While many players have gone home during the hiatus, Ryan Arcidiacono has stayed in Chicago to relax and help out the community.
Ryan Arcidiacono is like one of those Stan Lee Marvel characters who defies the ordinary, and not just going from not being drafted to a guaranteed NBA contract. Call Arcidiacono Floor Burn, the relentless every man who never fails to bounce up and bounce back.
Which is a further reason why this unexpected postponement of the NBA season has been even more maddening.
Floor Burn hadn’t sat out multiple basketball games since he had to miss his senior high school season with herniated disc surgery. Since then Arcidiacono has dived for every loose ball, drawn every charge and crashed the metaphorical brick walls of competition through four years at Villanova, almost two in the G-league and another three with the Bulls.
Until late on March 4 in Minneapolis when Arcidiacono felt the dreaded twinge in his Achilles late in the game with the Timberwolves.
“I always pride myself on playing or being available for every game,” says Arcidiacono. “It takes a lot for me to sit out a basketball game. But there are certain things I try to be smart with and when I hurt my Achilles in Minnesota, that’s something you don’t play around with. God forbid you tear it, that’s 12 to 18 months out. Bruises, anything to the upper body, I’ll be playing. You don’t complain about injuries. I guess that’s my football background. But it kind of freaked me out because it hurt walking down the steps in my apartment.
“I had to be smart and take my time, but I was pretty bummed to miss three games,” Arcidiacono admitted. “I wanted to make sure I could cut and do everything with confidence and not worry about it. I was scheduled to be back for the Orlando game. I was excited get back.”
And then everyone went home.
And so, like everyone else, the Bulls ruggedly annoying reserve guard sits, waiting perhaps for less the NBA season to begin again than the horrors of the COVID-19 virus to abate. Arcidiacono’s mother is a registered nurse back in Philadelphia who has been working through the crisis. Friends of his from college are nurses in New York. So he’s tried to do what he can in addition to not adding to the problems.
Arcidiacono this week donated meals to the Lawndale Christian Health Center and the Suder Montessori magnet elementary school near the United Center.
“I feel I need to do my part and give back. I’m so grateful to the people of Chicago and for being able to play for this city.”
“Just trying to help out any way I can because I know there are so many people being affected,” Arcidiacono said in a telephone interview this week. “My mom is not dealing specifically with the COVID cases, but she’s working in the hospital. I have an appreciation and respect for the doctors and nurses who are not getting much sleep and working tirelessly. My friends who are nurses in New York have told me how serious it is and with the lack of supplies.
“Any way I could give back,” said Arcidiacono. “Being here in Chicago, I’ve been reading stories of how tough it is for students from low income families. I feel I need to do my part and give back. I’m so grateful to the people of Chicago and for being able to play for this city. You have to understand you are more than just an athlete on the court.”
It wasn’t clear that Arcidiacono would even be that after not being drafted despite a championship Villanova season and named tournament Most Outstanding Player. He played for the Spurs’ G-league team in 2016-17. Then he won a two-way contract with the Bulls the following season, but played mostly in Hoffman Estates for Windy City. His story is an inspiration the way an unlikely prospect worked his way onto the Bulls roster for the 2018-19 season playing in 81 games. Though as he emphasized, being available for all 82.
But still living somewhat frugally as a minimum salaried NBA player.
Which is part of the reason Arcidiacono, who turned 26 last week, is one of the few Bulls players living in Wicker Park a few miles north of the United Center instead of in a gleaming downtown high rise.
“Last year I was non guaranteed and didn’t know if would make the team,” Arcidiacono recalled. “I decided to rent an apartment, something cheap with a short term lease. Then I made the team (three-year deal) and moved myself and my girlfriend to a little bit nicer place. We’re on the third floor of a (six-flat) walk up building. We’ve got 1,200 square feet with a roof deck, but haven’t really been able to utilize the roof deck as cold as it’s been.”
And so the days pass.
“For the most part sleeping in, trying to get a workout as best I can, core and stretching exercises, catching up on TV shows, facetime with family back home, friends wherever they are at,” Arcidiacono said. “Relaxing and quarantining as best as we can because I feel that’s the best way we’re going to get past this thing, if everyone takes it as seriously as we should and go from there. I might go home (Philadelphia) at some point, but you’ve got to be smart and listen to the health advisors.
“I’ve talked to Shaq (Harrison), Zach (LaVine) a little and Chandler (Hutchison) as well,” said Arcidiacono. “A lot of the guys play video games. So they’re improving their video games skills. I’m not very good, nor do I play very much. So I haven’t been connecting.”
Though Arcidiacono has connected with Chicago. The 6-3 guard has been a favorite with his hustling play and old style ways. He’s adept at the old pull-the-chair post defense on big men and has improved his shooting, leading the team at 39 percent on threes this season. He’s among the league leaders in loose balls collected and charges drawn, and top three per minute played with charges. While most teammates head to offseason homes, he stays in Chicago in the summer and can be seen around the music festivals and local restaurants.
“I really love the city, but obviously can’t enjoy the city as I would now,” Arcidiacono noted. “We’ve (with girlfriend Kristin McGrath, a health class instructor) been grocery shopping, walking the dog. We’re trying to support local businesses as best we can. So two or three times a week we order dinners. We’re also having some fun trying to make new dishes.”
Arcidiacono said he’s been through the Breaking Bad TV series and now is working his way through the Better Call Saul spinoff.
“When you’re quarantined you try something maybe you didn’t like previously,” Arcidiacono added. “Just like everyone else in Chicago.”
But he’s obviously not quite like everyone else in preparing to return to a basketball team.
After the win against Cleveland March 10, the Bulls traveled to Orlando for the March 12 game that eventually was postponed. The team returned to Chicago and players stayed in through the weekend and then had a meeting Monday. A quarantine was suggested because the Bulls had recently played the Nets, who had four players test positive. A few players went home for their quarantine, which expired last weekend. None apparently experienced symptoms and others figure to leave Chicago soon as well. Arcidiacono says he’s remaining in Chicago for now, though the details about a continuation of the season remain uncertain.
“I think everyone is in the same boat unless you have a court in your house,” Arcidiacono noted. “Just waiting it out and seeing what the next move is. No one really knows when it is going to start back up. But you’re going to need a certain time period for getting back in shape, touching the ball, getting a feel. I’m trying to take one day at a time. You can’t think about basketball now. You have to be conscientious and listen to your health providers for what you can and can’t do. Once basketball comes back and they say we can work out, then we have to take it for what it is, get better and get back as quickly as we can.”
And begin to feel the burn again.