Portland Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operatio…

Portland Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey met with our Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes over Zoom to discuss the success of the NBA bubble: “The league did an unbelievable job. I think more than anything, everybody talks about the lifestyle, but the feeling of safety was so comforting there. The league did an outstanding job of making sure everybody in that bubble knew, everybody there was as compliant as one another in terms of the safety protocols. We were tested everyday, we all dealt with the best practices when it came to making sure we wore our PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], we socially distanced, we were only around each other outside within six feet.”

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Neil Olshey: “From that standpoint, that was the biggest adjustment was actually - people haven’t talked about - is leaving the bubble. Leaving the bubble was a major adjustment going back into stores, being in the community, being at home, knowing where the risks are.“
Revenue projections for the league this season were missed by about $1.5 billion, the person said. The losses were the result of a combination of factors — the shutdown caused by the pandemic, the cancelation of 171 regular-season games, completing the season in a bubble at Walt Disney World without fans, the nearly $200 million price tag for operating that bubble and a yearlong rift with the Chinese government that saw NBA games not shown on state television there.
The NBA spent $180 million to operate 100 days of basketball in its Disney bubble, but the steep investment allowed the league to stop the loss of $1.5 billion in projected revenue. According to sources familiar with the league’s finances, the Disney restart allowed the NBA to stem the loss of about $1.5 billion in expected revenue, the bulk of the money tied to national and local television revenue followed by league sponsorships.
“Without a doubt, it was worth it,” said one executive from a Disney bubble team of the massive effort and investment needed to complete the longest season in NBA history. The season began Oct. 22 of last year and finally ended on Oct. 11 when the Los Angeles Lakers won Game 6 of the NBA Finals to secure their record-tying 17th title.
Marcus Smart: I was totally ready for it to suck, I’m not gonna lie. But you know what? The bubble, it actually turned out to be … pretty damn great. Not the food, necessarily, or the atmosphere, or us not winning the whole thing in the end, but just the actual bubble part of it — the quiet. I wasn’t expecting it, but after only four or five days down in Orlando, I realized that the bubble was a blessing, because it gave me the opportunity for some genuine downtime. Lots of stuff I had to worry about before — family drama, promotional stuff, places I had to be at such and such time — that was all out the window. I could actually just sit there alone and….
The COVID-19 pandemic did prevent him from entering the NBA bubble in Orlando. He was forced to watch the last part of the season from his 50-acre avocado ranch. “Oh, that hurt … but I understood it,” Bertka said. “You’re allowed only a certain number of people in the bubble. And at the age of 93, I’m a pretty good candidate for the virus. I do thank God each and every day for the health I’ve been given during the 93 years I’ve been here. I try to stay active, do a lot of workouts in the pool, and try to walk around my property as much as I can. I just want to keep my heart and lungs and brain going. The secret is to keep moving.”
“When I first got here and all the teams were here, it was all the way live,” Roberts said. “We could not not run into players and have conversations with them. “For the first couple of weeks, I was kind of digging it.” But as the days began to pile up, so did the exhaustion. Then the Aug. 23 shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., pushed everyone over the edge. After the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play, players gathered to figure out what to do. After intense meetings, players from all over the league, including some of its biggest stars, gathered outside to smoke cigars and drink, a desperately needed escape.
“But you know what, it was just crazy. You see Paul George hit the side of the backboard, Kawhi not having that, but those boys, they didn’t want to be in the bubble. They didn’t want to be there, and I don’t blame them for certain times, but the world needed to see the Clippers and the Lakers and it was unfortunate we didn’t get to see that.”
Today, Silver is relieved. “We knew going into the bubble that there were lots of things that could go wrong, and it required an enormous amount of good fortune to ultimately conclude the season without any positive cases -- not only without any positive cases but actually make it to crowning a champion,” Silver said. Throughout the restart, he carried enormous worry on two fronts. “What kept me up most,” he said, “were the daily test results and concern whether organizationally and collectively we would have the discipline to fight through this virus over a three-month period.”
