NBA Rumor: Mental Health

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“I play this game more because I just love watching my family members seeing me play a game I was very good and successful at,” he said. “It always brought a smile for me when I saw my mom at the baseline and in the stands and stuff and having a good time watching me play. It’s going to be hard to play. It’s going to be difficult to say that this is therapy. I don’t think this will ever be therapy again for me. “But it gives me a chance to relive good memories I had. I guess that’s the only therapy I’m going to get from it. It’s not going to really help me emotionally or anything.”

Rubio was 25 when his mother passed, and he was racked with guilt and depression in the months leading up to her death while he was still suiting up in his first tour with the Wolves. Rubio knew then, and he knows now, that basketball is anything but a refuge when dealing with a loss as gutting as what he went through in 2016 and what Towns is going through now. “Sometimes at night during the season I was going through hell,” Rubio told me at the Rio Olympics less than three months after Tona’s death. “Waking up in, who knows, Sacramento, in L.A., in the middle of the night alone in a hotel and thinking, ‘Why am I here? Is it really worth it?’”

An injury in 2012 sent Kevin Love into a downward spiral, suffering from depression and anxiety to such a degree that he would not leave his room. He started to research ways to take his life. KEVIN LOVE: “I had a number of ways…the good thing that happens is when you do search that it comes up with the national suicide prevention line. There was a couple ways that I toyed with, but it was just scary to get down that route and think about the idea of, you know, taking my own life.” Love said it was a thought that frequently crossed his mind. And although he has made great strides in his mental health, he still sometimes has those thoughts.

Now Love is one of the investors backing a new venture called Coa that bills itself as the world’s first gym for mental health. Conceived of by company co-founder and CEO Alexa Meyer when she was walking around San Francisco and realized there were gyms catering to physical health on every corner but no visible options to work on emotional health, Coa offers both group classes and one-on-one mental fitness sessions with licensed therapists that have been specially matched with their client.

“Keldon is a sponge,” Castillo said. “He is very curious and asks a lot of questions. He is focused on improving all aspects of his game to include his mental game.” With Johnson’s balanced approach to both the physical and mental side of his game, next season could be a special one for him and the Spurs. “It’s fun to work with a high performer who is just looking to be better and build on his already strong cognitive abilities,” said Castillo.

Kevin Love: That’s been on my mind a lot lately, considering the millions and millions of people around the world who have lost their jobs, or lost their loved ones, or who are just dealing with the unprecedented anxieties of being a human in 2020. I know so many people out there are suffering right now. I’m no different. I’m still going through it. Even after all the work I’ve tried to do on myself over the last two-and-a-half years, some days are just brutal. Let’s just call it what it is. Some days are total s—, right? It feels good just to say it.

“Paul George had said something about depression, about stress in the bubble, and it’s real,” Murray said. “It’s really real, and it’s hard to deal with — being away from the fam. … But for me, (basketball) is an addiction. I go by the pool, get my mind off basketball, come back, and get ready to go. When I put my addiction to basketball, it shows on the court. I go in for an extra lift. I lift twice (on game-days) — before shoot-around and before the game. I prepare myself mentally.

Beyond talking with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, teammates and family, George said he spoke with a team psychiatrist about his undisclosed issues. After shooting a combined 10-of-47 in Games 2-4 against Dallas, George then rebounded with a 35-point performance on 12-of-18 shooting in Game 5. “I know exactly what Paul is going through,” Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green said. “You have nothing to do but look at your phone and social media all day. All they are doing is bullying you. They are trying to get you to play well. So he was going through a rough stretch. I’m sure doors were closing in on him, and it was getting dark for him.”

It all sounded so breezy when the Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley arrived at Walt Disney World and promptly scoffed at the idea that working and living at one of the foremost playgrounds on Earth could somehow be complicated. The bubble, Beverley unforgettably declared that day, is what you make it. Nearly two months later, no one on the N.B.A.’s Disney campus can be that cavalier when talking about the surroundings. The league has managed to keep the coronavirus out, which undeniably is a significant achievement, but not without levying an emotional tax by severely restricting access.

