On its surface, the NBA bubble looks a lot like a summer camp for professional players. Check their social media feeds or the various vlogs many of them have started, and you’ll see footage of them golfing, fishing, hanging out at the pool, or other activities (The Lakers have been playing in a team Madden tournament, for example).
But if you watch those videos frequently, a dark undercurrent starts to emerge after a while: The golfing, the fishing, the pool trips and videogame time is all you see. Even the most sweet-toothed kid would eventually get tired if you only fed them candy, and as much fun as those leisure activities can be a break under normal circumstances, no one wants to live at work, even if your work is playing basketball for millions of dollars and you love your co-workers.
Over the last month or so especially as the bubble has gone on, it’s been pretty obvious that the Lakers miss their families. With the second round of the playoffs in sight, some of them will get to see them soon. But their time in the bubble so far hasn’t been easy for a variety of reasons, one of which is the great paradox facing every player in Disney World: Social media can be a window to the outside, but it can also be a cesspit of negativity.
“Mentally, it’s kind of like ‘Groundhog Day’ in here,” Danny Green said. “I don’t want to make it seem that bad, but the bubble is as good as your play, you know? You don’t have many escapes or outside distractions. If you’re not playing well, the walls are gonna close in on you more and more.”
Green was answering a question about Paul George saying that his mental health was affected by the lashing he was regularly receiving on social media to start the playoffs, to the point that he had to turn off his Instagram comments in an attempt to block it out. Green can relate.
“Trust me, I know exactly what Paul is going through. You have nothing to look at but your phone and social media all day, and all they’re doing is bullying you. They’re (fans) trying to get you to play well,” Green said. “He was going through a rough stretch, so I’m sure the walls were closing in on him and it was getting dark for him. For a lot of guys.”
Green may have been ostensibly talking about George, but it was hard not to hear his candor — especially the part about people attempting to bully a player to perform better — as a little bit of his own story, too.
Green, who started out the playoffs by shooting 8-26 over the first three games of the opening round, saw his name trend during several of them, with some misguided “fans” arguing that they needed to bully him to play well. No, seriously, that is not a straw-man argument. A quick Twitter search will show you that is a very real thing that was happening, as it did with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope earlier in the year until Dwight Howard and other teammates came to his defense.
Not that it was an OK thing to do then, but now, while these players are isolated from their families during social unrest and a global pandemic, it’s even more heartless. It’s one thing to make jokes or say a player isn’t playing well. It’s another to flood their Instagram comments or Twitter mentions until they shut them down or block you. That doesn’t help anyone, and especially not right now, when the world is an ugly and difficult enough place as it is.
“It’s hard to adjust to this type of situation, the bubble,” Green said. “If you’re not playing well as an individual or a group, it will get dark in here quick. Those walls will close in a lot sooner, a lot faster. There is no escape. You don’t have your families here, you don’t have your dogs, you don’t have your kids. You can’t just throw your phone away, it’s right there. The only thing connecting you to the real world is social media, (but) if you’re not playing well, social media is not going to be on your side.”
Social media doesn’t need to be on their side. The people who use it, though, also don’t need to go out of their way to make things worse. Hopefully Green’s honesty here can make that clear, and bring about a positive change on that front.