Monday marks a significant milestone in the NBA’s bold plan to restart the 2019-20 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic—it was July 7 that players and coaches began arriving in the so-called “bubble” at Disney World, and the bubble has officially survived to the two-month mark. Now that we’re in the second round of the playoffs, the league has even begun to allow a limited number of family members to come to the resort after a quarantine period.
But one group has not been allowed to bring in family members: the league’s coaches. Denver coach Mike Malone railed against the NBA for that rule this weekend, calling it, “criminal.” Lakers star LeBron James, who has played a key role in getting players to partake in the NBA’s restart this summer, chimed in with his support for Malone.
Lakers reserve Jared Dudley tweeted, “Agreed! That’s ridiculous,” to a tweet about Malone’s rant. James, who was with the Cavaliers when Malone was an assistant coach in Cleveland, added his agreement.
“(Oh) wow I didn’t even know that! Coach Mo is absolutely right! That’s ridiculous,” James wrote, with a facepalm emoji beside his comment.
Mike Malone: ‘Shame on You, NBA’
Malone, whose team survived a dramatic seven-game series against the Jazz in the first round, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to advance to the conference semifinals against the Clippers, did not hold back when he began talking about the bubble—almost unprovoked—on Friday.
These were Malone’s sentiments:
Today is Day 60. We have been here—the guys that came down here on July 7, and there weren’t many of us because we were ravaged with COVID, but for the original crew, this is day No. 60 and 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 and I think I speak for me, I speak for my coaches and probably for 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 and that shouldn’t be, that shouldn’t be at all.
Coaches Might Have Families in the Bubble, But Not Until Conference Finals
The following day, before Malone’s Nuggets bounced back with a Game 2 win to even their series against the Clippers at 1-1, he noted that there would be more talks with the league on the subject.
“That conversation will continue to take place and we’ll see where that goes,” Malone said.
The NBA Coaches Association released a statement to ESPN, saying, “We will continue to work with the NBA as partners to evaluate the viability of coaches’ families coming to Orlando as more teams exit.”
But the statement indicates that, for the eight teams in the conference semifinals, there will be no chance of families coming to stay with the coaches—any change in policy will require more teams to be eliminated, thus creating room for families. If the policy changes, it will only affect the four conference finalists.