SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder had a simple way of explaining how things are going in the bubble.
“Well, I haven't bought a rock polisher, as we saw in Shawshank,” Snyder said, in reference to the famed movie "The Shawshank Redemption."
On Friday, the Jazz celebrated (that might be too strong of a word) one month of being in Orlando. It hasn’t been so difficult that Snyder — or anyone else — has felt the need to dig their way out of the Disney campus. And there has yet to be a positive test for the coronavirus.
So, all things considered, it’s been a successful start.
Jordan Clarkson has been spotted in the courtyard wailing away on a guitar. Mike Conley has had a couple of days of peace and quiet on the golf course. Donovan Mitchell has played a lot of ping pong. Just about everyone has played copious amounts of video games.
Yes, there are worse places to be confined, but the fact remains the players, the coaches, the staffs are still confined. There have been issues — notably Lou Williams' excursion to a club in Atlanta while on an excused absence and some food delivery hiccups — but for the most part life in the bubble has been bearable, if not just enjoyable.
“Because everybody's feeling some of the same things, they've been able to support each other,” Snyder said. “Sometimes that support, it's subtle; sometimes, it's silent; sometimes, it's more vocal.”
And they’ve been able to get back on the court. That’s been worth whatever inconveniences the bubble brings. After being away from the game for four months — four unexpected months — playing NBA games has been cathartic to many players. Even in a foreign and strange environment, there’s a comfort that has come with the season restarting.
That’s the case even if it is in an empty gym — something players have admitted is strange and is lacking the normal energy of an NBA game. But, to their credit, that hasn’t weakened the product. In fact, the quality of basketball has been a pleasant surprise to most.
“Really, just being back on the court has been enough joy for me,” Conley said. “For us, who love to compete and play, it's a joy to be out there and competing with these guys and you're playing for coach. It's just a great, great opportunity to play.”
It's also provided an opportunity to bond as a team. Clarkson admitted that he was quiet and laid back when he first got to the team back in December. It’s strange to join a team midway through the season and Clarkson didn’t get to know many of his teammates on a really personal level. In Orlando, that has changed.
“Us being in this environment, in this bubble, made us a lot closer, especially my teammates, just everybody,” Clarkson said. “During this time, we really came together. We don’t got nowhere else to be, we spend a lot of time with each other, have a lot of conversations, have a lot of tough conversations, personal conversations, everything, so just really bringing everybody closer.”
That camaraderie has expanded to the league as a whole. The players are all experiencing much of the same thing — away from family and friends and their normal way of life. But the fact that there haven’t been any positive tests and very few reported problematic protocol infractions points to the players all realizing how important the game is for everyone.
“Everybody's really been sensitive and conscious of abiding by the protocols that are set up to help everybody,” Snyder said. “Now that we're playing games, I think that there's an enthusiasm surrounding that. People are getting used to some of the things that are different, but it does remind me there's a camaraderie that exists.”
So one month in, things are good in the bubble. Maybe even surprisingly so.
“That doesn't mean you don't miss your family,” Snyder said. “I don't think anybody wants to be in the bubble in perpetuity.”
But for a month, it hasn’t been so bad.