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Bertans’ agent, Arturs Kalnitis, explained why his client chose not to play. “To be completely honest, Davis was prepared to play and then he made a last-minute decision to sit out,” Kalnitis told HoopsHype. “We’re playing the cards that we were dealt. When the NBA announced that players who sit out wouldn’t face consequences and would just lose 1 percent of their salary for each game missed, we sat down to discuss this. Davis is about to sign the biggest deal of his life, so he would be taking a big risk by playing. It wasn’t a tough decision, to be honest. If the Wizards were in the fifth or sixth seed (or maybe even the eighth seed), it would be completely different. Davis is a competitor. But in this situation, he decided to sit out.”
Kalnitis said that the Wizards were very understanding when Bertans informed them of his decision. “Davis and [GM] Tommy Sheppard have been talking on a daily basis,” Kalnitis said. “The Wizards have known about Davis’ decision for a few days, and Davis told his teammates before it was reported too. They have been so supportive. Tommy is the best. I really like his work, and he and Davis have a special connection. I wasn’t there when Davis informed Tommy and the Wizards of his decision, but Davis told me that they had a pleasant conversation and they were very supportive.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Ariza has been involved in a custody case over his 12-year old son, and mother’s choice of granting a court-ordered one month visitation period during league’s quarantine of teams in Orlando left Ariza to choose those parenting responsibilities over competing in restart.
With Davis Bertans opting out of the NBA's restart, the Washington Wizards are allowed to sign a replacement player before they head to Orlando, and they plan to do just that, NBC Sports Washington has learned. That player would be "for the short-term," according to a person familiar with their plans. And, partly because of that, they can definitively rule out center DeMarcus Cousins.
The Wizards are thinking in the immediate future and who could help them go for the playoffs when they arrive at Disney World with eight regular season games offered in the NBA's return-to-play plan. But that does not mean they are trying to replace Bertans specifically. What he does is unique, especially given his size. They could sign a different type of player and search for three-point shooting in other areas of their roster.
Tim MacMahon: Source confirms @Marc Stein report that Mavs SG Courtney Lee suffered a significant calf injury in a “freak accident.” Lee, a valued veteran presence, averaged 6.6 points on 50% FG in 22.8 minutes per game during March.
Raptors players and staff will move to the "NBA campus" at the Disney complex in the Orlando area in early July to further prepare for the stretch run. "In keeping with NBA and team safety protocols, there will be no group workouts during this phase of return to play, and strict protocols have been designed to ensure this initial level of access will take place in a safe, controlled, and healthy way," the Raptors said in a brief statement announcing their departure. "Group workouts will only begin once teams have reported to the NBA campus at Disney."
The Heat’s voluntary individual workouts continue at its AmericanAirlines Arena practice facility, with teams not able to host group sessions like team practices, scrimmages and pickup games until arriving at Disney for the start of training camp during the second week of July. Miami began allowing players to participate in individual workouts at the team facility on May 13, and attendance from players has been very strong, according to a league source.
There has not been significant pushback from the 17 players on the Heat’s roster on returning to complete the season, according to league sources, with most players already indicating they want to play when games resume at Disney.
For an NBA attempting to finish its season at Disney in Orlando, is problematic, experts say. “Extremely concerning,” says Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University. “Absolutely,” says Bill Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University. “Of course, they should be concerned about case numbers around where they’re trying to build their bubble,” says Jared Baeten, an epidemiology professor at the University of Washington. “Yes,” says Kathleen Bachynski, a public health professor at Muhlenberg College. “And that’s because a true bubble is just really, really hard to create.”
“That is a very serious outbreak, and it’s going to get worse,” Binney says. “This is very quickly approaching scram reactor territory for me. Even with a bubble plan. I’m deeply, deeply worried. “I still like the NBA’s plan,” he clarifies. “This is not the NBA’s fault. This is the state of Florida’s fault. The NBA has done nothing wrong, other than putting their eggs in the Orlando basket.”