Beverley’s first-glance view suggested that bubble inhabitants, with the right mind-set, could make this all seem as magical as a typical Disney trip. Now consider the review that the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James offered up Saturday night — after the league emerged from a three-day walkout during which numerous players gave serious thought to closing down the bubble completely. The near shutdown wasn’t motivated solely by the players’ social justice pursuits; also factoring in was the simple desire to return to the outside world. “I’ve had numerous nights and days of thinking about leaving,” James said. “I think everyone has, including you guys.”

James was referring to members of the news media and, without question, he was right. The word I have used to describe this assignment, over and over, is “unmissable.” That sentiment remains true, because I’m not sure I’ll ever have the chance again to cover N.B.A. playoff games in August and September in arenas without fans. But “interminable” also applies. I can’t deny that there have been times during my 52 days here that I tried to picture the finish line and couldn’t.

It’s not because of the workload. My role at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, leading ESPN’s coverage of the U.S. men’s basketball team for “SportsCenter” and, made for even longer days in some ways. What gets to you in the bubble is your lack of control, combined with the long-term isolation, all exacerbated by copious regulations and restrictions. So many rules to follow. So much time alone with your thoughts. An Olympic excursion, typically bucket list territory for most sportswriters, also lasts only three or four weeks.

Barkley went on The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday and essentially said PG13 had no right to speak about his bubble anxiety … given the hardships other Americans are currently going through. “I don’t think guys making millions of dollars should be worried just because they’re stuck in a place where they can go fishing and play golf and play basketball and make millions of dollars,” Barkley said. “That’s not a dark place. The thing that just happened in Wisconsin, the things happening with this pandemic, all these people losing their jobs, those people are in a dark place.”

The Los Angeles Clippers secured a 154-111 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series largely because George scored 35 points while shooting efficiently from the field (12-of-18), 3-point range (4-of-8) and the free-throw line (7-of-7). That marked drastic improvement from what he showed from the field in Game 2 (4-of-17), Game 3 (3-of-16) and Game 4 (3-of-14). “I just wasn’t there,” George said. “I checked out. Games 2, 3, 4, I felt like I wasn’t there.”

George wilting under playoff pressure? George experiencing issues with his surgically repaired shoulders? Clippers coach Doc Rivers failing to draw enough plays for him? The Mavericks defending George too tightly. No, no, no and no. Instead, George said his issues had nothing to do with X’s and O’s. “It was just a little bit of everything. I underestimated mental health, honestly,” George said. “I had anxiety, a little bit of depression. Just being locked in here.”

So, George said he spoke with a team psychiatrist, and leaned on his parents, girlfriend and children for support. Following the Clippers’ Game 4 loss to Dallas on Sunday that ended with Luka Doncic’s game-winning 3-pointer, Rivers said he had “a long talk” with George in his room that he said had little to do with basketball. Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell played video games with George to cheer him up. Other teammates advised George to ignore social media. “Shout out to the people that was in my corner, people that gave me the words,” George said. “They helped big time about getting me right back in great spirits. Can’t thank them enough.”

As Shareef O’Neal’s high school basketball star rose, he saw trolls flood his comments with hate after an off night. “It was like if I didn’t have 30-15-10, everyone would compare me and say that I’m not as good as my dad,” O’Neal says. “For other players, the kids who aren’t getting the attention and they should be, they are telling themselves they need to get highlights in order to be seen and be famous.” This can all take a toll on a player’s mental health. Graham Betchart trains basketball players on the mental skills needed to overcome the stresses and anxieties of pro-athlete life, with clients including Aaron Gordon (since age 11), Ben Simmons, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Jaylen Brown. His main message: Don’t stress over what you can’t control.

