March 11 will always hold a place in sports fans’ hearts as the day the NBA postponed its season and created a cascade of other leagues following suit. But or Frank Kaminsky, it started out quite positive. That mid-March day for Kaminsky began with being cleared for action after missing 33 games with a stress fracture in his knee.
Kaminsky was naturally one of the first to hit the court at Veterans Memorial Coliseum this month when the NBA allowed players to work out individually in cities where local ordinances allowed gyms to reopen. Fortunately for Kaminsky, Phoenix was among those locales, and though the Suns’ arena and its new practice facility are under construction, he has been able to get up shots and be on the hardwood again at the Madhouse.
“It’s a good sign that things are starting to get more safer, that’s the way I’m taking it,” Kaminsky said on a call Thursday morning with local media. “There’s a lot more information out there and we’re starting to understand what’s going on. As long as we can stay healthy and build toward something good, I’m all for that.”
That naturally has led both nationally and in the Valley to a discussion about the form the NBA season will take when it likely resumes sometime in July. Namely, will the Suns be involved?
Kaminsky said he has been on many of the calls between the league office and the players in recent weeks, and is feeling optimistic.
“You just hear a lot of different things,” he said. “No one’s too committal on any set plan yet. There are a lot of rumors and things you’re hearing that it is going to resume. All we can do at this point is prepare for that to happen.”
After weeks of individual rehab at home through phone calls with the Suns’ training staff and using a set of weights and equipment he bought this spring, Kaminsky is understandably determined to play again this year. He said it would be a “crushing blow” if the season could not go on.
In order to recreate some semblance of normalcy, Kaminsky even moved his speakers outside and blares them while he works out in his backyard. While comfortable for a pro athlete, the setup alarmed neighbors and led to multiple meetings with the police, who had to ask him to turn it down.
With the time off, Kaminsky has also been reminiscing on the incredible opening night performance at Talking Stick Resort Arena, dreaming of taking the floor with his teammates again. The former Hornet hasn’t even played with Deandre Ayton yet this year because their injuries were offset.
“I really want to get back to that,” Kaminsky said. “I really want to play in this system and this style with the guys on this team.”
What the rest of the year looks like will play a major role in whether the Suns decide to pick up Kaminsky’s player option for next season, which would cost the Suns $5 million next season. Without having seen much of Kaminsky alongside their other players, the decision would likely lean toward declining the option, but if Kaminsky can make an impact on the court during a modified version of the rest of the season, maybe that helps his case.
Yet Kaminsky admitted there hasn’t been a lot of contract discussion, understandably, as the organization reeled from the pandemic.
“The focus has really been to get healthy again,” Kaminsky said. “I really like it here, I really like this staff. I came here for an opportunity to play with a lot of these guys.”
The process of getting back to full-on basketball will be long, but Kaminsky said “a lot” of the players have joined him at the Madhouse for workouts, though he declined to name names. Right now, it hardly feels like teamwork, though, as players are mandated to stay 12 feet away from one another and abide by public health guidelines.
In other words, it feels exactly like life right now. NBA players — they’re just like us.
“It’s definitely weird coming into the arena and getting your temperature checked every day, coming in with a mask on,” Kaminsky said. “You’re used to in your workouts having somebody up close to you, setting screens, rebounding for you. … (But) you get used to it pretty quick. If this is the way that we get access to basketball workouts, so be it.”
Having covered Kaminsky all season, I take his passion to get back on the court as genuine. Some guys are negotiating through this crisis with their eyes on the stacks of money awaiting them, but Kaminsky truly wanted to come to Phoenix to be in a system that catered to his strengths and rehabilitate his value in a city and organization he believed in.
Because of his injury and the postponement of the season, Kaminsky lost out on that opportunity. His situation is the perfect example of what is at stake for ordinary players during this crisis.
“I’ll go to Saturn to play basketball at this point,” he said. “It’s been a long time for me, so if it’s Orlando, if it’s Las Vegas, I’m pretty sure anyone would be excited to go anywhere.”
No one yet knows where or when the NBA will return, but plans are solidifying, and Kaminsky hopes it will help him finish his business in Year 1 with the Suns.