The NBA will administer tens of thousands of tests while at Disney. It will spend large sums on advanced technology. “If the numbers are spiking in the local community, it would also be important to think about, well, where are we pouring all these resources?” Bachynski asks. “And is that really the right thing to do?” Says Binney: “If there’s that much disease, and there’s that much of a severe outbreak, and if hospitals start to get overwhelmed, and you don’t have enough testing there, which they don’t ... if the situation still looks like this next month, I’m not sure how you could start.”
The test is not mandatory and will be used on players, coaches and staff from NBA teams who voluntarily opt in to the study. There is buy-in from the NBPA. “Our players are excited to be a part of this study," NBPA chief medical officer Joe Rogowski. “Not only does it offer the potential for players to have an alternative method of testing within the NBA Campus in Orlando, but more importantly it allows them to leverage their regular testing to make a larger contribution to public health in the fight against this virus."
Tim Reynolds: The Raptors' plane has left the gate in Toronto. It is en route to Fort Myers. For the first time in 3-1/2 months, an NBA team is headed ... somewhere.
As a Wednesday deadline approaches for players to notify their teams whether they wish to withdraw from participation, for whatever reason, there are three main sources of anxiety among the players and executives in the league: The location of the contained campus for the restart is a fresh source of unease. The N.B.A. chose Disney World for its single-site resumption of play for many reasons — business reasons among them, given Disney’s status as the league’s top media partner. But Orange County’s increase in positive tests over the past two weeks has made it an “infection hotbed,” as described by Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health.
As Lou Williams of the Los Angeles Clippers said last week in a video chat with fans, some players are wrestling with fears that returning to full-time basketball may divert momentum from the Black Lives Matter movement, which has surged worldwide since the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
A third prime worry that has been routinely overlooked with so much else happening is the injury risk players will face after what has been, for many, the longest layoff of their career from full-speed, five-on-five play.
“If the numbers were staying stable or they were going down, I’d have lots of confidence in the plan,” Halkitis said of the N.B.A.’s restart. “The numbers going up mean you have a difference circumstance now, which increases the probability of transmission and makes the plan — which is excellent but not foolproof — more susceptible to infiltration by the virus. “I keep using the flood and the dam example: A dam holds water, but if there’s a lot of pressure on the dam, like lots of infections, it’s more likely to crack. And that’s the problem here. They have to keep an eye on what’s going on.”
Teams are set to ramp up training this week. A transaction window will soon open. Seeding games and the playoffs are scheduled for Disney World. When will the union actually approve this plan? Brian Windhorst of ESPN on Sunday: "This, from what everybody that I talked to, right now is too big to fail. The overwhelming majority of players are excited. They want to be there. From what I understand, Hannah, it is going to happen. They’re on the verge of coming to an agreement. That could be announced in the next 48 hours, certainly before training camps re-open the middle of this week. We are headed towards at least a restart of training camp with agreement from the union very soon."
Fred Katz: The Wizards can sign a replacement player for Bertans, but remember: The player is only for Orlando. And they get no rights on that player this offseason. It’s not a way to build for next year. Can’t just sign some guy to a long-term deal.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Reporting with @Tim Bontemps: Washington Wizards F Davis Bertans has decided to sit out the Orlando restart, sources tell ESPN. Bertans is entering free agency off of his most productive NBA season – with two ACL injuries in his past.
Tim Reynolds: The Raptors are tentatively scheduled to arrive in southwest Florida this afternoon. I say tentative because at this point, I think everything needs to be called tentative until at least an hour after it happens.
Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins told the Orlando Sentinel on Friday the NBA restart committee feels confident in the league’s safety plans. “We had a number of guiding principles as we had discussions about the restart and how we would restart, and the No. 1 guiding principle for us, for the league overall, is the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff that will be on the campus at Disney,” Martins said. “We have consulted with some of the top medical experts in the country, epidemiologists from Columbia University and Johns Hopkins, and others, [including] a former surgeon general [Vivek Murthy].