DeMar DeRozan: It’s been times where I struggle, being in a room full of people and feel like I’m in there all alone, you know, and that always been something that affected me when I was when I had my dark days, my dark moments, you know, and it comes out of nowhere. When you least expect it. You could be smiling one second. And before you know it, you want a place of wondering how you got there, why I got there, and you asked so many questions. You know, and it’s kind of frustrating, you know?

DeMar DeRozan: Everybody don’t understand the dedication you put into something you love and that you want so much. And sometimes you do it out of your own pain internally, you know, it’s like I worked so hard to escape this feeling. But everybody wanted to enjoy the good stuff that came with me working so hard when I really was working hard to suppress my pain, my dark days, my dark nights when I felt so alone, you know, so I wish I would have understood that and not let it affect me so bad when other people probably didn’t get it in the moment. And always scared to communicate and tell people like, you know why you work so hard and why don’t like going out or why you don’t like doing this? It’s like, ‘Yo, I work hard because when this is the only time I get to escape, and you don’t see that I’m really screaming for help at times when I become tunnel vision and working so hard’. Sometimes you just want that hug.

While Gobert acknowledged that it’s “hard for me to be vulnerable” in discussing his mental health, he was “going through some stuff that people don’t know.” The period was so challenging that he didn’t feel ready to play when the bubble concept gained traction in April. “I was still not in the right state of mind to play basketball,” Gobert said. “I didn’t think it could happen at that point. As things went by, we had meetings and learned more about the virus, I started feeling better mentally and physically.

JR Smith: I was in state of depression

What was some of the things that you were going through mentally and emotionally knowing that you had the skill to be in league? JR Smith: Just mentally, I was in a state of just straight depression. I can’t play the game that I love at the highest level that I’m accustomed to playing, like being on the outside looking. Like I’ve never been without the game of basketball, especially when it comes to a point where you’re not hurt or you’re not suspended or anything like that. And the fact that nobody wants you, to know the fact that you’re not talented enough and nobody wants to because of the quote unquote type of person you are.

Michael Carter-Williams reveals he dealt with depression

You go through all the injuries, and then what what was it? I mean, was it were about a year plus ago? You’re out of the league, right? Michael Carter-Williams: That was a really, really hard time for me. I went through a lot, I’ve overcome so much. I went through mental health issues, you know, depression. My mind was telling me to do something when my body couldn’t do. I remember there was times where I didn’t want to leave my bed, didn’t want to do anything. And then it took a lot of work to feel good about myself to be confident again and to appreciate the game.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal said players are concerned about being isolated on a campus where their leaving is discouraged. If a person on campus leaves, the person is subject to more testing and additional quarantine time. “We can’t just leave,” Beal said. “We can’t just order whatever food we want. We can’t just do activities which we want to do. We can’t go to our teammate’s room. There’s a lot of (expletive) we can’t do. It’s tough. I get it from a mental wellness standpoint.”

Dr. Stephen Gonzalez, executive board member for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, told The Post the experience may feel like “house arrest,’’ noting the bubble rulebook of 113 pages. Violators are subject to banishment. “It’s unchartered waters,’’ Gonzalez told The Post. “The Olympics, you need to have all their movements tracked with security details and it hampers your freedom. It’s a small amount of what’s to happen with basketball. They’re restricted to where they can eat. They’re giving up a lot of freedom to do this.”

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.

For his efforts, especially with young people dealing with mental health and wellness, Love will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at Sunday’s 28th ESPY Awards show (9 p.m. ET, ESPN). The award, named after the tennis great, is given each year to a person whose contributions transcend sports. “I’m incredibly humbled by it,” Love said. “It’s really a profound honor if you look back at that group of men and women who I admire. Billie Jean King, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, to name a few. It’s very, very humbling to see my name next to those.”

In mid-May, after the NBA suspended its season, officials at the NBPA organized a Zoom call with players. They sought to focus on mental health — to listen to concerns and provide resources — and wanted to interact with a specific group that they found was experiencing the pandemic in a different way. The session was led by Dr. William D. Parham, the NBPA’s director of mental health and wellness, and former NBA guard and NBPA Player Wellness Counselor, Keyon Dooling, “[Letting them know] that they have support of the brotherhood is very important,” Dooling said.

