EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
NBA bubble presents challenges as Suns adjust to plenty of alone time
The Phoenix Suns on Monday are entering their seventh night in the NBA’s bubble at Orlando’s Walt Disney World for the league’s restart.
The Suns were like most of the country in getting used to quarantine life during the coronavirus pandemic, spending the majority of their time at home.
Now, they have to adjust again, but on this occasion, they are mostly alone as a health and safety precaution.
As you can imagine, that’s quite the radical shift for some that spent all of the quarantine with their family.
That includes head coach Monty Williams, who got quality time with his kids that parents on his travel schedule usually crave.
“That’s been the biggest drawback for me,” he said Monday. “Being with my family every day and having quality time with my boys, who are at an impressionable age. Being able to talk about basketball, life, social issues, different things that come up for a teenager and now a 10-year-old who is looking at everything his big brother is doing.
“Some of the best times at home happen when you’re doing nothing and you’re just at the dinner table or outside just kind of goofing around. You have those organic, authentic moments that make your house a home, so I miss that. Facetime is cool but it’s not the same.”
Williams can’t have the moments parenting that he got used to over the past couple of months, speaking on his relationship with one of his sons, a 12-year-old.
“Every once and a while I want to just grab him by the shoulder when I’m on the road and say, ‘Don’t do that!'” he said with a smile.
All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker is also a parent, but not of a human.
Booker added a dog to his home life during quarantine, so this is the first time he’s ever spent an extended period away from the pup.
He’s learning the hard way the limitations of being a long-distance dog dad.
“It’s been tough, man,” he said Monday. “I had to google it (and) I guess dogs can’t see your face on Facetime. Not even getting the reactions out of him I want.”
Booker, though, is going about his isolation in the hotel room well.
“Days just consist of practice and getting to know yourself,” he said. “Lot of downtime in the room.”
To no surprise, that means a whole lot of time gaming on “Call of Duty: Warzone” for Booker.
Center Deandre Ayton is the same, recently starting up his Twitch stream live from the bubble, where you can see for yourself that he is incredibly skilled at “NBA2K20”.
“It’s not that bad to be honest,” Ayton said of the setup. “I enjoy being by myself and people who I really care about, which is my team, so I have no problems. The NBA has really worked hard to keep us comfortable.”
Part of that is allowing players extra court time later in the night. That pleases guard Jevon Carter, who works as hard as anyone on the team and is a hooper through and through.
“They’ve been telling us we can get in later at night,” he said Saturday. “We have to coordinate.”
Carter said that day following an afternoon practice the plan for him was a quick nap and then coming right back to the gym to get more work in.
That still leaves well over half of the day, however, and that’s where Williams has had to get creative.
Luckily, he had a past experience to pull from to try and figure out how to capitalize on that time (and I’m sure keep his team sane as well).
“It has forced me to dig into the archives of that time with USA Basketball,” Williams said of his time as an assistant on the men’s national team from 2014-16.
“It reminds me so much of my time in Spain at the (2014 FIBA) World Cup, because it’s a bit longer than the Olympics and we had a lot of days like today where you get up and get to the gym a little bit later than you normally would and you have one setting of practice and you could be done for the day,” he said. “You have a lot of free time. So we’re gonna try to not overdo it with the free time but we have some things in store that we hope the guys will like.”
One of those was a movie night on Sunday, where Williams picked out “The Uncomfortable Truth”, a documentary about the son of a civil rights hero who learns his family 400 years ago helped shape institutional racism in America.
Williams went on for four minutes to discuss the impact the film had on him and why he wanted to show it to his team.
“This is an action for me to be with some guys that I care about deeply and share with them some things that have impacted me because slavery impacted my family,” he said. “I know where a portion of my family came from. It’s pretty heavy when you think about it, knowing which plantation your people came from and knowing where your name, Williams, came from.
“That’s a pretty heavy thought and so I shared some of that with those guys last night and to see their eyes looking at me, it was pretty cool but also I wasn’t surprised. I was thankful to have that moment with the guys.”
That experience the team had together on its first movie night speaks to some of the ways the situation can benefit the Suns if they embrace the opportunities it presents to bond further, even with its obvious downsides.