Kelly Flatow does not have a background in city planning. But the NBA’s executive vice president of global events built a basketball city. From getting practice courts shipped from Horner Flooring in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to making sure hair stylists and barbers were on campus, to providing activities like golf and fishing, to procuring different kinds of drinking water -- Flatow was responsible. “The most important part of pulling everything together was the collaboration,” Flatow said. “With every event and program we do around the world, it is a cross-functional effort, but in this case, it was hyper-sensitive collaboration in terms of making sure we looked at it from every angle. We had so many logistical challenges that we had never faced before from a health and safety perspective.”
With regularity during the NBA’s hiatus, the Dallas Mavericks' Powell hopped on a call with Silver and fellow players -- Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. The small working group – a cross-section of different levels of player status – had open and honest discussions about what was at stake and what players needed if the league were to resume the season in a bubble. It was a forum for those players to learn what the league was thinking and discuss health, safety and financial ramifications. “Through the process of talking with those guys on those calls, I really got to see just how many people were involved and how many minds were working in overdrive to find solutions to problems that were really coming up every day,” Powell said. "Every single step of the process had to be thought out, because it’s people’s lives that were at stake at the end of the day.”
Ninety days after I checked into the NBA’s restrictive bubble at Disney World, I find myself with a recurring daydream: I slide into the back seat of an airport-bound black car and begin stripping off my encumbrances. I remove my MagicBand, which grants access to my hotel room, the arena and the practice facilities, from my right wrist. Next I ditch my tattered credential, which I wear around my neck at all times to ward off inquiries from security guards. I take off my Kinexon proximity alarm, which beeps like a smoke detector anytime I linger within six feet of another person. Then I slide my Oura tracking ring, which monitors my temperature in real time, off my right middle finger. Finally, I delete a health tracking app, which requires me to input my temperature and blood oxygen level every morning, from my iPhone.
Now, physical and mental exhaustion reign, and it has become clear that the bubble was meant for die-hards. Two of the league’s most prominent workout maniacs — LeBron James and Jimmy Butler — are going head-to-head in an unpredictable and fiercely contested NBA Finals. It’s fitting that James’s Los Angeles Lakers and Butler’s Miami Heat are the last teams standing after a months-long war of attrition. Either will be worthy champions, and there should be no talk of an asterisk.
The bubble humanized the players. The walls of fame in the outside world — sunglasses, tinted windows, security details, community gates — were less pronounced in this environment. Their hotels were off-limits to the media, but players were stuck dealing with reporters almost every day. The coaches and superstars shouldered a heavy media burden well. When James said he had spent “numerous nights and days thinking about leaving the bubble,” he received a round of knowing nods from the small group of reporters.
I will remember the bubble fondly, but I won’t miss much. I loved the courtside seats and the wildlife around campus. I photographed alligators, egrets, snakes, anhingas, hawks, raccoons, armadillos, deer, frogs, turtles, butterflies, dragonflies, geckos, snails and Florida-size bugs. I cherished my ability to attend every single playoff game from the start of the second round, something that might never again be possible. I enjoyed seeing the referees compete at morning pickleball like it was their own professional sport. The daily testing was the ultimate privilege.
When the Milwaukee Bucks staged an impromptu walkout of their game against the Orlando Magic in response to the Jacob Blake shooting, James again spoke with friends and advisers late into the night. He supported the Bucks and the cause, but the lack of planning and strategy was frustrating. Those close to him say now that James was very close to walking away from the season that night. What changed everything was when he and Paul got on the phone with former President Barack Obama. Before he was president or a senator, Obama was a community organizer. His words late that night drew on that experience: Get something for this. Push the NBA, push the owners, push society to do more.
The next morning James, Paul and the Heat's Andre Iguodala went about getting firm commitments from the league and owners on three initiatives: establishing a social justice coalition, using arenas as voting locations and including advertising spots in each playoff game to create greater civic engagement in national and local elections. Then James and the Lakers resumed their season.
