NBA bubble
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NBA Orlando restart: What players can expect as they arrive at the bubble

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Today we start to find out if the NBA can build a bubble on its Walt Disney World campus and play out the end of the season, crowning a champion.

For the next three days, Tuesday through Thursday, teams will be arriving in Orlando and will be taken to the Disney property and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. There are 113-pages of protocols and regulations laid out by the league — not all of them popular with players, expect some fatigue as the restart wears on — to create this bubble.

Here’s what players can expect, starting today:

ARRIVAL

• Teams will board charter flights from their home market to the Orlando airport, where after they land and go through security they will directly board a chartered bus that will bring them to the Walt Disney World complex. Team arrival dates are:

Tuesday: Brooklyn, Denver, Orlando (no flight), Phoenix, Utah, Washington
Wednesday: Boston, Dallas, L.A. Clippers, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Sacramento
Thursday: Toronto (from Florida), Houston, Indiana, L.A. Lakers, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Portland, San Antonio

• When they check-in at the hotel, each player will be given a “MagicBand” — a rubber bracelet with a chip that serves as a room key (and wallet, if needed) throughout the hotel. The NBA also will use it to check players in for coronavirus testing.

• Soon after they arrive, players will be tested for the coronavirus. After taking the test (and awaiting results), players must quarantine in their hotel rooms for 24-48 hours until they pass two tests 24 hours apart — they may not be in physical contact with team members, and they will only eat room service meals. Portland’s CJ McCollum had wine shipped from Oregon to his room in Orlando just to pass these 48 hours.

• Once cleared by the initial tests, players will be tested daily for the virus, at least at first, according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The NBA’s operations handbook for the restart says players will be tested” regularly.”

• What hotel teams will stay at was determined by seeding. Here is the list of which teams are staying at what hotel.

-Grand Destino: Milwaukee, L.A. Lakers, Toronto, L.A. Clippers, Boston, Denver, Utah, Miami
-Grand Floridian: Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Houston, Indiana, Dallas, Brooklyn, Memphis, Orlando
-Yacht Club: Portland, Sacramento, New Orleans, San Antonio, Phoenix, Washington

If a lower seed team advances to the conference semi-finals, they likely will be asked to move to the Grand Destino from their hotel (Disney wants to free up those hotels for other guests to the resort).

• All team and league staff — including coaches — will be required to wear a “proximity alarm” that will notify the wearer if he or she spends more than five seconds within six feet of another person who also has the band. The idea is to remind people to social distance. Players will have the option of wearing the alarm band.

• Players also will be given the option to wear the Oura smart ring, which tracks the wearer’s temperature, breathing, and heart rate. The makers says could help indicate if a player has some of the early symptoms of COVID-19 before they realize it, but players are skeptical of wearable technology from the league in general. We will see how many players take the league up on their offer.

LIFE INSIDE THE BUBBLE

• Everyone — players, team staff, Disney employees, probably even Mickey Mouse — will be required to wear a facemask, except when eating, at a workout or practice, in their room, or if they are swimming or doing something more than six feet away from another person (laying out by the pool with nobody around).

• Food will be prepared on site by Disney chefs. Each team has the chance to work with a “culinary team” to design a healthy menu that fits the dietary needs of players. A number of players have private chefs, and they can prepare meals off-site then have those brought into the players.

• Games inside the NBA bubble will take place at one of three facilities:
1)The HP Field House will be the primary game court.
2)The Arena will have a game broadcast court plus has a couple of side practice courts.
3) The Visa Center has a court that can be used for game broadcasts, but this will primarily be a practice facility.
• All three areans have weight and training areas for teams to get in additional work.

• Team hotels will have amenities for players and staff, such as pools, bicycles (there are bike paths), players-only lounge area (with televisions and gaming areas). The hotel will have barbers, manicures and spa services, and more. There also will be movie screenings, some DJ sets, bowling, and other games such as ping pong — just don’t play doubles. Seriously.

• There will be golf available, but no caddies.

• Players can leave the bubble whenever they want. If this is an excused exit for a family emergency — Gordon Hayward and several other players have wives/partners with babies due during the bubble — and players are tested daily while outside the bubble, they face only a four-day quarantine upon return. However, if a player just chooses to leave the bubble without an approved reason, he faces a 14-day quarantine upon his return and will have to have two negative tests. Also, the player will not be paid for any games missed.

• Any team staff that violates the rules of the NBA bubble or leaves the bubble without prior approval will be removed and cannot return to the Disney campus.

WHAT HAPPENS IF/WHEN A PLAYER TESTS POSITIVE

• The NBA has made it clear: Games are not going to stop for a few positive tests

• If a player tests positive inside the NBA bubble, he is immediately be moved to “isolation housing” off the Disney property. That player will spend at least 14 days outside the bubble and must pass two coronavirus tests a day apart.

• Anyone the infected player came in contact with will face increased testing and will be monitored.

• Teams and the league will more closely monitor and test anyone who was in close proximity to that player between tests.

NBA to name All-Seeding Games Teams, Player of the Seeding Games

Pacers forward T.J. Warren and Suns guard Devin Booker
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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The NBA already held voting for its main awards, retroactively ending the regular season March 11 and defining the eight games for each of the 22 teams continuing at Disney World as “seeding games.”

So, the league found a new way to honor standout players from this portion of the season.

NBA release:

The NBA announced today that it will name the … NBA All-Seeding Games Team and the … NBA Player of the Seeding Games to honor top performers for games played July 30 – Aug. 14 during the 2019-20 season restart at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

A panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who have been on site covering the season restart will select the … NBA All-Seeding Games Team and the … NBA Player of the Seeding Games.  The media panel will vote for five players for the All-Seeding Games First Team and five players for the All-Seeding Games Second Team, choosing a total of 10 players at any position from either conference.

