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LSAT prep, DJ sets and virtual golf: How NBA players are staying sharp

ON APRIL 18, instead of concocting a game plan to possibly defend Giannis Antetokounmpo on the opening day of the NBA playoffs, Garrett Temple was locked in on antithesis passages in his online LSAT prep course.

With the 2019-20 NBA season on hold since March 11 due to the coronavirus, the Brooklyn Nets wing has been putting in the hours studying, listening to law podcasts and talking to professors as part of his weekly preparation for the Law School Admission Test.

While some players have tried to fill the basketball void with video games or training routines, others have taken on new challenges to stay sharp. From mastering a second language to becoming handy around the house to diving into a Lego world, players are finding ways to stay engaged.

And one might even be law school-bound, with sights on a perfect 180 LSAT score.

“I can’t let — what’s her name on ‘Legally Blonde’ got a 179 — Elle Woods [beat me],” Temple said. “I really want to do it and get a great score.”

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BEFORE THE SUSPENSION, Temple had long been contemplating life after basketball. The 10-year journeyman graduated from LSU in 2009 with an undergraduate business degree and considered getting his MBA. His father, Collis Temple, told him that a law degree would be more beneficial.

Collis is an entrepreneur in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was the first black varsity basketball player at LSU after Turner’s grandfather, Collis Temple Sr., was not allowed to attend graduate school at LSU because of his skin color.

Temple’s interest in pursuing a law degree was further piqued after watching a TED talk by Adam Foss, a former assistant district attorney in Boston and advocate for criminal justice reform. The final push came when Temple met Bryan Stevenson, the nationally acclaimed public interest lawyer and social justice activist depicted in the 2019 film “Just Mercy.”

“I think you can create a lot of change in your own community,” Temple said. “Help change the prison industrial complex and school-to-prison pipeline in my community, the black community.”

Temple has immersed himself in science podcasts and magazines with help from his fiancée, Kára McCullough, a scientist with a concentration in radiochemistry.

She has also often forced Temple to take breaks from hours of studying. The veteran guard just can’t help himself.

“It’s providing structure. I’m really enjoying it,” Temple said.

“I mean, we ain’t got nothing else to do. So I’m studying, man. Just trying to better myself.”


CODY ZELLER KNEW next to nothing about carpentry before the season went on hiatus. But a month and a half in, the Charlotte Hornets center can now build a closet befitting a 7-footer. (It’s a skill that has been quicker to learn than playing the guitar, which others such as Antetokounmpo and Patty Mills have also picked up.)

After Zeller’s brother, Tyler, a free agent who most recently played with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2019, purchased a home in Indiana, Cody has been helping with do-it-yourself home-improvement projects.

“I took responsibility for [Tyler’s] master closet,” Zeller said. “I had no woodworking ability before. I’ve learned how to use a miter saw, a table saw. We put it together.”

“Everybody and their mother is gonna have a podcast when we are done with this quarantine.”

Georges Niang

Lack of experience? That was nothing a few YouTube tutorials couldn’t solve — almost.

“I will say, full disclosure, I had to [build] it twice,” Zeller said, “because the first time I messed up.”

Zeller cut, sanded and painted all the wood and built a seven-tier shelf rack. But when he went to fasten the frame to the wall, he had forgotten one tiny yet crucial detail.

“I realized I hadn’t accounted for the space between the closet rod and the shelf above it, so there was no room for the hangers to hang on the closet,” Zeller said. “So it was back to the drawing board.

“That was like three days’ worth of work down the drain. Anyway, long story short, it looks great now.”


THIS EXTRA DOWNTIME has given John Collins the chance to master a second language and get more in touch with his family heritage. Collins, whose mother is part Puerto Rican, has been taking Spanish lessons via Rosetta Stone and the Duolingo app.

The Atlanta Hawks big man took Spanish classes in high school in West Palm Beach, Florida, before continuing courses during his two years at Wake Forest.

“I never had a chance to finish — obviously I left school early,” Collins said. “But it’s always been something that I’ve wanted to finish just ’cause I have been around it so much, and I want to learn.”

Although he could grasp what his grandfather and other relatives were saying during conversations, Collins found writing in Spanish to be difficult. After the first few weeks of quarantine, Collins wasn’t sure how much his Spanish was improving.

“I’m better than where I was,” Collins said. “To get real growth, I got to go over to a Spanish-speaking country.

“Hopefully one day I will get the opportunity.”


USED TO MAINTAINING a strict in-season schedule, Utah Jazz forward Georges Niang found the extra free time jarring.

The team dropped off a stationary bike and weights so he could keep up with daily exercises, but video games have grown boring, Netflix has provided only so many hours of entertainment, and sleeping in has lost its appeal.