About 30 international players dialed in from cities around the U.S., sharing concerns about loved ones thousands of miles away and about when and how they might be able to see them again. They asked about their ability to leave the country and come back, about their family members’ ability to leave and come back, and whether family members would be able to join a “bubble” environment if the NBA season resumes. The call, originally scheduled for an hour, went for more than 90 minutes. For as many different languages and backgrounds as the players shared and for as much as they’ve been in isolation in recent months, they found common ground. “They discovered that everybody is in the same storm,” Zuretti said.

During and after his speech, Love referenced some of his favorite books — “The Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, “The Hilarious World of Depression” by John Moe, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari and “Range” by David Epstein. All of those books have had a profound impact on Love in some way, allowing him to better understand himself and helping him learn how to cope with obstacles while living a better, more fulfilling life. Love also quoted William Shakespeare and Robin Williams.

“Find your North Star — that thing or things you are passionate about enough that you will reach past even your wildest dreams,” Love said. “Shout it loud to whomever will listen. I always say, ‘Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.’ Do not let your dreams go unspoken. But dreams need clarity. Without clarity, you might as well be staring into a fogged mirror. You can’t see or do much with any precision staring into that.”

Another crucial activity for Love’s mental health: reaching out to people he’s not quarantining with. At the moment, he’s at home with his girlfriend, Kate Bock, and dog, Vestry. “Get on your Zooms, your Instagram Lives, FaceTimes,” Love suggested. “There’s times throughout the day where myself I’ll just say, I got 10 minutes, I’m just going to pick up and call a teammate I haven’t talked to, or a friend back home or my sister who’s back in Oregon right now. Just finding ways to stay connected through this time, I think, is incredibly important.”

Walker told the mayor he’s been trying to stay consistent by doing body weight exercises, like sit ups and push ups, but he’s also maintaining a healthy diet. Nirenberg says he’s held on to a “bare bones” squat rack that he’s using to boost his mental health three to four times a week. “Things are pretty heavy right now, but we’ll get through all of this,” Nirenberg added. “But I need a little quiet time in addition to gym time.”

Brooklyn Nets center DeAndre Jordan is known for his rim-rattling dunks but the big man credits his on-court production and ability to stay positive during the COVID-19 crisis to an unlikely source — meditation. The 31-year-old All Star now wants to show the world his enlightened side with his show the Mindful Life, which debuted last week on PlayersTV, a new channel on Samsung TV Plus that delves into the lives of athletes.

The Texas native said his eyes were first opened to mindfulness during an NBA trip to China seven years ago. “I got into Buddhism a little bit and I wanted to learn more about it,” he said. “A big first step for me was meditation and focusing on being the best you you can be for not only yourself but for the people around you.” He returned to China with the NBA three years later and decided to fully embrace the lifestyle. “I just kind of went from there.”

Many who don’t quite understand the concept have asked White: Anxiety disorder cut short your NBA career, so how is the prospect of getting smashed in the face not more anxiety-inducing? He has a response at the ready: “Anxiety doesn’t work in a linear, boxed-in fashion. Some people are anxious with spiders. Some people are anxious in dark rooms. Some people don’t like being around other people. Some people need to be around other people. It’s pretty individual.”

Wednesday, he went on the social isolation edition of Trevor Noah’s “The Daily Show” and talked about how the isolation and loneliness caused by social distancing can be “devastating” at this time for people battling depression and anxiety. “I think continuing to create community at this time, that’s a huge thing… speaking of social isolation, it has made navigating this time very, very different,” Love said. (See his full comments in the video above.)

Keyon Dooling is the voice on the other end of the phone for NBA players, who, for all their wealth and notoriety, are as human as he was during his moments of reaching for a lifeline. This might not have been what Dooling signed up for as a wellness counselor for the National Basketball Players Association, dealing with the emotional side of this battle with the new coronavirus, but it is where the league has led him, from a career that began as the No. 10 pick out of Missouri by the Orlando Magic in the 2000 NBA draft.

