NBA Rumor: Mental Health

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Larry Sanders felt like a "product" during his time in the NBA

Former NBA player Larry Sanders says that he often felt like a “product” during his time in the league as he grappled with the anxiety that came with his career as an athlete. In a recent episode of No Chill with Gilbert Arenas, Sanders, 33, recounted his early days in basketball, and how he struggled to adapt to the rigid standards and requirements that came with playing pro.

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“It was helping,” he said of the marijuana. “My most consistent year of smoking weed and playing was when I averaged three blocks and a double-double.” But in 2015, Sanders was suspended for 10 games after multiple failed drug tests, according to USA Today. “It was like, ‘I know what’s good for me. I know these alternatives that you all are offering me are going to put me in a weaker position in the long term,’ ” Sanders said of the NBA’s alternative suggestions of anxiety treatment, which he didn’t specify. The athlete added, “I knew what helped and what worked. It always came down to legalities.”

The NBA transition program assisted Jones in finding a purpose in the community without basketball, where he found his passion for the community. “Helping with the Philadelphia 76ers youth program gave me the opportunity to talk with children that were like me but I realized many were going back to broken homes,” Jones said. “That is the moment that I decided to give back to the community as a whole. We cannot develop healthy youth without healthy families.”

Allen Iverson still supporting Ben Simmons

While much of the rest of the NBA has reacted with anger that Ben Simmons sat out the entire season, Allen Iverson put away the knives and instead extended a figurative hand to the 25-year-old Simmons. “I’m a Sixer to the death, so obviously I’m disappointed,” Iverson said Wednesday from his home in Charlotte. “But I don’t know what goes on in someone else’s head, and you always try to give somebody the benefit of the doubt. I would like to think that I had a good relationship with him. And I’m pretty sure that he knew that I was supporting him.”

Brooklyn’s season ended in a sweep by Boston, and Simmons again became the center of unwanted attention. “I’m still rooting for him, you know,” Iverson continued. “Obviously he’s not with [the Sixers] anymore … But I’m thinking about him as a person. You know what I mean? I hope he comes out well from this whole thing, especially if we’re talking about mental health [concerns]. … We don’t know what’s going on in his mind. And we don’t know about the people that’s surrounding him and feeding him the information that he needs to get past this whole thing that we definitely wish – if you care anything about him – that it passes. You know what I mean?”

“You just hope that the foundation that he has around him is positive enough and smart enough to handle this thing the best way that they can,” he said. “But it’s gonna be ugly. I think it’s important for him to stay and mesh with [his Nets teammates] in the offseason and work out with them; get a relationship with those guys and figure out a way to turn this negative thing into a positive. But it’s gonna be [difficult].”

Ben Simmons originally expected to return for Game 3 against Celtics

Ben Simmons’ absence from this postseason has garnered the most glaring spotlight of all. Before the Celtics series began on Easter Sunday, league sources told B/R the 25-year-old three-time All-Star and Nets personnel were confident he was on track to play as early as Game 3. Then his purported timeline became Game 4. That is until Sunday, when Simmons informed Brooklyn staffers he was experiencing back soreness, one day before Monday’s fateful Game 4 defeat.

Instead, the Nets ruled Simmons out of Game 4 altogether, sources said, as a sense of fatigue from the situation and general disappointment seemed to permeate the franchise. After visiting the floor for pregame warm-ups prior to Game 3, Simmons did not partake in any pregame work Monday and was not present on the bench alongside his teammates for Game 4, which one source told B/R was because of his lingering back discomfort. Simmons certainly wouldn’t have debuted on the road in front of a hostile Boston crowd for Game 5. Could he have appeared in Game 6? We’ll never know.

Ben Simmons facing mental block in return-to-play process

Sunday’s events triggered frustration and disheartenment throughout the organization, multiple sources said. The fallout of Simmons being ruled out Sunday led to a meeting among franchise officials, Simmons and his agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, on Monday in Brooklyn. According to sources, Simmons told those in the room that a mental block exists for him, dating in part to last summer’s postseason, which is creating stress that could serve as a trigger point for his back issues. He added that he does want to play basketball and play for the Nets as he works on solutions in regard to his well-being.

