The NBA bubble has been in full effect for a little less than a month now, and so far, there haven’t been any major COVID-19 concerns happening within the campus site. Teams have ramped up practices, and back to playing actual basketball again, and while a sense of familiarity is returning for the players as they take the court, they still are restricted to the confines of the Disney World environment.
In between practices and scrimmages there’s quite a bit of time to fill, and players have been extremely open in sharing what life is like inside the Disney bubble, taking to various forms of social media to share what they’re doing. To keep it all straight, we’ll be gathering the top moments happening inside the bubble each week. Scrimmages are in full swing and games are just around the corner, but that hasn’t stopped players from enjoying themselves in their down time. Here’s what they’ve been up to in the past week.
- The games have begun … sort of
While the scrimmages don’t count, it certainly was a sight for sore eyes after going nearly five months without the NBA. With a fully-packed slate of scrimmages leading up to the real thing on July 30, we got to see familiar sights and some new adjustments we’ll have to get used to as the season gets rolling. There were the Denver Nuggets deploying a starting lineup that featured three seven-footers, including a slimmed down NIkola Jokic running point with two-way player, and NBA Twitter fan favorite, Bol Bol at small forward.
Early takeaways from the scrimmages in the bubble seem to be that the league’s best 3-point shooters are loving the environment, as it’s providing the perfect line of sight from 3-point territory. There’s even some players who aren’t exactly known from knocking them down from deep connecting on those shots in the bubble. If this is the type of bubble ball we’re going to get, where guys like Ben Simmons and Boban Marjanovic are sinking 3s then the rest of the season is going to bring some unexpected highlights.
2. NBA players showing support for the WNBA
With the WNBA season tipping off on Saturday, NBA players across the bubble showed tremendous support for the W by sporting orange hoodies with the league logo on it. Guys like LeBron, Ja Morant, CJ McCollum, Victor Oladipo and many more all posted on social media showing support for teams or specific players.
It wasn’t just limited to inside the bubble either, as Trae Young also took to Twitter to post a picture of himself in the orange hoodie. Young also posted a picture of Kobe Bryant wearing the hoodie with his daughter Gianna, who both died tragically in a helicopter crash in January. Bryant was a huge supporter of the WNBA and women’s basketball, as his daughter was following in her father’s footsteps and playing the game herself.
The NBA showing so much support for the WNBA is great to see, and while it may seem like a ploy to get people interested in the league, many of these players have taken a genuine interest in the women’s game.
3. Raptors get a care package from Drake
Toronto is truly trying to make itself at home in the bubble. First, it was insuring each player had photos of their family members in their hotel rooms at the start of the 48-hour mandatory quarantine. Now, they’re getting care packages from Toronto’s favorite son, Drake. The ambassador for Raptors basketball sent every member of the team two candles each, complete with handwritten notes on each one with nicknames and the scent of each candle.
It’s unclear exactly what “Williamsburg sleepover” or “sweeter tings” smells like, but I’m sure it brings a little bit of Canada while the defending champions are staying down in Orlando. The best part about this, though, is that on Fred VanVleet‘s candles Drake put “for twin” on them, further cementing what everyone else thinks about the two looking eerily similar to each other.
4. The barbershop is open
When the NBA announced its plan to return, it sent a 113-page safety and protocols handbook to players. It went into great deal about how the league plans to handle testing, social distancing, mask protocols and other incredibly important aspects to keep the league’s bubble as safe as possible. However, what became a bit of a talking point was the part about the league allowing barbers into the bubble for players to keep their hair trimmed throughout their stay.
Logistical questions surrounding how these barbers were going to be picked, and if they were also going to be staying on the campus site were valid points to make. But while the answers to those questions still aren’t clear, what is clear is that the NBA bubble might as well just be the NBA 2K neighborhood. At least, that’s what some players compared the pop-up barbershop to when it arrived in the bubble last week.
The similarities cannot be denied, and it appears that the barbershop has been a hit since opening up, as players like JaVale McGee and Tobias Harris have taken a seat in the chair to get a quarantine cut. Washington Wizards big man Ian Mahinmi even said after taking his own trip to the barbershop that’s it’s “really nice.”
For some of these players, this might be the first haircut they’ve had since the pandemic shut down barbershops everywhere, but we know one person who won’t be showing up: Harrison Barnes. The Sacramento Kings forward, who has been growing out his hair and beard, said that he won’t cut it until the Kings get back to .500. Sacramento is currently eight games below .500, so it would take the team going undefeated in its seeding schedule to reach that mark. Looks like Barnes might be waiting until the start of the 2020-21 season until he can say goodbye to his beard.
5. The Mavericks and Spurs are focusing on some other sports in the bubble
There perhaps isn’t another team in the bubble having more fun than the Dallas Mavericks. In fact, from the content shared by the team and the players on social media, you would think this team was the 22nd team invited to Orlando, and not a playoff-bound squad with the possibility to move up in the West standings. In between practices and games, Mavs players have been showing their skills in a game of spikeball. If you’re not familiar, it’s where you smack a ball off a small-sized trampoline to try and put the ball out of reach of your opponent, and word is the duo of Luka Doncic and JJ Barea is pretty formidable.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has even been entertained by his players during practice, comparing it to “watching a high-level game of beach volleyball.” Apparently there’s been a pretty competitive matchup between Doncic-Barea vs. Maxi Kleber and Tim Hardaway Jr.. Asked who he would assume was MVP of these little friendly duels, Carlisle said Doncic, because he’s “pretty much good at anything he tries.” As the reigning Rookie of the Year, and the league leader in triple-doubles, he’s not wrong in that assessment.
Meanwhile, the Spurs are hosting their own cornhole tournament between players, with a whole bracket and seeding like it’s March Madness.
There should be some questions around the seeding, though, because apparently DeMar DeRozan being the leading scorer on the team doesn’t grant him a bye in the first round, but I digress. In the end, though, Tyler Zeller and athletic development coach Kelly Forbes were crowned champions, proving that centers do indeed have range further than just around the basket. The Spurs’ 20-year playoff streak might be in jeopardy, but at least they can find solace in getting in some quality bonding time with these mini tournaments.