaghetti Bolognese from scratch and finally watching Parasite. He is watching more tape of college games, taking notes on players the Warriors could choose with a high draft selection.

Otherwise, his job can wait.

The NBA is on hold.

The world is on pause.

Rick Welts, the Hall of Fame president of the Warriors, realized a dream in witnessing basketball played at the Chase Center last fall.

Its been the highest of highs in the beginning of our season, and definitely the lowest of lows with the deaths of David Stern, who was my mentor, and Kobe, and then to see how the worlds been turned upside down by this, Welts said over the phone.

The NBA, like all sports leagues, are exploring ways in how and when to resume their leagues.

The Warriors hosted the Clippers on March 10. The NBA had already started employing instances of social distancing. Locker rooms had been closed to all except essential personnel. Players and coaches conducted interviews in safe distances from the media. Kerr noticed pockets of empty seats against the Clippers at Chase Center.

That was the first night where you could just feel that something was happening, and so we all left the arena, Kerr said. We were all pretty quickly learning about what was happening, and it was our first real education on social distancing and what it would take to fight against this pandemic.

"And its surreal when you hear about it and when you really realize whats happening, right? Nobody can process it and nobody wants to take that step. But that game felt weird. The crowd was less than full, which is unusual. And the vibe was subdued, which is unusual. Even during this season, our crowd has been great.

Welts doesnt know if he will ever pen an autobiography. If he does, he believes the following day will figure heavily into the book.

He spent the morning in Mayor London Breeds office, discussing how to proceed with games inside a city that issued one of the country's earliest shelter-in-place mandates.

He left Breeds office and quickly phoned Commissioner Adam Silvers office. With your blessing, were going to be playing a game in San Francisco tomorrow night with no fans, he said.

Welts and general manager Bob Myers met with the team and relayed that they planned to host the Brooklyn Nets with no fans in attendance. I saw these quizzical looks on the players faces, like, How does that work? Welts said.

I made the joke that it will be like a college scrimmage, recalled Eric Paschall. Its kind of like in college when you have a secret scrimmage. No ones in the gym. So, I feel like everybodys been through that. You learn about that, and I felt like it wouldve been fine. It wouldve been weird, of course, because who plays a real game in front of nobody?

Utahs Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus, sparking the NBAs suspension of the season, and that caused other sports leagues to pause their seasons as well.

I dont think we had really recognized up until that point, as a country, how serious this was and how much it was going to impact each of our lives going forward, Welts said.

I still think the other leagues are looking to Adam and the NBA before they make a decision, to say, Whats the NBA going to do? Because I think its been that kind of leadership for a long while now. I think that Adam has really stepped up to the challenge and is proving again what a tremendous leader he is. He certainly has the support of our players and our teams in the way hes conducting himself.

I felt like for the whole country, the whole world, they got very serious when NBA shut down, Paschall said. All the sporting events shut down. Because I feel like sports is something that a lot of people, they get away from all their problems with sports. So I feel like when the sports shut down, its like, all right, like, this is very, very, very serious.

Goberts teammate and Paschalls best friend, Donovan Mitchell, tested positive for COVID-19.

Him getting it, it was a bit of a shocker, Paschall said. We would talk daily and well keep each other updated and just talk. We wouldnt even talk about corona. We would just talk about life and how we usually do. So it was nothing really crazy. But he was like, I feel fine. Im fine. Theres nothing going on. But yeah, thats my guy. We kept each other updated for sure.

The Warriors pledged $1 million to disaster relief in an effort to provide assistance to employees who work games at Chase Center. The organization employs more than 1,000 part-time employees at each game.

For Welts, days are now a series of video conferences and meetings. Some are meetings that would have occurred outside of the pandemic. Others are in direct response to this new world. He is astounded at the productivity of the meetings over video conferences, even if they are occasionally interrupted by a dog or a child in need of some attention. His own quarantine consists of two teenagers and two dogs and lots of walks.

In some sense, I think, were almost going to get a second chance to relaunch Chase Center, Welts said. Were talking about how we might do that in a way that is really significant. No details on that I can share at this point, but I think thats the way we have to look at it. Were going to get through this. Were going to get to the other side of it, and I think sports has an opportunity to shine again and rally how people feel and provide an environment thats going to be a big part of the healing.

Adam Silver has challenged every organization to use the suspension as a period of innovation. The NBAs presentation, Welts said, will be different when it returns, but it can also be better.

What an amazing opportunity to rethink every part of our business and the way weve historically done things, Welts said. Its a time to think about taking chances and how we come back and what we do and how we do it. If I was a 25-year-old at the Golden State Warriors right now, I could not think of a greater opportunity than having a chance to show my creativity, my innovation, and shine with ideas at the moment that might become the way we do business in the future. I really believe that. I really believe in the middle of all this mess theres an opportunity for people who want to make a mark and people who really want to distinguish themselves.