His point, from a mental-health standpoint, is that this new normal is not normal for anyone. “Not having the access to a routine every day can be challenging,” he said. “Because we travel and we move around so much, we get stimulated being on the move. So I’m not over-worried about anybody or under-worried. I think I’m concerned for us all. And us, as athletes, when we don’t work out, our bodies can have a reaction. It can affect our sleep patterns, our mood, etcetera. So I encourage everybody to find a routine, try to do some physical activity every day, try to do things to calm their mind, whether it’s meditating, praying, listening to some stimulating music.”

In his first interview since leaving school to turn professional, Wiseman told ESPN that he cried every night in his dormitory room during the turbulent episode with the NCAA, ultimately leaving school amid a 12-game suspension for rules violations that Wiseman insists he hadn’t been aware occurred. “I was really in the middle of a hurricane,” Wiseman told ESPN in an interview that aired Friday. “That’s like the worst place you could possibly be. Just having the mental agony and the suffering, crying every night because I just wanted to get on the court so much.”

Ben Gordon: This was right after my last year in the league, and I was living in a brownstone up in Harlem. I had lost my career, my identity, and my family all pretty much simultaneously. I was manic-depressive. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t sleeping. And when I say I wasn’t sleeping, it was like a whole different level of insomnia. Every night, I’d wake up at the same time, like clockwork. And that’s when the demons would come out. When you’re up all night and it’s quiet and it’s just you alone with your deepest thoughts — that’s when the darkness really starts to take over your whole psyche.

Ben Gordon: So the only thing left to do was to get out of purgatory. I was obsessed with killing myself. It’s all I researched, all I thought about. One night my panic attacks got so bad that all I could think about was escape. Man, I’m telling you….. you become like an animal. It’s instinctive. Escape, escape, escape, escape. I took one of those heavyweight jump ropes — the thick rubber ones — and I tied it around my neck. Got a chair. And I hung myself, for real.

Ben Gordon: It got so bad that they had me committed to a mental hospital, and the problem was that I didn’t even understand why it was happening. It was like in the movies. I’m in some white room, and I got doctors and nurses strapping me down on a bed. They got the scrubs on and the gloves on, and they’re sticking needles in my arms, and cutting my pants off at the waist. It was terrifying. I just remember begging them not to hurt me, and really believing that this was all happening for no reason. Really believing that this was all some misunderstanding, and they had the wrong person.

Ben Gordon: And that’s when I started disassociating myself completely from Ben Gordon. I was convinced that I was a clone. That this body I’m in is not my real body. It can’t be. My spirit is trapped inside this clone body that’s bugging right now. I created a whole different name for this person. I had a different email address and phone number for him. I was emailing people telling them that I had a different name, like, “Yo — it’s really me. Don’t tell nobody!”

At first, I thought it was useless. What’s some older white lady gonna know about what I’m going through? How’s she going to tell me anything? She can’t tell me NOTHING! Well … she didn’t. She barely said a word as a matter of fact. But I got to sit in my chair and just talk my shit. And you know what? It felt pretty good. I ended up doing an extra six months of therapy, all on my own. Not because I had to. But just because I thought, “You know what? I’m actually fucking with this!”

He opened up about the childhood trauma that he will never forget. “When I was younger, we used to have a lot of things that used to happen in my house and on my block to where I kind of got PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in a way. I’ll be downstairs in the basement doing something and I’d hear somebody playing upstairs and I’d run up there thinking somebody was bursting in our house about to attack my cousin … this girl,” Rose described. “She used to beat up everybody in the neighborhood, like she would beat up somebody and I would think they were coming back for revenge. So any little bumps or sounds in the house, I’m scared, or at night I would hear something and get scared because I was thinking that these people came back.”

