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Utah Jazz center and Florida native Tony Bradley returns home for the NBA season restart

SHARE Utah Jazz center and Florida native Tony Bradley returns home for the NBA season restart
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Utah Jazz draft pick Tony Bradley is surrounded by students during a “Welcome to Utah” assembly at South Jordan Elementary School on Thursday, June 29, 2017. Bradley joined fellow draft picks Nigel Williams-Goss and Donovan Mitchell at the assembly, where they read to more than 700 students, answered questions and stressed the importance of a good education.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — When the Utah Jazz arrive in Orlando on Tuesday, it’ll be somewhat of a homecoming for reserve center Tony Bradley — but a homecoming unlike any other he’s ever had.

Bradley grew up in Bartow, Florida, just 50 miles from Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, where the NBA will be practicing and playing when the season restarts. Despite being so close, with his family and friends just a short drive away, he won’t be able to see any of them.

“That part is going to be tough, I mean they’re right down the road,” he said on Monday. “Growing up I played at Disney, at Wide World of Sports every weekend, so I’m very familiar with everything going on and where we’ll be at and the location. But family, them not coming to see me is going to be tough. It is what it is, we’ve got to go through it.”

As a Florida native, Bradley is acutely aware of the rising cases of COVID-19 throughout his home state and it’s been a source of concern not only because that’s where the NBA season restart is taking place, but also because his family and friends live there.

Florida has continued to see spikes in coronavirus cases throughout the last few weeks. The Florida health department reported 11,458 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, a record for daily reported cases in the state since the pandemic began, with a positive test rate of 14 percent.

“I’ve seen that the numbers have been rising, like record-breaking numbers every day,” Bradley said. “I’m just trying to tell my family to stay home.”

Even though Bradley said he feels comfortable and confident in the safety measures the league has taken to mitigate risk related to COVID-19 within the NBA bubble, the same can’t be said for residents that don’t have access to round-the-clock testing and aren’t isolated in such an extreme way, and that includes Bradley’s family.

He describes his family as “busy-bodies,” especially his father, who is a pastor of a church and has a major role in his community.

“He’s still getting out in the public a lot so I’m telling him to keep a distance and wear a mask and things like that,” Bradley said. “I’m just trying to tell them to stay safe.”

When the coronavirus initially started impacting large gatherings, Bradley’s father shut things down at the church, a hard thing to do when so many in the congregation rely on the comforts and reassurances of their faith.

Bradley stepped in to help, showing his father how to use Facebook Live so that he would still be able to connect with his congregation even if he could be with them in person.

“Growing up I played at Disney, at Wide World of Sports every weekend, so I’m very familiar with everything going on and where we’ll be at and the location. But family, them not coming to see me is going to be tough.” — Jazz center Tony Bradley

“I introduced him to Facebook Live and he loves it,” Bradley said with a smile. “Starting off with the outbreak of COVID he had to shut it down for a bit. ... I think they’re back in church now and around his congregation, but he’s still doing Facebook Live so it’s cool.”

Within the church, Bradley said, there are still social distancing guidelines being followed and people are wearing masks. All measures which are definitely helpful but certainly don’t allay his fears considering the rising numbers back home.

His familiarity with the lay of the land at the Wide World of Sports Complex could give Bradley a leg up on some of the competition in Orlando, and considering the stakes of the eight regular season games leading into the NBA playoffs, the first postseason experience for Bradley, any advantage is a welcome one.

“I trust what we’re doing and what the league’s doing in the bubble,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing.”