Warriors forward Kent Bazemore believes an NBA season unlike any other will end with a champion unlike any other.
From the Christmas start time to schedules changing by the day, the effects of the worsening coronavirus pandemic loom over and shape the entirety of the 2020-21 NBA season. Replacing the safety and certainty of a bubble with games in arenas and cross-country travel has required the Warriors and 29 other teams, like so many across the country and the world have since last March, to take things one day at a time.
"I told Steph [Curry] the other night, this will probably be the hardest NBA championship in the history of the NBA, as far as just the mental fortitude you're going to need to kind of be able to pivot," Bazemore told reporters in a video conference call Thursday afternoon, hours before the Warriors were scheduled to play the Denver Nuggets.
"You may find out that you're playing in the morning, or that you're not playing. And then the game may be on, and vice versa. How do you handle that? How do you handle preparing for a back-to-back, and one of the games getting postponed? It's unprecedented. There's a lot that's unpredictable. There's a ton of words that you can throw in there to describe what's ahead."
The Warriors' scheduled game Friday against the Phoenix Suns was postponed as a result of the Suns being unable to dress the minimum of eight players due to COVID-19 contact tracing. As of this writing, 10 games this season have been postponed.
That's more than were postponed in last year's bubble in Orlando, Fla., as six games were rescheduled following the Milwaukee Bucks striking in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man from Kenosha, Wis. who was partially paralyzed after being shot in the back.
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Bazemore was briefly in the bubble with the Kings, and he said the whirlwind pace of this season has been a unique challenge. The 31-year-old says he enjoys journaling, but his last entry prior to Wednesday's was from Jan. 3 as a result of the schedule. Bazemore admitted there hasn't been time for much else beyond practicing, playing, eating and sleeping.
"It's real important for guys to really take advantage of the down time and really [rest] the mind because there's so much being thrown at us outside of basketball," Bazemore said. "This year, it's about taking care of your body, staying healthy and basketball is kind of put aside. It's the last thing on our minds some days."
The NBA Finals could end as late as July 22. Although widespread distribution of the vaccine could allow life to feel more "normal" by then, light at the end of a six-month tunnel feels especially far away in this moment.
It might not be the hardest championship to win, but it'd be difficult to imagine any other team, aside from last year's Los Angeles Lakers, more relieved to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy than this year's champion.