The Orlando Magic have checked into their hotel at Disney to resume the season. But without three players, including one who tested positive for COVID-19.
The Orlando Magic had the shortest journey to get to the NBA’s bubble to resume the season.
Early Tuesday morning, the team gathered likely at the Amway Center, either leaving their cars in the players’ garage or driven there by family and friends.
They boarded a Disney Magical Express bus and took off for The Grand Floridian hotel, within shouting distance of the Magic Kingdom (they will literally be able to see Cinderella’s Castle and Space Mountain from their rooms).
The Magic were the first team to disembark on this journey to finish the 2020 season. They arrived in the bubble and got their initial round of testing.
But it is not the full roster.
President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said three players have not joined the team in the bubble yet. Two of them will soon hopefully.
Markelle Fultz was excused from joining the team at this juncture because of a personal matter. Weltman said he is following safety protocols and is expected to join the team when he can (and after he goes through the league’s re-entry protocols).
One player on the team tested positive for COVID-19 during the last round of testing. That player is going through the league’s quarantine protocols. But the hope is he will be able to rejoin the team once he is clear of the virus.
Al-Farouq Aminu also stayed behind to continue rehabbing his injury at the team’s training facility. Jeff Weltman said Al-Farouq Aminu is at a point in his recovery where he would benefit more from staying behind and attacking it with all the technology and equipment available there rather than traveling with the team.
Jonathan Isaac traveled with the team into the bubble. However, Weltman cautioned that he is still only doing light court work and it is unlikely he would play. He said Jonathan Isaac would gain more being close to the team at this stage of his recovery.
The Players and staff who made the trip are now settling into their rooms for the next 36-48 hours while the initial test results get back. They have to test negative before the team is allowed to gather for its first group workout.
“I think guys are excited,” Weltman said in a teleconference with media on Tuesday. “They are optimistic. As the details became more apparent to everyone, I think the comfort level with the ability to maintain the health and safety of everyone involved has risen to a very high level. Today everyone was in good spirits and they are looking forward to getting back to work.”
It is still tough, however. Many players expressed how difficult it would be to leave their families even for the minimum six weeks the Magic will be in the bubble — families can join players in the bubble after the first round of the Playoffs. It is a big ask for the players to give up that precious time with family.
Especially now as the team is in the boring process of waiting. Players will have to isolate until their tests come back.
That should give them plenty of time to get acquainted with their surroundings — or just their rooms — and go through the various gifts the league left for them.
There is a decent amount to take in. But it is still a hotel room at the end of the day.
The amount of disgust in the junk food Terrence Ross threw out is pretty palpable. But the league has given players it appears at least some form of entertainment in the Amazon Firestick. Along with safety and health information and tools — including apparently each player getting their own cutlery and dining set for food.
But the boredom is already pretty present. The reality of staying in a hotel for the next three months potentially is only starting to set in.
Once practices and games start, then things will certainly get more real.
The Magic were the first team to move into their hotel. They will be joined today by the Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards as teams begin arriving on a staggered basis in the next two days.
The earliest training camp can begin is Thursday after the initial isolation and quarantine period is satisfied.
But not every player from those teams is making the trip. And specifically for the bottom of the Eastern Conference race, there have been some absences that should play a major impact.
The team announced Bradley Beal will not make the trip to Orlando because of a rotator cuff injury. The Wizards, who were already without Davis Bertans, trail the Magic by 5.5 games and need to make up 1.5 games to force a play-in series.
Washington will now be without the team’s top two scorers — nearly 50 points per game. It makes it hard to believe the Wizards will catch the Magic.
The team ahead of the Magic also will officially be shorthanded.
Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie announced he has decided to sit out the resumption of the season after his positive test for COVID-19. This in addition to Wilson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan deciding not to play along with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who were both out with previous injuries.
There is obviously a lot of time to go before the games pick back up. The Magic, while a bit shorthanded, still have the majority of their roster and their starting lineup — Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon were all shown in videos arriving at the hotel.
But they also have to get through testing and then practices before they actually play games and begin moving around.
The important thing, for now, is the team has arrived and the process of restarting the NBA has begun.