NBA Central: Brian Windhorst says an overwhelming majority of players are excited and ready for Orlando "From what I understand, it is going to happen . . . They're on the verge of coming to an agreement that could be announced in the next 48 hours.” (🎥 ESPN)
The surging number of coronavirus cases in Florida, which posted a record high Saturday for the third consecutive day, has raised concerns in many corners of the NBA, from players to team executives to the league office itself, as it prepares to resume play in Orlando next month. Florida added 4,049 new cases Saturday, which broke the previous single-day record of 3,822 set Friday. In all, the state has set records for single-day cases in seven of the past 10 days and is approaching 94,000 infections -- becoming a national hot spot along with Texas and Arizona, states that are also seeing surging case numbers.
In at least one recent call with high-level team executives, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has acknowledged the spiking numbers in Florida. Multiple team sources described the general tone of that call, including the questions asked of Silver on it, as tense. Another called Silver's tone "resolute but somber." He expressed a resolve to go on -- a confidence in the NBA's bubble concept -- while recognizing the seriousness of the coronavirus spike, sources said.
The National Basketball Players Association held a virtual town hall with players this week and addressed concerns about the Florida cases, multiple sources familiar with the matter told ESPN. Players brought up the fact that Walt Disney World staffers who will not reside in the NBA campus -- including hotel housekeepers -- will not be subject to any coronavirus testing, sources said. One mitigating factor that was cited, a source added: Many of the new cases are in areas other than Orlando.
Of the rising figures, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN: "Can't say I am surprised, given the state's approach to reopening. We are obviously clearly monitoring the situation. While we take some solace in knowing our players will not travel commercially to get to Orlando, that access to the campus is severely limited and, of course, all of the other health and safety protocols in place, the numbers will keep our attention. If necessary to add further restrictions respecting those third parties having access to the campus, we will seek to implement them." Roberts added that by "third parties," she meant Disney staffers who will be servicing the hotels where teams are staying or providing other services on the campus.
Several leading epidemiologists praised the NBA's general plan in interviews with ESPN over the past two weeks, even while acknowledging there was no way for the NBA to maintain a true "bubble." They said that absent authority to govern the work conditions and medical monitoring of Disney staffers, the NBA had taken appropriate steps to reduce the threat of any of them transmitting the coronavirus to league personnel. Entirely eliminating the threat is not possible, those experts told ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Teams can have four players June 23-30 at facility; 8 players in facility July 1-9. From there, teams will leave for Orlando and full training camps
All-Star guard Victor Oladipo plans to ramp up activity with the Indiana Pacers starting next week and evaluate his repaired torn quad tendon prior to making a final commitment to playing in the season's restart in Orlando, he told ESPN on Saturday. Oladipo, 28, is hopeful to return to play with the Pacers, but wants to limit the risk of significant injury after returning in January from a full year of rehabilitating the torn right quad tendon.
"I feel a whole lot better," Oladipo told ESPN. "I know there's risk going into it with the unique situation that I'm in -- being off so long and trying to ramp it up that fast. I've just got to be smart, that's all." The Pacers have been cautious and working cooperatively with Oladipo throughout his rehab and return, and plan to continue closely monitoring and managing his recovery with the looming restart.
We asked Covid-expert Dr. Glenn Copeland about the risks that come with such a scenario. Dr. Copeland serves as the medical director for the Toronto Blue Jays and Ottawa Red Blacks while also serving in an advisory role to 20 teams throughout the four major American leagues and at QuestCap. Dr. Copeland was quick to commend the work of NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his staff in preparing for the season’s upcoming resumption.
While the NBA has been adamant they will not stop players from properly leaving the bubble, they must be vigilant in policing those who do so. “I commend the NBA for not letting up on this. They can’t let up. What happens if a food handler and unfortunately their wife comes home the night before after working in a facility that had an outbreak? You can’t live in a complete bubble.”
