LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Being separated from families is certainly a tough element of being in the NBA bubble. So, too, is being separated when issues within the family happen.
Two people with knowledge of the situations said Friday that both Lou Williams of the Los Angeles Clippers and Austin Rivers of the Houston Rockets have added themselves to the list of players who have left the NBA campus at Walt Disney World to tend to family issues. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because neither player disclosed his absence publicly.
Among the others who have left the bubble so far for what were described as family reasons: New Orleans’ Zion Williamson, and Clippers teammates Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley.
“I think we all knew that we could start the league. The key is can we finish,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, Austin Rivers’ father. “I think that will be the big thing. I think what the league has learned that teams have already known, it’s more than basketball that comes up. Guys have life going on. Whether it be a family problem, a kid problem, a wife problem, anything, there are issues that come in these guys’ life.
“We give guys days off all the time because of it. No one really notices it.”
In the bubble, it gets noticed — especially because it almost certainly won’t be a one- or two-day issue, not with players likely going to have to return to quarantine upon their arrival back at Disney.
Other players have missed time while dealing with coronavirus, including Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes, who was on a flight from California to Florida on Friday and ready to rejoin his team after he completes a likely two-day quarantine at Disney. The Kings believe Barnes could be ready when the seeding games, or resumption of the 2019-20 season, starts next week.
“As long as his baseline is at a certain level, I think he’ll have enough time to be ready for that first game,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “But, you know, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Milwaukee got guard Eric Bledsoe, another player who tested positive for coronavirus, back on Friday. Bledsoe said he played a lot of the Call of Duty video game while he quarantined at home, but his conditioning level might not have suffered as much as the Bucks expected.
“In all honesty, considering it’s been been a while since he’s been able to touch the ball or do anything, he was very good,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said after Bledsoe’s first practice. “Today was a great day for him and us.”
Denver got Gary Harris and Torrey Craig back onto the practice floor Friday, and Miami welcomed starters Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn into a full-team practice for the first time this summer.
Doc Rivers said in a weird way, there can be a positive to seeing players dealing with various issues.
“I think in a good way in this, the public actually sees that the NBA players actually are human and they do have regular life issues going on,” the Clippers’ coach said. “The problem is usually with the life issues you can come back to the team and play the next day. Now with the life issue, you have to quarantine for 48 hours or four days. That’s very tough. But we have to do that to make sure everybody stays healthy.”
Fans are going to be courtside for NBA games in the bubble.
In a way, anyway.
The NBA revealed plans Friday for “in-venue and broadcast enhancements for the resumption of the 2019-20 season” and what the league called “a more connected and immersive experience for fans.”
More than 300 fans will be invited to log in and connect digitally for each game, appearing live on the 17-foot video boards that surround the baselines and the one sideline where team bench areas are located.
It’s a partnership between the NBA and Microsoft to give fans “the feeling of sitting next to one another at a live game without leaving the comfort and safety of their homes, while players experience their energy and support in-venue,” the league said.