The new NBA ecosystem known as “The Bubble” has opened at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and it has been an eye-opening experience for the Australian contingent and other superstar players.
In between training and playing for a championship players can book a private ride on the theme park’s Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, a tee time at one of the resort’s three golf courses or go on a two-hour fishing trip from the Grand Marina.
“We are all figuring out an incredibly surreal environment,” Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown, talking to reporters on Saturday, said.
Australia’s Patty Mills is not only focused on winning another NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs, but is using the bright global spotlight of the Orlando season restart to advance his fight to end racism.
One of Mills’ first stops was an interview on US sports TV network ESPN.
“We as black people, black Americans, black Australians must help educate the majority about what we go through on a daily basis so they can be in the front lines for it,” Mills said.
Mills is donating the $A1.458 million he is due to earn in Orlando to Black Lives Matter Australia, Black Deaths in Custody and The We Got You campaign.
Joe Ingles, who has thrown his support behind Mills’ campaign, managed to overcome a major issue regularly faced by caffeine-loving Australians seeking quality coffee in the US.
Ingles shipped his coffee machine to Orlando for what could be a potential three-month stint at Walt Disney World if the Utah Jazz make the NBA Finals.
Ingles faces another uneasy issue that might not be so hard to solve.
He fears his hotel room might get hard on the nose.
“I can’t open my window,” Ingles told reporters.
“I don’t think anyone can.
“I know it is probably hotel protocol, but when you are in a room for a couple of months it is going to get a bit stanky.”
One of the biggest question marks hanging over the NBA restart is how Ben Simmons’ 76ers will perform in Orlando.
When the pandemic shut the season down on March 11 the talented 76ers were in bad shape with Simmons out injured with a nerve issue in his back, the team slipping to sixth place in the Eastern Conference and a horrible road record of just 10 wins, 24 losses.
Walt Disney World and the empty stadiums where the teams play are a long way from the 76ers’ Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia where 20,000 fans inspired the team to win 29 of their 31 home games.
The 76ers may also be without recent Australian signing Ryan Broekhoff.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, quoting a team official, reported Broekhoff did not travel to Orlando with the team because of “personal reasons”.
Broekhoff revealed earlier this month he has to weigh up health risks to his wife and young son and whether he could leave them for months.
“I have a wife and a one-year old son, and my wife has an auto-immune disease, so she’s at high risk for the COVID,” Broekhoff said.
The NBA, Walt Disney World and teams are going to extreme lengths to protect players, coaches and others inside the bubble.
The Jazz shipped in the team’s gym equipment to ensure their players stick to routines and do not have to rely on shared weights.
There was a 48-hour quarantine for players on arrival and all must wear wrist bands that allow electronic access to their rooms and other security doors.
They undergo regular COVID-19 and temperature testing and wear rings and devices to detect changes in health or social distancing breaches.
The NBA restart’s first game is between the Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans on July 30.