SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz have officially arrived at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, where the NBA has formed a “bubble” to complete the rest of the 2019-2020 season.
The Jazz arrived Tuesday night, and on Wednesday, executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey and general manager Justin Zanik addressed the media via Zoom.
Of most urgent note, Lindsey said no one on the team has tested positive for the novel coronavirus since the NBA mandated that regular testing start in late June. The Jazz, of course, were the first team in North America to have a player test positive in March, as Rudy Gobert did so on March 11, which led to the suspension of the league.
“Our health performance team and our coaches have really performed really well,” Lindsey said of the past few weeks as players have been able to go to the team practice facility for optional workouts. “We created a safe environment, so to date as we know it, we haven’t had any COVID-19 positive tests.”
Zanik, who traveled to Orlando while Lindsey stayed in Salt Lake (teams had to trim their traveling parties from the usual 55-60 for road games to 35), said the weirdest part of the journey was actually getting on the plane since he hadn’t done so for four months, even though it was the usual team charter and he took his usual seat.
Upon landing in Orlando, Zanik said there were two Disney cruise line buses the team boarded for the approximately 25-minute trip from the airport to the hotel that will be home for the next few months.
“Some of the guys were asking where their Mickey Mouse ears were,” Zanik said. “We didn’t get those off the bus.”
The team had a police escort to its hotel (The Athletic’s Shams Charania has reported that the Jazz are staying at the Gran Destino hotel within the resort. According to Charania, hotel assignments were made based upon team record), and upon arrival, they were ushered into a room where league deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, chief security officer Jerome Pickett and some others gave about a 15-minute presentation.
Immediately after the presentation, the traveling party was tested for COVID-19, with the results still unknown as of Wednesday just after 2 p.m. Mountain Time.
Zanik said each member of the traveling party was given a Disney wristband that will function as a room key and a bright green wristband that indicates they are in quarantine. Everyone will remain in quarantine until the results of a second coronavirus test that will be administered Wednesday night come back on Thursday.
Because they’re all in quarantine, technicians will go to individual rooms Wednesday night to administer tests, Zanik said, and meals are being delivered to rooms until everyone is out of quarantine.
The subject of meals got attention on social media Tuesday night after Denver Nuggets guard Troy Daniels posted his dinner spread on his Instagram story, with many commenting that it appeared to be lacking.
The New York Times’ NBA reporter Marc Stein tweeted Tuesday night that “Food in the NBA bubble changes after quarantines are completed. Player meals won’t look like airline trays after the first 48 hours ...”
That apparently was news to Utah All-Star Donovan Mitchell, who responded to Stein by asking, “How do you know?,” and he added two laugh crying emojis.
Stein responded by tweeting, “It’s supposed to become more of a real hotel experience — in the three team hotels — once you guys are no longer stuck quarantined in your rooms.”
On Wednesday, Zanik said, “I will say in general, the NBA has done a great job on logistics ... the logistics, they executed very, very well last night and continuing today.”
Zanik did quip that, “If you want any reviews about the hotels or restaurants or what Disney looks like, I have no idea,” but he added, “The rooms are nice. They’re well-appointed. It’s a fairly new hotel, too. So far, so good.”
As far as basketball is concerned, the NBA announced Wednesday that the Jazz are scheduled to hold their first practice Thursday at 3 p.m. MT. Teams are scheduled to practice in three-hour blocks.
Since talks became serious that the league was going to return in Orlando, many have speculated that the quality of basketball will be subpar at the outset given the long layoff everyone has had. Zanik said the next three weeks of training camp will be crucial in making the product on the floor during the “seeding games” better before the playoffs begin.
“This three weeks is going to be really important in terms of developing the group bond again,” he said. “I think the conditioning is as at as good of a level as it can be given the restraints. The eight seeding games may not be talking about what you would think about with March or April basketball with teams being at a ramp-up and a high level. I think that’s the reason we’re having these eight games, is to get ready to prepare for the intensity of the playoffs.”