The mental wellness program — the product of almost a year of discussions between the league and union that began as the sides were working out the new Collective Bargaining Agreement — will allow players to seek treatment and counseling outside of the framework of their individual teams, if they want. Existing team physicians and other resources will still be available to them, too. The new director will have authority and a significant role for players who seek his help. But it is not clear if the director will have the ability to unilaterally decide if a player dealing with a mental wellness issue should not play in a given game or games to deal with those issues, regardless of what the player’s team medical staff may think.
Dooling will report to the new Director of Mental Health and Wellness, serving as liaison between players and the program resources. “I can respond and I’m still pretty relevant,” Dooling said. “I played against most of these guys. They see a safety net in me. I’ll be providing them with support and resources. We’ll be able to respond in real time, not only doing preventative stuff, but infrastructure that will outlive all of us … in 20 years, this program will be further advanced than it is now. It will be able to help not only ballplayers but society in general. If we start taking it seriously, society will follow that. We have the capacity to scale our model. The most important thing is to get that director in place so we can grow organically.”
The Indiana Pacers, for example, hired Dr. Chris Carr as their Team Performance Psychologist in 2011. He has an office at the team’s practice facility, and frequently travels with the team on the road. “I think he’s a tremendous resource for all our guys,” Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard said Sunday. “At some level, everybody uses him for a sounding board, some deeper than others. We give our players full access. We talked about it early, and our players feel like it’s important, too. Not only do we give them the resource, but they have to use it.”
“Think of what Kevin Love said about his panic attack, and think of the pressure that it added that he couldn’t tell his teammates,” White said. “Think of the consequences of him not being able to tell his teammates. Those same consequences, you could map onto management as well, and the ownership. Ideally, and what we are seeing and continue to see, is the sort of optimal support and treatment plan for people with these conditions is that people with these conditions be afforded the opportunity to come forth with their struggles openly, and communicate them on an ongoing basis.
This year, two former NBA players — Acie Law and Cherokee Parks — and two former WNBA players — Lindsey Harding and Michele Van Gorp — moved to New York for full-time immersion in the NBA office, sitting with league lawyers and cap people to learn the CBA, learning how to break down data from Second Spectrum and Synergy from the league’s analytics people, doing scouting, learning how to write a business plan from the league’s marketing people. One of last year’s graduates, Allison Feaster, a 10-year WNBA player and Harvard grad, now has a full-time gig in the G League as Manager of Player Personnel & Coach Relations. (An aside: if Harding isn’t an NBA or WNBA GM/Director of Player Personnel within the next five years, something’s way wrong. She was a great player who has an incredible way with people. Just all aces across the board.)
The Lakers signed Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) last summer to contracts that have become significant impediments to Los Angeles’ ability to upgrade its roster. The Lakers had to include D’Angelo Russell to dump Mozgov, and now they’re trying to unload Deng – which will also surely require massive sweeteners. What were they thinking?
His final professional season was the 2011-12 season, directly after his involvement in the labor talks. When asked by our Alex Kennedy if his role in the negotiations limited his career, here is what Evans told HoopsHype: “It definitely impacted my ability to earn and [continue to] play in the NBA. But to be honest, I knew the writing was on the wall from how active of a role I played. Being an entrepreneur and businessman myself, I know certain things like that have repercussions. I don’t have any regrets. I did exactly what was right and true for the situation, which was to represent the best interest of the guys in this league moving forward.”