NBA players benefiting from portable hoops during pandemic

As Tyler Herro was in the midst of moving from his Miami apartment into a house as the coronavirus pandemic went on, he received a surprise text message from his Heat teammate Jimmy Butler's agent, Bernie Lee, asking for the new address.

The Heat rookie replied, not asking any additional questions or thinking much of it. Then, several days after the exchange, a portable basketball hoop arrived at his doorstep, courtesy of Butler.

"I actually just moved into a house two weeks ago, so when he actually sent me the rim, it was perfect timing so I have it set up in my driveway right now," Herro told ESPN. "I've been working out on it every day."

Butler collaborated with Utah-based company Lifetime Products to ship out 21 portable hoops to Heat players and members of the coaching staff to stay sharp amid the league suspension.

The plan is to donate the hoops to youth centers and schools in the Miami area once the players are able to return to practice facilities.

"I love the game, so whatever's available for us or for me to be able to work out is really whatever we can make work and what we've got to do right now," Herro said. "So, having just that hoop, some guys aren't even able to do that because they stay in apartments, so when I moved into the house it was a no-brainer to have the hoop and it just kept me motivated.

"I do some dribbling outside in the driveway and then with the hoop, my boys rebound for me and I just get shots up. My normal workout."

Lifetime has shipped 69 total hoops to players from 14 NBA teams, as well as to WNBA players, G Leaguers and draft hopefuls. Notables on the list include Utah's Joe Ingles, Charlotte's Devonte' Graham, Cleveland's Collin Sexton and Larry Nance Jr., the Lakers' Alex Caruso, Indiana's Domantas Sabonis, Boston's Jaylen Brown, New Orleans' Jrue Holiday and Sacramento's Bogdan Bogdanovic plus WNBA stars Sue Bird and Brittney Griner.

Players are being gifted with the 52-inch polycarbonate, adjustable portable hoop, which is valued at $500.

Several NBA stars have publicly admitted to not having a hoop at home since the league's practice facilities closed down, which is how Lifetime's idea came about to help fix this problem. The company began contacting players through their agencies.

Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Milwaukee Bucks teammate Khris Middleton shared their experiences of not having hoops earlier this month as well. So did Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum before recently posting his new rim, dubbed "Big Deuce," via social media on his property, with a cameo appearance from his young son, Jayson Jr. -- nicknamed "Deuce."

"So I don't have access to hoop," Antetokounmpo said during an April 3 conference call. "A lot of NBA players have a court in their house or something, but now I just get home workouts. Ride the bike, treadmill, lift weights and pretty much stay sharp that way, but I don't play basketball."

Despite serving as a Lifetime Products ambassador since 2018, Ingles didn't have a personal hoop at his Salt Lake City home until earlier this month. Even after receiving the product, it sat around the house until three representatives from the company returned to assemble the rim.

"I recently just got a hoop at home," Ingles said. "I've honestly never had a basketball hoop, except like the little plastic kids one. Since I was a kid in Adelaide growing up, I had one in my backyard but since like 'growing' up a little bit, I've actually never had a hoop until like two weeks ago."

His Jazz teammates Royce O'Neale, Tony Bradley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Emmanuel Mudiay, Miye Oni, Juwan Morgan and Jordan Clarkson also got hoops, which most are using in the driveway.

As a manufacturing company, shipping the hoops was not the challenging part of this process; it was getting them set up.

"The hard part, the biggest constraint is getting them assembled. It's not getting delivered; it's getting them assembled," said Vince Rhoton, executive vice president at Lifetime Products. "When they got there, Joe [Ingles] was pathetic. He had no tools, he couldn't find a garden hose, and my son told me that he actually asked Joe's wife, Renae, 'Were you allowing us to assemble this so that you wouldn't have to embarrass Joe and do it yourself?' and she laughed and said, 'Yes.'

"So the real challenge is in getting these assembled. A lot of these players, not surprisingly, don't have a large tool chest and experience with assembly, so we have the expertise to get that done too."

Herro had a couple of friends on site to help with the assembly process, which he said "literally took us all day from like 10 a.m. until like 6 or 7 p.m."

His veteran teammate Jae Crowder also told ESPN that he received a hoop. He is grateful for the gesture but described it as "much different" to shoot on a portable hoop as opposed to professional training indoors.

"But I guess something is better than nothing," Crowder said.

On Monday, the NBA informed teams it is targeting May 8 as the earliest possible date for the use of team facilities and player workouts as states are starting to loosen stay-at-home orders and restrictions. Heat players are participating in daily Zoom workouts as a team to stay in shape while Herro is counting down until when he can get back in the gym.

And yes, Herro did text and FaceTime Butler to thank him for the hoop he has in the driveway to curve his basketball jones in the meantime.

"I won't be nervous," Herro said of returning to the practice facility. "I just think we'd all be anxious and ready to get started again. We've been out for a couple months now, so whenever that opportunity comes, I think we'll all be ready and excited to go."