The NBA Is Back

The NBA season finally returned in late July in what is now known as the “bubble.” The bubble refers to the 22 teams invited to play in Orlando dispersed across three hotels around Walt Disney World, which are the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort, the Yacht Club Resort, and the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Players, coaches, and trainers were brought to the hotel to stay in isolation to protect themselves from COVID-19. 

Before going to the bubble, players and staff members were instructed to take two COVID-19 tests and receive two negative test results before they were allowed to travel to Orlando. According to ESPN, once players and staff arrived in their designated hotels, they had to self-quarantine in their rooms to await two negative test results, then they were allowed to leave the room. After the entire team and staff had tested negative, practices were able to resume and they could socialize with other members.

Practices and games are held at the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. Additionally, some of the ballrooms were converted into basketball courts to accommodate practices. According to MSN Sports, the ballroom at Coronado Springs Convention Center was able to turn into four different basketball courts. 

Even though players and staff are cleared of COVID-19, they are still required to wear their masks and wash their hands regularly. Coaches and bench players are not required to wear their mask during a game, but most still do. Around the resort, players and staff wear a “MagicBand” that gives them access to practice rooms and lets them enter and exit the hotel if they want to go fishing or to the pool. According to ESPN, the MagicBands also serve as a checklist if the player or staff member has checked their temperature and marked down any symptoms they had or did not have. 

Media journalists and reporters are also allowed around the Walt Disney Complex but must stay away from the players’ rooms and hotels. Marc Stein, an accredited sports reporter for the New York Times, highlighted that reporters are only allowed to trek into the game venues, practice sites, and the hotel rooms designated to the news media. 

The return of the NBA started off swiftly with each team allowed to play three scrimmages and then the seeding games returning. A total of 22 teams were invited to the bubble, 9 from the Eastern conference and 13 from the Western conference. Each team was invited because they all had the opportunity of making it into the playoffs; the teams not invited did not.

Games resumed with the sight of virtual fans alongside the arena and LED screens plastered with the team logos and names. Fan audio was also included at a dim volume so that players and viewers could hear but it is still relevantly quiet on the court so that the players screaming can be heard.

After an exhilarating run of the eight seeding games, a couple of teams stood out more than the others. For instance, the Phoenix Suns arrived to the bubble with a 26-39 record and went 8-0 in the bubble, defeating strong teams like the LA Clippers and the Indiana Pacers. However, they were stripped of their chances of going to the playoffs when the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trailblazers both won. Their undefeated record did not go unnoticed though.

The playoffs are offering exciting matchups, with the Los Angeles Lakers going against the fired up Portland Trailblazers. The Dallas Mavericks must go head-to-head with the number one seed: the LA Clippers, but the Mavs have not given them the satisfaction of passing onto the next round easily. Playoffs are most definitely different right now because there is no “home-court advantage” since the courts are in constant use for other teams and there are no real crowds of fans. Virtual fans and crowd audio have been substituted instead to drown out the quietness of the courts.

The first round of playoffs are beginning to close off and both the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors swept the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets respectively. They won their series 4-0 and now face each other. Additionally, the Miami Heat swept the Indiana Pacers 4-0 in their series Monday night. As of Monday night, the Mavericks and Clippers are tied at 2-2 for their series; the Denver Nuggets lead 3-1 against the Utah Jazz; the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder are tied at 2-2; LA Lakers lead the Portland Trail Blazers 3-1; and the Milwaukee Bucks lead the Orlando Magic 3-1.

“The team that has surprised the most during the playoffs is OKC because they have tied the series [against the Houston Rockets],” senior Caleb Clerkley said. “They hadn’t really stood out this season and them going against a team with one very efficient scorer, I wasn’t expecting them to last very long.”

Players around the league have not forgotten about their message of supporting the racial justice movements of Black Lives Matter. The courts have the words “Black Lives Matter” and have not shied away from the media in voicing their opinion. Some players have also replaced their last names with phrases such as “Equality,” “Liberation,” and “Justice Now.”

Players in the bubble have been separated from their families since mid-July; however, the NBA has allowed players to bring close family friends and family members. In an article on CNN, players are allowed to bring four guests to Orlando if they advance to the second round of playoffs beginning August 31. Each family member and friend must follow the same restrictions as the players and go through a 7-day period in isolation once they arrive at the bubble.

“I think it’s a bad idea to bring player’s families into the bubble because it seems too risky,” senior Eden Jones said. “While the idea to quarantine them two weeks in total is good, there is still a chance that they could pick up COVID during their flights to Disney and spread it within the quarantining area to other families.”

While this is true, there has been no evidence of any player or staff member getting sick when arriving at Disney. Although it is not entirely impossible, the chances of it happening are slim.

Even for people who are not big fans of basketball, the NBA bubble has proven to us that it is possible to return to everyday activities if we enforce social distancing norms, wear our masks, quarantine for 10-14 days if we have been exposed, and stay indoors. There have been no positive cases reported in the bubble since July 13.