As a two-way player, Hoard wasn’t positive he’d be …

As a two-way player, Hoard wasn’t positive he’d be back with the Blazers for the NBA’s resumption this summer. But as documented in a YouTube special called ‘The Tale of Jaylen Hoard’s journey,’ Hoard was grateful for the Orlando opportunity. Hoard teamed up with Paris based Photographer Charly G. as he presents the JAYBOOGGY Series, ‘The Tale of Jaylen Hoard’s journey.’

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“Every minute of every day,” Stevens said. “I mean, every single day. I do the same walking path every day. I call it ‘The Walk of Sanity,’ and I’ve found that a lot of other people do it, too. I saw Nick [Nurse] riding his bike out there, I see Spo [Erik Spoelstra of the Heat] all the time, I see Frank [Vogel] jogging. Doc’s whole staff. We all run into each other a lot.”
Sam Amick: Protesters advocating for justice for 22-year-old Salaythis Melvin, who was fatally shot by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy last month, stood in front of our shuttle bus for 10 minutes or so before subsiding as we re-entered the bubble. One sign: “LeBron. Stand With Us.”
Duvalier Johnson: Michael Malone said that the bubble is not easy. “When you find yourself in elimination games, the easy thing to do would be to give up.” He went on to talk about the resiliency and the fight although it could’ve been easy to give up and head back to their families.
Ben Golliver: Raptors’ Kyle Lowry on his final thoughts on the NBA Bubble after Game 7 loss to Celtics: “It was challenging. It was well put together. We used our platform for our voices to be heard on social injustices... The Bubble was a success. Time to leave this motherf—-er.”
On Aug. 26, the night that the NBA shut down after the Milwaukee Bucks’ protest, laughter and singing echoed across Lago Dorado, the lake in the middle of Disney’s Coronado Springs resort. Amid the uncertainty of the season’s resumption following a tense players-led meeting, a group of players — the Balkan Boys, as they later called themselves — went to dinner on the outdoor patio at the Three Bridges Bar & Grill at Villa del Lago around 8 p.m. “It was a crazy night full of emotions,” the Heat’s Goran Dragić told The Athletic. “We didn’t know how it was gonna turn the next day.”
Dinner turned into drinks. Drinks turned into playing music from their phones while locking arms and belting Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian songs, including “Slavija” by Džej and “Ne Moze Nam Niko Nista” by Mitar Miric, seemingly every few minutes. They weren’t the only players unwinding by going out and eating and drinking in the bubble that night, but they were certainly the loudest. “We transformed the restaurant to a club,” Dragić said.
A second GM then chimed in on the same theme, sources said, echoing that the lack of travel and additional rest contributed to better play and helped even out the competition. Sources said a league official on the call then brought up the concept of teams heading into cities to play a potential series of games -- fly into a city and play the host team in two games over a short time span. The idea, which several GMs considered akin to a baseball homestand, was discussed in an effort to reduce the mileage teams might have to fly during the regular season.
When asked about this topic, Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey told ESPN that he wasn't yet sure what conclusions could be drawn from a unique situation. "I think there's a lot of data points that we really can't quantify yet," he added.
The concept of a baseball-like homestand does present financial challenges, such as trying to sell tickets to see the same two teams play over two or three nights. "In baseball, it's all about who's pitching and it's totally different every night," said one Eastern Conference GM. "Basketball could be the same game every night. How do you sell that from a ticket perspective? It's tough."
Since games began on July 30, several NBA general managers and team athletic training officials have noticed that the play looks crisp, players are moving up and down the court with speed, and there were top-notch performances almost every night even though teams were playing every other day at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. Though it is a small sample size, GMs and team staffers pointed to the same factor: the lack of travel. "Our guys feel better," one Western Conference GM told ESPN. "We don't know if it's anecdotal, but we've got these games and we don't have to jump on planes [afterward]."
