The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Five days in ‘quarantine time’ with an NBA player

Wizards guard Ish Smith kept an audio diary for a week during the NBA’s shutdown. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
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Washington Wizards point guard Ish Smith recently kept an audio diary of his daily routine for The Washington Post, capturing what his life is like during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Smith, 31, was in his first season in Washington when the NBA suspended play in March. The Charlotte native lives in Alexandria during the season. This has been edited for length and clarity by The Post’s Rick Maese.

Day 1: ‘I got options’

Man, just getting up. Feels like a routine now. Just kind of getting up at 10 a.m. It’s crazy because I don’t go to bed until like 3 or 4 a.m. now. I call it “quarantine time.”

I try to keep the same routine as if I’m getting ready for a day of practice: brush my teeth, shower, the usual.

So I’m heading downstairs. I found a new love during this quarantine time for a pastime of mine: video games. I’m probably going to eat me some breakfast, which is the most important meal of the day. Anybody that knows me knows I need my breakfast. After that, “Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot” will be played. I got to beat this game, y’all.

Now I’m sitting here foam-rolling. I did get a workout in. It’s crazy because during these quarantine times, you just work out at random times. There have been times I’ve woken up from a nap at 9 p.m. and worked out at 1 and 2 a.m. It’s crazy.

Workout complete. I got to recover a little bit, find me something good to eat. Grilled chicken sandwich right here. Oh, man! So I’m not the best cook, but I can tell you this: I know how to butter this bread and then heat up this chicken. Our organization has done such a great job. We got this Flik food service. We place an order, they cook it, and we pick it up. Other players got significant others, or some of them can cook. I’m not terrible. I can follow instructions. But with this: The chicken’s already made; I just microwave it.

Okay, going to go upstairs, shower and get ready to Netflix and chill. Obviously, Netflix and chill by myself. Might get into video games; I don’t know. I got options.


Day 2: ‘What’s today’s date?’

Oh, man, let me get up. Yawn. It’s a beautiful day. Need to go outside and possibly take a walk. I dunno. What’s today’s date? April 19?

I’m so happy about this Jordan documentary. No offense to anybody else in the conversation, but to me, it’s not even a discussion: It’s Michael Jordan, and everybody else is just fighting for second.

It’s funny when I’m in here by myself, I try to go to every room that’s not being used. So I’m sitting here in a guest bedroom watching “Rush Hour.” Just watching, chilling.

Day 3: ‘We won’t go back to normal’

Ah, man, what time is it? It’s like 8:30. Man, this might be the first time I’ve been up earlier than 9 a.m. Let’s see what we’re going to watch on TV while I’m just laying here. You know what’s crazy? I been on a “Cheers” kick lately. Season 5, Episode 11. Kind of binge-watching it while adding other shows to my repertoire and video games.

Man, I’m the king of Uber Eats. I know during this pandemic, it’s been kind of difficult as far as cleaning, washing hands and different things like that. I’m doing all those precautionary things, making sure I’m safe. They drop the food off at the door. Most of people who are driving have masks on and gloves, so that’s good. I do all the proper things — wipe it down with Lysol just to make sure everything is good and safe. My loved ones stay on top of me about that.

Got Dragon Ball Z set up. Got my LL Cool J playing in background. Come on, man, here ya go. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon. Go get him. Go get him. There you go. I knew that kick was coming, bro. Ohh. Block, block, block, block. This man does the same move over and over again, yo. It’s all right. I’m going to give it a rest for a little bit and regroup before I break the remote.

TV off. Time to knock out. With everything that’s going on right now, at the end of the night you just kind of lie back, have a time of reflection, time of prayer for all of us to continue to be strong, all of us to have strong peace of mind.

I always look at the glass half-full. We will come out of this, and when we come out of this, we won’t go back to normal. I remember the beginning of the pandemic, I kept saying that I can’t wait until we’re back to normal. But in all actuality, when we come back, we’ll be stronger and we’ll be better.

Being in the house allows me to think about all the little things that during the season I don’t have as much time for: family — talking to them constantly — talking to my fiancee, talking to my friends. I know they’re getting tired of me because I’m calling every five seconds. There’s a lot of things I didn’t know I was missing out on, because I’m usually so busy and so locked in with the season.

