When the NBA released its program to resume the season at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, Alex Caruso, the Los Angeles Lakers’ reserve guard, gave in at the time. Her two-year-old older sister, Megan, was to marry outside Austin, Texas on July 18. In spite of everything – the season scheduled to be ongoing, the coronavirus pandemic on the rise in Texas, the fact that part of the celebration of over 100 people would take place indoors – Caruso wanted to go.
“Megan is as close to my number one fan as anyone could get,” she told ESPN this week. The two have friends in common and many would be at the wedding.
Caruso addressed the topic with Frank Vogel, the Lakers coach, and Rob Pelinka, vice president of basketball operations and general manager, when the team resumed training in Los Angeles. They both approved of Caruso’s participation, he said. Lakers officials declined the comment.
Caruso should have quarantined Orlando again on his return from marriage, but he and the Lakers initially hoped that the quarantine period would only be four days, Caruso said. Orlando’s 113-page NBA health and safety guidelines outline a 10-day quarantine for players and staff to leave campus and return. But these guidelines designate a potential four-day quarantine for anyone leaving with approval in “mitigating circumstances” – including previously planned marriages and other family events – provided that the person is negative for coronavirus every day he is away. The guidelines make clear that the four-day plan is “subject to extension” if one of the external experts from the League of Infectious Diseases recommends it.
Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans left the Orlando campus due to an urgent family matter last week. An NBA spokesman said: “When we learn more about Sion’s specific circumstances, we will determine his return protocol based on our rules.” Montrezl Harrell of the Los Angeles Clippers also left Orlando last week to deal with an urgent family affair, and teammate Patrick Beverley came out Tuesday on a personal emergency.
Those who leave the Orlando campus without prior approval must quarantine the return for 10 days, the guidelines say. Which can be extended to 14 days, the guidelines continue.
As the wedding approached and the coronavirus situation in Texas worsened, Lakers officials in talks with NBA staff told Caruso that his quarantine period would likely approach that 10-day threshold, he said.
Caruso and others involved understood that the guidelines mentioned the possibility of a 14-day quarantine, although it is unclear which scenario (if any) would trigger a quarantine of that length. (The 14 days seem to be reserved for unjustified outings.) Caruso knew that, given the hopes of the Lakers’ title, he would exercise extreme caution on his return.
“The worst case scenario is that the virus is dormant inside me, it gets freed and I am around the whole team,” he said.
Ten days removed Caruso from the scrimmages. Longer than that it threatened the start of what the NBA nicknamed seeding games. Vogel and Pelinka reaffirmed their support for Caruso by managing the situation as he wished. Caruso managed the specifications of LeBron James and Anthony Davis to make sure that the two best players on the team agreed with him that he was attending the wedding.
“They supported my decision in both cases,” said Caruso. “They also helped me understand how important I am to what we are trying to do here, now [Avery Bradley] I didn’t make it e [Rajon Rondo] wounded in his hand. There is some additional responsibility. “
In the end, everyone with the Lakers made it clear that they would be fine with Caruso’s departure. “They turned their backs on me,” said Caruso. “I felt the genuine support of the organization.”
Caruso was ready to pay for private flights from Orlando to Austin and back, he said. He thought of leaving after the Lakers’ training on July 17th, the day before the wedding. He planned to attend the ceremony, which was outdoors, and to skip the indoor reception. He tried to find a “safe house” in the Austin area where he could have slept after leaving the ceremony, but finding one in a short time proved impossible.
Thursday, two days before the wedding, he made his decision and texted his family: he would skip it. Friends recorded “practically the whole event” and sent him videos, he said. He spent his spare time on the weekend watching the filming in his room.
“There were some people who should have worn masks without,” said Caruso of the wedding. “I would say 75% of the people had involved them. Texas and Florida – sometimes they can be their countries. Some people just like doing their own things.”
He couldn’t face FaceTime in the wedding because the reception wasn’t good enough, he said. He said he is sad but at peace with his choice.
“If I were on a team that had no title aspirations – a team trying to hold on to seed # 8 or something – it could have been different,” said Caruso. “But we worked too hard.”