December 06, 2020 6:47 PM
Clip three months out of your preparation time for anything, and it’s probably going to mess you up. Go ahead, try it: Planning a wedding? Studying for a major exam? Navigating a pregnancy?
You could get the shakes just thinking about the stress levels being dialed up. And that’s what the NBA’s Class of 2020 faces, now that they’ve been thrust into their initial veteran training camps.
Normally by this point — less than three weeks since they heard their names called by commissioner Adam Silver and deputy commish Mark Tatum — the league’s crop of rookies would be in or headed to Las Vegas. NBA Summer League would have them competing with a bunch of other newcomers, second- or third-year guys and lots of hopefuls in games that mean nothing, all of them expected to make mistakes away from the NBA’s biggest stages and hottest spotlights.
Now? It’s showtime, or very nearly so.
Think about the 2019 Draft, when that year’s prized prospects had 15 days after being selected to begin play in Vegas. They had 124 days or more (nearly 18 weeks!) between the night they found out where and for whom they’d be working and that first regular season game.
This year, from Draft till reporting for camp, they had all of 13 days. By Opening Night on Dec. 22, their prep time – no summer league, no early conditioning or strength work – will max out at 34 days.
“Just think, on the first day of camp, our rookies probably won’t know the other players on the team,” said Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers, heading into the weekend. “That’s insane. And I guarantee you, they [the vets] won’t know them. Dwight Howard, Joel [Embiid], they’re going to come in, ‘Who is this guy?’ ‘My name is [Tyrese] Maxey…’ It’s going to be that type of scene.”
Losing those extra 90 days from what typically is the biggest adjustment period of an NBA player’s career can’t be good. Granted, the 2020 rookies won’t know what they missed but that doesn’t mean everyone else — teammates, coaches, execs who chose them and fans — won’t have to dial down their expectations. Probably.