Denver coach Michael Malone pointed out a scary and sadly accurate fact of these crazy times in which we live.
“Let’s not be naïve,” Malone said Thursday evening before the Mavericks and Nuggets played in Denver. “I’ve seen and heard and read how people have thought, well, 2021 is going to be better. People, it’s not going to happen overnight. This is going to take a long and sustained effort by all of us.”
He’s right. Things could get worse before they get better. The intersection of the raging COVID-19 crisis and social unrest that seems to fester by the day have once again made basketball seem inconsequential, although certainly a much-needed entertainment outlet for sports enthusiasts.
Wednesday’s events at the U.S. Capitol reinforced just how quickly emotions can escalate again on sensitive topics.
Both coaches addressed the state of America and the NBA in the wake of President Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol on Wednesday, plus the ongoing issues challenging every NBA team with the COVID-19 protocols.
Carlisle calls out “double-standard”: Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle was just wrapping up practice on Wednesday in Dallas when the ugly scene broke out in Washington.
He had to catch bits and pieces of the insurrection as the Mavericks were heading to the team plane for their flight to Denver.
“I saw blips of it on TV and got a little bit of a feel for what was happening,” Carlisle said. “And it was shocking. It’s another example of a hideous, centuries-old double-standard that has hit all of us very hard.”
“Laughingstock” of the world: Malone echoed that sentiment and said that Americans have every right to be embarrassed by what happened at the Capitol.
He pointed out that people have been through so many difficult situations over the past nine months that it’s hard to stay focused on work.
“There’s so many other emotions that I’m sure all of us are feeling right now,” Malone said. “We’re all U.S. citizens. And right now, how proud are we of what our country is doing? We’re the laughingstock of the world.
“We felt like this before in the last eight months where it’s getting to a boiling point. There’s only so much we can take as people. You have conversations with your team. You have conversations with your family, with your coaches. And I’m sure everybody processes these things differently. But throughout the NBA (Wednesday) night, I was really proud to be a coach in this association and to see our teams before games in their own ways found ways to kneel, to protest, to show unity, togetherness. And that’s something I think that the NBA, starting with Adam Silver to our players and coaches, has done a tremendous job of is constantly showing how unified we are in this fight for justice that is an ongoing fight.”
Players show their unity: Players and coaches from both teams locked arms and took a knee in a circle around center court before the game to show their unified front.
The Mavericks were getting on their flight to Denver during the riot at the Capitol.
“It was very sad and very shocking to see all that,” said Maxi Kleber. “We talked about it immediately as a team. For me, I was looking at my phone and I couldn’t believe what was happening out there.
“We came together as a team and we also talked to the opponent and we wanted to stand for something together and that’s why we decided before the game to kneel. We all have a platform and a chance to stand for the right thing. And we together as a team, we can make that statement powerful if we decide to do that.”
And then there’s the virus: While Malone pointed out that 3,865 people died of coronavirus on Wednesday – the most on any day, ever – Carlisle said it continues to be an ongoing challenge to deal with.
Players, coaches, staff and everybody traveling with the team must be checked on a daily basis. He then gave a rundown of what the Mavericks go through on a daily basis as they try to stay healthy.
“It is a fickle virus, and I think fickle is being kind,” Carlisle said. “It’s way worse than just being fickle.
“I’ll try to explain this as efficiently as I can. Part of the medical protocols and doing 24-hour testing and rapid testing is that if someone does test positive, there’s a period of 24 or slightly more hours where there’s an incubation period. And during that first 24 hours, it’s believed that a person that contracts it is not contagious.
“So the system allows for a positive test (person) to be pulled from the group to quarantine to get another test to confirm that it was positive. So there’s a mechanism in place.”
The NBA, for the most part, has been lucky. Very few players have tested positive with only four new cases reported in the testing of nearly 500 individuals in the last week.
“For all this to work, you have to follow the details of the daily protocols,” Carlisle said. “And we’ve got the best people in the business with (medical staff) Casey Smith and Dionne Calhoun and Heather Mau and all of our medical people overseeing these things. We’ve just got to stay steadfast and understand that there’s no guarantees.”
It’s a little different, he said, than being in the bubble in Orlando when the NBA restarted in July.
“When you try to create a traveling bubble, which we’re doing as a league, there are certainly more variables, but the hope is that if someone does throw a positive test out there that they can be pulled from the group and you can kind of move forward from there.”
Porzingis update: Kristaps Porzingis continues to travel with the Mavericks and he went through a lively workout on Thursday in Denver.
Carlisle said the 7-3 center/forward, who has been recovering from right knee surgery in October, remains on track to make his season debut perhaps as early as next week.
“He’s been on all our trips,” Carlisle said. “The morning in Houston, we were back to back so obviously we didn’t go and have a shootaround as a team, but he went to the gym with some of our younger guys and low-minute guys and those guys played full court for 35, 40 minutes.
“Today (at Denver) they came over and he had another full-court workout with those guys . . . so he is traveling, he is ramping things up. The hope is his progress can continue without issue and we can see where things are as we move forward here hopefully in the coming days and not weeks. But we don’t have a target date yet.”
Briefly: Trey Burke, who did not travel with the team to Denver because of an illness, has already shown improvement, Carlisle said. “To my knowledge, it’s not COVID-related,” he said. “I talked to him (Wednesday) night. He was feeling better. Hopefully he’s feeling better tomorrow. Tomorrow is a travel day as we’re staying over.” Carlisle said the hope is that Burke can rejoin the team on Saturday against Orlando . . . Normally, the Mavericks would have returned home from Denver after Thursday’s game. But with the late start time (9 p.m., Dallas time) for national television and the necessary medical protocols, the team stayed overnight in Denver and will use Friday as a travel day.
(This story will be updated)