For Memphis Grizzlies swingman Justise Winslow, the idea of playing out the rest of the season in Orlando, Florida, is “tricky.”
Winslow spoke with former NBA forward Caron Butler on the league’s Twitter feed on Friday afternoon and expressed concern about the continuation of the season, the same way he did on his Instagram page on Thursday evening.
“The bubble is tricky, man,” Winslow told Butler during the video discussion. “From the COVID standpoint, I don’t think it’s a great idea just to have all these people in a bubble and tight spaces. It’s almost the opposite of social distancing. We’re going to have workers who are working for Disney; they’re going to be going home and seeing their family and doing whatever they want to do, but then they are going to come back.
“I’m sure everyone is going to be tested a lot, but we don’t have a cure for this, man. We have a lot of people who are getting sick. Even right here in Texas, it’s peaking again. It doesn’t feel safe.”
His comments came one day after Winslow posted this on his Instagram story: “This s— ain’t even bout basketball or our safety anymore. All About The Benjamins baby. Not sure if they really care if we get corona.”
Winslow did touch on the money issue in his interview with Butler.
“But at the same time, I’m a competitor. I want to play,” Winslow said. “I want my money even though it’s not all about the money. It’s still a business. So if these owners are going to get paid, I want my fair share as well. It keeps going back to just the dynamic of players want more money and owners want more money, so how can we do this without killing each other or knocking each other down or being disrespectful.”
ESPN insider Bobby Marks said if the league does not return to play for the 2019-20 season, players are looking at losing a combined $1.2 billion in salaries and the league would be looking at $2 billion in lost revenue.
Winslow went on to stress the seriousness of the coronavirus by mentioning the death of Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother, Jacqueline Cruz.
“This is a real deal,” Winslow said. “I know the NBA is taking it seriously, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. Is it that serious? People have families, people have babies on the way. We got international players coming across the country and leaving their families and won’t be able to see their families until if they make the second round. It’s a lot still in the air.”
Last week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that there was some apprehension from players around the league about the restart.
Winslow said he felt that the players agreed to return to play but not necessarily to everything laid out in the health and safety protocol measures released on Tuesday.
“I think when we agreed to this as players, we agreed to come back. We didn’t necessarily agree to be in a bubble, be on lockdown, to not have our families, to be exposed to the virus, to have all these workers around,” Winslow said.
“We didn’t agree to all that. We agreed to come back and play. It’s up to the league and [the National Basketball Players Association] to figure out the best way. It’s still a little iffy. I don’t know if it’s the smartest thing for us to come back and play right now. I love to continue to fight this fight for social injustice and these other things, but to be completely honest, I’m a little iffy about Orlando.”
Several players have mentioned the momentum in the fight toward social injustice slowing down if the season starts up in Orlando.
Winslow said he agreed that the momentum of the movement could be slowed down but also acknowledged the platform players would have by returning to play.
“People are out there fighting. People are meeting in person, on Zoom, people are fighting the fight,” Winslow said. “I don’t know when the season resumes if it’ll be a distraction or if it’ll be an even better platform. That’s yet to be seen. I know myself and plenty other players, whatever it is, if we’re playing, we’re going to try and use that platform and keep bringing awareness.
“It’ll be tough because we won’t be in our actual communities. We won’t be on the front lines. We won’t be able to have these important meetings with city officials or police chiefs. We’ll be in the bubble. It’s hard, but I pray that regardless if we’re in the bubble or not in the bubble that we can continue to fight the fight.”
Winslow’s Grizzlies hold the eighth seed in the Western Conference and are 3.5 games up on the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings and four games up on the San Antonio Spurs — the four non-playoff teams from the West invited to Orlando.
Winslow was acquired by Memphis in a three-team deadline deal that sent Andre Iguodala to Miami but didn’t suit up for the Grizzlies before the season was stopped because of injuries. Still, he likes Memphis’ chances in Orlando.
“We’re in a great position, I think. We control our own destiny,” Winslow said. “We’re in eighth right now. We have eight games before the play-in tournament. I like our chances to keep our eighth spot and eventually to win that play-in tournament and play whoever is the first seed.
“I love our team. We have a lot of young guys that just like to get after it and are fearless. Our leader in Ja [Morant], he’s been sensational this year. He’ll win Rookie of the Year honors. I’m just extremely happy to be a part of this group. It’s a lot of fun from the coaching staff all the way down.”