Josh Hart keeps a close defensive eye on a Minnesota ballhandler

Josh Hart emphasizes mental toughness aspect of Orlando bubble

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

Although the math didn’t quite work, one of the most famous quotes in Major League Baseball history came from catcher/accidental philosopher Yogi Berra, who said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” Berra’s memorable line was vaguely reminiscent of how New Orleans wing Josh Hart described what NBA players face, as they head into a lengthy stretch of being isolated in an Orlando bubble, a sacrifice required to complete the 2019-20 season.

“It’s going to be 10 percent physical, 90 percent mental,” Hart said Thursday of being in Central Florida from July 7-9 through at least Aug. 13. “A lot of us have been playing basketball since the day we could walk, so we’re doing what we love – we’ve got the muscle memory, and we’ve been working out. (But) a lot of (the challenge) is going to be having free time, but not being able to see friends, family, children, wives, girlfriends. I think that could take a toll on a lot of the guys. You could be there two and a half months without any contact with your loved ones.”


Partly to fill some of his free time, Hart recently began learning to play golf, including joining JJ Redick on the links and tweeting hole-by-hole updates (“Hole 8: Drove it into the water but saved it for a bogey. Hole 11: Back to the regularly scheduled program of a double bogey!”). Hart noted Thursday that based on practice courts at Disney’s complex that will initially be needed by 22 different teams, he doesn’t expect to be able to access a gym at all times, even if he just wants to get in some shooting.

“Everything is going to be very time-restricted in terms of court access (in Orlando),” Hart said. “Golf will be a good way to chew time up. That and video games.”

Asked about potential concerns about the bubble, the avid gamer indicated that he has determined that the setup will be safer health-wise than many other locales.

“I’m fully with it,” he said of being willing to participate. “Right now, there is no vaccine (for COVID-19). There is no preventative solution to this. Right now, you’ve got to be OK with some type of risk. Unless you stay in the house every single day for the next year or so, you’re going to have to be OK with some type of risk. I’m putting my faith in (the NBA). The bubble will be a lot safer than a lot of places or other markets. In New Orleans, for example, the cases have been going up. (California), New York. The bubble is probably the safest solution to what we’re dealing with right now.”

Players across the NBA are still in the initial stages of accelerating training for the July 30 start of games in Orlando, only conducting solo workouts. Hart is already eager to add teammates to his practice time.

“We play fast, (so getting) conditioning right is the biggest key,” Hart said of the Pelicans, the NBA’s second-fastest paced team this season. “I would love if we could kind of ramp it up a little bit more before we got to Orlando, to play 4-on-4, or 5-on-5, to kind of get us ready for that time. It’s going to be hard to go from 1-on-0 workouts, to straight 5-on-5. I wish it was a little bit more aggressive, but I think we’re handling it well within the guidelines of the NBA.”

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