Bubble rumblings: Player bonding and subtle changes in perspective

·4 min read

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Back in the normal days of the NBA, a foe was a foe. And that was made even more apparent when a player took to the floor during the game. It could be a trip, a slip or simply collapsing after contact. It has become customary for most players to remain planted until a teammate rushes over to him them up.

On occasions you’d witness a player on the opposing team extend a hand to help the player up and the offering would be ignored while the player on the ground awaited an assist from his teammates.

With the players and league rallying around the Black community — uniting to support Black-owned businesses, highlighting racial injustice, speaking out against police brutality, demanding accountability by those in power and further elevating the Black Lives Matter movement — the trivial “I’m not accepting your help off the floor” act has been pretty nonexistent in the bubble.

“Man, I’m helping any brother I see on the floor,” one player told Yahoo Sports.

If a player has offered to help a player up — from all the games I’ve covered in the bubble — the assistance has been accepted. Here in Orlando, the term “brother” hasn’t just been reserved for members of the same team. Sharing the same hotels has created friendships that wouldn’t have been formed in “normal” times. And even though there is a greater appreciation for each other as human beings, the competitiveness and intensity level on the court hasn’t waned.

But there are coaches who have recently asked players to refrain from fraternizing with opponents as the postseason approaches, sources said. This has been met with mixed reviews among players.

The "floor game" is changing for JJ Redick and the rest of the NBA in the bubble. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
The "floor game" is changing for JJ Redick and the rest of the NBA in the bubble. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)

Anthony Davis’ room is being invaded

Anthony Davis’ hotel room has unexpectedly been utilized as the Los Angeles Lakers’ gathering spot for special events, sources told Yahoo Sports.

The team has gathered there to watch the popular “Verzuz” rap battles between Snoop Dogg and DMX, and 2 Chainz and Rick Ross, and to hold its Madden tournament.

Approached about the assemblies and why his room was chosen as the designated setting, Davis explained.

“I’m one of the few who has a suite and I’m the tech guy of the team who knows how to set up all the devices and connect them to the TV,” the star forward told Yahoo Sports. “LeBron [James] is a big Snoop Dogg fan and actually a big DMX fan, and so my room made sense. It started with that and then we just kept it going from there.”

Davis said he’s more than open to a venue change, but acknowledged that doesn’t seem likely at this point.

Klay Thompson fully cleared

Golden State Warriors star guard Klay Thompson is recovering well from the torn left ACL he suffered in last year’s NBA Finals. Thompson was cleared without restrictions in June.

He’s working out, for the most part, in Orange County, and sources said he even had a workout with Splash Brother Stephen Curry. If the 2020-21 season were to start in December, Thompson will have had about 17 months of rehab under his belt.

After playing around 120 playoff games the last five seasons, the Warriors are using this time to get healthy and refreshed for another run next season, which will be aided by a top-five draft pick.

Pacers bonding through film

The Indiana Pacers have been holding movie nights that include the entire team and staff. These movie sessions are intended for bonding and to help everyone learn more about each other.

Sources said last week that head coach Nate McMillan asked rookie center Goga Bitadze, a native of the Republic of Georgia, what movie would best give everyone an idea about where he is from and how he was raised. Bitadze recommended a movie about life during the recent war time and conflict in Georgia. The movie had subtitles, and sources said it was really revealing and players gained a better understanding of Goga as a person.

The team has also watched the documentary “13th,” which led to great dialogue, sources said. It’s a film that explores the history of racial inequality in the United States and focuses on how and why the prison systems are disproportionately filled with African Americans.

Dallas Mavericks’ role in fighting systemic racism

During last week’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Dallas Mavericks had 13 members of the “Mothers Against Police Brutality” organization on the virtual fan board.

Head coach Rick Carlisle, Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall and the franchise have entered into a partnership with the Dallas-based organization and its founder, Collette Flanagan, to help with their initiatives.

Carlisle personally donated $10,000 to the organization last month.

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