Welts concludes each day with an email to the organizations 500-something employees. The missives have evolved into a combination of updates and reflections.

For example, he recently sent an email relaying the FBIs concern over security vulnerabilities involving Zoom conferences. He ended the daily message with his reflections on the death of Bill Withers, the songwriter and musician who recorded hits like Ain't No Sunshine and Lean on Me. The two met several years ago at a dedication of Bill Russells statue in Boston. They became friends, with Welts texting Withers whenever he heard one of his songs and Withers texting Welts after each frequent playoff win.

Welts had thought of checking in on Withers the day before he had heard of his death.

I didnt get around to doing it, he said. It was just a way to talk to staff and say, Hey, take the time to do it, because you dont know when you wont have the chance.

About two years ago, Jordan Poole hit one of the most recent memorable buzzer-beaters in NCAA tournament history. His three-pointer lifted Michigan to a second-round win over Houston. Michigan went on to win three straight but then lost to Villanova, and Paschall, his eventual teammate in Golden State.

Kids dream of that all the time, Poole said. A lot of players, they make their livelihoods off of specific moments in the tournament like if you go for a run. We were able to go to the national championship my freshman year. I hit the shot, which put me on a big stage of the basketball world. And then you have seniors who this is their last go around and they had a really good chance or teams that are going to get a bid for the first time. Its the small things that you kind of forget about and being able to just to see that taken away from them. It wasnt a good feeling because you want everybody to succeed or everybody to go through those moments that you did.

Its differentI guess thats the best way you can describe it. Its different.

Poole, the Warriors first-round pick last June, says that he learned a lot about professionalism this season. The Warriors absorbed the loss of Kevin Durant through free agency and long-term injuries to Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. Then, the pandemic sidelined basketball and then the world.

For a lot of people, it just happened so fast and its so unusual, Poole said. Its not something that you can pinpoint or understand. And the uncertainty of it at the time was something that kind of left us in limbo. We didnt know how effective it was or how deadly or how it could impact so many people or how detrimental it was to the season. So, we were just kind of taking every, literally every moment by moment to see what was next or if we were going to be affected. Because once the NBA shut down, then it kind of seemed like everything else everywhere shut down.

NBA players across the country and globe are learning how to adapt to a suspended state. They could be called on to play soonor more realistically for someone like Poole, they wont be called on again until next season at the earliest.

For some people its a little bit of time off, Poole said. Some guys who have played 12 seasons in the NBA and had runs all the time, its kind of like a forced rest. Or its guys who have gyms or in-homes gyms who can continue to work out. So, you can use your resources and find ways to continue to keep getting better. But yeah, its, I dont know. Its pretty unusual. I think thats the best way to put it.

Poole checks up on his friends and teammates on a regular basis. FaceTime is probably being used more than it was before this entire quarantine too, he said.

Curry used this time to host a virtual Q&A on Instagram Live with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to educate more than 50,000 viewers on COVID-19.

Steph realizes his power, his influence in the world, not just as it relates to basketball or making money, Kerr said. I was very, very proud of that act. I thought that was great.

Curry also recently made a FaceTime call to a Bay Area nurse on the front line of facing COVID-19.

"Thank you so much, he said. I know you guys have some very important work to do. We have so many people praying for you, rooting for you, and I know as things continue to go, hopefully everybody takes their responsibility, a persons responsibility to try to end this thing quick, sooner rather than later, but, thank you so much for what youre doing.

The rest of the Warriors, like the NBA, are in suspension. Paschall is finding himself waking up earlier in the day only to languish with nothing to really accomplish. He plays a lot of video games. Call of Duty is a go-to. He checks in on his family and makes sure theyre good.

At the same time, you just got to adapt to it and learn, he said. He attempts to stay in shape with a bike and he uses weights.

I have a basketball in my house, Paschall said. But thats about it. I dont have any hoop or anything.

Neither does Poole, who is catching up on a lot of sleep missed over the last few years.

Waking up at 1 p.m. is about average for him. His two cats keep him entertained, and he lives with his longtime best friend. Theyve cycled through movies like Soul Plane and Final Destination.

One day, and hopefully soon, the NBA will be a part of this nations healing process. Maybe, players like Paschall and Poole and their teammates will play a role in that happening. Until then, they are quarantined and anxious like everyone else.

Of course, we stay in touch a good amount, Paschall said. We have to. We dont have nothing else to do. So, I mean, but at the same time, were going to take our space and worry about our families and know that this is a very serious thing.

Continued here:
From Players to Coaches to Execs, Here's What NBA Quarantine Life Is Really Like - Bleacher Report

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