As the Trail Blazers head out on their first long road trip of the season and get away from the west coast for the first time, they won’t benefit from what used to be an important part of going on the road:
Bonding. Coming together as a team. The road was a place when players had an opportunity to hang out together more than at home -- even have team dinners or breakfasts. And that would make even more of a difference with a team such as Portland, with several new players on the roster this season.
But then came COVID-19.
And even with the six different states offering varying degrees of restrictions, this team will visit on this six-game trip, there won’t be much opportunity for players to come together away from the arenas.
“It's a different road right now,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “And there's no question that we've talked about that. It's been an opportunity to go have dinner with people. Just do things as a group.
“And those things are definitely going to be limited, so some of the benefits of being on the road are not going to be there because of our restrictions.”
And the NBA teams aren’t as free to simply obey local restrictions about their activity. Texas, where Portland plays Thursday, is much more open than Oregon. But it doesn't change the team's routine.
“A lot of what we are able to do, regardless of what state we're in, is league mandated, as far as staying in our hotel and our testing and things like that,” Stotts said. “So, even though that we will be going to some states that are ‘more open,’ we should be abiding by the same standard that we have in the past.”
In other words, stick around the hotel. Don’t do anything risky.
“You know, we talked about it, just actually like 15 minutes ago," Enes Kanter said. “They said, ‘Things are open in Texas,’ but they were like, ‘Hey we’ve got better things to worry about now. We’ve got more important things coming up.'
“We don't want to be one of those teams that, you know, their games just keep getting postponed because their guys are sick. So I think we are going to sacrifice and just gonna just keep staying in our hotel room.
“I think right now our main focus is just keep staying healthy, and just because we have a lot of guys hurt -- we just don't want to give up any more guys.”
It’s going to make for a long trip.