Wizards

Matt Barnes and Richard Jefferson on players' mental health struggles within NBA bubble: 'All of a sudden you put individuals in a fish bowl'

Wizards
USAT

Prior to the NBA restart at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., the players wanted to ensure the on-court competition didn't take away from the conversation around the issue of racial injustice and police brutality in America. 

Recent killings within the black community, specifically Jacob Blake of Kenosha, Wisconsin, have caused the NBA players to boycott playoff games. 

"We shouldn't have come to this damn place to be honest," Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill said after receiving the news of Blake's death. "Coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are." 

Obviously, participating in the bubble has put a heavy strain on the mental and emotions of many NBA players — not only must they play competitive, playoff-caliber basketball at a high level, but they also have to face the reality of being isolated in this area, away from their families, on top of feeling useless to a certain extent, in the fight against police brutality. 

"Basketball is 90% mental once you get on this top level everyone can do everything so how are you able to focus in its tough," former NBA player Matt Barnes said Friday morning on ESPN's "The Jump." "These guys are isolated in a bubble and now people are looking at them to change the world, play basketball, be fathers, be businessmen. It’s just a lot man."

"We have to appreciate the mental space these players are going through and just not give them a pass because we’re ready for the mission, we just have more of an understanding of what they’re going through mentally."

 

Former NBA player Richard Jefferson also added to the conversation with a message that should resonate with all. 

"All of a sudden you put individuals in a fish bowl with all of this stuff going on and we expect that these guys are going to be fine because of the amount of money that they make. Well, that’s just not a reality," Jefferson said. "I look at people like Paul George; He openly admitted 'look I’ve been struggling, it was getting to me' ... We’re sitting here crushing him for his performance and making it just about basketball and I can openly say I was not taking into account what he might have been going through mentally and emotionally being away from his kids, being away from his family, with all the stuff that’s going on."

"I’m purely looking at it from a basketball standpoint saying like he needs to play better and there is a truth to that but there’s a human side to that that we all need to be a little more cautious with how harshly we criticize someone for their performance because of what they could be going through emotionally in that space."

The NBA released a statement Thursday evening regarding the current status of the NBA playoffs. 

"We are hopeful to resume games either Friday or Saturday," NBA Executive Vice President Mike Bass said. 

Whether or not the playoffs are restarted, it shouldn't matter to you. What should matter is that these athletes are humans first and if you truly care about the game you should support them in their off-court endeavors.