They’re staying at the same Grand Destino Tower hotel at Coronado Springs. There’s not much to do, so they see each other near the same dining areas and at one of the lakeside restaurants players routinely visit. And the normal dislike of an opponent by the time a series reaches seven games is doubled by life inside the bubble. That is spilling out with minor rumpuses, verbal crossfire and accusations of bush-league antics as the teams prepare for Friday's Game 7.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse, as he bicycles, and Celtics coach Brad Stevens, as he walks, cross the same paths on their daily routines. Stevens calls it his “walk of sanity.” But how relaxing can it be when he’s constantly reminded of the series by seeing the opponent? “A lot of emotions, things like that swirling, etc. I ain’t really going to speak on it too much,” Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said. “It’s a lot of emotions, it’s an intense series. Things like that tend to happen. A lot of testosterone. Ain’t nothing to worry about. We’ve got to be ready to fight."
He was smiling when we caught up on a Zoom conversation after a Boston Celtics practice at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla., where the N.B.A. is playing out its season because of the pandemic. He was smiling when we sat down after a Celtics practice in March, days before the coronavirus outbreak forced a postponement of the season. Even when describing his experience in quarantine at his home in Charlotte — his teammate Grant Williams stayed with him — he smiled about how much he enjoyed his time away. “I loved it,” Walker, 30, said. “It gave me a chance to slow down. As athletes, our lives move very fast. We don’t get much downtime or things of that nature until the summer.”
There were six students on the first day, said Dan O'Brien, NBPA director of sports medicine and research, who is helping oversee the school. The class size is slated to range from six to 12, a number that will remain fluid as teams are eliminated and as other family members might join the bubble at some point.
Classes are scheduled to be held Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., for students ages 3-7, and private tutoring lessons are available for those outside that age group. (There are roughly 20 players' children on campus, ranging in age from newborns to 14.) The class is being led by a teacher from the Orlando area along with a teacher's assistant.
The breakdown is pretty simple. Expenses for members of the news media are paid by the outlets they work for. Expenses for all the teams and most other campus residents (referees, league officials, game operations people, etc.) are covered by the league. It costs $550 per day for the reporters covering the N.B.A. restart. That figure includes lodging, three daily meals, transportation to game venues and practice sites and, of course, daily coronavirus testing. Room service meals and food orders from approved off-campus vendors, such as the supplier of my beloved French Dip sandwich, cost extra.
When you add up the reporters from independent outlets like The New York Times, both of the league’s media partners (ESPN and Turner) and the producers who accompany television reporters on their assignments, there are nearly 30 members of the news media on campus.
NBA coaches and staff have been approved to bring guests into the bubble for the start of the respective conference finals, according to a memo obtained by ESPN. Each team -- including head coaches, front office and staff -- can bring no more than 10 guests to the Disney campus beginning with 7-day on site quarantines, the memo said. Players guests began to arrive for the conference semifinals.
Guests - which must include family or longtime friends - would travel to Orlando either on a single plane or vehicle on Monday and begin a seven-day quarantine in Orlando, per the memo. Each guest - like others in the bubble - would undergo daily coronavirus testing. The admission of team staff guests is expected to be a topic for teams in the 2020-2021 season, too, sources said, with an expectation that there could need to be some sort of a bubble environment to initially start the season.
And when players are holed up in their room? Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, for one, has used that time to connect with mother Gloria, and his three children via Facetime, including his 16-year-old son Bronny, 13-year-old son Bryce and 5-year-old daughter Zhuri. "Family always comes first. Having that in your life, you have to put yourself in the position of what centers you," James said. "Meditating helps a lot for me personally with taking a lot of deep breaths, closing my eyes and just centering myself and listening to my inner self and talking to my kids and my mom. That definitely is something that keeps me sane in the bubble."
Therefore, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens is one of several NBA coaches that stresses two messages. One, Stevens has told his players to "recognize how lucky we are to have a job and to have an opportunity to do that job." Two, Stevens encourages his players to enjoy the outdoors. Every morning, Stevens steps outside of the team hotel to take what he calls "the walk of sanity." "You feel isolated. We’re in a very small area. There’s only so much you can do," Stevens said. "But you do have to find time for yourself. You do have to make sure you’re taking care of yourself the best that you can. You can’t get holed up in your room all day, which is very easy to do."
Hayward returned to the bubble on Sunday after a couple of weeks home in Boston, but he has not been cleared to play and likely won't appear again unless the Celtics advance to the conference finals. Hayward originally planned to leave the bubble for the birth of his son sometime in September, but his wife, Robyn, posted a message on social media suggesting that now that he is back in Orlando, he's there to stay: "Next time we see you you won't be the only boy."
