LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Orlando Magic used two buses to keep a 35-person traveling party well spread out on the 23-mile journey that made them the first team to enter the N.B.A.’s restricted campus environment on July 7.
Though there were far more pressing concerns on such a momentous ride, Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic had another date circled on his internal calendar: July 10. That was the release date for the 2020 edition of the F1 video game.
“I’m a big Formula One fan,” Vucevic said.
So big, in fact, that Vucevic packed his preferred portable steering wheel for the short trip from the Magic’s arena, Amway Center, to the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World, which is hosting N.B.A. teams as the league reboots its suspended season. Vucevic was determined to be well-equipped for down time on an assignment that will last well into August — or longer if Orlando goes beyond the first round of the playoffs.
Vucevic has also benefited from the one true perk of proximity: Magic players can ask family and friends to drop off items at an external hub that handles mail and delivery shipments for all teams.
“I guess it is a little bit of an advantage for us,” Vucevic said, recounting how he asked his wife, Nikoleta, to purchase the F1 game for him at Best Buy and then deliver it to the so-called bubble, which is about 15 minutes from their home.
There are 22 N.B.A. teams dispersed across three hotels at Disney World, but only the Magic are close enough to home to expedite package deliveries like Vucevic did — or to enable Terrence Ross, Orlando’s sixth man, to have a gaming chair from his house dropped off by his wife, Matijana, at the campus delivery center.
The experience is new for everyone involved, with coronavirus testing mandated daily and the N.B.A. enacting a 113-page guidebook of regulations (and restrictions) to govern life on campus. Yet it is particularly strange for the Magic’s players and staff members, many of whom live within 20 minutes of the Disney site that, because of the coronavirus pandemic, suddenly hosts the N.B.A. and Major League Soccer.
“The fact that, if you left something at home or there’s something you feel you need, that you can get it dropped off easily — it’s nice to know it’s a phone call away,” Magic Coach Steve Clifford said. Clifford, though, called that just “the one place” where the Magic have an advantage. He doesn’t anticipate that the proximity will otherwise “come into play that much” — at least not in a manner from which the Magic can benefit.
Pangs for home among Magic players, by contrast, are inevitable.
A prime example was last Saturday, when the Magic practiced at 1 p.m., leaving considerable time for the rest of that day to ponder their surroundings and restricted movement.
“It’s pretty crazy, man,” Orlando guard D.J. Augustin said. “It’s hard being away from family, period, so when I get back to my room, that’s when it’s hard. But at the same time I’m here to do a job. I’m here and I’m focused and I’m trying to make the best of this opportunity.”
Austin Rivers plays for the Houston Rockets but grew up in Orlando and still maintains an off-season home there. After asserting recently that playing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex would be “a true home court advantage for me,” Rivers sounded more disoriented by the circumstances this week than anyone in the Magic’s camp.
“It feels like I’m home, but I’m not home,” Rivers said. “This has been very difficult for me.
“It’s where my girl is, my family is, my son is right down the street from there. It’s been hard knowing they’re 20 minutes away. So close, yet so far.”
Individual circumstances present further challenges. Augustin’s father-in-law died recently, adding to the strain of an extended road trip away from his wife, Brandy, and their three young children. The wife of Orlando guard Evan Fournier returned to their native France with the couple’s 13-month-old son to stay with Fournier’s parents while he focuses on the N.B.A. restart. Vucevic’s wife is due with their second child in November, prompting the 2019 All-Star center’s parents to fly in from Montenegro to help Nikoleta Vucevic take care of the couple’s 19-month-old son.
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Is the coronavirus airborne?
- The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
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- A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.
What is pandemic paid leave?
- The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.
“That was actually huge for me to know that I’m not leaving her alone,” Vucevic said. “It would have been a much harder decision for me to play if she was alone and pregnant, with another baby to care of every day.”
The Magic, at 30-35, were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference when the season was abruptly paused on March 11. Thanks to the Nets’ considerable injury crisis and losses because of the virus, Orlando has a promising opportunity to move into seventh — and out of Milwaukee’s path for the first round of the playoffs. Despite the four-month layoff, which essentially matched the length of Orlando’s off-season after losing to Toronto in the first round of the 2018-19 playoffs, Clifford said he is encouraged by his team’s relative readiness after seven practices.
Clifford is likewise far more curious about what eliminating travel may do for his team than about how much his players will be affected by being close to home.
“I think it’s a big deal,” Clifford said. “You’re not going to have those landing-at-2:30-in-the-morning nights, eating on the plane at midnight.
“This is such a unique experience for everybody. It’s just hard to know how to try to help because there’s nobody you can turn to as a mentor, like an older coach who’s been through this. And then it’s the same for players. They all have their people they talk to for advice, but there’s just nobody to call on this.”
Not unless the call is to arrange, say, a run to Best Buy.
“We all thought it was going to be a little weird at first, because it’s so close, but I think guys figured out that it’s just the way it is,” Vucevic said.