So he started the “Drive & Dish” podcast and video series with help from the Jazz.

“Everybody and their mother is gonna have a podcast when we are done with this quarantine,” he said.

After an unsuccessful foray into Instagram Live — “It was horrible content,” Niang said — “Drive & Dish” debuted on March 31 and has delved into quarantine life with Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell, the Olympics postponement with two-time soccer gold medalist Amy Rodriguez and the Michael Jordan Game 6 winner with former Jazz player Bryon Russell.

Niang even has his own theme song and logo.

The podcast’s name is inspired by his team nickname. In the Jazz locker room, Niang is known as “the minivan” because he likens his teammates to Ferraris while thinking of himself as a less luxurious vehicle.

“I need a couple laps around the block before I get warmed up,” Niang said. “Hop in the minivan and drive and dish.”


KENT BAZEMORE HAS been teeing it up at some of the best golf courses in the country. Virtually, that is.

The Sacramento Kings swingman has been regularly retreating to the basement of his Atlanta home, honing his skills on a golf simulator that would rival Tiger Woods’ personal setup. Video cameras and sensors track Bazemore’s every hook, slice, chip and putt.

“It is about as in-depth as I can get without being a professional golfer,” said Bazemore, who earlier this month took down former teammate Stephen Curry in a virtual match at Pebble Beach.

Now the lefty has a chance to get serious about his golf game. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, Bazemore takes virtual golf lessons with his instructor, Jon Tattersall, the 2014 Georgia PGA Teacher of the Year.

And Bazemore still drives to a real golf course once a week — Georgia is one of a handful of states allowing courses to stay open.

“I am on a quest to become a scratch golfer,” Bazemore said. “My handicap right now is at 8 and I need it to be down to 0.”

To get over the next hump, Bazemore said he plans on working with a sports psychologist.

“There’s a lot of things that go into becoming [a scratch golfer],” Bazemore said. “I’m on the fringe. This is the closest I’ve ever been.”


THOUSANDS HAVE FLOCKED to social media over the past month to listen to DJs such as D-Nice spin sets on Instagram Live.

Now Andre Drummond has joined the wave.

On April 20, the Cleveland Cavaliers center kicked off “Drummond Quarantine Radio,” which features Drummond with DJ Drewski from the center’s Miami home.

Last week, Drummond hosted a “ladies night” set, when viewers could make song requests. And he put on “Talent Show Thursday,” which featured an appearance by actor and comedian Michael Rapaport, among other special guests.

Drummond’s no novice. He goes by the rap name “DRUMMXND” and is planning on releasing his second album, “FYI 2,” soon.

He won’t be the only NBA player releasing new music during quarantine. Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon dropped his Dwyane Wade- and dunk contest loss-inspired diss track “9 out of 10” on Monday.

On Tuesday, Gordon made a guest appearance on the seventh episode of “Drummond Quarantine Radio.” Drummond pointed out that for as long as they’ve known each other, he never knew of Gordon’s desire to put out rap songs.

“I mean we got a lot of time on our hands right now, ya hear me?” said Gordon, who started making music before this season and is working with Grammy Award winner Austin Owens, also known as Ayo The Producer.

“I get to tap into my creative side,” Gordon added. “Get in touch with emotions and express myself.”

Gordon then gave DRUMMXND his next quarantine endeavor — to deliver some new rap hooks.

“We putting together a project, [with] athletes, with Ayo,” Gordon said. “We need you on the project.”

“We need a couple of verses for the project. Please.”


LOCAL GYMS SHUT down after Dallas County issued a shelter-in-place order on March 23, but Myles Turner had to find a way to get in weight training while staying in the guest house of the Texas home he built for his parents.

So the Indiana Pacers center jumped online to find the nearest squat rack — more than 100 miles away in Waco.

“In Texas, that’s nothing,” said Turner, who embarked on the four-hour round trip along Interstate 35. “That’s just an easy drive, right down the street.”

Turner then built the multipurpose squat rack and bench press in under two hours with help from friends. It’s now the centerpiece of a once near-empty garage he’s converted into his personal gym, complete with medicine balls, adjustable dumbbells and a padded floor.

“I gotta improvise,” said Turner, who last week shared his passion for yoga via a live class on the NBA’s Instagram page. “I’ve always kind of been into just putting stuff together.”

And when he didn’t have a screwdriver or wrench in his hand, Turner was still busy building. He assembled one Lego set, and his latest creation — a 2,000-piece Star Wars jigsaw puzzle — was completed in about a week.

“I am about to go to Target right now,” he said, “and get a basketball hoop for outside.”

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