Mike D'Antoni plans to be in Orlando for NBA restart; some players are wary

Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

The internet connection was crisp, Mike D'Antoni's voice was clear and his wit razor sharp.

Asked about how his team would handle health and safety protocols that suggest you keep a distance, the Houston Rockets coach quipped "that's how we guard anyways."

The Houston coach wasn't 100% sure he had been cleared to coach in Orlando, Florida, for the resumption of the NBA season when he spoke Tuesday morning -- he's considered "high risk" for coronavirus complications because of his age. The secret's out, he joked, everyone knows he's 69 years old.

But his safety -- and that of other people at increased risk -- isn't something the league is taking lightly. Assistant coaches Lionel Hollins of the Los Angeles Lakers and Jeff Bzedlik of New Orleans won't be with their teams because of health concerns.

After the Rockets leave Thursday for Orlando and clear quarantine, D'Antoni, known as the originator of Phoenix's "Seven Seconds or Less" offense, will institute his "Six Feet or More" coaching style.

Huddles are going to be spread out. It might be easy to hear what the other team is talking about so some light spying might occur. And while head coaches (and four assistants) can be mask-free during practices and games, D'Antoni said he won't be without a face covering.


"I'll wear a mask. That's what I do walking down the street here or going into a grocery store. Wear a mask. I don't understand the other reasoning behind not," D'Antoni said. "Now, I don't think it'll interfere with my coaching. They can hear me; they know what I'm saying. If we have a problem, you know, maybe we'll figure something out, but I don't think that's a problem.

"The referees won't be able to see my lips move and they won't know if I'm yelling at them or not. That's a plus."

Seeing the positives isn't as easy for everyone.

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, one of the hottest players in the NBA before the season was suspended on March 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, said he still hasn't gotten to a place where he's ecstatic to be back competing.


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