Although the first batch of teams begin reopening their training facilities for individual workouts today, several NBA officials believe the psychological effects of returning to activity during the current COVID-19 pandemic must be considered.
As reported by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, several general managers and athletic trainers across the league have voiced concerns over returning during the circumstances.
They say a number of players – despite being a low percentage – are ‘germaphobes’, which is echoed by several executives and other league staff too.
Given the sensitivity of this subject, anonymity of those involved in interviews as been kept.
One veteran front-office executive for a team in postseason contention told ESPN he was a germaphobe, while an Eastern Conference GM said although he wasn’t, remains afraid of the unknown.
Multiple Western Conference athletic training officials referred to this psychological impact as a powerful added stressor for some players that could undoubtedly affect their ability to perform, even if the NBA were able to create an ideal environment at some point in the near future.
One Eastern Conference athletic training official said: “Some players will have an easier time breaking through that, and other players will have a real challenge with that.”
Mental health was once a taboo subject in the NBA, though that has changed in recent seasons.
A memorable turning point came when former NBA All-Star Metta World Peace publicly thanked his psychologist after the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2010 NBA title vs. the Boston Celtics.
Cavs’ Kevin Love and Spurs guard Demar DeRozan are among current mental health advocates in the league.
In regards to the current psychological challenge that players would face if play is resumed, World Peace said it is no small obstacle.
During a phone interview, he said: “People are affected when humans are affected, because we’re only people. If one of your significant others passed away, you might mourn for a year or whatever.
Now you got 50,000 to 60,000 people passing away all over the globe – that’s going to mess with anybody. You just never know who it’s going to affect. On a certain level [guys will think], ‘What if I get it? What if I don’t?’ You just never know who it’s gonna affect.”
Over the past 24 hours, the United States have recorded 29,531 new cases and a further 2,129 deaths.
The total death toll stands at 76,942 across the country, with just shy of one million active cases (998,709) right now there alone.
(Update correct to 12.39pm GMT)
The athletic training official for a team in the West was quoted as saying: “I just know myself. Iwouldn’t want to work with the [players]. I mean, these are young guys. Some of them, I don’t think they think it’s real.
They’re just like, ‘Oh, we’re thinking too much into it,’ but I’m like, ‘It’s the whole world. So the tough part is, it’s my job to work with the guys. You don’t want to go against the grain, but at the same time, I’m not trying to put my family at risk.”
If some players are uncomfortable being on court – and breaking social distancing guidelines – then a number of team officials said they expect that feeling will dissipate in time, especially as financial losses are felt.
One Western Conference GM said: “I think as soon as checks are impacted negatively, guys are going to get over any concern they would have for returning to play.”
One GM in the East added: “There are always going to be people, when they have the ability to put up a fight against certain things they hear about, they’re going to do it.
Then, when somebody says: ‘Well listen, this is what the deal is, and if you don’t do it, you don’t get your paycheck’, now you find out how serious they really were.”
Information source: ESPN, Bleacher Report