Pelicans arrival in Orlando may foreshadow protocols for Saints Training Camp
The New Orleans Pelicans' arrival in Orlando may foreshadow what the New Orleans Saints organization will expect in the next few weeks before training camp.
The New Orleans Pelicans traveled to Orlando in preparation for the restart of the NBA season. Players have been intentional on staying fit and competitive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, New Orleans fans and season ticket holders will not finish at the Smoothie King Center Arena. The team will play the final eight games of the regular season in a carefully curated "bubble" in Disney World. The NBA has provided rubber bracelets with a chip that will serve as the player’s room keys and wallets. These bracelets will fund their needs throughout the hotel and will dual as a tracker for coronavirus testing.
PELICANS ROOKIE PHENOM ZION WILLIAMSON
The Pelicans #1 draft pick, Zion Williamson, dominated the NBA in his first 19 games averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds. New Orleans was moving towards a .500 season and hoping for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, the NBA's season came to a screeching halt on March 11th because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quarantine was a challenge for the 285-pound Pelicans rookie. He had just returned from knee surgery and could not hit the gym to stay in shape. The NBA cleared Williamson to continue his rehab at the Pelicans facility after the league shut down operations because of coronavirus. Williams’ stepfather Lee Anderson knew it would be tough for Zion to stay in shape, so he devised a conditioning plan on and off the court.
Every day, Zion got on the basketball court during the quarantine period with his stepdad. He could not work with the Pelicans' staff because of NBA quarantine guidelines. Williamson would not divulge the secrets to his transformation, but he impressed many of his teammates with his post quarantine physique,
I think body-wise, he looks amazing,” Hart said. He looks good. His shot looks better than it has in a while. He’s been putting the work in, and that’s great to see. And he’s one of the players that has one of the biggest spotlights in the league and in the world right now. So, he’s handled everything with great humility. I’m incredibly surprised and proud of just how he handles all that stuff. Josh Hart
I’m very fortunate that the NBA was able to do this,” Williamson said. Because I trust the NBA, that in the bubble, we will be in a safe environment, protected from certain situations and what’s going on. And its crazy man; we’re about to go. It’s a lot to process, for sure, but I am excited. Zion Williamson
JJ Redick, a veteran guard for the New Orleans Pelicans, admired his young teammate:
COACH ALVIN GENTRY & FIRST GAME
For most of the NBA’s restart, Coach Alvin Gentry was unclear about traveling with the team to finish the season. Gentry had to undergo extensive tests and scrutiny for clearance. Every NBA coach had to be screened, and the league assured them that ‘age alone’ would not prevent them from entering the bubble.
Individuals identified as high risk for complications from COVID-19 could not finish the season. Gentry took several tests in a New Orleans medical facility on Tuesday, and the NBA cleared his departure minutes before the team left for Orlando. Head coach Jeff Bzdelik and assistant Jamelle McMillan were not as fortunate. They will not be accompanying the team to Disney.
The Pelicans' first game will be at the ESPN Sports Complex against the Utah Jazz on July 30, 2020. The team has not clinch a playoff berth. Before the work stoppage, the Pelicans were three and a half games behind the Western Conference's 8th seed. The Pelicans will need every win to make the playoffs. The Pels will open the restart against the Jazz at 6:30 PM EST.
TESTING & PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES
All the players and their families will be tested upon arrival to their Orlando hotels. They will be quarantined in their rooms, awaiting the results. In documents outlining COVID-19 testing protocols, the NBA plan calls for a 2-week resting period for any player testing positive.
Members of the NBA who tested positive for coronavirus:
- Taurean Prince, Brooklyn Nets -- Diagnosis reported on July 7
- Landry Shamet, Los Angeles Clippers -- Diagnosis reported on July 4
- Three unnamed players, Miami Heat -- Diagnoses reported on July 3, 4
- Three unnamed players, New Orleans Pelicans -- Diagnosis announced on June 30
- DeAndre Jordan, Brooklyn Nets -- Diagnosis announced on June 29
- Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets -- Diagnosis announced on June 29
- Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Heat -- Diagnosis reported on June 25
- Alex Len, Sacramento Kings -- Diagnosis reported on June 24
- Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings -- Diagnosis reported on June 24
- Jabari Parker, Sacramento Kings -- Diagnosis announced on June 24
- Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers -- Diagnosis announced on June 24
- Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets -- Diagnosis reported on June 23
- Two unnamed players, Phoenix Suns -- Diagnosis reported on June 23
- Four unnamed players, unnamed Western Conference team -- Diagnosis reported on June 23
- Michael Malone, Denver Nuggets coach -- Diagnosis and recovery announced on June 15
- James Dolan, New York Knicks owner -- Diagnosis announced March 28 (Update: cleared on April 22)
- Two unnamed players, Los Angeles Lakers -- Diagnosis reported on March 19 (Update: Players symptom-free on March 31)
- Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics -- Diagnosis announced on March 19 (Update: cleared on March 30)
- Three unnamed members of the organization, Philadelphia 76ers -- Diagnosis announced on March 19
- Kevin Durant, three unnamed teammates, Brooklyn Nets -- Diagnosis announced on March 17 (Update: All four symptom-free on April 1)
- Christian Wood, Detroit Pistons -- Diagnosis announced on March 14 (Update: “Fully recovered,” per agent on March 26)
- Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz -- Diagnosis announced on March 12 (Update: cleared on March 27)
- Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz -- Diagnosis announced on March 11 (Update: cleared on March 27)
The NBA has resulted in using Oura rings as a precautionary measure monitoring system. The bracelets detect early COVID-19 symptoms. At least one study has confirmed signs that the bracelet can help detect symptoms early. Managing so many people on-site will be difficult for the league, but Oura rings will play a significant part in early detection.
