The second round of the NBA playoffs has witnessed emotional family reunions in the bubble.
Players who were isolated from loved ones for weeks were allowed to invite their families to the league’s Disney World campus after surviving the seeding games and first round of the playoffs.
Players’ families sitting courtside
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s girlfriend Mariah Danae Riddlesprigger has sat courtside with their young son Liam on her lap to watch the Milwaukee Bucks star battle the Miami Heat. Los Angeles Clippers forward Marcus Morris was seen greeting his pregnant wife Amber and giving and his young son Marcus Jr. a kiss on the sideline after a win.
“It was amazing,” Morris told the Orange County Register of the family reunion. “That was one thing that was missing here.”
For players dealing with the bizarreness of bubble life on top of everything else that is 2020, seeing their families has provided a sense of normalcy and warmth.
Coaches aren’t allowed guests
It’s a welcome comfort. It’s one that coaches in the bubble are not provided.
The NBA laid out the guidelines for guests in a memo in early August. Players are allowed up to four guests limited to family and “long-standing relationships” plus additional exceptions for children.
Coaches aren’t allowed any guests. Coaches have family, too, of course.
Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone slammed the policy on Friday in a candid critique of the NBA.
‘Shame on you, NBA’
Denver coach Mike Malone points out that it’s Day 60 in the bubble and he thinks it’s “criminal in nature” for the NBA not to let coaches bring in families. “I say shame on you, NBA. This is crazy. I miss my family.” pic.twitter.com/oBTve7zB3m
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) September 4, 2020
“This is day number 60,” Malone said of time in the bubble. “The reason I bring that up is because the players have their families here. Which they deserve. Which is the right thing to do. The referees are allowed to bring one guest. Which is great for the referees.
“The coaches — the coaches are not allowed to bring anybody. I say shame on you NBA. This is crazy. I miss my family. I think I speak for me. I speak for my coaches and probably all the coaches down here. Sixty days and not having access and not being granted the privilege to have my family come here to me is criminal in nature.”
Malone is married with two daughters. He’s spoken fondly in the past of coaching his daughter’s basketball team. He hasn’t seen his family in two months. He’s understandably upset.
Malone, of course isn’t the only coach of the eight remaining bubble teams missing his family. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra missed the second game of his career in December for the birth of his second son. The first game he missed? The birth of his first son.
Welcome to the world, Dante Nicholas Spoelstra! Perfect in every way. So grateful to have this big, magical soul join our family & can’t wait to bring him Home to the best big brother & doggie-sister ever! You are loved by so many already, Baby Dante!
— Nikki Spoelstra (@NikkiSpo) December 5, 2019
Spoelstra hasn’t spoken out publicly. Neither have any other coaches not named Mike Malone. But they surely miss their families too.
Why aren’t coaches’ families allowed?
So why aren’t coaches allowed family members in the bubble? That’s not clear. The NBA had access to three resorts on the Disney World campus when bubble play started. As teams have been bounced from the bubble, the NBA vacated Disney’s Yacht Club resort.
There’s certainly hotel space on the Disney campus for coaches families. But with the operating costs of the NBA bubble estimated at $150 million, it appears that the NBA did not prioritize coaches families.
Disney World is gradually reopening to the public, and resort space is coming into demand.
At this point in bubble play, it seems unlikely that Malone’s critique will yield results. Plans have been long made. With strict quarantine rules and Disney World’s reopening, coaches who continue to advance will likely have to keep sacrificing time with their loved ones.
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