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JJ Redick On Life Inside An NBA Bubble


And finally today, you may know JJ Redick from his standout college basketball days at Duke or as an accomplished 14-year NBA veteran now with the New Orleans Pelicans. But he's also been an avid podcaster over the years, hosting shows for Yahoo! Sports and The Ringer. Now he's launching his own podcast with co-host Tommy Alter where he speaks with everyone from politicians to fellow players. Here he's talking to Damian Lillard about life inside the NBA bubble, an isolated environment at Disney World where the NBA is playing all its games.


JJ REDICK: What are your early impressions of playing in the bubble?

DAMIAN LILLARD: I was like, man, I don't know how this is going to work. I don't know if dudes going to show up interested, who going to be in shape. Like, what is it going to be like?

FADEL: So what is it like inside the NBA bubble? JJ Redick joins us now to talk about that and his new podcast, The Old Man And The Three. JJ Redick, welcome.

REDICK: Hi. How are you?

FADEL: I'm doing well. So the first two episodes of your podcast featured fellow NBA player Damian Lillard, who we just heard, and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Obviously, there's a lot going on in the country. Why did you choose these two voices in your launch?

REDICK: Well, Dame is one of my favorite players. And he's someone that I've tried to have on previous iterations of my podcast and the timing just hasn't worked out. When I was with the LA Clippers, he told me he didn't want to come on the podcast because we were rivals, which I respected. Stacey has such an amazing ability to break down complex issues like voter suppression, like the importance of the census. And as we move closer to the election, having someone like her on the podcast is really important.

FADEL: So you launched this podcast during the NBA restart at Disney World. What has the bubble experience been like?

REDICK: The bubble has been, so far, really great. I was very cautious about coming down here. Florida is obviously a COVID hot spot right now.

FADEL: Right.

REDICK: And we weren't sure what the protocols would be and whether or not we feel safe. But in talking to numerous NBA players and numerous staff members down here, we might be in the safest place in America right now. We have daily testing. Everything from food delivery to protocols at the game all involve social distancing and proper hygiene. And one of the reasons it's worked so well is because across the board, everyone here has completely bought in.

And that's one of the issues I think we're dealing with in this country is that we haven't had nationwide protocols in place. We haven't had complete buy-in on wearing masks. We've had all sorts of confusion on testing. And look. I'm not naive. We are - the NBA is paying a lot of money to get test results back quickly. We've invested a lot in that. It's the only way to make this entire thing feasible. And so I understand that that's probably not realistic to do right now for 350 million people in our country. But we've certainly given the rest of the country some sort of template for how this could work.

FADEL: So we've heard a lot about players fishing, playing video games, things to stave off boredom in the bubble. What are you doing to pass the time?

REDICK: (Laughter) Before we started playing games, I golfed a little bit. And then once the game started, you know, it's basically rest, treatment, podcast and hoop. And that's really it. I do want to say one thing, though.

FADEL: Yeah.

REDICK: The ponds or the lakes, whatever you want to call them that these guys are fishing on, are clearly stocked with an abundance of fish. I think it's a completely unfair battle between these NBA guys and the fish in this lake.

FADEL: Right. Right. What's it like to play without an audience?

REDICK: Playing without fans has been surreal. There is an energy that they bring. You feed off that energy, And it creates these amazing moments and this amazing atmosphere. And that, to me, is what we're missing the most. They pumped in crowd noise. We've all seen the virtual fans that they've put up on the boards. Yesterday in our game, there was a goat.

FADEL: There was a goat?

REDICK: There was a goat. One of the fans was an actual goat. We've had celebrities pop in like Shaq and Lil Wayne. That's been fun. But we obviously miss having real fans in the stands.

FADEL: Right. You described it as being on a movie set.

REDICK: Yes. That's correct. It almost feels like you're on stage, like you're on a Broadway stage or you're part of some big production. All the locker rooms are these makeshift locker rooms. Some of the arenas you're out in the hallway, and you walk to the court, and there's these giant curtains. And you open the curtain, and then you walk on stage. And they've built scaffolding and put these lights up. It definitely feels like you're on a movie set or on a Broadway stage. It doesn't have the same feel as playing in an arena. And I know for a lot of people that have watched on television, they said, oh, this viewing experience is great. It feels pretty normal. But as a player, it's completely foreign to us.

FADEL: That was JJ Redick, co-host of "The Old Man And The Three" podcast. JJ Redick, thank you so much.

REDICK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.