Eddie Johnson: The @NBA Adam Silver has proven to be the best leader in the country since the Corona Virus! Adam did one simple thing, he listened to the scientists and the Players agreed to stay in a bubble locked down for 90 days with 0 positive tests! My word Listen to Science Washington!
Siakam, whose meteoric rise was culminated by his first All-NBA selection this season, also endured notable struggles. With his increased responsibilities came increased scrutiny, and his postseason play (17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 39% shooting) fell well below the regular-season standards he had set in 2019-20. Opposing players and coaches who have since left the bubble noted privately that Siakam seemed particularly out of sorts in Orlando, both on and off the floor.
While in the bubble, Nurse spoke openly of the angst his players and coaches and front-office personnel experienced being away from their families for so long. But it wasn't until he attempted to reacclimate to his daily life that he completely understood the gravity of the disconnect. Nurse's 3-year-old son, Leo, solemnly vowed to remain at the door, waiting, when Nurse departed for Orlando in July. His son Rocky, who was born during his father's magical Finals run last June, was too young to articulate anything. "When I got back home," Nurse said, "the kids were in the neighborhood playing. Leo saw me from the top of the hill and did a dead sprint into my arms for a 5½-minute hug. But when I grabbed Rocky, he looked at me like, 'Hey man, put me down. Who are you?'"
And if an athletic trainer, coach or inactive player isn't wearing their mask properly during the game, league security will walk over to their huddle during a timeout and correct them. It is the pesky rules that make the bubble possible. And several league executives have noted that players and coaches who have been eliminated and left the bubble have called and texted to say that they miss the safety of the campus.
When NBA officials worked with folks on the ground in Orlando, Florida, during the planning stages for the bubble, there was a central question, according to Dunlap: "What can we offer these guys for several months so they're not going crazy in their rooms?" Various outdoor entertainment options were lined up. Fishing was a hit. Pickleball became a daily pastime for referees. Cornhole boards and oversize Connect Four games were placed by the pool. Perhaps the most popular activity throughout, however, has been bike riding. "Our fleet has grown," Dunlap said, detailing how the resort beefed up its bicycle haul by bringing in 10-speed bikes from an outside vendor to have about 50 available to its temporary residents.
Through the Denver Nuggets' playoff run, they would sign out a dozen bikes at a time and go on team rides. "I don't know if they would do it for conditioning or just to relax," Dunlap said. When players' families arrived, the resort made sure there were baby seats available to rent. Dunlap estimated that most days 100 percent of the bikes were signed out -- leading to competition for resources.
That is where the ownership groups for both the Lakers and Heat -- as well as additional guests for each team -- have spent the past week during the NBA Finals. At a hotel near Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, these two competing sides -- like the teams that also are sharing the bubble -- find themselves awkwardly close together for the duration of the series. "It's beyond words," said Bernie Lee, the agent for Heat star Jimmy Butler. "I'm sitting and having lunch with [Miami president Pat Riley] and [general manager Andy Elisburg]," Lee said, "and 10 feet away from us is the entire Laker leadership."
Salman Ali: The Houston Rockets have raised nearly $100,000 for COVID-19 relief since May. They plan on auctioning off unique memorabilia from their time in the Orlando bubble including game-worn jerseys, shorts, and shoes from Eric Gordon, James Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Russell Westbrook.
Marc Stein: Adam Silver on @NBATV: "Nobody's tested positive who lives on this campus, but we've had positive tests in our vicinity ... We still have another week or so to go before we can really say we did it. Every night ... I am sort of (braced) for that call to say, 'We have an issue' "
Spruell was responsible for overseeing the development of the league’s competitive format of 22 teams, which included individual workouts at team facilities, travel to the bubble, team practices, scrimmages, seeding games, postseason play-in games and the traditional playoffs. He led orientation sessions with players, head coaches and staff from all 22 participating teams and the officiating staff. And he said he has had well over 100 meetings over the past several months, including with all 30 NBA general managers, representatives from the players association and the competition advisory group. Spruell, who is third in command behind commissioner Adam Silver and incumbent deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, was also the highest-ranking NBA official on-site when the Milwaukee Bucks decided to not play in a playoff game on Aug. 26 to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in their state of Wisconsin. The Bucks’ decision resulted in the other remaining teams not playing over three days.
