ORLANDO – News, notes and observations as I begin Day 4 of the NBA mandated seven-day quarantine inside the bubble …
· Quarantine Update: We have hit the halfway point, and I’ve settled into a routine. I’m up around six or seven to workout, usually a 45-minute boxing class I simulate with the two pound weights (that whole pace the room thing you do is weird, Ben Golliver) I brought with me. The breakfast knock comes around 8, allowing me to get a brief breath of fresh air.
(The NBA has made it very clear—don’t leave the room. You need water, they will bring it you. You need ice, don’t even think about a quick run to the machine. Your door opens for food and testing—that’s it. Now I lived in New York for 15 years—I don’t mind a confined space. I’m also something of a slob, so my room is starting to resemble my college apartment)
After breakfast it’s phone calls and video hits. The lunchtime knock comes around noon, and then it’s a full day of Zoom press conferences. On one hand, for a national reporter, it’s nice to just click a link and get the chance to listen in or quiz players and coaches. On the other, players aren’t especially engaged on these calls. The lack of any kind of personal interaction doesn’t lead to much more than boilerplate answers.
There’s been a lot of talk about the food. The food is fine. I don’t really mind it, but that’s just me. I’m the world’s pickiest eater. No cheese. No mayo. No real non-tomato sauces of any kind. When breakfast comes, I grab the fruit box. Lunch, I pick out the chips. Room service opens at five, and every night—and I mean every night—I pick up the phone to order a chicken sandwich, no avocado, extra pickles, from the kitchen. I’m a creature of habit. Can’t say I’m ever going to change.
The good news: I remain COVID-19 free. The first 24 hours were nerve racking. I’d done a pretty good job of isolating during this pandemic. But in recent weeks, as restrictions have loosened in the northeast, I had ventured out. Dinner in New York. Drinks in Boston. I spent the week prior to coming to Orlando in self-quarantine, but in the hours after taking that first test, I was imagining every coronavirus symptom.
Is that a tickle in my throat?
I coughed—do I have to report that?
I swear, I felt feverish a dozen times.
The NBA alerts you of your test results two ways. If it’s negative, you get an email. Positive, a phone call. Around mid-afternoon on Monday, USA Today’s Mark Medina, a fellow member of the bubble community, posted a screen shot of his negative results. I freaked out. A phone call was coming. I knew it. I was going to have to pack. I was going to have to leave. I was going to have to be isolated for days, maybe weeks more.
A few hours later, an email popped: All clear.
So that’s it. Three negative tests down, four to go. Come Monday, I hope to be popping into practices. Until then, I’ll just be the weird guy staring out the window.
· Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo is likely to play when Indiana resumes its season, or at least that was the indication Oladipo gave during a call with reporters on Wednesday. Oladipo, who suffered a ruptured quadriceps tendon late in the ’18-19 season and has only played in 13 games in this one, had declared earlier this month that he would sit out the rest of the season to avoid re-injury. Oladipo traveled with the Pacers to Orlando and called a return to play a “strong” possibility.
“My body is feeling good,” Oladipo said. “It was hard for me to assess where I was at from the long layover, and obviously coronavirus, couldn’t really control that. But now you know, coming down here and getting some practices in, getting my feet under me, going out there and playing with the guys, there’s a possibility that I could play. I am just reassessing myself and my body every day.”
Then there is this: ESPN reported a disagreement between the NBA and the players union about whether Oladipo—who is owed about $3 million for the remainder of the year—should get paid. Technically, Oladipo is considered healthy, so it would not be a medical opt-out. The NBA does not want to set a precedent for players to sit out for anything other than medical reasons. Oladipo declined to address any salary dispute.
· Kudos to Brett Brown for shaking up his lineup. The Sixers coach told reporters that Ben Simmons, Philadelphia’s All-Star point guard, has been practicing at power forward this week. Physically, the 6’10” Simmons can handle the position and moving Simmons to the frontcourt creates a starting spot for Shake Milton, the second year guard who played well in Simmons absence pre-pandemic. Milton’s three-point shooting—he connected on 50% of his threes in 16 games as a starter—will be a valuable addition to the Sixers lineup, while Simmons perimeter struggles could be less glaring at power forward. A lingering question will be if Simmons and Embiid can co-exist in the paint, or if Embiid, Philadelphia’s best low post scorer, will be pushed out beyond the three-point line?
· Does anyone else find the WNBA’s position on Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne a little nutty? The WNBA denied Delle Donne’s medical opt-out request, forcing Delle Donne, who suffers from Lyme Disease, to choose between forfeiting her $215,000 salary this season or reporting to the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Fl. Delle Donne, the WNBA’s reigning MVP, spoke out about her battle with Lyme Disease in a piece published on The Players Tribune this week, writing that her personal doctor confirmed that she was high risk, and that the Mystics team doctor deferred to that diagnosis. The leagues panel of doctors reviewed her request and rejected it, according to Delle Donne.
Now I understand the league’s position: A collectively bargained medical panel reviewed her case, and its decision should stand. But that panel never reached out to Delle Donne. It never connected with Delle Donne’s doctor, she wrote. And even if they did, Lyme disease is an illness that adversely impacts the immune system. There is simply not enough known about COVID-19 to say with any certainty how an infection would affect a condition like that. Why not be overly cautious? Why take any risk with someone suffering from a condition like that?
Ultimately, this all could be meaningless. Delle Donne is rehabbing a back injury, and the Mystics have made it clear she will be paid through her rehab. The WNBA season will only be 22 games. Delle Donne could easily stretch that rehab out to cover the year. But even if its just symbolic, the WNBA should reverse its decision. This isn’t a player who doesn’t want to play. This is a player who is scared to play.
· Good to see the NBA’s snitch line is up and running. The hotline the league set up to report bubble violations has received multiple tips, league sources confirmed to SI. On Instagram, Dwight Howard said someone reported him for not wearing a mask. Doc Rivers joked that he had already turned LeBron James in, and that Gregg Popovich was next. Still, most coaches and players have a clear understanding of the seriousness of protecting the bubble.
“This is not some normal thing,” Rivers said. “It’s not only that you can get sick, but you can get other people sick, so this is very important for all of us. We want to do our jobs. So I think having a hotline, I guess that is what they are calling it, I guess that is important.”