Bulldogs & Beyond: The NBA Bubble
Updated: Aug 26
By Greydon Buhlig
This year, as we all know, has been a rough year for athletics. The National Basketball Association was first shut down in March 2020 when Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 before a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The NBA has since come up with a way to create “The Bubble.” It was created to keep the players, coaches and staff away from the general public by quarantining NBA personnel at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
"The Bubble" has tests and protocols in place to prevent and quarantine members of teams to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Twenty-two teams were invited, with the top eight teams from each conference being invited to participate, along with six teams still in playoff contention. The teams all played in three scrimmages, and then ended the regular season with a few seeding games. Now, the NBA is into the first round of the playoffs.
It has been a very interesting last six months, but these happenings have brought a little bit of normalcy into the world.
When the teams arrived in Orlando, they were split into various hotels at the resort, with four teams staying in one hotel. Then, the teams played at three different venues at the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex at Disney. Fans obviously aren’t able to attend, but the NBA put up massive screens to “attend” via virtual reality. It has been interesting and a little weird, but it is a great way to keep basketball fans engaged.
When games started, you could definitely tell that it had been five months since the players had competed. Sloppy play seemed to be imminent, as one ESPN announcer, Mark Jones, described the play “looking like LA Fitness at three o’clock,” during a sequence of a game between the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets. This clip went viral, and it described what the early part of the bubble looked like.
However, these guys are professionals, and it didn’t take long for the players to look like themselves again. In fact, the Phoenix Suns finished undefeated in the bubble. Before the season restarted, the Suns sat in the 13th spot in the West and were within six games of clinching a spot in the playoffs. Now, they need a lot of teams to lose ahead of them, including the Portland Trailblazers and Memphis Grizzlies.
In the seeding games, the Suns beat the Indiana Pacers, the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Dallas Mavericks. Devin Booker put on a show averaging 30.3 points and lighting teams up left and right. This just proves that the Suns are on the right path to getting back into the playoffs.
On another note, the 76ers just were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round. This comes after making it to the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago and losing to the Raptors in game seven. A team with young stars, like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, just didn’t have enough to beat a very strong Celtics team. They hoped to play well in the bubble as they struggled on the road this past season, but they never seemed to get their chemistry right. They split the seeding games 4-4, losing to the Raptors, Blazers, Suns, and Magic.
Contributing to the struggle in the four seeding games he played in, Embiid averaged a measly 9.3 points. In the first round against Boston, however, he averaged 30 points. Simmons wasn’t even there due to a knee injury he sustained in the Wizards' scrimmage before the seeding games began. He underwent surgery on his left knee earlier this month. With him out, the 76ers struggled to find consistent play and were eventually swept by the Celtics.
On August 25th, the 76ers fired head coach Brett Brown. This was expected, but now they are looking for another head coach. Brown took the job back in 2013 and has started something in Philadelphia, but we will see how this plays out over the next coming weeks and months.
Another story coming from the NBA restart is the play of Dallas Mavericks' small forward, Luka Doncic. The 21-year-old has been playing lights out, and has the Dallas Mavericks tied with the LA Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. He is averaging a triple-double: 35.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 11.6 assists per game in the bubble.
When tying the series 2-2, he played without star big man, Kristaps Porzingis, and will be without him again for game five. On the other hand, the Clippers have been playing without Paul George. “Playoff P” has not shown up. In game 4, he shot 3-14 from the field, and went 1-7 from beyond the 3-point line. This is just a continuation from his previous games, as Kawhi Leonard has carried the Clippers the first four games. Tonight is game five. Doncic needs to continue his play if the Mavs see them winning tonight, but all eyes are on Paul George. Will he show up? We shall see.
This NBA restart in the bubble has been awesome to watch. It has given the fans basketball again and has had crazy stories and stats. The playoffs continue and will definitely give us more great games and even more stories. I know fans and players are ready to be back in their arenas watching and playing the game they love. Hopefully the situation in the world ends soon, and things go back to normal, but until then, we will all watch from the safety of our homes, and cheer on our teams with the same kind of passion.