Keeping 17 NBA bodies finely tuned and chiselled is no easy feat at the best of times.
But try doing it without being able to take any of those 17 into the gym, or even see them face to face for what looks like it will be at least a month and probably longer, and the job becomes infinitely tougher.
That is the task that falls to Raptors strength and conditioning coach Jon Lee.
But instead of tough, Lee is finding he has a lot of help from within these days, most of it coming from various veterans on the team.
In fact, Lee’s biggest concern right now is that the condo building floors of Serge Ibaka’s Toronto abode are sufficiently reinforced to withstand all the weights and equipment he’s having sent in.
“He was on the phone to me two days after (the Raptors’) self-isolation period began,” Lee said of the veteran big man. “I was packing up stuff from OVO (the Raptors’ practice facility) and getting it delivered to him. Today, I just had more stuff delivered over to him. I won’t be surprised if I have to send over more stuff in two days.”
It’s to the point now where Lee is only half-joking when he says he is concerned about the building Ibaka lives in, and whether it can take all that weight and equipment without causing some sort of cave-in.
But Ibaka is not the only Raptor pushing himself at home while the rest of us work on those worn-in marks on our collective couches.
Ibaka might be the extreme when it comes to wanting to maintain his fitness level while the world works on overcoming this coronavirus pandemic, but he’s not alone in a desire to stay at or as near as possible playing form.
Lee has another player — he chooses not to name him — who not only updates him daily with his workouts, but sends him screenshots of said workout complete with heart rates at particular intervals of said workout.
“This player is so highly motivated he went out and (purchased and had delivered) his own (equipment),” Lee said. “His own weights, his own bench, a monitoring system … That’s one area I am truly lucky in. We have real professional guys and when it comes down to our veteran guys, I really don’t have to worry.”
Even the young guys, who might not be as diligent in their daily workouts, hear from the veterans. Lee knows because they tell him.
The message is always a variation of the same truth: “We got that championship last year and we’re not happy with that,” Lee says. “We’re getting another one. We’re going to fight until we get the second one. We are in a position this year where we have a great chance.”
All that, of course, is contingent on this season actually being completed. Lee though says the work must go on and he has had absolutely zero pushback when he delivers that message.
“Be ready,” he tells them. “Be ready. We could be starting in one month, we could be starting in two months but you better be ready for us.”
With that in mind Lee provides various workouts to follow and has the equipment necessary delivered to them. The Raptors’ medical and training staff split the roster so that each has a handful of daily checks to make ensuring the work is being done and being done correctly. Not doing enough is bad. Doing too much is also harmful, so these daily checks are important.
The Raptors themselves have just completed their term of self-isolation after coming in close proximity to the virus two weeks ago Monday when they played against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. There are no reported positive tests on the roster. Some have chosen to ride out the pandemic here in Toronto. Others have chosen to return to their off-season homes.
But all are in constant contact and receiving constant support from the team.
Lee has already had stationary bikes, dumbbells and workout kits delivered to every player on the team and the coaching staff. He’s in the process of determining whether the numbers warrant another delivery of a treadmill to each and every guy on the team as well. Space could be a factor there, but the team is looking at that possibility too.
All of it is keeping Lee busy, which is good in a time like this, but he admits he’s a little out of sorts because his routine is completely off-kilter.
“The hardest part is not being around the team and the staff that you work with,” Lee said. “That was my day-to-day routine, for me for my last 10 years, and it’s kind of like the team is your second family and now you don’t get to see them anymore. There are some points in the season where you see the team and the staff more than you see your wife and daughter. It’s just kind of weird.”
RAPS TO FANS: STAY ACTIVE
The Raptors aren’t just concerned about their players’ fitness levels. They want their fans in on the game as well.
So with all of us being encouraged to stay at home, Raptors strength and conditioning coach Jon Lee has developed the Raptors Iso Challenge to incentivise fitness at home.
Download the @greenfly app to submit your challenge videos to fellow fans and show your high score using the code RAPTORSISOCHALLENGE.
Lee says the hardest part for Joe Q Public stuck at home and looking to work out is the beginning.
“My best advice is to start,” he says. “Just start doing a workout.
“Just get started at home whether it’s just doing five pushups, five squats and five burpees for example,” he says. “Then you add another one and go to six pushups, six squats, six burpees and so on. Create goals for yourself. Challenge yourself. Do something that makes you sweat, whether it’s for five minutes or 10 minutes or 30 minutes. But just get off the couch and actually try and do something.”
And when you get to the point where you’re really proud of yourself and doing something unique you would like to share with others, download the app and send it in.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020