Is the Thunder ready for bubble life?

NBA teams head to Orlando for season restart

By Michael Kinney

After weeks of talking and debating on how and when to restart the NBA season, the time has finally come. The Oklahoma City Thunder was one of the 22 teams that left this for Orlando, Fl. where they will be at the Disney World Campus for the next couple of months.

Every player who decided to be part of the restart will be in the Disney bubble until their team is eliminated from the playoffs. This is to limit the possibility of the spread of COVID-19.

Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Danilo Gallinari said that isolation from the outside world makes it easier to just focus on basketball.

“The good thing is we’re not going to have a lot of distractions,” Gallinari said. “It’s really going to be only be about basketball and getting ready for practicing and playing so many games that everybody, after a little bit, is going to adjust and it’s going to be second nature.”

The NBA is doing what it can to make players as comfortable to being in the bubble as possible. They are providing movie screenings, DJ sets and new video games, barbers, manicurists, pedicurists and a 24-hour VIP concierge service.

However, Gallinari also knows to be in the bubble will be unlike anything he has done before.

“It’s going to be different, something new,” Gallinari said. “I think I will have a better idea once I get there, after a couple of weeks of living in Orlando, Disney World. I have no idea now.”

According to recent reports, it will cost the NBA more than $150 million to operate the restart bubble at three different campuses at the Disney World Resort in Orlando. That includes providing for include meals, entertainment and testing for COVID-19.

The 22 competing teams will play games without fans in attendance on three courts at the sports complex. So most of the money generated from the restart will come from television and advertisement.

In total, the NBA is projected to lose more than $1 billion in total revenue since the league was shut down March 11. That doesn’t include the financial hit individual teams, such as the Thunder are taking with loss of ticket sales, concessions, etc.

However, if the league had not decided to restart the league in some capacity, they were expecting to lose more than $2 billion.

“It comes into play that we feel an obligation to our sport and to the industry to find a new normal,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “It doesn’t come into play in terms of dollars and cents because frankly, it’s not all that economical for us to play on this campus. It’s enormously expensive.”

For the past couple of weeks, the Thunder have been engaged in mandatory individual workouts for all players who planned to be in Orlando for the restart of the season. According to coach Billy Donovan, the players will not meet all together as a team until they leave for the Disney campus.

“It’s not too much hanging around in facility or nothing like that it’s just getting in, get your work in and get out,” Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said.

Donovan has been impressed with what he has seen so far in how the players have come back and looked to work hard.

“Our guys have been great,” Donovan said. “Guys were in working out. They’ve been really great about wanting to play. I think all these players are very, very competitive and they love playing the game of basketball, and the opportunity to get back on the court is something I think is important to all of them.”

For young players like Gilgeous-Alexander, he has been chomping at the bit to get back on the court. Having to sit out the past four months has not been easy.

“I just wanted to get back, see the guys a little bit, hoop more and just control what I can control,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I’m a hooper. I love to hoop… I just knew I wanted to play basketball, as soon as possible.”

The teams in Orlando will scrimmage for two weeks before the season tips off July 30. Oklahoma City’s first scrimmage is July 24 against Boston. They do not play again until July 26 when they take on Philadelphia. Their final tune-up will be July 28 against Portland.

They will then play eight games in 15 days before the playoffs begin.

“People can just show up and play, but together as a team and execution of the right timing and plays and coverages and stuff, that a whole different story,” Thunder center Steven Adams said. “It’s not really to do with conditioning and stuff like that, it’s more to do with, again your team chemistry and how well you flow together as a team.”

The NBA has allowed players on the 22 teams to opt-out of the season if they are not comfortable being in the bubble for whatever reason. Those who have made that decision include former Thunder Victor Oladipo, DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza and Avery Bradley.

 Every player who was on Oklahoma City’s roster made the decision to head to Orlando for the restart. That includes the 32-year Gallinari, who will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He could be in store for another big contract and could have decided to sit out and not risk injury.

However, Gallinari said there were bigger issues at stake.

“(Opting-out) was not in my mind or my agent’s mind,” Gallinari said. “The main reason is because we are fighting for something, and I think that what we are fighting for and what we play for is more important than the free agency that I’m going to approach. We are trying to win something and to go far. To do it with my teammates especially, to not waste all the things we have done since September and all the work that we put in, I don’t want to see it go to waste. I never thought about not playing for my free agency.”

Story & Photo by Michael Kinney/Michael Kinney Media

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