When it comes to perspective and advice, Jaren Jackson Jr. doesn’t have to search far for insight on what it takes to mentally and physically endure a prolonged NBA hiatus.
Posting up in Memphis these days between his downtown condo and his parents’ suburban home, all the Grizzlies star power forward has to do is venture into the next room and find his father. Those discussions with Jaren Jackson Sr. often lead to film sessions from his playing days in San Antonio, with an emphasis on how the Spurs used Hall of Famers David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
With the ongoing suspension of the NBA season amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the younger Jackson is doing whatever he can to build on his game and mindset as one of the more dynamic young big men in the league. Just consider it an NBA dose of homeschooling.
“We’ve been watching some of my dad’s old games, watching how Tim gets the ball in the post and how they were all playing off each other,” Jaren Jr. explained during Wednesday’s video conference call with media members. “It’s the same with David Robinson. So I’m just taking little things from everyone’s games. Tim, David, A.D. (Anthony Davis) and K.G. (Kevin Garnett). Those guys were forces. But I’ve been looking at those guys even before all of this.”
Jackson remains optimistic the season will resume in some form or fashion once the global health crisis subsides. His conference call comes on the heels of Jackson’s involvement in local and national initiatives to assist those coping with COVID-19 challenges.
Both Jackson and Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins spearheaded the franchise’s efforts to cater lunches for medical and community officials on the front lines of Memphis COVID-19 testing sites. Jackson is also scheduled for a national appearance on The Today Show to discuss youth health and fitness exercises as part of his work with Jr. NBA initiatives.
It’s the same with David Robinson. So I’m just taking little things from everyone’s games. Tim, David, A.D. (Anthony Davis) and K.G. (Kevin Garnett). Those guys were forces. But I’ve been looking at those guys even before all of this.
Jackson’s media conference call also comes a week after NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters that it remains too soon to determine if or when the league would return to games this season. The NBA halted play on March 11 after Utah Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were reportedly the first of at least seven players in the league to test positive for COVID-19. Silver confirmed more players have tested positive, but declined to elaborate last week.
Silver also addressed the economic impact that threatens to ravage NBA revenues. The league and NBA Players Association agreed last week to reduce players’ salaries by 25 percent on May 15 if the 2019-2020 season is permanently canceled.
Drafted fourth overall in 2018, Jackson is in his second NBA season and leads the Grizzlies in blocks and ranks second in scoring. As a starting power forward, Jackson is one of the young cornerstones on a team that was in eighth place in the Western Conference and positioned to make the playoffs. This was scheduled to be the first full week of the NBA postseason.
“There’s been a lot of effects because of the virus, and a lot of different areas of work have been impacted,” Jackson said when asked to share his thoughts on possibly losing part of his NBA salary next month. “So I did see something like that coming, just because we weren’t playing (games) and this was affecting us directly. I thought our (players) union did the best job it could in helping us deal with the blowback. We all talked about it and came up with a solution we could agree on. And that was the best case scenario for us, honestly.”
Jackson has heard much of the speculation about potential ways the NBA could resume the season. League officials have discussed multiple scenarios, including playing games without fans and reportedly at neutral venues in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Orlando, among other places.
“We’re looking at all of those things right now,” Silver said recently. “I’d say that in terms of bubble-like concepts, many of them have been proposed to us and we’ve only listened. We are not seriously engaged yet in that type of environment because I can’t answer what precisely would we need to see in order to feel that environment provided the needed health and safety for our players and everyone involved.”
So I did see something like that coming, just because we weren’t playing (games) and this was affecting us directly. I thought our (players) union did the best job it could in helping us deal with the blowback. We all talked about it and came up with a solution we could agree on. And that was the best case scenario for us, honestly.
On Wednesday, Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone admitted it would be difficult being part of high-stakes NBA games in a muted environment. But like many coaches and players across the league, he supports the NBA’s mission to take every safety measure.
“It’s going to be a really strange experience for everybody,” Malone told reporters on a conference call from Denver. “When there is a big play, a blocked shot or a dunk or three-point shot, the crowd goes crazy. We feed off that. We’re emotional beings. If you take that element out, it’s going to take a lot of time to get used to that. But if that allows us to play basketball once again and keep everybody safe, then obviously we have to accept that new reality.”
For now, the focus remains on keeping players engaged and in shape as best as possible. The NBA has yet to authorize teams to reopen practice facilities for even individual player workouts.
Jenkins meets with his assistant coaches and training staffers three times a week on video conference calls. And every Friday, Jackson joins his coaches and teammates on a weekly Zoom session for updates on everything from workout regimens to trivia to tips on cooking recipes.
“It’s hard to know where guys are at physically because everyone has been operating remotely,” Jenkins said recently. “But there have been check-ins to see what guys have been working on daily. It’s trusting in that, but also here are things we’re laying out with the NBA. Guys are going to be put in the best positions. We’re thinking about our players’ best interest.”
While working from home, Jenkins and his staff have been preparing for the first workouts and practice sessions that will take place once the NBA clears teams to return to their facilities. Jenkins and Malone are among coaches who have heard from league trainers and medical experts that it might require about a month to get players back in condition to resume a season.
For now, Jackson vows to keep busy by hitting the weights and elliptical machines at his parents’ home. And then there’s also the sage advice from his folks. Jaren Sr. played over a decade in the NBA and won a championship with the Spurs in 1999.
That first of five title runs for San Antonio came after a lockout-shortened year reduced to 50 regular-season games. Jackson’s mother, Terri Carmichael Jackson, is executive director of the WNBA Players Association. So persevering through an NBA work stoppage isn’t anything new for the Jacksons, albeit for drastically different reasons this time around.
Staying in shape, getting stronger and then when we can find a place to shoot whenever we can, we’ll figure that out. It’s great to have my parents for this time right now, and for them to guide me through this and continue to give me all the insight they’ve always been doing. They’re everything to me.
“Staying ready around here is the No. 1 priority,” Jaren Jr. said. “Staying in shape, getting stronger and then when we can find a place to shoot whenever we can, we’ll figure that out. It’s great to have my parents for this time right now, and for them to guide me through this and continue to give me all the insight they’ve always been doing. They’re everything to me.”
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