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Doc Rivers on mental health challenges: ‘Being in the bubble is hard’

More than 50 days.

That’s how long players, coaches, and staff from the 13 remaining teams have been in the bubble — away from family, stuck in a hotel room, living in an enclosed environment with a lot of protocols and rules as the NBA works to keep the virus out and the games going.

It has players emotional and a little on edge.

Which contributed to the mood and tension around boycott started by the Bucks on Wednesday.

“You forget that being in the bubble is hard,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of the emotion around the boycott Wednesday, the players meeting that night, and the decision to return to play. “And even some of that came up [around the boycott]. I knew it was hard, but listening to some of these guys speak, just mental awareness, we got to be a little sharper on that as well…

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that everyone in this bubble just seems to be a little bit more emotional and I’m not kidding. It’s true. I think part of the effect of being like jammed together every day, it has had that effect on everyone.”

It had that effect on the Clippers’ Paul George.

“I underestimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety, a little bit of depression,” George said after Game 5 of L.A.’s first-round series against Dallas. “Just being locked in here. I just wasn’t there. I checked out. Games two, three, four, I felt like I wasn’t there.”

“This is really hard being in here. It’s not easy. All day it’s just basketball. It’s hard to get away from it,” George said. “You see guys on other teams. Shout out to the NBA for creating this environment, but at the same time, it’s rough. I just got to find what’s going to get me able to check out of the game and check out of just constantly being in that mode.”

Players miss their families and friends and some talked about wanting to go home during the boycott meetings — 50+ days is a long time. But five more teams of the 13 remaining will be eliminated soon, and then families can come into the bubble for the rest. It will not be a perfect solution, but it’s a start and will bring a sense of normalcy. It will help some players relax.

Just know that the bubble is wearing on guys.