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Safety in a Bubble: Monty describes the precautions provided by the NBA

Suns head coach Monty WIlliams is providing insight to how things are going in the bubble, most notably from a safety and security perspective.

No matter your occupation, work is weird right now. Whether you are working from home and have to be a part of Zoom meetings or you are working and wearing your mask out in the field, things are noticeably different. Cleaning and sanitation protocols, face covering requirements, and being cognizant of your distance from coworkers are all something that we have never faced.

Each day I arrive at work I have by temperature checked and am asked about COVID-19 symptoms. 6 months ago I would’ve thought you were joking; now I’d think you were joking if I didn’t get checked daily. It is the world we live in.

The NBA is no different.

The players, coaches, and staff members are following strict protocols to ensure their health, well being, and safety. Has it taken a couple days to get used to? Of course. Their arrival in Orlando this past week is the first time they have gone to work in nearly four months. They too are learning the new rhythm of a world hyper-focused on negating the spread of the coronavirus.

Post-practice press conferences have changed as well. Reporters are no longer in the room, rather, they are calling in via Zoom to hear the thoughts of Monty Williams and his players. Monty starts off with his mask on, displaying the importance of following safety measures at all times. Walking the walk. There are no Suns logos behind him with advertisements (although that could make the team a little money. I’ll take 10% for the idea). There are no microphones in his face. It is simply Monty Williams leaning in to try to hear questions while sitting is a sectioned off area inside a resort ballroom.

How Safe is the Campus?

The world is watching how the NBA is handling the Orlando Campus, most notably from a safety and security standpoint. I’m sure that the NFL is jotting down notes, looking for ways to take what the NBA is doing and applying it to their season. The MLB, however, is outside on the playground, playing in the sand alone.

On a Zoom call with reporters on Friday, Monty Williams had nothing but praise for how the NBA is handling the campus, stating, “The NBA has gone above and beyond to give us every chance to be successful.”

What is noticeable as coach begins excitingly talking with his hands are the bracelet and ring on his right hand.

Monty explained how these items work, “This is the band...that helps me get into my hotel room. They have a deal at the at every entrance that you have to tap it on and wait for a ‘green light’ and it allows you to go into the hotel. So everywhere we go we have to check in and check out.”

RFID technology is not new, as most resorts and hotels now use them to access rooms, pools, spas, and work out rooms. The NBA appears to be using the bracelets to monitor movement of their players, checking them in and out of the Yacht Club as well as other facilities. I wonder if they have GPS, informing them if James Harden hits up Dancers Royale on Colonial Drive.

And then there is that ring. It’s a titanium second-generation Oura ring that is designed to monitor the users health, temperature, and possibly detect COIVD early. Monty joking notes that, “the ring thingy that is probably not working at all because I don’t have much in my brain for it to monitor, so I know it’s not working on this,” as he points to his head.

“But this thing is supposed to track a lot of our health points.” Interesting. High-tech. Cool. A great wedding gift for the groom.

Williams went on to talk about another piece of technology the NBA has provided all personnel, “Then there’s another thing that we put on our credentials that’s supposed to monitor your distance between people when you’re at the hotel. So all of us have to have all of these deals on.”

If only we all could have something similar. I think people would be surprised how often they invade the 6-foot space of another. I’m not quite sure if the impatient guy at Staples who decided that he needed to reach around me to grab his printer paper would even understand how the bracelet worked. Sorry. It would’ve been weird how close he invaded my personal space, pandemic or not.

Will the Precautions Work?

That is the million dollar question right now. The NBA is clearly taking every step they can to ensure the health and safety of those living on campus. Will all of these gidgets and gadgets negate any player, coach, or trainer from contracting COVID-19?

Probably not.

As we have seen nationwide, the virus is spreading. The only way to get to the other side of this thing is to go though it. We cannot go around it. What we can do is be cognizant of others, be cautious in our actions, be courteous to our fellow human beings, and take the steps necessary to prevent any spread.

I would not be surprised if the coronavirus knocks at Orlando’s door and somehow gets in. From there we will see how the NBA approaches the treatment, containment, and resolution of dealing with the virus. Perhaps it will be a blueprint in a bubble, an opportunity to see how to navigate the pandemic through the lens of a confined campus.

The NBA is doing plenty to prevent getting to that point.

“You look at the rings and the bands and the other apparatuses that we have on,” Monty said, “along with the testing, we have everything here to be successful.”

The one variable that cannot be monitored with a band or a ring is the human nature of a 20-something-year-old NBA player. The greatest threat the safety of the bubble is the guy who decides he needs to leave campus for a good time. You would hope that they would be thinking of more than themselves, that the team comes to mind in any decision that is made. I was 20-something when I was in the military and stationed in Korea in a campus like environment. That room gets real boring, real quick.

All of the controllable variables have been well thought out and executed to this point. Players for the Suns still haven’t arrived and the campus hasn’t faced any obstacles other than mediocre hotel food. The league’s focus on safety is being praised by those living within the confines of the bubble.

“I applaud the league,” Coach Monty Williams said, “I came into it with a bit of skepticism. When you get here and you see all of the stuff it’s actually pretty impressive.”

20 days until tip off. Let’s hope it stays impressive.

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