The … NBA All-Seeding Games Team and the …. NBA Player of the Seeding Games will be announced Saturday, Aug. 15 before Game 1 of the Western Conference Play-In, which tips off at 2:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Is it silly to to give awards for such a small sample of what effectively amount to regular-season games? Yes.

Is it also fun? Heck yes.

My early picks:

Player of the Seeding Games

All-Seeding Games First Team

All-Seeding Games Second Team

Kyle Kuzma: ‘Jesus could be in front of me, and I’d probably still shoot’

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Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma hit a game-winner over the Nuggets’ Bol Bol, who’s 7-foot-2 with a 7-foot-7 wingspan.

Bill Oram of The Athletic:

Kuzma has overcome so much to reach this point. Of course, he’s confident.

Would Kuzma start on some teams that don’t have LeBron James and Anthony Davis at forward? Yes. Most teams? That’s a stretch.

Regardless, Kuzma doesn’t want to find out what his role would be on a lower-profile team. And the Lakers are happy to have him, too.

LeBron, via Oram:

“In order for us to win a championship, he has to be our third-best player,” James said. “And if I’m struggling or A.D.’s struggling, he has to be our second-best player on any given night. We can’t win a championship if Kuz doesn’t play well.”

It’d work well if Danny Green is the Lakers’ third-best player. His perimeter defense and spot-up 3-point shooting complement stars like LeBron and Davis.

Kuzma creates his own shots in a way Green can’t, and Kuzma’s size makes him an effective defender at times. But he doesn’t mesh quite as neatly with stars. Kuzma can better provide a boost when LeBron or Davis is having an off night. There’s value in that. But how often will the Lakers want to have the ball in Kuzma’s hands rather than LeBron’s or Davis’ – even as much as Kuzma believes in himself?

Donald Trump: NBA ‘in big trouble, bigger trouble than they understand’

President Donald Trump
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In an interview on Fox Sports Radio, President Donald Trump played all his greatest hits on the NBA – teams kneeling for the national anthem, the league’s involvement in China.

Trump on NBA teams kneeling for the national anthem:

I think it’s been horrible for basketball. Look at the basketball ratings. They’re down. They’re down to very low numbers – very, very low. People are angry about it. They don’t realize. They don’t want – they have enough politics with guys like me. They don’t need more as they’re driving down, going up for the shot. They don’t need it. And there was a nastiness about the NBA, the way it was done too. So I think that they –   the NBA is in trouble. I think it’s in big trouble, bigger trouble than they understand.

And frankly, ice hockey which is doing very well, they didn’t do that. They respected the mores. They respected what they’re supposed to be doing. And they’re actually doing very well, as I understand it.

You have to stand for your flag, and you have to respect your flag and your country. You’re making millions of dollars a year to be playing a sport you’d be playing anyway if you didn’t make – they’d be playing it on the weekends. And they have to respect their country.

Kneeling during the national anthem is a patriotic gesture that calls attention to serious problems plaguing our country – racism, particularly through police brutality. The United States would become an even better country by addressing those issues.

In a United States that values freedom, the president should not be saying “you have to stand for your flag.” That runs toward authoritarianism.

NBA ratings are down because [insert a reason that fits your agenda here]. It’s a complicated situation with numerous factors.

Are some people turned off by the NBA’s increasingly visible political actions? Yes. Would some people lose interest in the NBA if the league shut down players and coaches who kneeled during the national anthem and spoke about the most important issues confronting the country? Yes.

NHL players did kneel during the national anthem. Not like the mass demonstrations by NBA teams. But some NHL players have kneeled.

Yet, Trump and many of his followers give more credence to some protesters than to others.

Which gets to China.

Trump on NBA players and coaches criticizing him:

I haven’t noticed them sending things back at me but I will say that I wouldn’t be that surprised. Some are very nasty – very, very nasty – and frankly, very dumb. But I haven’t noticed that. But I will say this: The way they cater to China, the way they bow to China, it’s a disgrace frankly. And they make a lot more money here than they do from China. But we have a system that allows you to disrespect your system, and that’s too bad for them. Too bad for them. They don’t appreciate what they have here.

The NBA has been complicit in abuses in China. It is disgraceful. The way otherwise-outspoken NBA people have been silent on China and Hong Kong – given the financial incentives – has been suspect.

But the NBA is far from the only American entity with business interests entangled in China. The league shouldn’t become a punching bag that distracts from a far wider issue.

The next two questions Trump faced in the interview practically begged him to denounce China for reducing freedom in Hong Kong. He did not.

Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell Tweets he’s back inside NBA bubble

Clippers big Montrezl Harrell
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The Clippers, who have coasted to a 3-3 record at the restart, are about to get a burst of energy off the bench.

Montrezl Harrell is back in the bubble. He Tweeted this out Monday:

Harrell was granted leave from the bubble to help take care of his grandmother — who he was very close to — when she fell ill. She eventually died, and Harrell poured out his emotions on social media for fans. The Clippers told Harrell to take as much time as he needed before coming back.

Harrell is back now, and if he tested negative the last seven days outside he bubble he will be in quarantine on the Walt Disney World Resort property for four days, then he can rejoin his team — possibly for Friday’s seeding game against Oklahoma City, but certainly in time for the playoffs.

Harrell is a leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate who averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game for the Clippers this season. More than the numbers, he brought an improved defense and relentless energy off the bench that lifted the Clippers nightly. The Harrell/Lou Williams pick-and-roll remains one of the smoothest and most dangerous in the league.

Harrell also gives Doc Rivers a lot of versatility and options on how to close games — the Clippers can go big, go small, and do either well. It’s that versatility that makes them a dangerous playoff team.

The Clippers needed Harrell back to unleash all of it, and now he is there and ready to go.