What has been your biggest triumph? Byron Spruell: The play-in tournament, if I’m being honest with you. We had gone through a lot of planning on the future of the game and what certain elements would look like. Reseeding, different ways to look at conference realignment, all those things. And one of those things that was in that sort of future of the game, if we could get it done, was a play-in tournament. So, to see that sort of come back around and to be part of this and be historic in terms of the first one and the way it played out with the [Portland] Trail Blazers … that was pretty cool, knowing the backdrop.
In the history of basketball, I think this NBA bubble is an inflection point. I was wondering what you've made of it as a former player and as a viewer. Scottie Pippen: Well, I'm going to be honest. It's not NBA basketball. It's not the hard grind. It's not the travel. It's not the fans. It's not the distractions. Really, to me, it's pickup basketball. It's going to the gym. Yeah, you already got your team. Y'all practicing together. But it's a more of a pickup type of basketball game, because there's no fans in the stands. So there is no distraction. There's no real noise. There's no pressure on the players, you know. Prime example: I looked at Rondo. Rondo ain't made three pointers in his whole NBA career. Now, all of a sudden, he's in a bubble, he's probably a 50% three point shooter. I haven't even checked the stats.
Scottie Pippen: But that's just something that I consider making the game so easy, because Rondo can't score inside of an arena, when you got depth perception. Like, there's a whole lot of things that make the NBA hard. The bubble makes the NBA easy to me. There's no travel. That's the killer itself. So you're sleeping in the same bed every night. You're walking to the gym. You're not having to go with a 25 to 50 minute bus ride to an arena. You're not having to probably even sit in the arena for two hours before the game, talk to the media, deal with all the outside stuff that they're trying to pull you in to make some distraction and, you know, throw the team in a loop. So it's a different game, but it's very entertaining.
Silver, who has managed to maintain such strong ties with the NBA’s player community throughout his tenure that began in Feb. 2014, left his seat to go pay a visit to the NBPA executive director who has been here in the bubble since the very beginning, Michele Roberts. As Silver kneeled down next to Roberts as she sat in her folding chair, the mutual respect between them was unmistakable. They hugged, with Silver putting both of his hands into the handshake as they shared a laugh. It was only a minute or so, but it was telling.
Yet Williams ushered it through from start to finish, despite skepticism throughout much of Disney. Williams then oversaw the complex during its early years, helping it become successful. “His role can’t be underestimated,” says CBS Sports football analyst Charles Davis, who worked at the Wide World of Sports from 1996-2000, first as a manager tasked with bringing business to the complex. “To me, without Reggie, none of this ever happens.
Doug Smith: Adam Silver singles out three players for making the bubble work: Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Dwight Powell. There are many others but those were the players he mentioned in pre-Finals media session
Brad Townsend: Silver: "There are 6,500 people in this community in Orlando who have been servicing this complex." He compares it to the credits you see after a movie, the people involved in making the movie happen.
Mirjam Swanson: Frank Vogel says 85 days in the bubble -- "a remarkable setup" -- "has not been harder than I thought it would be ... I miss my family dearly, but I really enjoy the group of guys we have. It's been all basketball -- which is just fine with me." Says winning helps, too.
Tatum, who welcomed all 22 teams to Disney World with orientation sessions in July and has lived in the bubble for the past two weeks, similarly had no interest in a victory lap. “We’ve been able to demonstrate a model for how you could operate a business successfully in the pandemic,” Tatum said in a telephone interview Monday. “We’re very proud of that. We’re excited to get where we are, but we still have work to do. The virus is so unpredictable that we can’t have anybody let their guards down. That’s important for us to collectively reinforce. We’re trying to crown an NBA champion, and we have one more series to go. We owe it to the teams, the players, the staff and the employees who have sacrificed so much. We’ve continued to be vigilant.”
