With so many new faces in new places, building chemistry is essential. Here’s the perfect team-building activity for each NBA team to finish their summer with.
After a summer of shakeups, a handful of NBA franchises have turned to pre-season team-building exercises off the court in hopes of jump-starting team chemistry on it. With the league’s competitive landscape more balanced than ever the 2019-20 title is truly up for grabs and it’s to every team’s advantage to give their guys a synergic boost.
But genuine bonding calls for thoughtful activities based on shared interest and values, on observation and intuition, not a dusty box of donuts picked at throughout the day. With that in mind here’s a heartfelt list of the perfect team building activity for every franchise.
The reigning NBA champions are headed to Quebec City, Quebec, for training camp. While there, the team has an opportunity to bring back to the fore a historic — and patriotic — type of agility training that could give them a real rolling edge to their game this season: log driving.
In a league where any unique training routine could potentially serve as a physical advantage, the act of 6-foot-more guys trying to find their balance on sodden, raw, rolling sections of timber in rushing whitewater sounds as challenging as it does plain fun. Who doesn’t love a log ride? Who doesn’t love to live a little dangerously? Who doesn’t love the relief of removing a 4-inch thick splinter from their foot and putting the memory of that pain to use on the court in the form of frantic hopping to line up the perfect jumper, confounding each and every opponent to come?
Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James is nothing if not determined, and that determination definitely extends to fun. As in, the act of having it. To prove this point, James has mandated a team trip to Las Vegas prior to training camp with the sole focus of “having” “fun”.
The Lakers will dine where James wants them to dine (tacos, on a Tuesday, the trip must begin on a Tuesday), sleep where (and when) James wants them to sleep (four hours per night), partake in the entertainment Vegas is known for (no gambling, a tasteful show, like Cirque so long as there’s no nudity or suggestive stretching that goes against James’ preferred training regime so scratch that, Cirque’s out), and just generally enjoy what it means to Viva La Vegas (spend every waking hour in the satellite gym James will set up far, far from the Strip, like way out in the desert in a climate-controlled dome)!
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers already took one exciting and relatively carefree team building trip, chartering a yacht to take them out deep-sea fishing where they all, suspiciously, shared the same great luck for getting bites. I’m not saying it was a floating pen stocked with dumb idiot oversized goldfish out in the ocean, but…
For their next bit of franchise mandated fun (because there’s no way Steve Ballmer is letting this group take the requisite time it needs to develop chemistry organically) the fix will be on focus. Ballmer has organized meditative sound bath sessions in the bowels of Staples Center, where the acoustics are dungeon-leaning and great for this type of thing. Instead of using crystal bowls or any other instrument that would result in relaxing sound, Ballmer is going to do the same sort of furious screaming and clapping he did to open the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George welcome presser, but just for uninterrupted hours this time.
A live, table reading of The Departed. Gordon Hayward will read as Matt Damon’s character, the repressed Colin Sullivan, Jaylen Brown will be DiCaprio’s tormented Billy, Ennis Kanter will really nail the method role of Frank Costello, Jayson Tatum will affect a maturity that will confound Ben Simmons for years and do Oliver Queenan, and Kemba Walker will take on the explosive role of Dignam. It will take hours longer than necessary and everyone will end up incredibly upset.
Golden State Warriors
Sure, this is a team looking at a bit of a talent drain, but Steve Kerr and the Warriors organization is never one to panic. When in doubt, they doomsday prep. Stocking the bench with stars. They will take this approach one step further, building a new live-work practice facility on Alcatraz that will retain the “historic charm” of its predecessor. Here, players will train and live side by side, ferried to the city just for games and then right back to their new home where they can fully concentrate and more importantly, no one else will ever escape from.
Mike D’Antoni promises his players a team-building exercise that will be “out of this world”. He takes them to the Johnson Space Center for a specially arranged tour. James Harden has just seen Ad Astra and seems especially concerned with power surges. P.J. Tucker, thinking a spacesuit would be a cool addition to his Fall/Winter 2019 wardrobe, uses Harden’s grilling of scientists on “space energy” as a distraction and leads the entire Rockets roster save for Eric Gordon, who is trying to validate his parking, down a very long corridor no one notices is turning into an airlock. There is a series of loud and disorienting sounds, the ground begins shaking, and all players scramble for chairs in what they think is a simulation room. Russell Westbrook throws up, Clint Capela passes out, Austin Rivers is trying to contact Doc but loses reception, Tucker finds a spacesuit in a closet full of them and finds the perfect fit. Elated, it is not until he notices his teammates floating around that he understands his magnetized boots have locked him in place and the room has gone dark around him. Not dark, but glowing. He looks out a window and sees a blue globe, receding. The Houston Rockets are in space.
