NBA players compared and shared wine in bubble; J.J. Redick explains
The routine for New Orleans Pelicans guard J.J. Redick became as customary as it is for him to take a jump shot. It seemed just as easy for him, too.
After spending his downtime in the NBA campus bubble enjoying wine and conversation, it did not take much to convince Redick to extend that passion further. Redick will be the first NBA player to participate in Acker Wines’ virtual tasting series, “All-Stars Uncorked,” which will begin at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday through Zoom.
“It was a fairly easy commitment for me,” Redick told USA TODAY Sports. “I get to drink wine and get to talk some wine.”
Redick will be the first of five NBA players appearing on the weekly virtual chat to discuss their favorite vino while talking hoops. Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony (Sept. 29), former NBA All-Star Paul Pierce (Oct. 6), Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (Oct. 13) and Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (Oct. 20) will follow suit. All of which might remind Redick of those off-night conversations he had with NBA teammates over bottles of wine in the bubble.
Q&A PART TWO: Redick on being an ally in fight against systemic racism
Q&A PART THREE: Redick on future and potential for Zion, Ingram, Lonzo
This is part one of a three-part Q&A, which has been edited for length and clarity.
What was the wine-drinking experience like in the NBA bubble?
Redick: “There wasn’t a ton to do in the bubble because we weren’t with our families. A lot of it was playing basketball, being on the bus to and from the gym, and then you’d get done with practice or get done with a game. A lot of guys had wine shipped into the bubble and so it was about sharing those wines.
“I got Josh Hart to become a burgundy lover, which I thought was going to be long shot. The guy is hell-bent on Napa Cabernets and Bordeaux. But he came around, which I’m excited about. I got to share some wine with Melo and Josh one night in the players’ lounge and we drank some Bordeaux. The whole thing was about shared experiences and having great conversation. It’s another connecting point for us and players. Competitively, we all want to bring the best bottle.”
Who brought the best bottle?
Redick: “In my little circle of T.J. McConnell, Doug McDermott, Tobias Harris and Josh Hart, it was usually me. But Josh has got some great Bordeaux in his collection.
“I had a little wine meal with Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, Russell Westbrook, Doug, TJ and myself. Then (former Pelicans coach) Alvin Gentry and (Orlando Magic general manager) John Hammond happened to be sitting at the table next to us. So I shared a couple of sips with them.
“Our whole experience of the bubble was so abnormal. So being able to sit down with guys, share wine and share conversations was, for me at least, very important for my mental well-being.”
You expressed concerns beforehand about not being comfortable going into the bubble. How did you see that play out in real time?
Redick: “The one part of it that was a great surprise and a real positive is we all felt really safe. Other than a couple of outliers, there was a complete buy-in on the protocols. We had complete buy-in on the rules. Once we got that first week out of the way and there were zero positive tests after the arrivals, you could sense there was a level of safety that we had. Once we got into weeks three and four and we still had zero tests, you’re like, ‘All right, this might be the safest place right now in America.'”
What challenges did you anticipate being away from family, and how did that play out? (Redick has two sons: 6-year-old Knox and 4-year-old Kai)
Redick: “I expected it to be the hardest part, and it was. That was just the reality. It’s why I enjoy a team sport. I think the tendency for me is to feel lonely. That happens a lot during the season where you’re on the road and you go into the city, and you don’t know anybody in the city. Maybe your teammates are doing something with their family members and you’re just isolated and you’re away from your family. To have that play out for seven weeks was very difficult.
“But the great thing was we were all in that same situation. We all got to bond together and share meals and share experiences. We golfed together. We sat in the pool and the cold tub together. We had all of these shared experiences. That made it a little bit easier.
“But when my wife is sending me videos of my son teaching himself to dive into a pool and I’m not there to be with him to do that, it was hard. There’s a lot of things that you miss when you have young children in a seven-week period. All of us that have kids and family members felt that longing to be with them.”