Their war of attrition continues as the bubble around them shrinks. According to league figures, the campus at full capacity received 700 incoming packages per day at its distribution warehouse and needed at least 115 charter buses and vans to transport players, media members and staffers. In total, bubble attendees accounted for approximately 106,000 hotel room nights and went on at least 525 guided lake fishing trips, while players and coaches participated in more than 3,600 virtual media interviews.
But the party is winding down. The Lakers’ elimination of the Nuggets ended TNT’s coverage of the playoffs and prompted a boisterous poolside shindig that lasted past 4 a.m. With fewer games to officiate, the deep referee corps has dwindled. The on-site barbers report that business remains brisk: They have far fewer clients, but the remaining players stop by more frequently because they want to look their best for the larger television audiences watching the biggest games.
The enormousness of the task was incomprehensible. The league would build a campus outside of Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World to host 22 NBA teams and hundreds of others for as long as four months. That campus would need to abide by airtight medical protocols to prevent the invasion of the most aggressive pandemic in a century. It also would need to provide an infrastructure to accommodate a massive basketball operation that normally exists across nearly two dozen state-of-the-art training facilities. Official regular-season games resumed on July 30, but the true restart of the season took place more than a month before, as the league hurried to construct this city.
Kelly Flatow, the executive vice president and head of events at the NBA and a 10-year veteran of the league, has organized some of the biggest spectacles in sports, including the league's All-Star Weekend. But the so-called bubble resides in an entirely different logistical universe for an entirely different length of time under an entirely unprecedented amount of scrutiny.
The health and medical specifications were priority No. 1 for the league. Players and team staff would spend two days quarantined in their hotel rooms and be tested for the virus daily. A precious few essential personnel would have access to the playing court. But in addition to adherence to the strict protocols, the success and execution of the remainder of the season and playoffs would depend on hundreds of granular tasks.

The latest guest on Load Management was Kevin Garnett. You may have missed or mentally filed away the post from earlier but, hey, fortunately there's no expiration here. Amongst several topics discussed (more on that in a sec) the NBA legend talked about, as ex-players often do, the generational difference of today's game versus the era in which he played. More relevantly to 2020, he said that his generation couldn't have handled the league's current bubble because things were just a little more heated in his day.
"To be honest y'all, we could never play in the bubble," Garnett said. "You know how much I've been screaming during your shot 'Get that shit out of here'? You could've heard me in here. Man they'd of had a bunch of censors. Couldn't have all these cameras, you know, players walking around naked, balls swinging all type thing. That's a different league. We were men, yo."
From there he continued on the theme of how things would've been more entertaining combustible if the pandemic had hit a little earlier. "We out here talking to each other," he went on. "We trying to figure out the pick and roll. We ain't switching, you know, it was just totally different. It [would have] been barbaric. We could have never been in a situation like this. It would've been chaotic (...) It would've been very difficult to put my timing and the guys that I played with and against into a bubble like this and have us not be like — we was high competitors. Everybody's competing. Everybody's damn near fighting every other play."
Tim Reynolds: If you’re wondering if the conference finals and NBA Finals will have trophy ceremonies after clinches, the NBA says they will. How they’ll compare to past years, with most team executives and others who’d be part of such moments not “in the bubble,” I have no idea.
On Tuesday, the NBA scored a lot of points with fans of animal rescue. During Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets, the broadcast cut to 28 dogs and two kittens and their fosters filling virtual courtside seats, with an announcement that they were all “100% adoptable and 100% adorable” and a link to learn more about adopting them. The pets are being fostered by families around the country for Best Friends Animal Society and the nonprofit’s rescue partners.
One of the things you either love or hate about the NBA is the relative lack of variance in who wins and loses. In the main, the best teams tend to win in the playoffs, and the same teams can win multiple championships in a few years. When that doesn’t happen, it stands out. And that’s why so many were shocked when the Clippers went out in the second round in Orlando, blowing a 3-1 series lead to Denver in the Western Conference semis. We asked Silver if one could extrapolate things that have happened in Orlando in these playoffs, or if everything in the bubble is so unique and not likely to be repeated when and if the NBA returns to “normal” that it has to be viewed as a one-off. Despite the hyper-competitiveness of NBA players, and proven commodities like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, something happened to them way beyond the norm of back-and-forth playoff basketball. Silver wonders if Bubble Life didn’t, in some way, adversely impact the heavily favored Clippers. “Something seemed wrong there,” he said, adding that the self-generated hunger of a team might matter more in the antiseptic atmosphere of the bubble than in an arena full of your home fans.