San Antonio Spurs
The triumphant return of Tim Duncan to the franchise is marked by a week-long Muay Thai tournament where Duncan kind-heartedly knocks everyone on their a**. The “traditional robes” he makes everyone wear look an awful lot like his signature oversized button-up shirts in various patterns and shades of brown, some have ‘TD’ written on the tags in permanent marker.
Boban takes everyone to a local library. The guys get really excited because they think either they are about to meet Keanu Reeves or Boban is going to show them the moves from his fight scene in John Wick 3, but it turns out Boban is just a great supporter of libraries. He wants everyone to get a card.
The Chicago Bulls are a lot like the Bermuda Triangle. They were a global obsession when you were a kid, capable of disrupting time and space, and then suddenly GPS got better and Michael Jordan retired three separate times. I don’t know, pizza party?
New York Knicks
Forced to attend one of Billy Joel’s residency gigs at MSG by James Dolan, it turns out the Knicks didn’t realize Joel had all those hits. They’re hooked!
Jimmy Butler rents Jet Skis for the entire team to rip around Biscayne Bay but won’t let anyone take them out until they attend a timeshare meeting put on by his close friend Mark Wahlberg, who is trying his hand at real estate. No one but Kelly Olynyk shows because Dion Waiters, mixing up the dates, invited everyone to a Miami Sound Machine concert and they’ve all got front row seats.
Being a franchise primarily based on aesthetics, the team decides to go and get a haircut together. One problem: the hip Brooklyn barbershop they end up at is staffed only by Broadway hopefuls who themselves were hired based on the very nice haircuts they displayed in their professional headshots and none of them actually know how to cut hair. Kyrie Irving plays with a wig for all of October and November, out of necessity, then for the rest of the season because he likes it. Kevin Durant gets one too, but more for disguise purposes.
Hot off a summer of crashing weddings, Mike Scott introduces his teammates to the amped up joy of being so proximal to matrimony that the Sixers start a series of events for singles called Sixers Mixers. They soon expand to offer wedding planning services for those who meet at these functions and all packages include an on-court proposal at halftime during games. You know what they say, the team that plays and plans weddings together, will stay together at least until free agency.
The Cavs visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame but don’t make it past Johnny Cash’s bus parked outside because Matthew Dellavedova gets himself locked in and the rest of the day is spent trying to get him out.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The focus for the Thunder, rather than team building, will be to affix themselves to Chris Paul so that he may not leave the city. They’re calling it Paul Wall and it’s basically Steve Adams showing up to CP3’s place every morning and giving him a hang loose from the driveway, but then Adams points his thumb and pinky at his eyes and points them back to Paul, to show that he is watching him, constantly. He’s scared and it’s working!
The billionaire ownership group of the Bucks are big fans of hunting. While their preference is typically for rare and exotic game, they decide deer will do. Weirdly militaristically, the team is loaded sleepily into a camouflaged school bus one morning before sunrise, windows treated with olive green netting so that they can’t see out. They are given fluorescent orange vests, warm hats, rifles and dropped unceremoniously in a clearing out in the woods of northern Wisconsin. Robin and Brook Lopez finally wake up. Giannis Antetokounmpo is miserable. Kyle Korver is a vegan. George Hill uses his excellent AAA perks to call for a tow, promising to come back for the rest of the team after he climbs in the cab.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans front office gives the team their own personal mini Mardi Gras but it backfires when the King Cake Baby’s giant, shining fibreglass diaper falls off and everyone becomes addicted to beignets!
What’s better than trust falls? Trust cannonballs. The Jazz will truck out to the Great Salt Lake to launch themselves with real aplomb into its salinic waters. The best part is, when guys inevitably get distracted, tired, or don’t want to admit they aren’t that great of swimmers, all that salt in the water will buoy up their bodies. Bonus: No one drowns. Double bonus: They will remember that day with a fondness for the rest of their lives, the day their teammates helped them to float.
They’ll shave the Gorilla in the night. Right down to the rubber. They’ll expose it for the evil it is and cast it out, finally free from its demonic influence.
