In an unprecedented meeting, a delegation of five NBA p…

In an unprecedented meeting, a delegation of five NBA players and several officials from the National Basketball Players Association are at the Vatican on Monday morning for a private audience with Pope Francis to discuss their work on social justice issues. An intermediary for Pope Francis reached out to the players’ association last week indicating the Pope wanted to learn more about how players had recently brought attention to pressing social justice issues and economic inequality — and what they planned for the future, union officials told ESPN. The union agreed and quickly scheduled an overnight flight Sunday to make their private meeting with the pope, which began at 11:45 a.m. local time Monday morning at the Vatican. With training camp set to open on Dec. 1, players and union officials had to squeeze the trip in now.
Storyline: Pope Meeting
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January 27, 2021 | 8:36 pm EST Update
Attempts to grow closer as a team are confronting a world in which proximity to teammates is both dangerous and prohibited. As a result, NBA players and staffs have been reduced to distant conversations through face masks, and a road life dominated by individual screens rather than collective camaraderie. “The reality is that you can’t do stuff like that anymore,” Haslem said. “Those opportunities don’t exist.” In Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner’s words: “It’s a bubble within a bubble.”
Storyline: Coronavirus
STARTING AN AVERAGE day on the road, an NBA player must now wake up as early as 7:30 a.m. to be tested before a practice or shootaround, depending on the market. He then returns to his room to catch another hour or so of sleep, or to busy himself with a video game, an episode of a series or maybe a FaceTime session with family back home. A couple of hours later, he reports downstairs to board the team bus. The wait in the lobby is traditionally a time when players schmooze and hang out, but with everyone at least 6 feet apart and masked, the vibe has taken on an edgy quality.
Pre-practice strategy sessions at the hotel can no longer last more than 10 minutes. Shootaround or practice offer some normalcy, but breakfast back at the hotel in a ballroom, typically a communal ritual where players and staff yuck it up at tables for eight, now operates as a grab-and-go. Want some fresh air? Forget about taking a walk outside, even though the CDC and other leading medical institutions regard outdoor activities with the appropriate precautions as low risk.
This season, that ground rarely extends much past the door to a hotel room. The Spurs’ custom on the plane has been effectively prohibited. Under the new guidelines, players must sit next to the same guys they sit next to on the bench during games. On an off night, it’s dinners for one in the room — a far cry from the jovial dining out experience in a road city. “I think that’s hard — having options taken away,” Holiday said. “You might go to your favorite city, and have a favorite food spot that people might not know about. And that’s something that you can bring to the table, something you share, and [this season] you can’t really share that.”
January 27, 2021 | 6:50 pm EST Update
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