Simmons had been described as pain-free for the majority of the past month but began to cite soreness in his back on Friday, and a scheduled scrimmage was pushed back, multiple sources said. Simmons conducted two full-court scrimmages last week on Monday and Wednesday, in which there was low intensity displayed, those sources said. Throughout Simmons’ rehab, both Durant and Irving, for their part, publicly downplayed their expectations for a Simmons return and said the goal is to get him healthy.

Simmons had another workout on Saturday, after which Nash said Simmons had no issues. On Sunday, Simmons informed the team his back was sore. For Nets players, the confusion was not centered around Simmons’ ailment, but with the perceived lack of attempt to play, effort to be in uniform and push his body in these high-stakes playoffs, sources said. Nets players and coaches wanted to see Simmons show resolve and enter this series to start his on-court Brooklyn tenure, even if it was for limited minutes on Monday or none at all while still dressing for the game.

Kevin Love on fans not believing Ben Simmons about mental health issues: “It’s hard to argue feelings, first and foremost. I think a lot of people like to throw shade at a safe distance. I learned from the late, great Flip Saunders that everybody has a part to play, everybody gets to contribute a verse. I understand a scorned fan. I understand Philly fans — they’re a blue-collar type of place. You go there, it doesn’t matter who you are — even if you’re on their team and you don’t play well, they’re gonna let you know.

Every time Towns talks about what he’s been through, something new comes into focus. “I think my mom passing away was the first time I realized basketball can’t fix something,” Towns says. “Think about that. All the connections, all the people I knew, all the resources I had that people didn’t have with COVID, and I still lost. “I still watched her life fade away in my hands, literally in my hands, with a hazmat suit on. I couldn’t fix it. “It was the first time I realized basketball was not going to save me this time. I really had to do the work.”

After Jacqueline’s death, Towns says he first found himself looking to channel his grief into basketball. “Like, I’m going to just go crazy and just put all that energy into my game, but when I looked at basketball to give me that energy — I didn’t have it. “My mom was the purpose of me even playing basketball,” he says. “So when she passed away, I had to repurpose myself. I had to find what was going to be the reason that I want to go in every day and put my body and my mind and my spirit through all this stress. Why would I do this? “It took time and a lot of self-reflection.”

Robert Covington: 'At one point I was ready to walk away from this game'

Three years after seeking professional help for “all the things I had going on in my head mentally,” he is as much a giver as a taker, a change seen not only in the energy he gives to teammates, although that has become a staple of his brief Clippers tenure. “I like to keep people and those spirits high because I’ve been at a point where I’ve been frustrated and overwhelmed, and that s— takes a toll,” he said. “And at one point I was ready to walk away from this game.”

But in 2019, hurt in more ways than one after a trade from Philadelphia to Minnesota in 2018, Covington believed he was giving away too much — from energy to his family and his friends and attention to the negativity he says is the curse that comes with the money and the fame of professional basketball. “If you’re not in the right mental space, man … it can eat at you,” Covington said. “It can eat you.” It was eating away in early 2019 in Minneapolis when Covington responded by doing what had forged his career. But this time, it was himself that he took away. The player whose gifts allowed him to cover up a defense’s shortcomings had no idea how to address his own. He considered whether it was time to leave the NBA life he’d worked so hard to reach.

“I snapped on people that were just trying to help me and I went into solitude by myself, kicked everybody out away from me, and was sitting in the loneliness,” he said. “Darkness, by myself. Me and my Cane Corso. He knew something was wrong, because he never left my side. “When I had to have surgery, to repair my meniscus at that time, it just was going on and I was like, ‘What do I take? And how do I get out of this place?’ ”

Paul George suffered from depression in the NBA bubble

Paul George has spoken numerous times about suffering depression in the NBA bubble, but he provided an even more depth interview with Serge Ibaka. George joined Ibaka on his cooking show ‘How Hungry Are You?’ where they discussed various topics, including his lack of sleep NBA bubble. “A lot of it was just weighing on me,” George said. “For one, I wasn’t sleeping. I don’t know what it was… It was probably, no lie, I probably went a good week and a half to two weeks of zero sleep, zero sleep. No lie. I would lay in bed and my mind would just be racing, racing, racing. I tried everything bro, I tried using apps, I tried therapy, sleeping gummies… they don’t know this.”

