The NBA bubble rules may seem reasonable and safe until you’re facing them head-on. This is the reality for many players, and likely the reason the league set such a soft deadline for players to decide if they will participate in the Orlando restart. While many have broadly questioned the safety of the Wide World of Sport compound setup, DeMar DeRozan this week explained just how difficult it will be for players.
“I got through 10 lines of the handbook and just put it down because it became so frustrating and overwhelming at times, because you just never thought you’d be in a situation of something like this,” DeRozan said. “So it’s hard to process at times.”
While Dr. Anthony Fauci and others such as the epidemiologist Dr. Zachary Binney have supported the NBA’s plan relative to others, it remains risky. COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing in Florida, and it remains difficult to entirely secure the bubble when Disney workers are traveling in and out on a consistent basis.
DeRozan is a particularly well-suited spokesperson for the concerns of players for several reasons. His team, the Spurs, are on the brink of the playoff picture and will be without veteran star LaMarcus Aldridge. A team like San Antonio could question the value of even taking the plunge into the Orlando bubble in the first place. In addition, DeRozan has been a vocal advocate for players’ mental health, and even if the NBA restart stays safe from a public health standpoint, the isolated nature of the bubble will challenge players’ mental wellbeing.
“It’s tough,” DeRozan said. “You’re taking guys that have been with their families every single day for the last few months and all of sudden, separating everybody into this one confined space and taking away a lot of joyful things we do outside of basketball that we won’t be able to do. It’ll be something for every single player when it comes to mental health.”
While ESPN’s story rightly pointed out that others, especially international players like Domantas Sabonis or Giannis Antetokounmpo, are more familiar with campus environments in places like the Olympic village or at international tournaments, this is surely a unique circumstance. Most importantly, players will be without their families until the second round of the playoffs, meaning someone like DeRozan is unlikely to ever bring their family into the bubble. And while athletes are expected to remain mostly restricted to the village at the Olympics, there is no fear of what lies outside, just perhaps a slap on the wrist from the IOC.
Most players who’ve spoken publicly seem to agree this is the best contingency plan all things considered, and it’s gotten the green-light from epidemiologists and physicians, but that does not mean it will be easy for anyone.