NBA players are creatures of habit. They have their routines and stick with them from year to year, team to team.
The coronavirus shelter-at-home orders — which led the NBA to close team practice facilities — blew up that routine.
For a couple of teams that started to change on Friday, when practice facilities for the Cavaliers and Trail Blazers opened. There were limits — one player, one coach, one basket, and the rebounding coach is in gloves and a mask — but it was a first step toward a return to normalcy. Cleveland’s Kevin Love told Dave McMenamin of ESPN he loved it.
“I had [Cavs assistant coach] Dan Geriot at my basket and having him rebound and pass me the ball with a mask and gloves on. It’s just odd. It’s just weird…
“For me, I played 25-ish years of organized basketball, and this is the longest I’ve ever gone without touching [a basketball]. And it’s something I really, really enjoy doing.
“So for me, it definitely was a big dopamine hit, and it just felt great to get in there and sweat outside of doing my workouts at home or getting on a treadmill. Going out there and having some sense of normalcy and getting on the court and actually shooting was pretty uplifting.”
The Cavaliers’ Cedi Osman posted a selfie in what looked like an empty gym and said “Great to be back” in an Instagram story.
Other NBA teams will open their facilities for practices next week, and others will follow when both their local guidelines — not every city and state has re-opened — and team management feels it is right. Some teams also will be able to start testing asymptomatic players for the coronavirus.
It’s a long way from isolated workouts to games being played — even games with no fans in a bubble — but it is a step in the right direction.
For the players, it’s a step toward a return to normalcy and a routine. Right now, we are all craving that.