Gary Trent Sr: My son was depressed and sad in Portland

Gary Trent, father of Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr., has shed some light on the latter’s personal struggles in Portland during an appearance on the “Raptors Show with Will Lou.” “My son played with so much pain, and my son was so depressed and so down and so sad in Portland, that watching him play actually used to hurt me,” said the former Raptors forward. “I knew my son wasn’t feeling himself, wasn’t playing his game, he was under a lot of negative pressure [from] negative statements from front-office people.”

Dealing with the backlash has been the most difficult obstacle of his life, he said. “To make it in this day and age, I think it’s slowing down a little, this cancel culture of sorts, but it was very hard,” Leonard said. “We’ll put it that way. I’ve been through some tough (expletive) in my life and just nothing compares.” Leonard said he was doing so badly that he sought professional help and began eye movement desensitization therapy, a nontraditional method of psychotherapy that targets post-traumatic stress syndrome.

“I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue — that’s very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben,” Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul said. “Either you help Ben, or come out and say he’s lying. Which one is it?” A 76ers team official told The Athletic on Thursday it is “absolutely not” the case that they are forcing his return or accusing him of lying. The team’s position is that he should partake in all team activities until there is information from its mental health professional or Simmons that would preclude him from playing.

The 76ers say they have been fully supportive of Simmons’ process and have worked to provide him with all possible resources. As it stands, short of a doctor’s evaluation declaring he can’t play, the team expects Simmons to ramp up to return. The team sent Simmons a schedule for Thursday that included the team’s game against Toronto, which Simmons believes is an effort to withhold his game check if he does not appear at Wells Fargo Center. A fine has followed each time the 76ers have done this in the past. Simmons, who requested a trade out of Philadelphia in June, showed up to the arena on Thursday afternoon for a team meeting but did not participate in the team walkthrough or the game versus the Raptors.

Simmons, 25, has had no timetable to return to game action, but he has made it clear to team officials that he wants to be back on the floor when ready. Simmons has been participating in individual workouts, day-to-day body treatments, team shootarounds and meetings. “In this case, we have to get Ben help and not put finances above mental health,” Paul said. “As an agent, I understand contractual obligations and I hold myself accountable in this business. But if someone is telling you something, we can no longer turn a blind eye in today’s world.

“This is no longer about a trade. This is about finding a place where we can help Ben get back to his mental strength and get back on the floor. I want him on the floor playing the game that he loves. I want Ben on the floor whether that’s in a 76ers uniform or any other uniform, that’s not up to me, but I want him in a state where he can resume play. We want to cooperate and want to work him back on the floor.” Sixers officials said they were pleased to hear Paul state he is open to Simmons staying in Philadelphia. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey and other team officials have said that they believe Simmons is a piece for their championship-contending team and want him back in the lineup.

After telling the team over the summer that he wouldn’t report to training camp, Simmons arrived in Philadelphia on Oct. 11, two weeks into camp. The 76ers say that Oct. 22 was the first time Simmons informed them of any mental health concerns, and the moment they received his message they made available resources and provided support. Paul, however, said the 76ers were informed in the offseason that Simmons was not mentally ready to play in Philadelphia. The 76ers stopped fining Simmons on Oct. 22, but after two weeks went by without further information from Simmons about his process and clarity on his return-to-play status, the franchise reinstated fines and withholding payments on Nov. 5. Only then, team officials say, did Simmons meet with the team-affiliated specialist, on Monday, Nov. 8.