While the NBA plan includes a cardiac screening before allowing infected players to resume action, there is still so much to learn from this disease. It’s worth considering if playing games without full and extensive knowledge of both the immediate and long term risks is wise. “Life is going to move forward. It’s a return to safe life that the NBA is going to show us can be done. We know there will be drawbacks,” Copeland continued.
What are your main safety concerns about the Orlando bubble, and are positive tests inevitable? Mark Cuban: I don’t have specific concerns. I think the NBA and Disney are working with our doctors and scientists to do everything possible to keep (participants) safe. In fact, given the rise in cases in states, I have every reason to believe the setup we have in Orlando will be safer for our players and travel parties than staying in their respective cities.
What will it be like with no fans in the arena? Mark Cuban: It will be different for certain. But there will be a lot of technology we will be experimenting with to try to introduce noise and make the event more entertaining for players and TV viewers. We have been having a lot of fun with apps that allow fans to push noise they make at home into the arena. So not only will there be competition on the court, there will be competition from fans to contribute energy as well!
Temple said he sees that side of sitting out to focus on social justice, but believes being in Orlando is “an amazing opportunity.” Players are asking what can be done at the Disney World site, ranging from putting Black Lives Matter on the courts to reading PSAs on the broadcast during timeouts. “Just to make sure that narrative continues to get pushed but also to do our jobs playing as black men,” said Temple, who is studying for the LSAT to potentially be a prosecutor or governor. “We have an obligation to be the voice for the voiceless.”
It’s just not increased testing leading to increased positive tests. The percentage of tests coming back positive has increased, too. The percent of new positive tests in Florida was 10% on Thursday, up from 3.17% on June 5, according to the Florida Department of Health. The Philadelphia Phillies closed their Florida facility on Friday after five players and three staff members who gathered for workouts at their Clearwater training facility tested positive for COVID-19, the team confirmed Friday. The Toronto Blue Jays also closed their facilities, according to the ESPN.
Keith Smith: Per a league source: All players who were on 10 Day contracts will be free agents when the season resumes. This adds another 8 free agents to the available pool. Only Anthony Tolliver (MEM) & Joakim Noah (LAC) were with teams that are part of the re-start at Walt Disney World.
NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh recently spoke with Parham, who said he and Dooling "have been receiving texts from players directly on a regular basis" expressing concerns about their mental health entering the NBA bubble. "There's certainly a fair amount of anxiety, depression, uncertainty, confusion, chaos, disbelief at the extremes, resentment and anger," Parham told Haberstroh. "The pandemic, particularly the global nature of it, is unprecedented. There's no playbook for this."
Keith Smith: Per a league source: All players who were on 10 Day contracts will be free agents when the season resumes. This adds another 8 free agents to the available pool. Only Anthony Tolliver (MEM) & Joakim Noah (LAC) were with teams that are part of the re-start at Walt Disney World.
NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh recently spoke with Parham, who said he and Dooling "have been receiving texts from players directly on a regular basis" expressing concerns about their mental health entering the NBA bubble. "There's certainly a fair amount of anxiety, depression, uncertainty, confusion, chaos, disbelief at the extremes, resentment and anger," Parham told Haberstroh. "The pandemic, particularly the global nature of it, is unprecedented. There's no playbook for this."
Justise Winslow spoke to former NBA forward Caron Butler on the league's Twitter feed on Friday afternoon and expressed concern about the continuation of the season, the same way he did on his Instagram page on Thursday evening. "The bubble is tricky man," Winslow told Butler. "From the COVID standpoint, I don't think it's a great idea just to have all these people in a bubble and tight spaces. It's almost the opposite of social distancing. We're going to have workers who are working for Disney; they're going to be going home and seeing their family and doing whatever they want to do but then they are going to come back.”