Chris Grenham: Brad Stevens says Gordon Hayward is back in the bubble and currently quarantining. "I haven't seen him because he's been in a room."
LeBron: "There’s nothing for them to do. I mean, I’ve got a 16-year-old. I mean, he’s going to sit in the bubble and do what? I’ve got a 13-year-old. He’s going to do what? Five-year-old girl, there’s nothing for her to do. The park isn’t open. I mean, there’s only so many times she can go to the pool. My kids are too adventurous, and they love to do so much stuff. It makes no sense for them to be here. There’s nothing for them to do here. Go outside. Come back in. Go outside. Come back in. They can stay in L.A., and they’re great. There’s literally nothing for them to do here. This is not a kid-friendly place. Let’s be honest."
Shams Charania: The NBA sent a memo to teams alerting medical staffs to be aware of increased risk of blood clotting (which can result in venous thromboembolism) associated with COVID-19.
“We are fortunate the NBA bubble is here in Orlando, and have an opportunity to work directly with them,” Gilzean said. “The objective here is our community has access to find out where they are, where they stand, and can be safe and take care of their families. Bring awareness to the community for COVID-19 testing and also assist of slowing the spread of COVID-19 testing.” The NBA supplied the tests for the site.
For much of the restart, from the seeding games into the playoffs, the topic of offensive efficiency has been high on the list of discussion topics. Despite a decline late in the seeding games, average game-level offensive rating rose by nearly a full point per 100 possessions for the participating teams, moving from 111.3/100 prior to the March shut down to 112.2/100 on campus. From a purely statistical standpoint, this increase was the result of gains in Effective Field Goal Percentages and Free Throw Rates more than offsetting a bump in overall Turnover Rates.
Cleaner shooting background due to smaller gyms. This theory is certainly plausible, but largely untestable without detailed tracking data.
Decline in defensive cohesion due to the long layoff. If more defenders are running around out of scheme or are late on rotations, this could lead to more open shots and/or more fouls in desperate attempts to recover. This sounds plausible, but one would expect to see an increase in overall shot quality if defenses were playing substantially worse. But bubble shot quality is roughly equivalent to that found pre-shutdown.
The lack of ambient sound has led to more “I heard it” foul calls than would be possible in a more standard environment. I credit this theory somewhat. We can see an increase in foul draw rates across the board, and across the range of shot zones:
Ben Golliver: Lakers’ LeBron James on being joined in the NBA Bubble by his wife Savannah: “It’s a blessing to have my wife here but my kids are back in LA still and my mom is back in Ohio. But I’m definitely happy she’s here. I keep the main thing the main thing when I’m on the floor.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Via @NBA_Coaches : "The challenges of being away from family for so long can be overwhelming. NBCA discussions with league office are ongoing. We will continue to work with the NBA as partners to evaluate the viability of coaches' families coming to Orlando as more teams exit."
Tania Ganguli: This is the first game the Lakers have been able to have family and friends attend. There are about 16 guest. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, JaVale McGee, Jared Dudley, Alex Caruso, JR Smith and Devontae Cacok are scheduled to have guests here.
Mirjam Swanson: Malone speaking on Murray's performance in the bubble & mentions this is "the hardest playoff environment that has ever existed." As Candace Parker said from the Wubble & Doc Rivers said there: This title doesn't deserve an asterisk, but an exclamation point, or a golden star.
It all sounded so breezy when the Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley arrived at Walt Disney World and promptly scoffed at the idea that working and living at one of the foremost playgrounds on Earth could somehow be complicated. The bubble, Beverley unforgettably declared that day, is what you make it. Nearly two months later, no one on the N.B.A.’s Disney campus can be that cavalier when talking about the surroundings. The league has managed to keep the coronavirus out, which undeniably is a significant achievement, but not without levying an emotional tax by severely restricting access.