Team officials insist they have shown good faith throughout the process, such as releasing to Simmons the $8.25 million they withheld in an escrow on Oct. 19 — hours before he was thrown out of practice for declining to participate in a defensive drill — providing him with specialists to treat his back injury and mental health assistance as needed. Sixers officials emphasized that, to date, the team has yet to receive any information from its team therapist or Simmons’ personal specialists that would preclude him from playing or practicing. Paul, however, says that Simmons is not yet prepared to play. “He’s not there yet. How can a doctor, who has only met with Ben once, say, ‘Ben is mentally ready to play?’ So do we keep digging on him, or help him?” Paul said. “Now that we understand that reluctance from Ben, it all makes sense. There was a shying away from it. If Ben has repeatedly showed behavior that entails he isn’t mentally ready to play, embrace him. Support him. We have to remove our ego from it. We all have to take responsibility.”

Paul says he still respects the team’s upper management amid the current dispute. “I don’t think the 76ers are a bad organization. Josh Harris and David Blitzer are great governors, they’ve done a great job with the organization. I have respect for Daryl Morey,” Paul said. “Ben has a mental issue, let’s support him. I’m happy he got to a place where he realized and accepted help. I understand it’s a business, but even in business, you need humanity. “I have a great level of respect and love for the city of Philadelphia, as someone who loves the game, but this isn’t about that. This is about Ben getting back to a place mentally where he can be back on the floor — and only Ben can tell us when that is. We have to allow him to do that.”

Simmons met with the 76ers’ mental health specialist on Monday for one hour, and team officials say more meetings are scheduled between the two and that Simmons must continue to show documentation of the steps he is taking as part of the process. In a team-issued questionnaire Simmons completed on Wednesday night, several inquiries centered around whether Simmons wants a trade — not his mental health status, a source said. According to Paul, Simmons has allowed the team’s mental health professional to talk to his personal therapist and encouraged them to work together to help him find a path back to the floor. Simmons also made it clear to both sides that information from their talks was to be treated as confidential. Simmons expressed that he would allow the two therapists to continue to help him.

Paul drew a contrast between the situation with Simmons and that of Rockets guard John Wall, another of his clients, who is being paid by Houston while sitting out the season, even though he is healthy enough to play. “John is able to play, but Houston is OK using the (Collective Bargaining Agreement) to pay him not to play,” Paul said. “So which way is it? John is perfectly healthy and ready to play, and it’s OK in the CBA. We are being professional with both instances, but how can it go both ways? John and the Rockets have been professional about their situation, and we are also expecting the same with the 76ers.” Simmons’ trade request in June followed a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, after which Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid made critical public comments about Simmons’ play. Neither Rivers nor Embiid has apologized to Simmons for those remarks, sources said.

Sources say 76ers’ ownership has not met with Simmons since he returned to Philadelphia, and president of basketball operations Morey met with Simmons one-on-one once when he approached Simmons about his playing status on Nov. 3. After being thrown out of his third practice with the 76ers, Simmons met with Rivers and his teammates on Oct. 22 and informed them that he was not mentally ready to play and needed time to be in the proper state of mind. Multiple teammates publicly and privately supported Simmons, with Tobias Harris saying, “We have to respect his privacy, his space, and we’ve got to be there for him.” Last week, the 76ers became increasingly irritated with Simmons because the organization felt he was not providing further clarity on his process and not working with their team specialists.

An NBA source told The Undefeated that during Livingston’s NBA career the league had a joint program with the NBPA offering psychologists and help for addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc. However, the NBA source also said that the NBPA and the union did a poor job at the time of educating the players about all the programs available. An NBPA source told The Undefeated that the union currently has programs available to help with gambling and other addictions. “It took a while for players to learn that we had programs that weren’t just for drugs,” one NBPA source said. “Now they know we have programs that are more wide-ranging for mental health, gambling and whatever they need.”