“Okay, I’m going to give a really stupid analogy,” Silver said. “I’ve played a couple of times in the World Series of Poker. And what’s weird about the World Series of Poker is that the final event, which is the main event, lasts for like 10 or 12 days, right – if you make it. Most people drop out, you know half of the players drop out every day. When you’re playing that tournament, and you’re like, ‘Okay, maybe I’ve been here in Vegas for a week,’ and Vegas, even if you’re not playing poker, going crazy, it’s still like, a week feels like a month. And you’re like, ‘If I bust out of the tournament, then I can get out of this bubble in Vegas – not a literal bubble, right – and go back to my life in New York, and get all this work done, see my friends, and whatever else, go to the restaurants I like in New York, get back to my apartment.’ And it makes you play worse. ‘Cause you’re kind of like, ‘Okay, I have the option of, like, I’m a little bit tired of this now, I can get back to my life.'”
What’s your read on why the Pelicans didn’t make the playoffs? Redick: "We had a consistent stretch from the week before Christmas for about a month or so. Then we were basically a .500 team after that. Then the season ended. We never really got into a rhythm in the bubble. Certainly Zion having to leave with his family, we weren’t able to get into a rhythm as a team. We also had our opportunities in the bubble. We had a couple of games that we didn’t close out. (Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations) David Griffin said, 'Success in the bubble is going to be predicated on who actually wants to be there the most.' I’m not knocking our team. But if you look at the four teams in the conference finals, those are the teams that for the most part wanted to be there. We really embraced this. You’ve certainly seen that with Miami. It seems like those guys were built for this environment."
Amongst several topics discussed (more on that in a sec) the NBA legend talked about, as ex-players often do, the generational difference of today's game versus the era in which he played. More relevantly to 2020, he said that his generation couldn't have handled the league's current bubble because things were just a little more heated in his day. "To be honest y'all, we could never play in the bubble," Garnett said. "You know how much I've been screaming during your shot 'Get that shit out of here'? You could've heard me in here. Man they'd of had a bunch of censors. Couldn't have all these cameras, you know, players walking around naked, balls swinging all type thing. That's a different league. We were men, yo."
"We're under a different league now," Garnett said. "And you know what? I'm going to be honest with y'all. I'll probably get some shit for this, but no trainer's going to tell me how long I'm playing. Once I'm out here, I'm out here. If I could play, I'm playing. Y'all pay me to play, so shut the fuck up and let me hoop. And that was the end of the discussion. There ain't no more talking."
Mark Medina: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on CNN to Bob Costas about the NBA bubble: "It's working out so far. But my favorite emoji has been the 'fingers crossed' one."
Jay King: Brad Stevens said having a four-day break “feels a little eerie” in the bubble. Said it feels empty now after so many teams have been eliminated.
One day, Rivers asked a course employee which player was playing the most golf. Rivers thought for sure it was Smith, an avid golfer who will tune into a golf tournament on his iPad in the locker room after a day game. “Without a thought, he said, ‘Oh, Millsap by a long shot. … It’s not even close,’ ” Rivers said. “So during the game or before the game we were laughing because I asked him (Millsap) did he play yesterday, and he goes, ‘Oh, yeah, I got out there.’ I said, ‘When do you have time?’ I don't know how he's doing it, but he's doing it.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was hesitant to praise Hayward for his sacrifice partly because he learned about the revelation through the media instead of directly. "If he wants to go back for the birth of his child, that takes priority," Stevens said. "That's his decision and it's, you know, I want to leave it at that. That's his decision."
