Team Makes Up For Lost Time With Trash Talk In Orlando

by Casey Holdahl
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There are a significant number of adjustments players and coaches are having to make as the NBA attempts to restart the 2019-20 season with 22 teams playing in a “bubble” at Walt Disney World Resort outside of Orlando. From pregame routines, which some players strictly adhere to for their entire careers, to playing in much smaller gyms, which can throw off a shooter’s depth perception, to simply not being able to sleep in their own beds, the changes to standard operating procedure necessary to restart the league in the safest way possible are significant, and hopefully worthwhile.

And while most of the changes are little more than annoyances in the grand scheme of things, at least one change does have the potential to be both game-changing and entertaining: the increased prevalence of trash talk.

With no fans in the three arenas on the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus at Disneyworld, it’s far easier to hear all of the comments players, both those on the court and sitting on the bench, and coaches make over the course of an NBA game. And as a result, many of the comments made on or near the court that would have been inaudible in the din of a typical NBA arena are no longer going unnoticed, and with varying results.

“You can hear everything,” said Carmelo Anthony. “Honestly, it’s a fun environment to be in. It puts a lot of pressure on guys who may not like those type of environments. When you playing in front of fans -- and we miss the fans -- that noise kinda drowns out a lot of the trash talking that goes on out there on the court, even from the benches. Out here in this environment, it’s heightened.”

That much was apparent in the Trail Blazers scrimmage versus the Toronto Raptors Sunday afternoon the VISA Athletic Center. Despite it being a scrimmage whose outcome was inconsequential, there was no lack of trash talk between the two teams, so much so that both benches received a warning from the officials to keep it civil. If players are going at each other hard enough to draw the attention of the officials in an exhibition, one can only imagine the kind of chatter that games which actually matter might elicit.

“I don’t know from fan standpoint but I think out there, we hear a lot of things and I think it’s echoing. There is no way you can’t hear it,” said Jusuf Nurkić, a prodigious trash-talker whose exclamation of “BALL DON’T LIE” after a missed Raptor free throw in Sunday’s contest could be easily heard over broadcast. “I even said it was going to be pickup game, you guys don’t listen man. I think it’s fun. It’s going to be hard on people who can’t handle stuff like that, but I think it’s cool. I think definitely should be a line with what people says.”

Pointing out the flaws in an opponents performance is common in all sports, and there’s plenty of loose talk, and reactions to that talk, in the NBA game during even the best of times, so it’s not as though the players will be encountering something new during the Orlando restart. But the increased frequency and volume -- the differences in reactions between being dissed one-on-one and  -- and the fact that you could very well see a guy who recently said something offensive on the court in the hotel lobby later that day could change the way those comments are internalized.

“You’re definitely going to be hearing trash talk and you’ve definitely got to be mentally tough to get past it and not pay attention to it, so it’s going to be interesting,” said Zach Collins. “It’s definitely going to be more of like, the stuff that’s already being said on the court that no one realizes because it’s so loud with fans. But now you’re going to hear everything. I hear a lot of stuff from the other bench. And just being on the court, you hear both benches so clearly. It’s like, when you’re at the free throw line you can hear a pin drop, it’s crazy how quiet it is.”

It’s highly unlikely that being able to devastate an opponent with trash talk while also remaining impervious to barbs uttered in your direction will be the difference between between winning a championship and leaving Orlando empty handed. But with little margin for error with just eight games to play and the lack of homecourt advantage, taking your opponent out of his game, even momentarily, with a perfectly timed piece of trash talk could come in handy.

“You hear everything from everybody, whether it’s coaches, whether it’s players, playcalling,” said Anthony. “They was saying it out loud before, you just couldn’t hear them because of the fans. Now that the fans is eliminated from this environment, from being in here, it is what it is.”


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