“I just got a lot to deal with, you know. Like I don’t have the time, you know, I think my time is…I look at it as like the most valuable thing I have. I’d rather waste a lot of money than waste my time. And I didn’t want to go to therapy and not be ready to talk. ’Cause then I’m just sitting there. I could bullshit my way through anything. I could give you a sense of feeling, but no feelings. If I go in there, I gotta be ready to talk.” – Karl-Anthony Towns

This offseason, Porter has done his best to stay off social media, which he realizes isn’t good for his mental health. Instead, he’s bounced from city to city with his chef, strength coach and trainer, working diligently in preparation for the upcoming season. Last week he was in Seattle working out at University of Washington with Isaiah Thomas. He’s already spent time in Phoenix, Dallas, Los Angeles and Missouri training for the upcoming season. One of his offseason stops included a week-long workout with Steph Curry in the Bay Area. Porter, to steal his phrase, remains in “grindmode.”

Brent Petway: Again I couldn’t let anybody see that though, so I turned to alcohol, not to the point of being an alcoholic, but it was a coping device for me at the house playing music and drinking because there was very little to do in Sassari besides eating, sleep and go to the gym. With the right situation, it’s perfect for basketball. This was the longest season for me, not in terms of months being there, but every day once we started playing games by November I was struggling to wake up and literally not kill myself. That started to be a real fight and I’m telling my agents almost every week that I’m struggling mentally there, but they don’t give a damn.

Brent Petway: Meanwhile, to myself, I am again saying: “I’m not playing well so no other agents are gonna wanna help me out either so I’m pretty much stuck.” To put the season in perspective, two coaches resigned, saying they just couldn’t handle the team or could not control it. The GM had to take over and finish the season as the coach. I remember one instance I got hurt on a Saturday game or something so I didn’t practice Monday and Tuesday, but Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I did the whole practice and we have an away game. Now at that point, we are six foreigners, so we are doing the whole one guy sits out thing in the Italian league.

Brent Petway: I wasn’t mad or anything because as I said I looked in the mirror, knew I was playing like some garbage juice, so if you wanna play someone else and sit me, you don’t have to play these games, just tell me “Brent we’re going with such and such”. I would have been just fine with that. I left that room, got on the phone since I knew I wasn’t playing tomorrow, and got a friend to come and hang out and thought nothing more about it. I supported the team, we lost – ok it happens – get back to Sassari.

Kevin Love: Question: Why the f*ck can’t we be accepting or even open to the idea of someone breaking down to have a breakthrough? People are scared of facing their insecurities and perceived weaknesses (me being one of them)…and let’s be real, EVERYONE has their own set. This is because we use these insecurities and weaknesses against each other!!! What I’ve found and believe to be the truth is that once your insecurities are out in the open, this becomes your weapon, therefore disarming everyone else. YOU CAN’T USE ME AGAINST ME.

Kevin Love: Understand this 👉🏼… by being open about your struggles, you flip vulnerabilities into victories. The mental freedom comes in knowing once you put yourself out there, the other side is a reward of community and belonging. To Simone and others who have openly shared their story…You are helping many. Continue to lean into discomfort and vulnerability. Don’t deny your story — defy the ending. To those who aren’t venturing out into the “Arena”…we are all raised to believe emotions aren’t worthy of our attention. I recall reading a fitting term once: “emotion-phobic.” This isn’t a way to live. Your perspectives are understood but NO ONE benefits from withholding compassion. We are tribal beings. Why don’t we start acting like it?

Ricky Rubio: … being in the Olympics #Tokyo2020 reminds me how in #Rio2016 somehow I ended up with a book in my hands called “Get some headspace” by @andypuddicombe Then I started to meditate and it changed my life. It’s been 5 years and I checked the stats on the app @Headspace Not bad Smirking face

Who was he without basketball? How much did ego cause his downfall? Why didn’t helping Miami win two championships fill his cup? Had he ever truly enjoyed being a head coach? And if he ever got another chance at a top job, how would he navigate one of its fundamental conflicts – trying to treat his players like human beings, not just a means to achieve his own ends, while still winning enough games to remain employed? “I really was at the lowest place I’ve ever been from a mental health standpoint,” Fizdale, 47, said last week. “I thought the lowest point was during the losses. But it was after, when you go through the whole part of, ‘What could I have done different? Did I even deserve this job?’ You think like you were an imposter. You felt like you got over on these people. You’re a fraud.”

