By Arnie Leshin
Wonder if the winners of this shortened, restored National Basketball Association season will again say they are going to Disney World? Don’t bet on it.
Now, in these times of COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic that has sent professional sports in the United States into desperate ways to salvage their seasons, that’s where the NBA has landed, in Disney World at the nearby ESPN Worldwide Sports Complex. That’s where they will play, that’s where they will be housed, at the nearby hotel complexes, that’s where they will be quarantined.
It’s nothing to like these would find themselves with their families enjoying the pleasures of these expensive hotels, but in this situation, it’s the best way of managing to eat, sleep, shoot hoops, and just follow the restrictions set forth. Like the others, the NBA wanted to play, and instead of the outdoor leagues like the National Football League, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, tennis and golf tournaments, and whatever else is finding a way to play, the NBA is at least playing where it is comfortable.
And that’s indoors. For the NBA, this is the home away from home for the foreseeable future, and efforts are being made to make the time here fun. The so-called bubble in Central Florida is where 22 teams have settled for about about a week now, where they will remain for another month, and where teams that make the playoffs will be for considerable longer.
“We’re trying to just live our lives,” says Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivera, “have our best Disney life.”
He added that he even brought his bike, but it’s yet to leave the room, but the thought is nice, and hopefully someday I get on it. “Yes, we’ve got a lot to do. It’s still not normal, but that’s fine with us. Again, we’re going to live the best Disney life that we can.”
The NBA has even developed an app for the Disney life.
Every team was assigned a liaison to help book outings and handle needs, and the app includes everything on how to get food delivered to how to book extra practice time. There’s a page within the app that allows players to report violations of health protocols, such as not wearing a mask, as well as links to mental health resources and even details on how players can register to vote if they haven’t already.
In short, there are many ways to busy in the bubble.
Teams have meal rooms set up with means that were developed in cooperation with their own staffs and dietitians. And when all else fails, there are delivery options options and room service offering everything from bisques to steaks to flourless chocolate cakes.
It’s not anything like a five-star restaurant, but if you talk and it being good food that you can eat and enjoy, it would be that. They won’t be eating off of fine china, but it’s also eating off of biodegradable containers, and known to be a smart thing to do. Plus, no eating with silverware because that does pose a threat as far as spreading the virus.
Some players have brought their golf clubs, and they are using them every chance they get.
The league is trying to make the days at Disney go a little faster, with activities available almost around the clock. And some players are making the best of things. Some of the Denver Nuggets even turned an off day into time for a full-time pool workout this week.
It’s a summer away from home that isn’t ideal for obvious reasons. Players and coaches are away from their families, many teams are missing players or other personnel because of the coronavirus, and there are daily reminders that even this well-isolated world was created during a pandemic.
Medical personnel — wearing gloves, masks and plastic visors — are arriving to place a swab in everyone’s mouth and two more in their nasal passages for the next COVID-19 test. Barbers arrive for the first time this week, bowling is available, boats are available, so is fishing, and the walking trail is pretty much occupied by coaches and players.
And on occasion, basketball even gets played. Now it’s practice time, soon it will be official games.