Beverley’s first-glance view suggested that bubble inhabitants, with the right mind-set, could make this all seem as magical as a typical Disney trip. Now consider the review that the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James offered up Saturday night — after the league emerged from a three-day walkout during which numerous players gave serious thought to closing down the bubble completely. The near shutdown wasn’t motivated solely by the players’ social justice pursuits; also factoring in was the simple desire to return to the outside world. “I’ve had numerous nights and days of thinking about leaving,” James said. “I think everyone has, including you guys.”
James was referring to members of the news media and, without question, he was right. The word I have used to describe this assignment, over and over, is “unmissable.” That sentiment remains true, because I’m not sure I’ll ever have the chance again to cover N.B.A. playoff games in August and September in arenas without fans. But “interminable” also applies. I can’t deny that there have been times during my 52 days here that I tried to picture the finish line and couldn’t.
It’s not because of the workload. My role at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, leading ESPN’s coverage of the U.S. men’s basketball team for “SportsCenter” and, made for even longer days in some ways. What gets to you in the bubble is your lack of control, combined with the long-term isolation, all exacerbated by copious regulations and restrictions. So many rules to follow. So much time alone with your thoughts. An Olympic excursion, typically bucket list territory for most sportswriters, also lasts only three or four weeks.
According to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, teams that advance past the first round of the playoffs can reserve guest rooms that match the team's roster size. Although it does not specify an exact number of guests allowed, the protocols state the number is “subject to Disney’s room occupancy rules and guidelines.” A player can determine anyone a guest so long as that person is not a certified agent. Most of the players’ guests are either wives, girlfriends and their children. Players can invite only one guest to a game, but they are allowed to bring small children. “It'll just be good to be around some people that care about you, that you care about outside of your teammates,” Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams said. “This environment can be a little mundane at times, so it’s nice to have some fresh energy.”
Clippers center JaMychal Green plans to have his girlfriend and children visit should the team advance to the Western Conference finals. Yet, he still harbored concerns about his kids becoming stir-crazy on campus. People can swim, exercise, golf and fish on campus, but there are no options beyond those activities. Everyone also has to observe social distancing and mask-wearing rules. “I didn't want them to come here and get bored,” Green said. “My kids like to play and like to go outside. So there's really not much here to do.”
Usually, pets do not need to feel as entertained. They are used to quarantined life even in normal times. Unfortunately, they do not meet the criteria for guests. “I would love to have my dogs in here, but they are not allowing pets,” said Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green, whose fiancée will visit. “But I think pets would definitely lighten the mood. That would help if anybody who has any type of say-so to get some dogs in here.”
Where do you stand on the idea that playing games is a distraction away from everything that’s happening in the real world? Jared Dudley: I’ve always believed our voices are stronger and louder together. We’re doing this interview now because we’re playing. I have GQ doing an interview now just because of what’s going on. We’re not doing this interview if I’m at home. So it brings awareness. You hear VanVleet. You hear George Hill. You don’t know those names. The only names you hear when we don’t play are LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry. You don’t hear these role players. Jaylen Brown? I just saw Jamal Murray put his Breonna Taylor shoes on the chair. You don’t get that if we sit. And then there’s the money. People say ‘it’s not always about money’ but money helps change communities. It’s not everything but it’s a big piece of what’s going on.
“I can’t talk about my brother’s headspace,” Kostas continued. “I don’t think he’s ever been to the point of (wanting to leave), but obviously everybody has had a hard time in here. He just had a son, and he misses his son a lot. So he’s thinking about him every day, but when he gets an opportunity to hold him in his hands, teach him how to walk and stuff like that. “So he knows that that’s important to him. But he also knows that what he’s trying to accomplish with his team is important to him too. So I feel like he’s in the right headspace, and it’s gonna be alright.”
Pat Riley has joined the Miami Heat at Disney World, but will be observing their playoff games from a distance. Arriving as part of the NBA’s second tier of guests, those not in the league’s bubble quarantine, Riley will take in the games at the Wide World of Sports complex from a distance, not allowed direct contract with players, coaches or those in the league’s highest tier of quarantine access. Heat General Manager Andy Elisburg also is with Riley in Central Florida, with the two with separate accommodations than the team’s at Disney World.