Portland Trail Blazers
The team opens up a stand at the Portland Farmers Market. CJ McCollum makes handmade pasta the way he learned this past summer on his trip to Italy, Kent Bazemore sells fermented vegetables called Baze’s Krazy Krauts, Damian Lillard sells supplements called Lill’s Pills and Pau Gasol has everybody tasting olives and shaving Iberico ham right off a dangling leg. They get shut down pretty fast for not following any safe food handling protocol but it’s fun for the four hours it lasts.
The Pistons go to the famed Motown Museum! They enjoy the tour. They get to the historic recording studio and the guide has them spontaneously start ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’. Andre Drummong solos for the first time in his life. He’s nervous, but he nails it. They press a record right there. It goes Gold, then Platinum. They want to take this thing on the road. Dwane Casey tries but can’t stop them, his already hoarse voice gone hoarser from singing along to the song at the top of his lungs driving to and from practice every day. Blake Griffin has beautiful jackets made for the stage. They reduce hundreds of thousands of people to tears every night. They get big. Too big. The center cannot hold (like physically Drummond gets really bad carpal tunnel and can’t hold the mic). They break up. They become estranged. One day one of them hears the song they made coming from an old radio. They get back together. It’s October 7, the Pistons first preseason game is here.
The Kings will lift Buddy Hield to the precipice of the inexplicable, ancient-from-1997 Sacramento Ziggurat and ask him to smile. For the first time in the history of humanity it won’t be rude. They’ll dance and weep in the blinding light of it.
Andrew Wiggins will miraculously stop pouting for once. It will overcome the team chemically, like a second puberty that sticks.
The Hornets, arguably in the worst market there is and with nothing to lose, will do a big heist to get the source of their power and best friend Kemba Walker back. They’ll nab him up just as he delivers his last lines in the Celtics live table reading of The Departed, while everyone is too stupified by Walker’s delivery to notice him being kidnapped before their eyes by a guy who looks suspiciously like Terry Rozier but with a monocle and Bismack Biyombo but with a witches hat and nose and also little cauldron for candy (the Halloween costume came with all three).
There are some real mysteries in this universe. The meaning of life, single packaged hard-boiled eggs, and why Victor Oladipo’s prowess as a chanteur has not received the same notoriety as his game. In order to properly sing his praises, the Pacers will take vocal lessons with Oladipo and grow not only as a team, but as a culture, because of it.
Really I would just like to see G-Wiz fight Stuff the Magic Dragon for the title of most truly magical creature. A mascot bloodbath will always bring people together.
This is easy. In honour of what may be his last year in the league, the Hawks will stage a 2000 Dunk Contest for Vince Carter. They will provide Carter with a judging booth draped in purple silks and velvet, he will recline, resplendent, in robes to match. From there he will watch every player on the roster attempt each and every one of his perfect dunks from that night, confident that they will never be achieved. It is ultimately a lesson in futility, which is a lesson in life, which is probably why the Dunk Contest is so appealing, and anyway a great occasion for Vince Carter to be worshipped in a gown.
Because he had so much fun this past summer setting up a giant inflatable fun-zone on his lawn for basically no reason, Aaron Gordon recreates it with team building in mind. Everything is going great, lots of innocent fun, until the rubber surfaces, heating in the Central Florida sun, begin to give the players contact burns. Their whooping shouts of joy also attracting whooping cranes, which in turn attract gators. Soon, Gordon’s swampy boulevard is frothing with deadly reptiles.
In a move many will lament later as “maybe too literal to be fun,” the roster of the Denver Nuggets will go on a tour of the Hidee Gold Mine, just a 45 minute drive from Denver, and promptly get trapped. At first, they will, of course, think it’s an experiential part of the tour, but when Rocky the Mountain Lion begins to succumb to oxygen deprivation they will start to panic. After a grueling 91 days trapped underground, effectively missing the first half of the season, Nikola Jokić will finally let his malnourished and near-to-perishing teammates know he and his friends frequently got stuck in the many copper mines of their Serbian youth.
A little annoyed, but freed, his teammates forgive him. Jokić did not want to appear the braggart. But, with the team bonded firmly by terror and all having developed a keen new sense of night vision, the exercise proves the most successful of any franchise bonding effort.
Fractional team owner Justin Timberlake will get wind the Grizzlies are looking for something fun to do together to set the tone for the season. He will take everyone to a private, secret screening of Trolls which, as far as anyone knows, including Timberlake, has maybe not even come out yet? Did it ever? Will it? When?