As Kevin Love made the 20-minute drive from his home to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice facility Friday, even the snow flurry being cleared by his SUV’s window wipers on a May day in Northeast Ohio didn’t dampen his mood.
“It was the longest I’ve ever gone without shooting a basketball,” Love told ESPN on Friday. “So I didn’t care. I just wanted to get some shots up.”
The Cavaliers became one of the first teams in the NBA to reopen their practice facility for voluntary individual workouts nearly two months since the league went on hiatus in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Friday was the first day the league allowed it, so long as the team’s local government had loosened its shelter-at-home guidelines and the team was following protocol.
The Portland Trail Blazers also opened their doors for individual workouts Friday, and nine of the 11 players currently in the Portland area rotated through court time, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Love, 31, said when he arrived at Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, Ohio, he was screened before entering the facility through a designated side entrance.
“Asked us a few questions,” he said. “How we’re feeling, if anybody has been sick in the house, if we’ve been sick, if we’ve basically adhered to all the guidelines that are put in place, not only by the NBA but state to state.”
The five-time All-Star also had his temperature taken and logged. Any player who was showing a fever would not be granted access.
Once inside, each player had his own half court to work out on and an assistant coach, wearing a mask and gloves, accompanying him to pass and rebound.
“Latex gloves make your hands sweat more than I ever knew!” one Cavs coach told ESPN in a text message. “Definitely took a little to get used to with the gloves, but definitely the safest technique right now if you think about it.”
As inviting as it felt to be back on the hardwood, it was impossible to ignore the safety measures.
“It’s just going to change the way — at least for the foreseeable future — of not only how we interact but how we live in our daily lives. So for me, was it weird? Yeah,” Love said. “I had [Cavs assistant coach] Dan Geriot at my basket and having him rebound and pass me the ball with a mask and gloves on. It’s just odd. It’s just weird.”
Love was flanked by teammates Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic lining the other three main hoops during the joint workout time. NBA guidelines instruct teams to permit only four players to be in the building at a time, and they must maintain a distance of 12 feet between one another.
Still, they could communicate by shouting across the court.
“Cedi was talking his normal funny talk,” Love quipped. “Nobody listens to him.”
Each basket also had a corresponding table stocked with disinfectants, snacks, towels and water.
“Just making sure everything was separated so there wasn’t any cross contamination between the players,” Love said.
Love brought a pair of sneakers from home, and the team provided practice gear, in a bag, to change into and two designated basketballs to use.
With players being restricted to the practice court, weight room and training room, that meant the showers were off limits when the workout was finished.
“I changed my clothes and got out of there and showered at home,” Love said, “which doesn’t bode well for a guy like me who sweats a lot.”
Love considered the workout a “dry run of what things could look like” when teams request their players come back into their home markets for group practices.
For now, Love said, the individual workouts three to four times a week will have to suffice.
“I feel like anybody who needs an escape or in everyday life is looking for any type of normalcy back doing something they love,” he said. “For me, I played 25-ish years of organized basketball, and this is the longest I’ve ever gone without touching [a basketball]. And it’s something I really, really enjoy doing.
“So for me, it definitely was a big dopamine hit, and it just felt great to get in there and sweat outside of doing my workouts at home or getting on a treadmill. Going out there and having some sense of normalcy and getting on the court and actually shooting was pretty uplifting.”