Chris Mannix: Brad Stevens said Gordon Hayward’s rehab from a sprained ankle is going “OK.” Says his gait still isn’t right. Says he expects Hayward to rejoin the team in the bubble, but he won’t rejoin and be ready to play right away.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The memo to "all governors and senior team basketball operations personnel" is meant as reminder of "higher standards expected" of them. As league memo said, given unique arena conditions, limited number of seats, small buildings, no crowd noise, this is "especially important."
On Monday, Danny Green will be reunited with his fiancee after nearly two months in the NBA bubble. NBA players whose teams have advanced to the second round of the playoffs can begin reuniting with select loved ones this week. So, for Green, that means seeing his fiancee as the title-contending Lakers prepare for the second round of the playoffs after eliminating the Portland Trail Blazers on Aug. 29. “My mind was in one place and my heart is in another,” Green said. “We’re tired of being in here. We wanted our families to be here, and some are on their way here. Some of our families are quarantining right outside the bubble. Some will be here in a couple of days. We know that is going to make things better for us.”
NBA referees are allowed to bring one guest, but two NBA referees told The Undefeated they didn’t think any officials would. One NBA referee said they would have to pay about $700 per day for their loved ones to quarantine, which would include a room, food and COVID-19 tests. “I don’t think anyone is doing it, so it hasn’t been a conversation for us since the day we got here,” one NBA referee told The Undefeated. Said another referee: “Our limit was one. You going to bring [your] wife and leave your kids at home?”
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said players have debated about whether to bring children to the adult-laden bubble. VanVleet ultimately decided to bring his girlfriend, Shontai Neal, and their young daughter, Sanaa, and infant son Fred Jr. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing my family for a while now. Obviously, there was a big debate about whether to bring them,” VanVleet told The Undefeated. “It’s not the best of circumstances to bring two small children and have them quarantined and tested … But we made a decision for them to come. So, I just hope they are as excited to see me as I am to see them.”
Anthony Chiang: Erik Spoelstra says it will help players to get family and friends in the bubble at the start of the second round. But Spoelstra adds: "Can you write something about the staff being able to have our family join us?"
Gary Washburn: #Celtics director of player development Allison Feaster now has a cheering partner. BOS asst GM Mike Zarren is out of quarantine and in the house to watch BOS-TOR.
Rachel Nichols: Only because of the Bubble...Clippers Coach Doc Rivers is courtside watching his son Austin play in tonight’s Rockets-Thunder game, less than 24 hours before LA tries to wrap its first-round series against Dallas.
The two-time NBA Executive of the Year traveled across the country because he wanted to experience the unprecedented situation. Well, that was one reason, as there were other objectives in mind. "Pro scouting. I'm a big in-person guy, and I got to see 12 games in three days. I saw 16 teams play," Myers explained to reporters last week. "Usually as a general manager, we don't do a lot of pro scouting. I only see teams when we play them. And the season got cut short, and certain teams I never saw play.
Bob Myers: "It was tremendously valuable for me to be out there. And then also -- the league is constantly changing. Just to watch what's going on in the playoffs, and I want to have the best chance of understanding where the league is going."
Josh Robbins: Due to his left hamstring strain, Aaron Gordon has left the NBA bubble, a Magic official said. Gordon sustained the injury on August 5 and hasn’t played since.
Tania Ganguli: NBA referees are assembling to begin marching around the campus in support of the players who took a stand last night. “We’re here because we feel like our group is a representation of America, or what America could be. ... This is not right vs left, this is right vs wrong.”
Tania Ganguli: Disney employees are lined up clapping and cheering for the people marching in support of NBA players’ protests against racism and police brutality. The group includes not just referees but some team attendants and others living on campus.
Vincent Goodwill: Source to @yahoosports: “This is Lord of the Flies now- 2020 edition” A lot of tension between players, It’s been building from inside the bubble
Barkley went on The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday and essentially said PG13 had no right to speak about his bubble anxiety ... given the hardships other Americans are currently going through. "I don't think guys making millions of dollars should be worried just because they're stuck in a place where they can go fishing and play golf and play basketball and make millions of dollars," Barkley said. "That's not a dark place. The thing that just happened in Wisconsin, the things happening with this pandemic, all these people losing their jobs, those people are in a dark place."
Storyline: Orlando Bubble
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May 5, 2021 | 10:01 pm EDT Update