Day 4: ‘We will get back to playing basketball’

Good morning. Woke up relatively early this morning. 8 o’clock. I don’t know why I woke up so hungry.

Knock out this little workout. The team sent us these bikes — Assault AirBikes. All the athletes can attest to this: The hardest part is staying in shape during this time. This bike ain’t no joke. The home workout — I must say it can be harder. It involves a lot of bands, a lot of core, a lot of different things that work different parts of the body. Legs, stability, core, which is really the things that I need as a basketball player. I remember in college, we used to go hard and lift. We used to lift, lift, lift. Times have changed because now everything is bands, core, stability while still having strength. That’s the beauty about life. Everything is constantly evolving. Got to evolve with the times.

Whew. Workout complete, y’all. I went 20 seconds on, pedaling as fast as I can, and then 20 seconds off, for eight sets. Then I went down, 20 seconds on, 15 seconds off for four sets. Then 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Got to keep the conditioning up. It’s a different kind of conditioning, though. Can’t be Lance Armstrong or a cyclist or even like football players or soccer players. Their conditioning is a little different. Ours is so much stop and go, change of direction.

I know once all this is done, obviously we’ll be back to a fast schedule and going. But I hope and pray I use this time so that when we do go back, I don’t forget the little things we’re going through.

Being here by myself, it’s just me, which is not bad. It gives me a lot of time to read, think, pray. Sometimes — it’s funny — I yell in the house just so I can hear another voice echo off. But it’s really my voice. Arghhh! See?

So, yeah, kind of doing this by myself. It’s okay. I don’t feel lonely. I don’t feel like I’m in here by myself. I’ve been on 11 different teams. I’ve kind of made this journey with my family being by my side every step of the way. It’s a journey — just picking up and moving, picking up and moving. So I’ve spent a lot of time in the house, chilling, reflecting, having fun, video games, like I said.

Ah, man, what time is it? It’s almost 4 o’clock. My sleep pattern got thrown off today. What’s crazy is I sit here, sometimes when you’re sitting late at night, you reflect and think back. I think back to that day, March 11. I’d been out for three or four games with a minor hamstring injury. But I was going to be back. I was going to play. But on March 11, everything shut down.

I was like, this ain’t real, is it? It kind of felt surreal, like it wasn’t true. Then I think reality set in. I’m like, yo, this is something serious.

When Rudy Gobert first got the virus — which was kind of the first domino — my first concern was, is he all right? Once they said he’s okay, then you start to get inquisitive: What were the symptoms? What’s the deal?

I remember that day, everything got put on hold — just a stop sign. We will get back to playing basketball. I know everybody’s working hard at it. Some people are talking about us all going out to Las Vegas, playing out the rest of the season in a bubble. For me, going out there playing for a couple months, entertaining, allowing people to get their mind off what’s going on and being able to do something we love — I’m all for it.

Day 5: ‘Tomorrow’s a new day’

We had a Zoom meeting at 10 a.m. We went over film of Game 3 of the 2017 playoffs where Atlanta beat the Wizards. We had a really good dialogue going. We talked about the intricacies in the game, the adjustments from Game 1 to 2 to 3. The nuances of what each team was doing, the level of play you want to play at — just doing a lot of analyzing.

You can always get better mentally. Obviously, there’s restrictions on how much we can do physically right now, but mentally, we can always get stronger. You can get better by watching film, analyzing yourself and others, what you would do in those specific moments and situations, put yourself in those shoes.

From there, I went to go pick up the food for the week from my practice facility. It’s always nice to do that joyride. On the way back, I took the long way through D.C. instead of back through Virginia — the scenic route, I would like to say.

My fiancee ordered me some body wash I needed from Target, so I picked that up. The young lady who brought it out had her gloves on and everything. I came home, wiped it all down with Lysol like my mother keeps telling me to do.

We got a Zoom workout tomorrow. We’ll do some ballhandling. It’s a chance to see all the guys. It’s funny because, during the season, we’re constantly around each other. So these little Zoom meetings go a long way. It kind of keeps us connected.

It always feels good when you have a busy day. Anytime I can get in my car and drive around, I’m happy. It’s a blessing. But tomorrow’s a new day, and that’s what we got to be thankful about despite everything that’s going on.

Listen to Smith explain how he’s handling the pandemic by checking out The Post’s “All Told” podcast.