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HeadStrong: How Wizards dealt with adversity of the coronavirus originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
As the NBA began its 2020-21 season without a bubble amid the coronavirus pandemic, many saw positive cases, outbreaks and postponements as inevitable. It would all depend on how teams were able to work through that adversity.
In early January, the Washington Wizards became one of the first teams to face the major challenge after an outbreak led to numerous players entering protocol and missing time, and six games being postponed.
Unlike prepping for an opponent or trying to build a roster around an injury, this was something that Washington could not gameplan against.
“This virus is real and it’s creative and it figures out a way to penetrate and hit us, and it’s hit us pretty bad," head coach Scott Brooks said.
For players, dealing with an outbreak is a challenge that not only impacts them physically but mentally. There is a strain of trying to balance the desire to play basketball with being safe.
This season, there is more at risk than just wins and losses. With the pandemic impacting thousands of lives on a daily basis, players are tasked with protecting more than just themselves. The healthy and safety of family members is also a top priority.
“It’s tough, man, because a lot of guys are in a position to where they want to play, like a lot of guys, they want to play they want to make their money. But there’s a lot of guys who, their biggest thing is the health of them and their families and making sure that they’re safe," guard Bradley Beal said. "So it’s kind of a fine line between the two.”
“I think what’s first and foremost in everybody’s mind is trying to make sure everybody on the floor is healthy," center Robin Lopez said. "That’s what the protocol is for, it definitely unprecedented. You can’t imagine it a year ago.”
It's true that this is something no one could have really imagined just a short time ago, and it's created an NBA season unlike any other. Though each campaign is a long journey filled with highs, lows and new variables, this year has brought forth challenges that players have never experienced.
Just like everyone else, they're also learning how to deal with this new reality on the fly.
“Been a lot of things to adjust to, we’re just trying to figure it out," guard Russell Westbrook said. "I think that’s the biggest thing to all players right now, just trying to figure out the best way to be able to keep their minds and bodies focused on the game.”
It wasn't easy, but the Wizards have returned to the court and are slowly getting back to full strength. Though adversity can sometimes bring out the best in teams, this type of challenge is something they hope to avoid in the future.
“We just want to keep moving forward and hopefully we’ll be able to have a much safer environment moving forward," Brooks said.