As he rose for a dunk against the Houston Rockets, Wiseman meant to use his right hand but the lefty rose with his strong hand at an awkward angle. He was blocked by Kenyon Martin Jr. in the second quarter, and came down at an even more awkward angle. It was later determined Wiseman sustained a season-ending right meniscus injury. “It’s kind of hard, I was really down,” Wiseman said in his latest video diary for The Undefeated. “I can say that I was crying a lot. Yeah, it was bad. My mom had to actually tell me everything was gonna be all right. “But I got a great family support system. Really, just me mentally, I’m very strong as a human being. So, I just got through it naturally.”

On a Saturday afternoon in mid-April, a few weeks after he was traded to the Nuggets, Aaron Gordon sat in the hotel room he was temporarily living out of and reflected on the most challenging season NBA players had ever dealt with. While bouncing around the country as a deadly transmittable virus continued to spread, players had been contending with health and safety protocols that induced isolation, obliterated daily routines and separated them from partners, children, friends and family. Novel stressors had been stacked on top of the countless professional and personal reasons players might feel anxious during any typical season.

Meanwhile, their bodies were being ground down by the compressed 72-game schedule. The physical injuries potentially caused by such a grueling endeavor have received ample attention; no shortage of media hands have been wrung over Kevin Durant’s strained hamstring, LeBron James’s high ankle sprain or Jamal Murray’s torn ACL. But comparatively little notice has been paid to an unseen element of players’ well-being, one affected as much if not more by this season’s atypically harsh conditions: mental health. “Although we have special gifts and talents that make us seem more than human, at the end of the day we’re just people,” Gordon says. “With the same struggles and the same sufferings, the same day-to-day anxieties and insecurities that the rest of the world is going through.”

As Gordon sat in his hotel room, the trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd was days away from reaching a verdict, after weeks of heartbreaking testimony from eyewitnesses and Floyd’s loved ones. All season—and long before it began—relentless signs of racial inequality were “a constant strain on my mental health,” Gordon said. “I’m employed by the NBA. My job is to come out and compete and help my team win. But there’s just certain things that you can’t get out of your mind. It’s another reason why I do all of this mental health and mental training, because of how unfairly America treats Black men and Black women. And we’re still expected to come out, compete and act as if it’s not happening. It’s strenuous. Daily.”

NBA players are not a monolith, making it impossible to know precisely how mental health has affected their ability to perform this year. And there are innumerable variables that go into any game’s final score, with mental health being just one. But it’s also impossible to imagine a scenario where some thoughts and emotions felt off the floor would not carry over onto it. This was a season, after all, that featured notably uneven play: For most of this year, particularly after the All-Star break, the percentage of games that ended in a blowout was dramatically higher than usual.

Largely thanks to the need for teams and the league to preserve privacy, there is no available data on whether more players have taken advantage of mental health resources or whether they have experienced mental illness in greater numbers this season (according to a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association in November, 74% of psychologists reported seeing more patients with anxiety disorders compared to before the pandemic; 60% said the same for depression disorders). Anecdotally, though, in interviews with psychologists, psychiatrists and licensed mental health professionals who have experience treating NBA players, all agree that the need for help has swelled.

“The normal pressures that every player has had to contend with have been increasing in proportions that frighten me, frankly,” says Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). She adds that more players have called her about mental health resources in the past eight months than in her previous seven years on the job. “They’re expected to go out two or three times a week, perform at the highest level, and at the same time be husbands, fathers, boyfriends, sons, and on top of that deal with normal consequences of living in a pandemic. … We as a community don’t allow athletes the space to be vulnerable, and that’s wrong. They have as much right to be vulnerable as the rest of us. And in some ways, unlike many of us, they’ve got more reasons to be vulnerable.”

