The Washington Wizards are off to a hot start in July by holding press conferences describing how the past four-plus months have been. As many of us can agree, trying to overcome a global pandemic and social injustice has brought us all much to think about and learn. That is no different for the superstars and staff in the National Basketball Association (NBA), who are working hard to make basketball happen in a bubble in Orlando, Florida in the next few weeks.
Wizards’ General Manager Tommy Sheppard, Chief of Athlete Care, Performance Daniel Medina, and Head Coach Scott Brooks all spoke this week media via Zoom expressing their sincere understanding for players and staff on all fronts as the travel dates approach for Orlando. The Wizards forward Davis Bertans has already announced that he will not play when the NBA re-starts. Sheppard said, “He’s a very big piece of our team. That was certainly something that he had given me a heads up plenty of time before. We discussed it with the coach. We brought it up and we certainly support his reasons for not playing.” For now, he is the only confirmation of a key Wizards player that will not be playing. However, Guard Bradley Beal says that he hasn’t made a decision yet on playing when the NBA restarts, “I’m not swayed, one way or another.” Beal has still been working out diligently in the event that he does decide to play in Orlando. The league has required a 35-team cap, with a few weeks away it will be interesting to see the final who will travel with the Wizards as playoffs are still a goal.
Despite the players and staff doing their best in staying in shape and healthy. This may still be an obstacle on how at home and Zoom training over the past few months translate to basketball shape. Two very different conditions. Coach Brooks said, “Everybody’s in pretty good shape, but you can’t be in pretty good shape to play in the NBA. So, we have some time before we go down to Orlando.” As they travel to Florida creeps up, workouts and training will hopefully get the team closer to their goal. Sheppard and Brooks expressed that it will be a good opportunity for the team.
Although it may be nice to have the NBA slowly coming back to action, basketball is not the only topic that holds a spotlight. Social justice does too. When the games start fans will also see ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the courts in Orlando. Coach Brooks expressed this movement playing a significant role in their game, “It’s extremely important, and it’s the right thing to do. I’m all for it. Black Lives Matter is important. I think our players, our staff, our organization, ownership group, the NBA, the country, we wanna see change.” When Beal was asked if resuming basketball would take away from social justice he said, “”I feel like we stopped playing basketball because of COVID. We didn’t stop playing because of social justice. And I feel like we can still raise that awareness.” He further shined a light on how basketball could be used as a viable platform to attract attention to social justice like utilizing the names on the back of player jerseys to actively staying involved with local officials, lawmakers, politicians, “…we have to utilize our platform as athletes to speak out for those unheard, to be vocal, to show face, to evolve. I think we’re able to do both…”
There’s no question that players, coaches, and staff are all trying their best to move forward in the safest way to continue basketball, but also not to lose light on everything important happening off the court. The Washington Wizards organization as a whole seems to be confident in what they’ll have to offer in the Orlando bubble and hope to continue social justice awareness as a team.
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