Zach Collins didn’t know it at the time, but that October night in Dallas, when he bowed his head and nearly cried in an empty locker room, his life was beginning to change for the better. The Trail Blazers starting power forward had just learned that his dislocated left shoulder, suffered in the third quarter of the team’s third game, would keep him out weeks, if not months — and if that didn’t take hold of his Adam’s Apple, the next few days would. For the next six days, he would wrestle with MRI results, second opinions, third opinions, and decisions of whether to have surgery or just rehabilitate the shoulder. He ultimately opted for surgery to repair a torn labrum, and he is not expected back on the court until March at the earliest.

Somewhere between the haze of dashed dreams and the post-surgery pity parties, Collins was confronted by what many professional athletes encounter during a major injury: an identity crisis. During most of his 21 years, basketball was the most defining element of his life. It was what he was best at, how he was recognized, how he managed his stress, and how he viewed himself. And now, basketball was gone until the spring, leaving him with a harrowing question: Who was he? “What else do you have?” Collins remembers asking himself. “And I realized, I don’t have much.”

Lillard has already opened up about being under a microscope as an NBA star. He now shares his thoughts on how the league is doing its part in helping players with their mental health. “I think it’s really important for the NBA to expand the support of mental health because we all go through different things… There’s a lot of things that take place in our lives off the court that can really affect us mentally,” Lillard said. The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard continued, “We’re professionals. We’re prideful. A lot of us are stars, and we don’t want to show weakness because we’ve been raised that any time you need help or if you fall apart, that’s a weakness. People are kind of ashamed of it and have a lot of pride. So, I think the fact that the NBA has got a grip on it and is taking it serious, it makes guys more comfortable knowing that I’m not alone.”

There was a time when Love might have allowed trade talks and the stress that comes with the rumors to get the better of him. That was before he opened up last year about his battles with mental illness and his first panic attack, on Nov. 5, 2017, during a game against the Atlanta Hawks. “I think I just came to a point in my life where so many things had led up to that moment and some people were talking about what I was dealing with and I didn’t want anyone to tell my story but me,” Love said. “I had been dealing with anxiety and depression and I felt I needed to speak my truth and allow myself to be vulnerable to the masses. I didn’t know how it was going to be received and how it was going to be moving forward. I just knew that I was done suffering silently and maybe I could help that one kid out there who was in need.”

But it was more than that for Love, who has spoken often in the past two years about his anxiety and depression. “I used to be a guy who kept to myself and was reluctant to share my life,” Love told USA TODAY Sports. “But that was me having quite a bit of social anxiety and the feeling of constantly having a threat and swimming upstream. So I figured I’m just going to live my life and share it, and by even sharing my story through mental health, it’s allowed me to help a lot of people. “It’s been liberating. You know what, I’m just going to share, play my cards and let the chips fall where they may.”
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January 23, 2021 | 8:06 pm EST Update

Timberwolves keeping Ryan Saunders for now

Ryan Saunders will remain coach of the woeful Minnesota Timberwolves, at least until he gets an opportunity to coach a stretch with star Karl-Anthony Towns in the regular lineup. “I haven’t even talked to (basketball president Gersson Rosas) about that — he hasn’t brought it up, but you’re asking me, and it’s probably hard to tell a guy that you aren’t doing the job when your best guy isn’t playing,” Wolves owner Glen Taylor said Saturday from his home in Mankato.
This rumor is part of a storyline: 6 more rumors
For most of a year, Taylor has explored a sale of the Wolves and Lynx. How’s that coming? “Well, it’s not coming is the best way to say it,” Taylor said. “I haven’t found anything that for sure says I should move ahead.” Taylor’s price tag for the Wolves and Lynx is estimated to be in the $1.5 billion range. With NBA expansion — Las Vegas and Seattle have been mentioned — current team owners could each be in for a reported $160 million expansion fee windfall. “Obviously I’m aware of that — you’ve got to pick your time,” Taylor said, adding that no definite decision for expansion has been made. “The other question: Is now a good time to sell when you don’t have fans? And it’s not a good time.”