Rockets Manage Difficult Coronavirus Suspension: 'Harder Than the Lockout'

Michael Shapiro

The coronavirus outbreak has cast a shroud of mystery over the NBA, with a seemingly endless list of questions receiving very few concrete answers. The NBA's ideas for a return date remain flimsy by the very nature of the crisis. Perhaps games could resume by late May as Mark Cuban has pondered, though a potential cancelation remains very much in play. Anxiety persists throughout the league as the NBA's indefinite suspension enters its third week.

The Rockets received their own dose of uncertainty on March 19 as the NBA announced all team facilities were to be closed, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. 

James Harden was reportedly shooting at the Toyota Center practice court alongside assistant coach John Lucas before VP of basketball operations and athletic trainer Keith Jones entered the facility. Jones alerted Harden and Lucas of the facility closure, leading Harden to ask a simple, yet pressing, question.

"James just had this look on his face like, 'What do we do?'" Jones told Wojnarowski. 

Harden had to exit the team facility, leaving he and his teammates to do solely solo training for an indefinite period. But the Rockets are not without assistance. Houston sends its players a "detailed customized program," per Wojnarowski, and each player receives a "duffel bag full of resistance bands, pulleys and an exercise ball for their workouts."

Jones noted the difficulty of trying to keep players in game shape amid the current league regulations. 

"You don't know how long the runway is going to be before you're at full speed," Jones said. "Getting their bodies conditioned to play again, we're going to need some time. Nothing mimics NBA basketball except NBA basketball. Everybody's going to lose that conditioning."

The NBA has not set a return date for the 2019-20 season, though there are indications that the season must be completed by the end of August barring a cancelation. For now, the Rockets players will have to train without Jones, Lucas and their teammates, battling what is likely the strangest period of their careers.

"It's harder than the hurricane and harder than the lockout," Jones said. "You have no way of getting out and seeing guys."