Miami Heat veteran Udonis Haslem sparked a heated debate on Twitter after discussing the downside of NBA’s new COVID-19 protocols with ESPN‘s Kevin Arnovitz on January 27.
While the Heat has been particularly ravaged by coronavirus this month, playing with nearly half the roster out due to either COVID-19 health and safety protocols or injuries, for the players now cleared to play, like Haslem, life on the road is not what it used to be.
The 40-year-old power forward noted that the NBA’s newly implemented stricter rules are affecting the player’s mental health, which as a result, is also affecting how they play on the court.
“I don’t think locking up in a room for 24 hours just coming out to play basketball is mentally healthy,” Haslem told Arnovitz. “I need to go out and take a walk because there are things that can pile up that have nothing to do with the game of basketball. And you’re saying that I can’t even go take a walk? I don’t think that’s right. Even in the bubble, you can go take a walk and get some fresh air.”
On Twitter, Haslem’s comments sparked an intense debate. While one person commented, “facts. i couldn’t even go to store when i was on a road trip with a team,” most users online found his comments distasteful.
Referring to the tragic death of NBA Digital senior analyst Sekou Smith, who died on January 26 at age 48 from complications of coronavirus, one person tweeted, “an NBA broadcast legend just died from covid yesterday and he found this to be an appropriate time for this take?”
Many users online commented that Haslem is paid way too much for a job most people would kill for to be “complaining” about COVID-19 restrictions. “I mean you don‘t have to play and make a fortune,” one person tweeted. “But if you want to have the privilege of working and doing a job that a lot of people would do anything for then yes sit you ass in that hotel room and wait for the off season.”
“You’re getting paid Millions you be aight,” one man tweeted,” while another guy was annoyed Haslem was comparing his situation to being in prison. “I’m sure we all find the pandemic inconvenient but he is hardly a prisoner,” he tweeted.
However, Haslem’s complaints don’t mean he’s unable to recognize the importance of why these rules were implemented in the first place, but more of a venting of his frustration that he can’t play to the best of his ability while under these strict guidelines.
As of January 27, the Heat are in 13th place in the Eastern Conference with a 6-10 record. Not anywhere where Haslem would like the Heat to be after making it to the NBA Finals last season.
Kelly Olynyk Said He’d Prefer Living in the Bubble Compared to the Current COVID-19 Regulations
Haslem is not the only player struggling with the strict health and safety protocols. Heat big man Kelly Olynyk stressed the mental aspect of playing under the league’s newly implemented guidelines. The 29-year-old power forward said he’d prefer living in the bubble that traveling under these rules.
On January 21, Olynyk said abiding by NBA’s strict protocols on the road is no easy feat, “The 30 steps from the bus to the arena is like the highlight of your day now,” Olynyk said, as reported by the Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman.
Olynyk has become one of the Heat’s most reliable starters while many of the team’s players remain out due to COVID-19 contact tracing. During the 2020-2021 season, he’s started eight of 12 games while power forward Haslem was sidelined due to coronavirus health and safety protocols.
Coronavirus has given Olynyk, who bypassed free agency to exercise his $12.6 million player option for the 2020-2021 season with the Heat, the chance to step into spotlight. Prior to this season, Olynyk only started 103 of 500 games throughout his career, Canadian Sports Scene reported.
Olynyk went from starting 20.6% of his team’s game to starting 67% of their matchups. Thus far, he’s making the most of his minutes averaging career-highs in points per game with 11.3, assists per game (three), and blocks per game (0.9).
Coach Spo Insinuated that NBA’s COVID-19 Protocols is the Source of Herro’s Lingering Neck Injury
The Heat’s head coach Erik Spoelstra staunchly supports the league’s health and safety protocols when they were first implemented, on January 21, he couldn’t help but point out one of the pitfalls.
Heat star Tyler Herro was believed to only miss a game or two after suffering from neck spasms, however, being forced to play when the team only has the minimum amount of players required means his players are playing way more minutes than previously expected.
“There’s no telling for sure if this is why Tyler missed these games,” Spoelstra said. “But it definitely didn’t help that he had to play and play that many minutes. We didn’t have anybody else at that point. If he didn’t play, then we would have had seven.”
Herro has not played since January 14. He remains questionable for the Heat’s matchup against the Denver Nuggets on January 27.
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