The bubble wears on people. It’s worn on LeBron.
After the Lakers eliminated Portland from the playoffs Saturday night, LeBron James admitted he’s thought about leaving the bubble — and that everyone has.
LeBron isn’t alone with this. Far from it. Players have texted NBC Sports they have had the same ideas at points — it’s been more than 50 days in the bubble so far. The bubble has worn guys down, made their emotions raw, and that added to the tensions around the pause in play and social justice push this past week. During that time, a lot of players expressed being done with the bubble — no family, living in a hotel room on hotel food, the restrictions and protocols to keep the virus out.
“You forget that being in the bubble is hard,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of the players’ meeting return to play. “And even some of that came up [during the meeting]. I knew it was hard, but listening to some of these guys speak, just mental awareness, we got to be a little sharper on that as well…
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that everyone in this bubble just seems to be a little bit more emotional and I’m not kidding. It’s true. I think part of the effect of being like jammed together every day; it has had that effect on everyone.”
It had that effect on the Clippers’ Paul George, whose on-the-court slump was in part tied to his emotional state.
“I underestimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety, a little bit of depression,” George said after Game 5 of L.A.’s first-round series against Dallas. “Just being locked in here. I just wasn’t there. I checked out. Games two, three, four, I felt like I wasn’t there.”
“This is really hard being in here. It’s not easy. All day it’s just basketball. It’s hard to get away from it,” George said. “You see guys on other teams. Shout out to the NBA for creating this environment, but at the same time, it’s rough. I just got to find what’s going to get me able to check out of the game and check out of just constantly being in that mode.”
Soon the bubble will be down to eight teams and families will be let in, which will help players’ mental states.
But that’s not going to stop players from thinking about leaving. Everyone wants to go home, but they know they have a job to finish first.