The NBA revealed specifics in an informational memo labeled “Life inside the Bubble.” The document gave details on testing plans, quarantine protocols, and more. These bracelets are interesting. They beep if a person is within six feet of one another for too long of a period. West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute tested and provided data from the rings. The results suggested the physiological data from the bracelets with the digital platform technology in-app surveys, can predict the onset of COVID-19 related symptoms three days in advance with a 90% accuracy rate.
The bracelets resemble a fitness tracker, smartwatch, or infrared LED sensor, and are water-resistant. They weigh only 4-6 grams and can run up to 7 days with one charge. Using the bracelet is voluntary because the Player’s Union has not announced that they are fully onboard.
THE BUBBLE (WILL IT BURST?)
With a record number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. yesterday, the NBA's Bubble model will provide a barometer for other leagues like the NFL. Once the Pelicans and other teams and staff arrive in Orlando, the league will isolate them in their hotel rooms. The National Basketball Association has made mental health and wellness resources available for players upon arrival because seclusion differs significantly from what they are accustomed to having at home. According to Malika Andrews, ESPN reporter inside the Orlando Bubble, this is a brief list of the rules:
- Team members, staff, reporters, and media are transported from the airport via bus.
- Upon entry into the hotel, everyone is given a bag with their names on it. In the bag is a green band everyone must wear signifying quarantine.
- The league administered tests for COVID-19, one swab up each nostril, and one swab down the throat. After, they confine everyone to their room.
- Meals are delivered outside the door three times a day at 8 a.m., noon and 6 p.m.
- Everyone will be in their rooms for the next 4 days. The media’s quarantine will last one week.
- The players will face a remarkably similar experience when they arrive, but the difference will be the time of quarantine. The teams and staff are traveling via private planes, so their quarantine will be only 2 days.
LIFE IN THE BUBBLE
Think of life inside the Bubble as a basketball camp or confined little city. After entering, the league has tried to keep the coronavirus at bay and the season on track. Here’s a glimpse of the player’s experience according to ESPN:
- The players will not dine in mess halls but will have a dedicated Disney culinary team. They will be served 3 meals a day and 4 on game days.
- They will have personal trainers.
- They will live at one of three deluxe hotels depending on the team standings in each conference: The Gran Destino, The Grand Floridian, or The Yacht Club.
- Barbers, manicurists, pedicurists, and hair braiders will be available.
- There will be ping pong, but no doubles. Fishing, video gaming, golf and occasional excursions to Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be options.
- The player’s schedule and daily itinerary will be tight, the rules strict, the protocols strictly enforced, regular coronavirus testing, masks worn when off the court with no exceptions.
- Players can leave campus, but only with a mandatory quarantine period upon return.
- The teams will have 7 courts to practice on. Private courts will be by appointment only.
CONCERNS FOR THE “BUBBLE”
Commissioner Adam Silver expressed concerns that the league may have to shut down again if there are positive COVID-19 cases once players are in the quarantined bubble. This morning, he told NBC’s Today Show,
“What would be most concerning is once players entered this campus and goes through our quarantine period then if they were to test positive or if we have any positive tests, we would know if we have an issue”.
Silver, however, expressed confidence in the league’s tracing ability:
“I think we can trace to try to understand where that positive case came from,” Silver said of any positive cases inside the Walt Disney World campus. “We can analyze the virus itself and try to track whether if there is over one case, if it’s the same virus and same genetic variation of the virus that is passed from one player to another or two people have gotten it on the campus independently. So those are all things we are looking at.”
“If we had any significant spread within our campus, we would be shut down again.”
Fortunately for the Saints, they will have a close eye on the new protocols and safety measures the Pelicans executives will follow in Orlando. How the NBA will navigate these uncharted waters amid COVID-19 pandemic, will give them a glimpse of what to expect when the NFL begins training camp within the next few weeks. The NFL and NFLPA have been discussing the procedures of testing players and players' families ahead of the camps.
The Commissioner and the owners have not set a threshold for shutting the season if cases rise once they resume July 30th. The first game will be New Orleans Pelicans and Zion Williamson leading the way against the Utah Jazz at 5:30 PM EST. The game will be held at HP Field House, and TNT will provide the broadcast. Fans will not be allowed to attend the game.