Tenacity. Hustle. Fight.
Jevon Carter brings an undeniable intensity each and every time he steps onto the hardwood. This season, Phoenix Suns fans have witnessed his love for the game manifest itself through his all-out effort on a nightly basis.
So, for a player like Carter that leaves all he has on the court, what happens when the doors to the court get locked?
On March 11, 2020, Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the NBA season would be suspended until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the nation.
The Suns had just returned from Portland and were preparing to hit the road again when Carter received the shocking news via a direct message on Instagram.
“Somebody sent it to me on Instagram and asked me if it was serious,” Carter said. “I'm like, 'What do you mean? The season isn't canceled.' The next thing you know we get a call and a text saying that the season has been postponed.”
Just like so many other players around the league, Carter had never previously experienced a considerable lapse of time without basketball. Sports always provided a steady sense of purpose in his life and the thought of the season actually being shutdown was unfathomable.
“I couldn't believe it,” Carter said. “I didn't think it was real, honestly. It didn't really hit me until they told me I couldn't go into the gym anymore. That's when it hit me hard.”
With no gym, no weight room and no trainers or coaches, Carter was left to fend for himself for the first time in his career. So, needing assistance and guidance, Carter turned to the most reliable resource he had available: Google.
“I had to figure it out,” Carter said. “For real, I went on Google and typed it in. I just went and typed in different workouts. I was going to outside parks and stuff, shooting on triple rims. It's super hard to hit on those rims. That was making me mad. I'm out there running all over the place, trying to get the ball.”
Often times it may have felt frustrating, but Carter was determined to do all he could to keep pushing forward. Aside from doing his home workouts, he began venturing out into The Valley to seek new ways to exercise and stay active.
“I started hiking South Mountain,” Carter said. “I’m hiking these mountains in Phoenix, Arizona. It has like a bunch of different trails and I used to take a different trail every time I went.”
As the workouts began to come more tedious, Carter felt like he was losing his mind and his desire to get back in the gym continued to grow even stronger. Thankfully, Head Coach Monty Williams stayed in constant communication with his players throughout those tough few months to help ease their minds through a time of uncertainty.
“I’ve tried to just check on them and let them know that I love them and care about them,” Williams said during quarantine. “Jevon Carter texted me yesterday saying he was going crazy because he couldn’t hoop. So, I called him and we talked for a while. I just reminded him and myself that we’ve always said as a team that this is a ‘get to’ and not a ‘got to.”
Carter quarantined with one of his cousins as well as one of his former college teammates, and the three worked together on a regular basis to stay in shape and keep each other motivated.
“We were in the house doing push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, all types of ab exercises,” Carter said. “We went to the store, bought some board games, UNO, cards, all type of stuff. Anything we can do to stay active.”
Not only was he able to keep his body in shape throughout the few months, but he was continuously putting his mind to work as well. Whether it was going back to critique his own game or watching film of other guards, Carter kept studying and learning.
“I spent a lot of my time watching other players and seeing what they're good at and why they’re good at it,” Carter said. “Like, 'He's real effective at making this shot. What makes him effective at making this shot?' Trying to go put it in my game and try to implement it. I watched the shots I missed and why I miss those certain shots. Certain times it just little small details that that can be fixed really easily.”
The second-year pro studied film of some of the All-Star guards throughout the league to help elevate his game to another level and introduce new facets to his repertoire, such as perfecting the pick-and-roll.
“A lot of the top guards,” Carter said. “That's really who I watched a lot of. It’s just like working on pick-and-roll stuff, like how to be effective in the pick-and-roll with scoring and passing.”
He was still able to shoot on his own at a nearby park and watch film on a regular basis, but beyond not being able to see others and being quarantined to his house, Carter just missed the court and the comradery in the locker room.
“The hardest part was just not being able to be in a gym, honestly,” Carter said. “That's really the hardest part, as cliché as it sounds.”
Fortunately for him, all of that changed about a month ago. It was announced that players could begin working out in one-on-one situations, but with new precautions and sanitary regulations. While Carter finally got his wish to return to the hardwood, the new circumstances had him a little weary of what to expect.
"I was super excited,” Carter said. “The only thing that made me kind of skeptical about it was that they were saying we had to wear gloves and masks. I'm like, 'How do y'all expect me to work out with gloves and a mask?' Then we got there and I found out it was just the coaches and everybody around you had to wear them. I was like, 'Oh, this is cool with me. I get it.' I get my work and get out."
He was officially able to take the court for the first time in months and, while he had to get back into his regular rhythm, he also needed time to adjust to the new norm.
“When you're shooting and you've only got one coach rebounding for you, he's got to rebound, he's got to pass,” Carter said. “You don't want to shoot any bricks. You want to make sure all of them go in so he doesn't have to chase the ball all over the place.”
One of the biggest adjustments for Carter was not seeing his teammates on a regular basis. The bond of teammates in the NBA is often considered a brotherhood, as they see each other more consistently than their own families throughout the course of the season. However, all that changed when the pandemic hit.
Even in today’s modern practice environment, a hand wave across a barren court is often the most in-person communication between teammates.
“You've just got one player and one coach on the other end,” Carter said. “You can't even really talk to him. You've got to yell at him across the court. It's tough, but you we keep in touch on texting, FaceTime and stuff. When you're going to the gym, it's really just a regular job now. You don't talk to all of your coworkers. You get in, you do your work, you go home.”
The focus of that work is now all turning to one thing: the resumption of the NBA season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.
As the NBA prepares to resume play, Carter is determined and ready to charge into battle with his teammates.
“Let's go shock the world,” Carter said. “We've got a chance to make the playoffs. Why not? At least, we know for a fact we are playing for something. So, let's go give it everything we got.”
The odds may be stacked against the them, but armed with Carter’s intensity and hustle, the Suns aren’t willing to go down without a fight. There’s a chance and that’s all Carter and the Suns need.
“We just want to go hoop,” Carter said. “We feel like we've got an opportunity to do something special.”
For a more in-depth visual look at the Suns journey through quarantine as well as the new sanitary and safety precautions the team is taking, be sure to tune-in to Fox Sports Arizona, the Suns social channels and YouTube page this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. PT as we take you into the Madhouse and behind-the-scenes in Volume One of “Don’t Sleep on Basketball.”