Winslow did touch on the money issue in his interview with Butler. "But at the same time, I'm a competitor. I want to play," Winslow said. "I want my money even though it's not all about the money. It's still a business. So if these owners are going to get paid, I want my fair share as well. It keeps going back to jus the dynamic of players want more money and owners want more money so how can we do this without killing each other or knocking each other down or being disrespectful."
Winslow said he felt like the players agreed to return to play, but not necessarily to everything laid out in the health and safety protocol measures released on June 16. "I think when we agreed to this as players, we agreed to come back. We didn't necessarily agree to be in a bubble, be on lockdown, to not have our families, to be exposed to the virus, to have all these workers around," Winslow said. "We didn't agree to all that. We agreed to come back and play. It's up to the league and [National Basketball Players Association] to figure out the best way. It's still a little iffy. I don't know if it's the smartest thing for us to come back and play right now. I love to continue to fight this fight for social injustice and these other things, but to be completely honest, I'm a little iffy about Orlando.”
“I think for us, the only benefit of us not playing is to keep the focus on the fight,” Williams said when asked by a viewer what the next step could be for players who share such concerns. “And with that being said, this is in six weeks, so we don’t know what it looks like in six weeks. In six weeks the world may need some healing, they may need us to be on the floor. But if more Black kids or more Black adults or any adults that’s dealing with police brutality are getting killed and we’re still outraged, I don’t know if it’s in our best interests to suit up because it looks like we don’t care. You know what I mean? It’s just a fine balance we’re trying to create.”
“We’re trying to find that balance where if we do suit up we’re having conversations behind closed doors. If we do suit up, how much of this platform can we really use? Can we get a ‘Black Lives Matter’ patch on our jerseys? Can our jerseys say ‘Black Lives Matter’? Can the court say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ so we can use that platform to the best of our abilities? So it’s just hard to call, bro. it’s honestly, it’s hard to call. I’m 50-50 right now, to be honest with you.”
As the NBA attempts to restart its season despite rising cases of COVID-19 and rising numbers of hospitalizations because of the disease, it has placed an emphasis on being able to quickly discover and track the illness in players. One device the league is planning to make available for players in Orlando, Fla., is a ring that has sensors that measure different bodily functions. The ring, produced by the company Oura, isn’t foreign to NBA circles. At least not in Los Angeles.
Judy Seto, the Lakers’ director of sports performance, wears one. In an interview that took place in February, Seto removed the titanium ring to show the glowing inside where sensors could detect different happenings in her body. “The electronics of this one is similar to a Fitbit but it’s a little bit more accurate,” Seto said. “… I can get it wet. I can have impact on it and it doesn’t catch on anything. This tells me how long did it take for me to fall asleep. It tells me sleep cycles. Light sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep. How much did I get. Did I stay asleep or did I toss and turn at night? Gives me feedback of, ‘Hmm saw that you went to bed a little late or you kept on waking up at night. Is something bothering you?’ Your body temperature’s elevated, are you feeling well? Maybe you’re getting a little under the weather.”
The Lakers do not collect data acquired in these rings. They simply offer them as an option for players. And before the pandemic, the main goal was to use it to identify sleep patterns. “Some do,” Seto said, when asked in February whether players have chosen to wear the ring. “There’s an app on the phone that you can do. There’s also different devices. Some just wear it in the evening. But it’s really individual and it’s education. Instead of trying to be intrusive or controlling, it’s working with them and educating them on it. With our travel schedule, it’s difficult sometimes to get enough sleep, but by educating people and the importance of sleep, hopefully making sleep more of a priority instead of it plays no factor in what we do.”
Two of the three players who have been most vocal about the possibility of declining participating in the NBA's attempt to restart its season inside a bubble next month are Avery Bradley and Dwight Howard -- both members of the Los Angeles Lakers. And while their teammate, Danny Green, appreciates and supports the position both of them have taken, it is his belief that players will be able to create more change by going into the bubble and playing than by choosing to stay away.
