When Dewan Hernandez returned to the Raptors 905 locker room last Wednesday after the team’s season opener win, the 24-year-old forward encountered Patrick Mutombo, the 905 head coach, and recalled a not-so-much past memory. far.
“Who do we shower with water here?” Hernandez asked Mutombo, who is in his first year as the team’s head coach after four years on the Toronto NBA staff.
It was a question that only the two of them were prepared to answer. Both had been with the Raptors last August when the team drenched assistant coach Adrian Griffin in the same HP Field House locker room after a win over the 76ers.
“Definitely crazy to be back,” says Hernández.
Hernández and Mutombo are part of an exclusive company of players and coaches who have participated in the bubbles of the NBA and the G League Disney World. (Although technically the current G League experience is not a “bubble” in the truest sense, as players can enter and exist if they are called or sent down). As of now, only 10 players have been to both, while Mutombo is believed to be one of only two coaches to have experienced Lake Buena Vista, Florida, in August and February.
“It’s funny how it all comes together,” says forward Jaylen Hoard, who spent the summer with the Trail Blazers and is now with the Oklahoma City Blue.
Familiarity with bubbles comes with a few advantages. After spending the NBA reboot with the Suns, Fort Wayne Mad Ants point guard Jalen Lecque made sure to travel to Florida with an additional monitor.
Hoard packed some extra lights in the room. “Try to make it as comfortable as possible,” he says.
This winter, Greensboro Swarm forward Admiral Schofield brought his PlayStation 4 to Disney, but Schofield, who spent last year with the Wizards, notes that over the summer he came with the aforementioned video game console. Y an Xbox. As a Disney vet, he also provided his new teammates with ideas on what they should bring and relayed information about what life would be like.
Schofield says the two experiences are “quite similar,” yet the physical imprint of the two experiences makes a big difference. All G League players are staying at the Coronado Springs Casitas complex compared to the three hotels used this summer. The available space, in turn, is diminished.
Players still have access to fishing, pickleball, and cornhole, but there is no golf and personal services are more limited. As a result, watching Netflix (or Hulu, in Schofield’s case) and reading remain popular pursuits.
“But don’t get stuck in the room,” Mutombo reminded his players after practice.
During the summer, the then-Raptors assistant took multiple daily walks around Disney property, the first of which would be at 4:50 am when no one else was around. He also spent a lot of time painting in his hotel room, completing at least 25 works. As he did in July, Mutombo traveled to the single-site G League season with a portable studio consisting of canvases, boards, brushes, and an easel, plus acrylic, oil, and watercolor paints. Yet in the team’s first game, the G League freshman head coach was still finding his daily rhythm and had yet to paint. Nor had he done his daily morning walks.
“I have yet to find a better balance,” he admits.
Despite being in his first year as the G League head coach, Mutombo says “being in the bubble gave me a little more peace and comfort” and helped him better understand both the challenges and the challenges. peculiarities of the bubble. ambient. The coach says it also allowed him to be even more empathetic to his players who may have been leaving friends and family for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
Before leaving for Disney, Lecque and others from Mad Ants, an affiliate of the Pacers’ G League, took part in a video call with sports psychologist Dr. Adam Shunk to discuss mental health challenges and available resources. And around the league, residents of a single site take a daily symptom check survey on a MyHealth app, in which a question asks if you want a mental health professional to contact you for any reason.
“It wasn’t easy,” says Schofield of the mental fatigue he had during the summer.
“It can take a little long to just be to yourself,” Hoard adds. “The bubble can be quite particular. But if you are doing well off the court mentally and your individual well-being, then your own [well-being on] the court is going to take care of itself ”.
Through mid-July and early August, Hoard was a frequent customer at Seana’s Caribbean Soul Food, one of the few local black- and Latino-owned restaurants approved by the league for delivery to the bubble. He enjoyed shrimp, jerk salmon, and sweet plantains, which reminded him of his grandmother’s Caribbean cuisine.
However, Seana’s is not available to G League players and the food options are slightly different. The teams still have canteens where food and snacks are provided throughout the day. They also have access to the Rix Sports Bar & Grill. (Hernández recommended his wings to his 905 teammates before the G League season.) And services like DoorDash and UberEats are new to the latest bubble.
While the regular season began last week, the shortened season is scheduled to conclude on March 6 and the playoffs end on March 11. The finite ending helps to provide players with some mental comfort and also increases the importance of each game.
“The kids here are just hungry,” says Lecque. “And I feel like it’s a great place to focus and really play.”
Schofield says he hopes his role as one of Greensboro’s key players will lead to an NBA call-up. In the future, however, I wouldn’t rule out another trip back to Disney, if only as a customer.
“I’m not sick of it yet,” he says of the entertainment complex.
Hoard, however, has different thoughts about a trip back to Disney.
“After this bubble,” he says. “I feel like I need a break.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.