Cornhole. Golf. Fishing. Movie Nights.
Life inside in the Disney bubble outside of Orlando, Florida, hasn’t been all fun and games for the Indiana Pacers as they prepare for the restart of the 2020 NBA season.
But as the Pacers continue to prepare for the first of three practice games on Thursday against the Portland Trail Blazers, they’ve managed to make the most of their time in the confined campus away from family and friends.
Players cannot leave the Disney campus due to concerns about contracting COVID-19, which continues to spike in Florida. More than 10,000 cases have been reported in nine of the last 10 days within the state, with 360,000 confirmed total cases. NBA players are being tested frequently inside the bubble and are wearing biometric devices that measure vital signs.
The Pacers could be inside the bubble for up to three months, depending on how far they advance in the playoffs.
“It’s what I expected,” Pacers guard Edmond Sumner said. “I didn’t expect much. I came down here for business anyways. It’s not bad. Everything is fine.
“I only told them how the first few days, I’m a very picky eater, but once I was able to kind of venture off, order my own food, I mean, I’m fine. I have really no complaints. I’m not really a high-maintenance guy.”
Sumner has passed the free time in his hotel room watching Apple TV and playing video games.
“I kind of do what I do at home,” Sumner said. “I don’t do much when I’m in Indy, either. I just stay home, watch TV, chill with my girlfriend, but now I’m down here by myself, so I just stay in the room.”
Pacers forward Doug McDermott said the toughest part was staying in the team hotel in quarantine for more than 48 hours before the first full practice in Orlando.
“We were all in a good rhythm playing back in Indy, working out, lifting and then having those two days of nothing and diving right into training camp — but for the most part I think we’ve handled it pretty well,” McDermott said. “The NBA has done an incredible job of putting us in a good spot here. The food has gotten a lot better, they take really good care of us and there’s no surprise there because the NBA does things over the top, so it’s been first class all of the way.”
McDermott took teammates T.J. McConnell and Victor Oladipo out for a golf outing during an off day last week.
“Kind of babysitting them,” McDermott said. “They haven’t really golfed a whole lot in their life, so I had to teach them how to swing. So it took just about three-and-a-half hours to play nine holes, so I’ll leave it at that.”
Pacers guard Aaron Holiday said those kinds of team-building activities — golfing together, going out to eat — could translate on the court when the Pacers begin their season restart Aug. 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
“Hanging out with your teammates, that’s great,” Holiday said. “That’s all we have right now, so that will be good for team camaraderie.”
Pacers coach Nate McMillan has used the time to not only get his team better on the court but teach lessons off the court as well. McMillan held a movie night last week to watch the documentary 13th, which explores the intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration within the United States.
Afterward, the team held a discussion on race relations in the United States and the protests that are still going on in the wake of George Floyd’s death in late May.
Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon said the documentary reiterated a strong social justice message the NBA intends to convey once the season restarts.
“That’s the point of all of these protests,” Brogdon said. “Everything that’s going on is to make the country better, is for people to see the humanity in the black community — and black people specifically — and to stop discrimination, to stop all the racial profiling, to stop all these things that are going on and to actually change the system.”
On the court, Brogdon said at first it was difficult to get into a routine because practices were scheduled for different times during the week due to court availability.
“You can’t have a steady routine because practice (time) changes,” Brogdon said. “But you can know, ‘Today I’m going to lift, today I’m going to get my core work in, today I’m going to get a massage.’ I always have a routine. That’s what gives me my confidence.”
Brogdon also said it’s important for NBA players to show perspective and appreciation for everyone working on Disney’s campus to ensure things are running smoothly and safely.
“There are people here working extremely hard to make this as comfortable for the NBA players as possible,” Brogdon said. “So it’s not my job to complain or insult food or do anything like that. The food has been good. The food has been enough.
“We just have got to be grateful. There are a lot of people outside of this bubble who are struggling, so we need to keep that in mind.”