CJ McCollum

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Players’ social media provides early glimpse of life inside NBA bubble

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Starting Tuesday (and through Thursday), players began arriving in Orlando to enter the NBA bubble and restart of the season.

Immediately, some took to social media to document the experience.

What’s life in the bubble like? For the first 24-48 hours, it looks like a hotel room — players get a coronavirus test soon after arrival, then have to quarantined in their hotel room until they pass that and a second test at least 24 hours later and are cleared. What are the rooms like? Orlando’s Evan Fournier gave us a glimpse.

Stuck in their rooms, the players are watching TV and eating the room-service meals provided — and food became an NBA Twitter topic.

Brooklyn’s Chris Chiozza had a meal that looked a little better.

Players will eat a lot better in the NBA bubble once they can go to the restaurants in the hotels, it’s just for the first couple days of quarantine they have to eat room service meals.

“During the required quarantine period when teams first arrive to the NBA Campus at Orlando, meals are delivered directly to hotel rooms,” a league spokesperson told NBC Sports. “Each of the 22 NBA teams were paired with a Disney culinary team, who meets with each NBA team’s nutritionists regularly to create menus to support specific team needs. After clearing quarantine, players will also have access to various restaurants on campus and delivery options to choose from. Players will receive three meals a day and four meals on gamedays. There is never a shortage of food options – players can always request additional food by speaking with their team nutritionists.”

No matter the food, no matter how nice the room is, being stuck in a hotel room for a couple of days straight is not a lot of fun — which is why CJ McCollum had his own wine shipped to him at the hotel, just for this moment. At least he’s got a good glass.

Utah’s Jordan Clarkson summed up the mood of a lot of players those first couple of quarantine days in Orlando.

Things will look a lot better in a few days when players are out of their rooms and out on the practice courts.

Rudy Gobert to replace name on jersey with ‘Equality’ as first social justice messages leak

Jazz center Rudy Gobert
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“Equality” and “Vote” have proven popular among the first social justice messages on the back of NBA player jerseys have been leaked to the public.

The choices of nine NBA players were leaked by Chris Haynes of TNT and Yahoo Sports on Tuesday during Inside the NBA on TNT. Here is the first list:

Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz) – “Equality”
CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers) – “Education Reform”
Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers) – ‘Equality”
Kent Bazemore (Sacramento Kings) – “Education Reform”
Matisse Thybulle (Philadelphia 76ers) – “Vote”
Pat Connaughton (Milwaukee Bucks) – “Equality”
Meyers Leonard (Miami Heat) – “Equality”
Ivica Zubac (Los Angeles Clippers) – “Enough”
Moe Wagner (Wizards) – “Vote”

The NBA is a multi-billion dollar business, so it wanted to allow for social justice messages on jerseys — but not any social justice message. It had to come from a pre-approved list (read: things that felt “safe” and would not offend the core audience). That did not sit well with players, but everyone is headed to Orlando for the restart for financial reasons, so of course this was a business decision. The list of approved messages is:

Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; Mentor.

NBA players will be arriving in Orlando through Thursday as the NBA starts to form its bubble and begin practices.

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.

Jaylen Brown heads to restart with Boston, plans to use voice for social justice

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The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown has been one of the most active NBA players in the Black Lives Matters movement — even driving from Boston to Atlanta to lead a protest.

That’s not changing because he’s going to Orlando for the NBA restart.

Brown admitted he considered not playing in Orlando due to the pandemic, but the opportunity the NBA’s platform provided to speak on social issues was too great to pass up, Brown said in a conference call with reporters Monday, via the Associated Press.

“Once I thought about the opportunity that the organization and the NBA presented to play for something bigger than myself, I was signed up,” he said. “I plan on using my voice while I’m down there. I plan on spreading light on things that are getting dimmed and hopefully the NBA and our organization can understand.”

Brown is not alone in thinking that. Portland’s CJ McCollum is on the executive committee of the National Basketball Players Association as well and said a lot of players see the same opportunity.

“But now [the talk is] more around what impact we can make to support what is going on in the real world, to continue to support Black Lives Matter and the things we’re facing as a society,” McCollum told NBC Sports. “Those are the calls we’re having now. How can we impact? How can we spread awareness on certain things in the world that are going on?…

“The biggest thing is to take advantage of the platform [in Orlando], to coincide with the NBA and figure out productive ways we can continue to spread information, to continue to educate, to continue to put light on things that have often been behind closed doors and never been brought out to the public eye, so I think those are the conversations we’ll continue to have.”

