NBA Rumor: Orlando Bubble

1,822 rumors in this storyline

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.

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“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.”

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.”

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.

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).

Last Thursday, Brice Arthur was at home in suburban Toronto, watching Game 3 between the Raptors and the Boston Celtics—another contest decided by a thrilling, last-second heave. He spent the night with two computer screens open—one set to the game broadcast and another to bang out his story. Once the final buzzer sounded, he logged into Zoom, toggling between channels in the Raptors’ locker room and the postgame presser, trying to cull as much info as he can and get in a pertinent question. Anyone who’s spent the last six months longing for unmediated contact with friends, with family, or even total strangers, will recognize the sense of exasperation the limits and challenges of technology brought Arthur. “Whatever you lose in that translation—it’s not the same,” he said.

Arthur ended up ditching his chosen beat entirely. In mid-March, his editor offered him the chance to become the paper’s coronavirus columnist. Those four months presented an entirely new series of challenges: including becoming steeped in virology, immunology, and all the attendant fields impacted by a still-metastasizing global crisis. He’s only recently returned to covering the games. But in the end, it wasn’t much of a choice. “It just matters more,” he said. “It was the story of all of us.”

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.”

Most early mornings, a group of NBA officials walk the Loop together, with those same officials having also walked the Loop along with many Disney employees in support of the NBA players during their boycott. Bike rentals are available, and members of the Lakers’ coaching staff race around the loop, as does Raptors coach Nick Nurse. Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth throws his headphones on and goes for fast walks. Clippers assistants Tyronn Lue and Sam Cassell walk in the searing Orlando heat hours before games.

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.” pic.twitter.com/xhQBQ4HE84

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.

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.”

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.

NBA to allow team staff members to have guests inside bubble

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.”

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.”

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.

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.”
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September 25, 2020 | 12:58 pm EDT Update
Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari has enjoyed watching Jamal Murray’s evolution from college standout to burgeoning NBA superstar. “Jamal Murray’s spirit on that basketball court was palpable,” Calipari said Friday during an appearance on Good Show one day after the Denver Nuggets guard’s memorable Game 4 effort against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Murray is active at both ends of the court, too, something Calipari likes seeing from his former pupil. “The other thing he learned to do (at Kentuky) is defend,” Calipari added. “You have to guard here or I can’t play you. I can’t have one guy lose a game because you’re getting scored on left and right. You watch (Murray), his hands, his ability to block shots, his ability to stay in front of people, his ability to play a big if he has to. “And he’s only 23. It’s crazy what I’m seeing there. All the stuff he did (at Kentuky), he has mastered it to another level.”
Each team has its own needs and brings its own questions, but Yurtseven has noticed some commonalities to the experience in recent months. That has allowed him to settle in and be more comfortable in the setting, after he said he was nervous in his first interview with the Atlanta Hawks. “I think first comes being honest and being yourself,” Yurtseven told NBC Sports Washington of the keys to a draft interview. “But other than that, you have to know their rosters in order to see how they would fit in; what shooters are you going to be able to kick out to, or what bigs would you be playing with, what picks do they have. In all the interviews, I try to incorporate all the things I know about them in order to show them that I care, that I want to be on their team.”
To support the Lakers 2020 playoff run, Metro will be distributing commemorative Lakers TAP cards at select bus stops and rail stations in the next few days. Many of the cards — which are loaded with a day pass — will be distributed in low-income and underserved neighborhoods by our law enforcement partners at the LAPD, L.A. Sheriff’s Department and Long Beach PD, all of whom help patrol the Metro system. The Lakers will also be giving some of the cards to our local Boys and Girls Clubs.
September 25, 2020 | 12:34 pm EDT Update
“Very, very disappointed,” James Harden said following Game 5. “Obviously we still have to go out there and play a basketball game and series, but it affected us. It was a distraction and he was a huge part of our rotation. But we still had to go out there and try to win games.” From what I understand, House apologized to the entire team before exiting the bubble. It was a bad decision made on his part, but one that didn’t just affect the team — it might have affected his future.
Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown is a scholar – seeking not only knowledge but answers to social and racial injustices – just as much as he is a basketball player. “It’s just who I am,” Brown told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s not like something I’ve just started doing now. I’ve advocated and spoken about things I’ve felt strong about since before I was drafted. Responsibility is the right word. But at this point, it’s just who I am.
Can they do it again? Can they rally from behind against the Lakers? Can they really eliminate LeBron James? “Everyone always has us packing our bags and leaving, but we’re not ready to go,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “For some reason we love this bubble. I can’t explain it. But this team loves the bubble … we’re a very resilient group. And this group has proven that time and time again.”