Bucks' Kyle Korver recalls lockout with Bulls as NBA goes dark again


Kyle Korver got married.

That’s how the NBA veteran used the 2011 lockout, back when he played for the Bulls.

“The NBA calendar causes enough marriage challenges as it is,” the Bucks guard said in a phone conversation. “To get a nice little chunk of time where you’re not on the road right away, we wanted to take advantage of that.”

Now, Korver, like the rest of not only the sports world but society, is hunkered down with his family that that marriage created.

Nobody is comparing a work stoppage caused by two wealthy sides negotiating how to split a billion-dollar pie to a global pandemic. But Korver owns the select vantage point of being employed by title-contending teams the last two times the NBA went from its typical 60 mph pace to zero.

“There is so much unknown,” Korver said.

The 2011-12 Bulls were coming off their five-game loss in the Eastern Conference finals to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat. Derrick Rose was the reigning most valuable player, the youngest in league history. Matters looked promising for a sustained run in a wide-open championship window.

Instead, on July 1, 2011, owners began a lockout.

“We weren’t allowed to be at the facilities obviously. I’ve trained at P3 in Santa Barbara, Calif., the last 12 or 13 summers. I was there quite a bit,” Korver said. “When I came back to Chicago, I was working out at Loyola. I’d shoot there and then go back to Santa Barbara.

“I was training pretty hard and was pretty stressed. I got a hernia. You don’t know if you’re training hard enough. Are you going to be prepared? When is this season going to start? Try to take advantage of that time. But it’s not like it’s a vacation. You gotta be ready at a moment’s notice just in case.”

Indeed, a tentative agreement was reached on Nov. 26, training camps opened in mid-December and the Bulls played the first game of the entire NBA season at the Lakers on Christmas Day.

“The schedule in that lockout year was stupid. We played 66 games in, like, 90 days,” Korver said. “That was bad for our team.”

Indeed, injuries hit the Bulls, most notably to Rose, who played in just 39 games. Nevertheless, the Bulls led the NBA in regular-season victories for the second straight season, going 50-16. Korver played in 65 games and averaged 8.1 points while shooting 43.5 percent from 3-point range.

“We had a great team,” Korver said. “We just ran out of gas.”

More specifically, Rose infamously tore his left ACL in the first game of the playoffs against the 76ers. By the time Joakim Noah grotesquely sprained his left ankle in the first-round series against the 76ers, the upset was basically sealed.

The 8th-seeded 76ers advanced, and the Bulls never fully recovered, buried in a sea of Rose knee injuries.

Korver’s Bucks are 53-12, the current No. 1 overall seed. But instead of games, there are group texts as players are mostly staying home, promoting social distancing in the face of the growing pandemic.

“How does this work? None of us know. There’s even more uncertainty than that lockout year. This has never happened before,” Korver said. “The reality is you’re probably going to come back and maybe you get a couple (regular-season) games, maybe you don’t, and it’s playoff games. So it’s not like you’re going to come in and get a training camp.

“It’s not what any of would want obviously. We had really good momentum as a team. In our head, after All-Star break, we talked about really ramping up and getting more focused. We have championship aspirations. And now you go to a 0. We’re not even allowed into the facility as a group. It adds to the uncertainty for us. Obviously, everyone’s health — not just ours but the world’s — is most important. It’s kind of an interesting headspace to be in.”

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