Michael Carter-Williams Discusses Restart of Season, Getting in Shape and Racial Injustice on ESPN 580 Orlando and 96.9 The Game

by Josh Cohen and Dan Savage

ORLANDO – Just before the NBA season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, guard Michael Carter-Williams was playing his best basketball in an Orlando Magic uniform. His stellar play helped the Magic win three straight just before the hiatus began and eight of their last 12.

The 6-foot-5, 190-pounder is now determined to help Orlando reach the playoffs for a second straight year when the NBA season resumes at Walt Disney World later this summer. He’s been working hard in the gym ever since he and his Magic teammates were given the green light to return for voluntary individual workouts.

Off the court, the 28-year-old is determined to help make systemic change in the community. Following the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Carter-Williams joined other activists at Orlando protests. After peacefully marching alongside others just as hurt and distressed as he is, the basketball star is hopeful we are taking a step in the right direction.

From family members and friends to his college coach at Syracuse, Jim Boeheim, Carter-Williams has been having many conversations about the matter the last couple weeks with people he’s very close to. Being able to have open dialogue is very helpful for him as he tries making sense of the problems we are facing, and he encourages others to do the same with people in their own social circles and communities.

Part of what drives the seven-year NBA veteran and former Rookie of the Year is the support he has gotten from Magic fans ever since he signed with the club late last season. Being on a platform in which he can inspire others while sharing his perspectives on key social issues is something he’s very grateful for.

ESPN 580 Orlando’s Scott Anez as well as 96.9 The Game's Marc Daniels and Brandon Kravitz recently spoke with Carter-Williams, as the versatile guard answered questions about the resumption of the season, what he’s been doing to get in shape, what the recent tragedies have taught him and what he’s doing to try and initiate changes in the community.

Interview with ESPN 580 Orlando’s Scott Anez

On NBA Season Resuming at Disney

MCW: “I’m excited. I can’t wait to get back on the court. I know the rest of the guys feel the same way. We’ve been working in the gym ever since it’s been open. Guys have been really committed. So, we’re excited for it.”

On Getting in Basketball Shape and Staying Sharp

MCW: “Now we have to get in shape and just go full head of steam forward. Everybody is not going to be at their peak. Everybody had three months off. We all did what we could to stay in shape and keep our bodies right and our minds right. But, now it’s kind of said and done. We got the dates. We know what we are getting into. We just got to make the best of it.”

On Participating in Voluntary Workouts

MCW: “Whoever is in the best shape, whoever has put in the most work in the offseason is going to have a little bit of an edge, especially the first few games. If we can even catch a win that maybe on the books we weren’t supposed to, just because we were in better shape and we were more prepared, you take it. Any edge you can get, you take.”

On Playing in Bubble Amid Pandemic

MCW: “It kind of reminds me of the AAU scene. Kind of going back there again and everybody is in the same place. I really get those vibes from what we’re kind of going into. But, it’s obviously different. It’s a little worrisome that we all can’t leave certain boundaries because of COVID.”

On Whether There is Advantage Playing in Orlando

MCW: “I don’t know. That’s a hard one. Everybody is so used to it by now. And there are no fans. If there were fans, I would say definitely. That would be a totally different conversation.”

On Playing Without Fans

MCW: “It is going to be really weird. It’s going to take some getting used to. I don’t even know what to expect. I never really played in an empty gym before.”

On Social and Racial Injustice Issues in the Country

MCW: “Obviously, it’s very sad. There are a lot of people that are hurt. It’s a time where black people are fighting for some justice that’s kind of deserved. Everything that’s going on with the death of George Floyd and (with) Breonna Taylor’s birthday being the other day, I just think it’s a real sensitive time. We’ve seen a lot of people come together, no matter the race, and have support of black people. I think that’s a huge thing. I don’t know if it’s going to fix all our issues, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. I go out and I’ve protested, I’ve marched. I do it for obviously to fight for the right cause and what’s going on. But I also do it for Orlando. I know we get a lot of support from everyone. I know we get a lot of support from the black community and I just wanted to give back to that and show I’m here fighting with you guys side by side and leading on what’s right in a peaceful way.”

