'There's just a lot of a confusion': Life in limbo for 36ers

Mitch McCarron in action for the Adelaide 36ers. Mark Brake/Getty Images

Stuck at home in isolation, Mitch McCarron and his Adelaide 36ers teammates, coaches and staff remain in limbo.

With the news of a positive test in the camp soon after Christmas, McCarron admits he is not totally sure what the next few days will bring, with confusion around rules and regulations that differ depending on which corner of the country you live in.

"We're still waiting on official word on what's going down, we've been told to isolate, and I guess we're just trying to work out when we can next get on the floor to practice and when we can next play," McCarron told ESPN.

"For now, it's isolate, work out at home and everyone is staying in touch to pick each other up but we don't even have the specific details with what's going on. I think they're trying to work with SA Health to find out whether we can get back on the floor sooner or later."

Adelaide last played on December 18, with their next scheduled matchup set for 20 days later on January 7. They have already had games against the Cairns Taipans and South East Melbourne Phoenix postponed due to COVID complications during the lengthy layoff.

"It's not ideal, but it's certainly not unique around the league. We've been beaten by teams that have come out of an isolation period. So, for us, it's important that we don't use it as an excuse."

"It's a bit of a weird time because every state has different rules. I think back to when we had some issues last season, a lot of the states had similar conditions and penalties for when you were positive or a close contact, so you knew what was going to happen.

"It's just a bit different now, it depends where you are, who you've been with and what they've been doing. You don't really know much about the rules anymore, is it 14 days, is it seven days? There's just a lot of a confusion when someone tests positive around you which makes it uncertain."

Consistent with the theme of the last couple of seasons, McCarron stresses the importance of staying ready, with the league set to ride through a bumpy course that makes last season's challenges seem like a minor blip on the radar.

"Last year we could overseas and see how bad it was. We had the pushback on the season start but once we got going, we knew we would do what we had to do. For the most part people weren't being isolated, we were able to train and travel for most of the season. Everyone knew you were going into the hub, and you were going to spend a month there.

"This season, the mentality in the basketball world and I think around Australia was that last season happened and now we can move on. That's why it's such a shock, it feels almost worse than last season because it was unexpected, and you see these teams getting caught with these cases.

"You don't know what's happening behind the scenes, you hope everyone is doing alright but it's not ideal for anyone to sit out for a week or two weeks and play a game, the competition is too strong."

Prior to season tip-off, the NBL introduced a COVID policy that included the implementation of replacement players for those who either test positive or are deemed a close contact of a positive case. Thus far, those rules have hardly had much of a chance to keep the season rolling.

"I think the NBL tried to be proactive, but I don't think they expected whole teams would still have to isolate. I feel like the mood was that if you could return a negative test and you wanted to play and weren't sick then why not, that's the biggest issue and I think that breeds a lot of uncertainty.

"The team and the NBL might say one thing but if the SA Government or SA Health put a restriction then you can't do much. It might be that we change schedules or fly out and stay somewhere, we just have to be ready. The team that handles that the best mentally and preparation wise will probably end up near the top of the table. I really hope we can push through and finish the season, but I'm just guessing as much as anyone."

For players and staff around the league, basketball if far from the lone focus, with added stress on family a constant over the last two seasons. McCarron, who became a father for the first time in April, understands the toll it takes on wife Abby and their son, Oslo.

"I think the uncertain trips or the last second change of plans are the ones that hit you the most. As a young parent, being a first-time dad, it was probably harder for me last year when we were told that we weren't able to go back to Melbourne. We were in Brisbane, just picked up a big road win and all the boys were pumped, then Dean [Vickerman] walks in and you see his face knowing he has to deliver the bad news.

"That's the one as a dad, when the family isn't prepared for that. Everyone is prepared to do what it takes to get the season done. I'm not sure what that looks like but it's hard for parents, mums, dads and the kids especially when they rely on seeing you every day."

For now, the focus for Adelaide will be rectifying a rollercoaster start to NBL22, with the talented roster 2-3 in the early going. By the time they do hit the floor, they will have had plenty of time to think about their last time out. The 26-point loss to Cairns was a brutal reality check for the 36ers, with McCarron clear about the cause of the blow out.

"Number one is effort with a big underline under it. We identified as a group that it just wasn't there. We knew going into that game that Cairns had [Scott] Machado ruled out, but they had the talent to play a certain way. We knew it all, but game time rolled around, and we enabled them. Credit to them, they played great, but I feel like we fuelled that with our lack of effort and turnovers and contested shots that ignited their fast break.

"We were disappointed with that, players and coaching staff alike, everyone knew it wasn't good enough. Hopefully, whenever we play next everyone is ready from tip to bring that energy."

Note: The 36ers were able to leave quarantine at midnight Thursday night with the new COVID-19 close contact rules announced on Thursday.