The other day Cody Zeller was wandering the aisles of a supermarket. It was a rare trip away from home to downtown Charlotte Hornets.
In the wake of the current coronavirus pandemic, Zeller, like so many others across the country, had practiced social removal and lived a life mainly in quarantine. But he needed food. The frozen casseroles and enchiladas that her mother had left in her freezer were about to run out. He was getting sick of the Chick-fil-A drive-thru.
He stopped in the frozen meat section. A packet of scallops caught his attention. He had never cooked scallops before.
“But as NBA players, I think we all think we can simply take things in a natural way,” said Zeller.
He brought the scallops home. He made some videos on Gordon Ramsay on YouTube. All the recipes required olive oil. Zeller had none. The recipes required pepper. Not even of all this. But it was not the time to go back.
A few days earlier, he had pledged to learn something new every day that he was stuck at home. He tried the guitar. He spent over an hour watching YouTube videos on how to build an outdoor deck. “Mine is a little dated,” he said. On that night, the thing he had to learn was how to cook the scallops. It didn’t matter how many ingredients he lacked.
“I still tried to make them,” said Zeller. “It’s nice that some of my mother’s things have remained in the fridge.”
Zeller knows that he and his NBA colleagues are in luck. Their jobs are not in danger. Their wages are still coming (at least for now). He is grateful. But this also forced him, and the rest of the NBA’s pool of players, to deal with a problem facing privileged citizens everywhere: how do you pass the time when you are not allowed to do your job?
For the majority, the answer seems to be of playing video games or choreograph TikToks. Some, however, have adopted Zeller’s approach. Thanks to a mix of isolation and boredom, they are using their new free time to undertake some new activities.
“Even during the low season, you really don’t have any time to spend alone with yourself,” Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter She said. “I thought of using it to educate myself.”
Part of this is because he never played video games.
“I don’t even have an Xbox or PlayStation in my house,” said Kanter. “I’m sorry about that now.”
Instead, he saw an episode of the Netflix show Dirty money on how Donald Trump built his empire. He tore up some Turkish tomes. It recently opened Leaders eat last: why some teams get together and others don’t, a book by Simon Sinek that Celtics head coach Brad Stevens released to the team earlier this season. The other day he was stunned by Zoom’s upcoming lesson that the Celtics had arranged with a Harvard professor.
“The only person I see are the Uber Eats delivery guys,” Kanter said. “I always want to invite him into the apartment just to have a conversation.”
Even avid video game players like Milwaukee Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo have found themselves looking for ways to fill their days.
“I cleaned the whole house and it wasn’t even dirty,” he said.
He and his girlfriend have swept, washed and rubbed. They also examined every item of clothing in every drawer, wardrobe and loose suitcase. DiVincenzo discovered some gems he had forgotten, such as a shirt from his days in Villanova to celebrate the team’s mothers. There were also items that both of them had never worn and he knew he would never do. Some still had their tags. He packed about 40 pairs of sneakers and six bags of clothing and dropped them at the Salvation Army and goodwill.
Initially, DiVincenzo found all the free time liberating. “I was up late playing video games and sleeping late,” he said. But before long, he craved a program.
He tried to go to sleep earlier. On Bucks’ recommendation, he used a food delivery service to stay on top of his food. He set up a home gym in the garage of a car in his home – “It’s cold in there, but it’s a bit different and beautiful” – using an exercise bike, a squat rack, a bench and dumbbells delivered by the Bucks (via a pickup of a truck strength coach). He talks to Bucks officials every day and keeps up with his teammates via a group chat, which can say they are as bored as he is.
“Basically we’re just sending each other memes, TikToks and tweets,” he said.
The Indiana Pacers Myles Turner center is also trying to find a sense of the structure. Play video games. He trains every day, starting his mornings with a 2-3 mile run before starting some strength work. It will show up for some call of Duty battle royales. It will pass through Netflix, Hulu and Disney +.
This still leaves him on the hunt for ways to kill hours at a time. Then he will often retire to the Dallas house guest house he recently built for his parents – where he now lives – and will spend a few hours working on 2000 pieces. Star Wars puzzle.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.
Subsequently, he has a few thousand pieces Star Wars Lego spaceships he would like to build, which he intends to add to his Lego collection which he has back in his home in Indianapolis.
Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press
Despite his struggle to fill downtime, Turner acknowledges that his life could be much more complicated.
“We all miss basketball, but we also realize how lucky we are and how there are many more concerns that are much more important,” he said.
However, for Turner and his NBA brothers, there are hours, days, weeks and maybe months to fill until the league returns. So for now, he is dedicated to completing that puzzle and thinking about what will be next.
“My mom loves to sew,” said Turner. “I’d like to see what it is.”
Yaron Weitzman covers the NBA for Bleacher Report and is the author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow Yaron on Twitter, @YaronWeitzman.