"I think we can use the platform to our advantage and enhance it," Green said in an interview with Caron Butler on the NBA's Twitter account in honor of Juneteenth. "I mean, I see both sides. But I think we can easily, and I think [with] social media and all the platforms we have and people watching us they're going to be tuning in even more when we're down there.”
"Like Avery Bradley, he's one of the guys who has spoken out, but he doesn't really have social media, so [people] don't really know how he feels, they're not really able to see and hear it from him," Green said. "But if he goes down to Orlando he's going to have to do interviews. He's going to have a hell of a game one of these nights or a hell of a quarter, and he's going to have to talk to the media. Even if he doesn't have a hell of a game, he's still going to have to talk to the media. So after the game they actually hear from his voice, from his mouth himself how he feels about the protests, about the social injustice, about the movement. For guys that don't have social media, or guys that don't have a big following, it's a better way for everybody to be there and be united.”
Silver and the league put together thorough return-to-play health and safety guidelines for the remainder of the season at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Ominous data and modeling for Florida could derail even the most comprehensive of plans – not just for the NBA, but for Major League Baseball, the WNBA and Major League Soccer. COVID-19 cases in Florida are rising – 3,822 new cases on Thursday, setting a daily record, surpassing the previous record (3,207) from the day before.
According to a disease model by scientists at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, Florida has “all the markings of the next large epicenter ... the risk there is the worst it has ever been in our projections. Miami and Florida’s southeastern counties now join the Tampa/Fort Myers area and Orlando for a fairly widespread transmission event that we forecast will continue throughout the state."
Robinson said coaches wear masks and gloves and only one-on-one instruction is allowed between a player and coach. No more than four players can be in the facility at the same time, players cannot shoot on the same hoop, and they must remain separated, Robinson said. “It’s definitely an adjustment but in Orlando people are going to be competing for a championship,” Robinson said. “We’re all on the same page in regards to that challenge. It’s more finding ways to be creative and maintain being in shape while challenging ourselves and pushing ourselves.”
The National Basketball Players Association called them Oura rings in its health summary, but the NBA did not name Oura as the brand in its document. Some players on Twitter and agents expressed concerns about tracking and personal data.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma tweeted, “Looks like a tracking device.” "Does Adam Silver wear one with us while we’re all in there,” Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie asked on Twitter. To be clear though, these devices are optional – an issue that has been collectively bargained between the league and the NBPA.
This is what Parham does for a living. His job is to reach people, often professional athletes. Parham is a licensed psychologist and the counseling professor in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. Before he took the position with the NBPA, he was a consulting psychologist for the Los Angeles Lakers and worked with the NBA, NFL and several U.S. Olympic teams for years. Parham is also Black. This detail provides important context in an NBA community filled with white leaders and the surrounding racial crisis in America. The NBPA represents a player pool that is approximately 81 percent Black, but that ratio dips precipitously the higher you climb on the NBA’s ladder of power.
As players waited for and eventually news on the NBA’s return to play, Parham and Dooling have been receiving texts from players directly on a regular basis. Parham hears from agents looking for resources to help mentally manage the crises at hand and sends out written newsletters to players with words of advice and links to explore.
One NBA staffer told me, “Oh, it will be tamperpalooza in Orlando! That’s for sure.” He wasn’t the only one to bring this up. As soon as the manual was released, this possibility popped up on the radar of every franchise. Teams want to know if there’s any way to prevent it in such a circumstance, or if they could maybe benefit from the blurring of norms. With so much time, in such close proximity, new bonds may form. Opposing players see one another sparingly in-season, given the grind of the NBA schedule and how extensive their commitments are within the chaos of an NBA arena when teams meet up. In the bubble, a lot of competing noise should fade out.