Rachel Nichols: Gordon Hayward was originally supposed to leave the Bubble for the birth of his fourth child, but since he just got a bunch of unexpected time with his family due to his injury, he told me the current plan is to stay with the Celtics for as far as they go.
In an attempt to continue it’s season, the NBA looked for a home where the basketball season could safely continue — Which ended up being at Walt Disney World Resort. @ScottGustin has now confirmed the barricades at Disney’s Grand Floridian are down and ITM was there to confirm it.

Jay King: It’s starting to get weird that, in a bubble, the Celtics haven’t won a “home game” since the first round. Five straight “home” losses. Four straight “road” wins. I wish I were smart enough to calculate the odds of such strangeness.
Ira Winderman: Micky Arison and Nick Arison have joined Pat Riley in the bubble viewing area at Disney. Not in the full-quarantine bubble, but viewing from an elevated area at Wide World of Sports arena.
Andrew Bernstein scored his first NBA gig as a photographer at the 1983 All-Star Game. Over the course of 37 years, he has served as team photographer for Los Angeles teams like the Clippers, Dodgers, Kings and, more famously, the Lakers. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the NBA season for more than four months, Bernstein was forced to be anywhere but the hardwood. Now as both the Clippers and Lakers are in the midst of an NBA Finals run, Bernstein is on the floor in Orlando covering the sport he knows best.
What does your day-to-day look like in the bubble right now? Andrew Bernstein: It’s a little bit like Groundhog Day — you have to check your phone or your calendar to make sure what day it is. I just realized it’s the first day of September, so that’s another month. The day kind of starts off with me trying to get a little bit of a workout in, and then we all have to get tested. First thing in the morning, we test each other. We test ourselves in the room with an oxygen [device] and a thermometer that’s hooked into an app that’s fed back to the central area where they monitor all of us. We have to go actually physically to a room to get a nasal and throat swab every single day. That’s how they keep it safe and they keep all of us healthy.
Andrew Bernstein: This is still NBA basketball, no matter where it’s played or how it’s presented. The importance of the games is going to ratchet up as we get from one round to the next to the next, so I do feel a playoff atmosphere. You don’t have the fans and you don’t have all that energy in the arena, but in terms of the gains and the competitiveness, that’s still the same as it’s always been, and it’s going to get more intense as we get further into the playoffs. I love documenting that and that I get to be a part of that.
Seana’s (pronounced Shawna’s) is just one of a handful of local, Black- and Latinx-owned restaurants that have been league-approved to deliver into the NBA’s bubble and just part of a delicious smorgasbord of culinary options. Among other restaurant and catering choices, chef Shawn Loving was brought into Disney World from Detroit and provides food to teams and players as the general manager of the Executive Chef Kitchen. In August, he told the Detroit Free Press, his kitchen made 120–140 meals a day. Chef Alexia Grant, who is also the personal chef for Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, operated a pop-up Comfort Kitchen by Lex Grant restaurant in Disney, and provided breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch options to bubble attendees.
On Aug. 3, the Dallas Mavericks became the first team to try Seana’s cooking. Among other details of their meal, they ordered 250 wings, 100 fried shrimp, at least a half-dozen oxtail dishes and plenty of mac and cheese. They enjoyed the restaurant’s food so much that Johnson says Dallas ordered at least five additional times before leaving the bubble. Molina says the Pelicans placed her biggest order yet—dining on flavorful Cuban and Tripleta sandwiches, among other sandwich types, and a variety of homemade empanadas. She’s served most teams, including the Celtics, 76ers and Lakers. Like with the general public, Sofrito’s churrasco steak has been her most popular seller to NBA players (though, Dominican Republic native Al Horford was especially fond of Molina’s patacon).
In the conference semifinals, capped off by the Clippers’ utter collapse, the home team went just 5-19 (.208), losing each game on average by 3.5 points. Five and 19! At one point, the home team lost nine straight games. Yes, the home team -- the one with virtual fans plastered on giant screens and home-curated audio recordings that blare from the speakers.

Storyline: Orlando Bubble
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November 25, 2020 | 3:10 pm EST Update