The Phoenix Suns are slated to start their 2020-21 season on Dec. 23 against the Dallas Mavericks, though the team’s players and coaches are keeping a keen eye on the coronavirus pandemic as cases continue to surge around the country.
Second-year Suns coach Monty Williams discussed the challenge of preparing himself and his team for the grind of a 72-game regular season with the added element of playing outside of a bubble during a Zoom call on Monday.
Williams is aware of the difficulties that come from trying to play an indoor sport in a non-bubble setting and the oddity that is playing a home game in an empty arena.
“It’s a skill to navigate uncertainty. We addressed that before we went into the bubble. We put it up on our screens today in the gym so guys can remember that. It might be heightened times 10 because we’re not in a bubble scenario,” Williams said.
“Talked to guys about staying healthy, I wear my mask at home. You try to do everything you can so you don’t miss days. We understand that there could be change this year throughout the league because of the situation we’re in,” he added.
League-wide, the positive test rate has been around 8.8% so far, according to the National Basketball Players Association, after months of virus-free testing allowed the league to conclude its playoffs in October.
Williams said that he’s been in contact with the team’s players, stressing the importance of quarantining wherever possible and wearing a mask to prevent further spread of the virus going forward.
The second-year Suns coach said he’s aware that some consider the virus to be trivial in nature, but stressed that both he and his team understand and appreciate the realities of the pandemic.
“We’ve talked to our guys, we’ve tried to remind them but yet we understand that everybody’s lives have changed and so it did help us in Orlando, but I think we have to do even more now because we’re not in a bubble environment,” Williams said. “We’re going to be traveling which will be different than Orlando. And to some degree it seems like around the country, people are just living life like there is no virus. And that’s scary.
“I’m grateful that our doctors, our medical staff, all the information we’ve been able to give our players, it’s been good for all of us to be educated in that way and I think we’re going to need it and adhere to it for a while.”
Veteran guard Chris Paul, who came to Phoenix in a trade from Oklahoma City in November, agreed with his new coach on Monday, saying the league’s players understand that the virus is calling the shots when it comes to the year ahead.
“We’ve been saying all along, it’s safety first. Even when we were trying to figure everything out with the bubble, the thing we kept saying was we’re not in control of the virus,” Paul said.
Paul has served as the president of the NBPA since 2013, giving him a unique level of understanding about how the league’s players feel about taking the season ahead.
“The virus is in control. Unfortunately when these things happen or arise we have to deal with them in a case-by-case basis and just continue to talk as players, talk as a league and always see what’s best for the league,” Paul said.