One way players can make a statement is by replacing the name on the back of jerseys with a message pre-approved by the league. Brown, like 76ers forward Mike Scott, is not a fan of how the NBA handled it.

“I think that list is an example of a form of limitations,” Brown said. “I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more…

“The bottom line is there are improvements that need to be made,” Brown said. “The NBA has a great voice, a lot of resources and a lot of influence. We’re appreciative that they’re helping and aiding in a lot of those things that we care about. That’s really important.”

Brown understands the NBA’s voice, and he heads to Orlando planning to use his.

CJ McCollum talks social justice, basketball, and wine in Orlando

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As a VP of the players’ union, CJ McCollum has had to grapple with important issues the past month as the Trail Blazers prepare to head to Orlando for the NBA restart. The health and safety of himself and other players. And how to use the NBA platform to maintain and further the social justice movement while on the Disney campus.

Then there’s how to make sure there is enough good wine in the Orlando hotel where he stays.

“I’ve already organized my shipment to come in…” McCollum said, with a smile. He (along with LeBron James and others) is a member of the league’s growing wine-loving culture. “I’m sending some of my stuff down there as well [McCollum has his own wine label], so it will be a nice change of speed, especially during that isolation period we have to go through [upon arrival] when we have to spend 24 to 48 hours in our rooms without leaving. It will be nice to watch TV shows and have a nice glass.”

Organizing wine shipments has been just one of the many things on McCollum’s plate lately, from talking to fellow players about life in the Orlando bubble to talking with his father about grooming and style through a partnership with Old Spice.

McCollum admitted he’s been glued to his phone talking to players for a month or more as momentum for the NBA restart picked up pace. As a vice president of the National Basketball Players’ Association, players were reaching out to him for answers — answers that kept evolving over time.

So did the questions. At first, the questions were about whether or not there would be a return to play, how it would work, and what life would be like in the bubble.

“But now it’s more around what impact we can make to support what is going on in the real world, to continue to support Black Lives Matter and the things we’re facing as a society,” McCollum told NBC Sports. “Those are the calls we’re having now. How can we impact? How can we spread awareness on certain things in the world that are going on? …

“The biggest thing is to take advantage of the platform [in Orlando], to coincide with the NBA and figure out productive ways we can continue to spread information, to continue to educate, to continue to put light on things that have often been behind closed doors and never been brought out to the public eye. So I think those are the conversations we’ll continue to have.”

Even those social justice questions are starting to evolve, McCollum said, changing from how players and the league can make a statement to how they can help take concrete steps to further that change.

“We’re definitely looking for actionable items and collectively we’re brainstorming ideas on how to empower the masses, especially minorities, to vote,” McCollum said. “To try to put an emphasis on voter suppression where you have cities that might have one polling place for 600,000 or 700,000 people. We’re trying to eliminate those kinds of situations and the key is to educate as many people as we can.”

Voting rights are just the tip of the iceberg. There is also a focus on other issues, such as prison reform, McCollum said. Also finding ways to get people of color move into more powerful positions in Fortune 500 and other major companies — including the NBA. McCollum emphasized the NBA needs to lead by example.

Then there was taking the time to sit down with his father and talk grooming, something Old Spice put together recently for Father’s Day.

“It was really, really cool. Thank you to Old Spice for bringing us together and helping us catch up,” McCollum said. “We discussed style and grooming from the ‘50s, 60s, ‘70s up to now. It’s really understanding why I really take so much pride in my overall grooming, my overall health and overall freshness.”

On top of all that, there’s McCollum’s day job — a 22.5 point a game two guard for the Portland Trail Blazers, a team heading to Orlando with a real belief they can catch Memphis as the eighth seed and become a dangerous playoff team.

McCollum and his teammates have been working their way back into shape, but players from all teams are concerned about not ramping up too fast after this forced break. Nobody wants an injury.

“I think going through training camp, the restart, coaches and trainers are going to have to be very careful with the load increase,” McCollum said.

It’s going to be a lot of work for McCollum, work that will not stop when the Portland charter touches down in Orlando.

At least when McCollum heads back to his room he knows there will be a good bottle of wine waiting for him.