On What We Can Do to Improve the Country

MCW: “I think it’s just challenging people to kind of believe what you believe. To challenge people to believe there is an issue in this country and that it needs to be fixed. I think a big part of it is teaching the younger generation about white privilege and about things that go on in this country, and bringing up history of what happened so they are aware. Some people it’s not even their fault. They’ve been blinded by it their whole lives. You catch a friend or anyone close to you that maybe doesn’t have the education that you have about the subject. Educate them on it. That’s what I try to do with my close friends and my close family.”

Interview with 96.9 The Game's Marc Daniels and Brandon Kravitz

On what he’s been doing to keep busy during the quarantine:

MCW: “I made a gym in my garage. I was working out there during the day. Then, I would go for a walk, and then, rinse and repeat. (Laughter) I was watching a lot of TV shows. I picked up the guitar again and tried to learn that. So, I was just trying to keep myself busy, but it was tough. It was tough just sitting in the house all day.”

On if he’s encouraged by the progress being made through protests:

MCW: "Yeah. Any step forward is good. I went out there and protested myself. I just thought it was the right thing to do. I’m here to fight with the people in Orlando (for) a good cause and against an issue that we have in this country."

On players’ relationship with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver:

MCW: “It’s hard because it does get a little complicated. We’re happy we do have the freedom to speak out on what we believe. But it does get complicated. You have a lot of opinions going on of what we think we should do; what we think we shouldn’t do. I think the league is just trying to be as sensitive as they can, but also, they have a job to do. We are going to play, so they have to prepare people for that. They also want to hear people (as well)."

On what the discussions are like during league conference calls:

MCW: “The Zoom calls are great. Everyone gets to speak; nobody holds anyone’s tongue. They all get to say their opinion on what’s going on. I think everyone has different ideas. They’re not really heated discussions. Some people go back and forth on what they think. Nothing bad. Everybody hears each other out. Nobody judges anybody for having their opinion, even if it’s the opposing opinion. I think they’re good. I think there will be more of them. I think, obviously, guys want to do things once we do get down in Orlando. We don’t just want to go down there and play. We’d like to do something for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and the rest of the issues that are going on. I think the conversations are useful. They’re helpful."

On the extensive health and safety guidelines for resumption of play:

MCW: “I read it. I read the whole thing. Obviously, it’s hard. They have to put some guidelines in. Some of them, it is what it is. It sucks. Us not being able to see our families is hard. Nobody wants to do that. At least we’re going to play. At least we’ve got some places that we can go and we don’t have to be stuck in our hotel room for six weeks. I know we have to quarantine for pretty much two weeks, but it could be worse. It is tough, but at the end of the day, it is what it is. The league is just trying to make sure that we are safe and that everyone stays healthy."

In a non-pandemic world do NBA players play double ping-pong?:

MCW: “Evan (Fournier) and I were laughing about that yesterday. I don’t think so. No one plays doubles.”

On the challenges on getting back into a basketball rhythm:

MCW: “I think the hardest part is going to be getting back into a rhythm. Everybody is kind of on the same level in terms of nobody’s really played. Just finding that rhythm and just going out there. The teams that aren’t worried about it and are just going to try and grind out wins for eight games, anything can happen. The team that prepares the best and is in the best shape. Getting back into shape is going to be hard."

On if a teammate chose not to play:

MCW: “Everybody is respectful to people’s choices and decisions. This is something that isn’t little. There’s, obviously, the pandemic going on, but there’s also social injustice going on as well. I think that everyone respects people’s stance and they should. I completely understand not coming for both reasons. I, myself, am going to go down and play. My way of protesting and figuring out ways to effect social injustice is different than someone else’s. That’s just a matter of opinion. I respect the opposite side and I think everyone respects it as well."

On the Magic’s goal early on:

MCW: “We just want to be the best we can be going into the playoffs. I know it’s going to be hard when you only have eight games, but if we can be the most prepared, if we can be the best in shape, going into the playoffs we have a good chance to beat anybody. Of course, we want to climb the seeding as high as we can within those eight games."

Listen to the entire interview here.

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