Vital here is promoting visibility while fighting the stigma against seeking help, a real enemy in the sports world. Crawford traces many of his early-career issues to feeling like he had to present a “tough-guy” image at all times; that can extend off the court for players and refs alike. Going to therapy, to some, shows weakness. “People were afraid, didn’t want to be judged,” says Davis. Programs like these, though, help raise awareness. “There’s no judgement on having a lower back sprain. As we’ve gone through that, we’ve extrapolated on it: There should be no judgement on stress, no judgement on feeling overwhelmed.”

Metta World Peace on looking up to Dennis Rodman, whom he recognized as struggling with mental health before many others did: “Dennis Rodman was the first one to come out [and publicly say he was managing his mental health] — he was on Oprah [in 1996] — he talked about his family. When I saw that, I’m like, “Oh, wow. I didn’t know that about Dennis Rodman.” I just grew attached to Dennis. Like, “Oh, I feel you, I understand what you’re going through.” But people didn’t see it like that. Nobody wrote stories on, “Hey, Dennis Rodman was going through something.” His parents weren’t there, and he was homeless. That’s why I changed my number to 91 [Rodman’s number].”

Metta World Peace on thanking his psychologist, Dr. Santhi Periasamy, while talking to ESPN NBA analyst Doris Burke as confetti fell at Staples Center, where the Lakers defeated the Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals: “A lot of therapists actually reached out. I know players that were going through stuff also, different issues than what I was going through. A lot of therapists hit me back [saying], “Thank you, you made my job easier just by coming out like that.” I know we had [Kevin] Love and [DeMar] DeRozan who came out [and talked about their mental health]. I thought it was really good because I didn’t realize they were actually going through a few things. And I thought that was big.”

Damian Lillard playing through wave of family tragedies

In 2020, he was the first to discover the dead body of his cousin and personal chef. An aunt died from cancer. A family friend died of COVID-19. And in the early months of 2021, a cousin was killed in West Oakland. And then last Thursday, the day before the Lakers game, Lillard learned of the shooting deaths of two people in his inner circle. One was a cousin close enough to Lillard to be at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner in Portland in November. The other was like family — the best friend of perhaps his closest cousin, who was among the first family members to move to Portland when Lillard was drafted by the Trail Blazers in 2012. “I could be 45,” said the 30-year-old Lillard. “I’ve done seen and been around so much.”

“I’ll say this — it’s been bittersweet for me the last year and a half,” Lillard said. “A lot of people don’t know, because I don’t seek sympathy, I don’t make excuses. I just show up. It’s like, you get on Twitter and people have so much to say. And when I post on Instagram, people have soooo much to say. ‘You didn’t do this’ … ‘Your team is never going to win a championship’ … you know, everybody just got so much negative shit to say. And I’m just looking at it like, I’m coming out here to practice every day, I show up for my team every damn game. I don’t make excuses. I just do stuff the right way. And I perform. I show up. If shit goes bad, I don’t shy away from it. I say, ‘My bad. I wasn’t good enough.’ When shit goes well, I don’t say it was all me. And that’s not just me trying to do the right thing. I say how I feel about stuff and how I see these situations.

This might be a personal question, but how did you get to this space where you’ve been through a lot, and now you’ve been able to overcome not holding these grudges? Or not holding these things against these certain people? Jeremy Lin: It’s super simple and I’m going to hit you with the most default churchy answer. But it’s truly why. Like I said, like in recent interviews, I went to therapy, and I got a mental coach, and I’ve talked through a lot of my past traumas. A lot of it was down to just Jesus’s sacrifice and the cross. Anything that someone could have done to me, I’ve done so much worse to Jesus. For him to die on the cross and give his life up for me. That’s like being given $1 million and then somebody wronged you and owes you $5 and you’re like, “You better give me those $5.” Even though somebody just walked down the street and gave you $1 million or $1 billion. It’s like, dude, that’s why.

