The NBA shut down on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 before a game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Following that fateful night, a handful of NBA players, including Donovan Mitchell, Kevin Durant and Boston Celtics forward Marcus Smart, also tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Celtics had just played the Jazz on March 6, and the entire team was subsequently tested out of precaution. Celtics guard Jayson Tatum remembers that day well.
“The test they do definitely hurt and was uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t want to go through it again,” Tatum told Yahoo Sports. “The fact that Marcus tested positive is a wakeup call to everyone how serious this disease is.”
Prior to the suspension of the season, Tatum was averaging 23.6 points and 7.1 rebound per game. The last game he played — against the Indiana Pacers — he scored 30 points on 50 percent shooting.
For the past month, Tatum has been enjoying his downtime with his family and 2-year-old son Deuce.
“This has really just been a blessing to spend this much time with my son and see him every day. We’re just all trying to stay positive and take it day by day,” Tatum told Yahoo Sports.
This is the first real break for Tatum since high school, when he was a top prospect as a freshman. He was used to year-round basketball, with USA Basketball junior team training camp in the fall, high school season through April, then AAU season, camps, tryouts, showcases through August and then rinse and repeat for four years. Tatum then had his one year at Duke before he being selected third overall in the 2017 NBA draft.
During the quarantine break, Tatum has been keeping in shape by running outside, riding his stationary bike, lifting weights and shooting. “I’m doing everything I can to keep my cardio intact in the event we come back this season,” Tatum said.
That is the looming question. When will the NBA season return? Will we even have a season and what will that look like?
Earlier this week, The Los Angeles Times reported that L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti could potentially halt all sporting events and concerts until 2021. “It’s difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands any time soon. I think we should be prepared for that this year,” Garcetti said.
On the other hand, Sam Amick of The Athletic reported that “optimism abounds in the ownership, player, agent and league office ranks” regarding the return of the NBA season, and there are some interesting ideas being pitched for the league’s return. The NBA’s Board of Governors are meeting Friday for further discussion.
“I know the NBA is going to do what’s best for players, for fans, for everyone,” Tatum said. “They’re going to put the safety and the health of the players, fans and everyone that’s involved with the NBA first, and that’s what’s important.”
Right now the new normal is weekly team Zoom calls to try to stay connected. The conversations revolve around family updates, video games and speculation as to what the season will look like if basketball does return.
“If or when they do announce that we’re all able to come back, I know it’s probably going to be a month of practice, working out and getting back to our facilities,” Tatum said. “And then after a month or more, maybe we’ll be able to play. I know they’re going to have to figure out scheduling. There’s just a lot of stuff to consider during this time and no one really knows what’s going to happen.”
With the uncertainty of this time, one thing has become clear for Tatum and other players around the NBA: The safety of players, fans, refs and everyone around the world is what matters most during this unprecedented time.
“There are more important things right now that the world is focused on other than basketball, so we’re all just waiting and supporting whatever the commissioner and teams decide,” Tatum said.
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