The NBA staffers I spoke to regarded the current state of affairs with amusement, even if the job has gotten tricky and they now live in a sort of limbo. Aside from the top officials on these teams, many staffers aren’t assured as to whether they will make the cut list for Orlando. They eagerly await word on the immediate future, not just for the purposes of planning, but also to see where they stand within their respective organizations.
A handful of players involved in Friday's call over concerns about plans to restart the 2019-20 season expressed strongly that they would consider not playing, according to a source familiar with the call. But some veterans on the call open to sitting out had a question for the players, such as Brooklyn's Kyrie Irving, who supported the idea. "They were asking, 'What's the plan?'" a source familiar with the call said of the response of some veterans on the call. "Even the players who supported the idea of sitting, they were asking about a plan of action. There was no plan.'"
Several people in touch with players in the aftermath of last Friday's call believe that the 2019-20 season will ultimately be restarted in Orlando as planned. "Some guys may sit out, but I'd be stunned if there weren't games in Orlando this summer," a source familiar with Friday's call said.
How safe is the NBA’s proposed Orlando bubble for restarting the 2019-20 season? No one will know for sure until 22 teams move into the Disney property and test it out, but according to Sacramento Kings co-owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé, the parameters put in place by the league will make the bubble concept safer than being at home. “Nothing is going to be ever a 100 percent foolproof,” Ranadivé told CNBC’s Tyler Mathisen during a recent interview on “Power Lunch”. “When you walk into a grocery store, you’re taking chances. We have a close relationship with Disney’s Bob Iger and I have a high level of confidence that we’re going to be safer in Orlando than most people would be at home.”
Storyline: Orlando Bubble
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The resilience that helped Murray push through a trying professional start wasn’t entirely organic, though. It was molded through heartbreak; a glimpse at why he is the way he is only fortifies the belief that Murray is a person worth investing in. Years before he was a Spur, when even the thought of playing in the NBA was a different universe over, Murray faced a nightmarish adolescence, perfused by grief, terror and harrowing uncertainty. “It’s a story that’s never been heard before because I was in the streets for real, for real. I didn’t live off of nobody’s name,” he says. “It ain’t nothing to brag about. This s— is crazy when I wake up. I’m playing in the NBA. I’m on a video game. I have fans that buy my jersey. It still don’t feel real. I’ve been here five years; I feel like it’s a dream still.”
Every player who makes the NBA is a miracle. Every story is spruced with dabs of luck, a trail of serendipity, cosmic happenstance and mounds of adversity that were eventually cleared. For Murray, the mere fact that he’s still alive and free is its own tall tale. “I feel like the path I took to get here,” he starts, “what I had overcome, nobody ever overcame. Nobody’s ever been in my situation and made it to where I’m at today.”
“I’m in the stage right now where I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to tell my story to motivate the world and allow the world to know who Dejounte Murray is,” he says. “I’ve been real quiet and to myself about it, because it traumatized me. To this day it haunts me still. If you just think of the streets, a young kid in the streets, gangbanging, around drugs and just doing anything to get money, that was what it was. That’s what I was. I wouldn’t even say I was taught that. It was that or it was no way.”
When Murray was first arrested in middle school, it didn’t phase him. “Juvenile? That was nothing to me at 11 years old. I wasn’t scared; I wasn’t nervous, because I knew what to expect from going to jail.” His relationship with violence was frequent, felt in the body-numbing sensation that takes over after hearing a close friend or cousin has been fatally shot. His mother was in and out of prison and his father wasn’t always around. “I love my mom to death. My dad, me and him are still working on ways to become closer,” Murray says. “He wasn’t a deadbeat, but neither one of them were full-time parents.”
Murray bounced from one apartment to the next, one hotel room to another. Couch to couch. His mother was kicked off state housing the first time he was arrested. Evictions weren’t uncommon. “I don’t even have a favorite cartoon. That’s how much I was in the streets. You know what I’m saying?” Murray says. “I can’t even tell my daughter I had a favorite cartoon growing up, and that f—- with me. That bothers me a lot.”