As Ezeli spent six months post-surgery confined to a wheelchair and relying on help to use the bathroom, he sank into a deep depression. Basketball had become fundamental to his identity. Without it, he felt lost. “Depression is an understatement,” Ezeli said of that dark period. “Until that point, I never understood the importance of mental health. … But not being able to walk on your own for half a year, you definitely become close friends with depression.”

“I stopped taking my meds, and I thought I was doing great,” he said. “That led to my worst day ever, May 29, 2018. I don’t know what triggered it, but I was in the bed, crying, and I got to the point where I wanted to kill myself. I thought about how I’d do it, and how to make sure my wife got the insurance, and how to do it so my kids wouldn’t find me. And even though thinking those things terrified me, I didn’t stop thinking about how to end my life.” Fischer texted his radio partner, Brett Norsworthy, to tell him he couldn’t do the show that day. “He asked if I had eaten something bad,” Fischer said. “I told him it was mental. He texted back and said, ‘Don’t do anything stupid, OK?’

Which brings us once again to what Fischer hopes will come of this. He hopes it will make it easier to talk about mental illness, easier to seek and offer help. NBA players Kevin Love, Paul George and DeMar DeRozan have all been open about their mental health challenges. The sunlight can feel good. “The worst thing for mental illness is loneliness,” Fischer said. “People who have it think they’re all alone. But they need to express it, they need to talk about it and they need to get help, because it’s the only way they’re going to feel better and survive.

“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.”
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July 7, 2022 | 6:31 am EDT Update

Nets not thrilled with trade offers for Kevin Durant

“From what I understand, I don’t think the Nets are thrilled with the offers they have gotten for Durant yet,” said Windhorst. “I don’t think that that’s a hot take considering that they’re reassessing with where they’re at. I think the reason is this: It’s somewhat known in the NBA that Durant prefers going to the Phoenix Suns and the Suns offer, what they have to offer right now just isn’t that interesting to Brooklyn. Brooklyn is interested in other things. That’s why Woj and others talking about needing a third or fourth team in a deal.

Kevin Durant not talking to anybody since trade request?

Since Kevin Durant requested a trade from the Nets last Thursday, he’s reportedly “gone dark” in regards to speaking with other basketball players and team personnel, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. “Since he requested a trade, there’s been numerous stars that I’ve spoken to, numerous stars that have been trying to get in touch with him to pick his brain to see if he would consider other avenues, just want to get a sense of what he’s thinking—KD’s going dark,” Haynes said on his Posted Up podcast. “He’s not talking to anybody. Not answering anybody’s phone calls, not responding to texts. The only time you see him get out into the sunlight is when he responds on Twitter, and he’s not saying anything much on there.”
“I think that’s another consideration Brooklyn has to make about whether it’s a positive or negative to move Kyrie Irving either before Kevin Durant or after Kevin Durant,” Woj said regarding an Irving trade on NBA Today. “The market is certainly very different for Kevin Durant than it is for Kyrie Irving. “The Nets have talked with the Lakers and I believe there has been back-and-forth, some communication. You look at where there’s cap space right now and a team like San Antonio could be a facilitator right now in let’s say a Russell Westbrook for Kyrie Irving deal between the teams. They have the cap space. Now, you have to incentivize them at a pretty high level and I think that’s the willingness of the Lakers to incentivize a deal with multiple draft picks. I think that’s part of the reason that the deal hasn’t gone anywhere yet.”
While Deandre Ayton has been viewed as a potential trade chip in Kevin Durant talks, the restricted free-agent center has reportedly been exploring his options elsewhere. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on the Hoop Collective podcast (44:50 mark) that Ayton has taken meetings with teams that “are not involved in potential Durant negotiations.” It’s unclear whether any of those teams have made formal contract offers.
After a season where he even flirted with the final four, Mike James is ready to say “yes” to Monaco’s offer that will keep him in the team with the aim of reaching at least Europe’s top four in the upcoming season. Before the season even ended, Monaco had presented a renewal offer to James, which was below the threshold of two million euros per year. Now the amounts have risen to this level and James, who was discreetly looking toward the NBA, is ready to accept it and remain in the Principality.