LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Fred VanVleet hadn’t seen his family in more than two months.
With his Toronto Raptors coming off a bad playoff loss, their long-awaited reunion was a great way to cheer him up.
Players began reuniting with family members in the bubble Monday, giving them a feeling of home during a marathon road trip.
“I think last time I saw them was Father’s Day, so it’s been a while. But it will be good to see everybody and right on time after getting our butts kicked yesterday. So, that’ll kind of take my mind off it a little bit today and I’ll get prepared and get locked in for the game tomorrow,” VanVleet said after practice, before meeting up with his family.
NBA teams began arriving at Disney on July 7 but the Raptors have been on the road even longer. They came to Florida on June 22 to begin practicing at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, rather than gather back in Toronto and have players who had been in the U.S. forced to quarantine.
The Raptors had one of the low moments of the trip Sunday when the Boston Celtics beat them 112-94 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Families began arriving in the Orlando area last week so they could quarantine before being permitted in the bubble. Once inside, they will be subjected to the same daily coronavirus testing and mandatory wearing of masks as players and staff.
They’re experiencing firsthand what their loved ones have been enduring, so it’s not a typical Disney World vacation for family members. They won’t be permitted to leave campus, so that could make it tough on children, who may get bored inside the bubble.
“I mean, we’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how well they feel in this environment as well,” said Lakers guard Danny Green said. “It’s a different adjustment for them too, so I think it’ll be good for a week or two until we figure out how smoothly it still runs, if guys stay longer than that.”
Monday was the date that had been targeted because it would have been into the second round, with the number of people inside the bubble reduced after eight more of the original 22 teams on campus for the restarted season had departed.
However, because there were no games for three days last week as players focused on social justice concerns after the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t take the court on Wednesday in reaction to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, there are some first-round series that haven’t been completed.
The Los Angeles Lakers were set to meet with members of their families after their practice. Green said last week that his fiancee had traveled to Florida, adding that he wished his dogs had also come but pets weren’t allowed.
“I think that’ll make things a lot easier for everybody, to have their wives, girlfriends, some of their families, their kids, even though the situation is not exactly kid-friendly,” Green said.
“The kids, they’ll be excited. They haven’t seen their dads in two months. So yeah, that will definitely lighten the mood.”
In most cases, players would be limited to four guests. They would also get one ticket authorizing entry for one adult – who could hold a child 2-foot-8 or shorter – to each of that team’s playoff games.
Not all players planned to bring families, with some having children who are just beginning their school year and didn’t want put them through that situation even if there were virtual classrooms. And not all who did were going to see them Monday.
Family members who quarantined at home and then traveled privately faced only a four-day quarantine, while those who didn’t needed to quarantine seven days upon their arrivals.
But it seems everyone involved believes the wait will be worth it.