A restrictive Olympics has reminders of NBA, WNBA bubbles

Aug 3, 2021, 2:50 PM | Updated: Aug 4, 2021, 4:48 am

SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — Wake up. Take a coronavirus test. Go to an empty arena. Practice or play a game. Return to the hotel. FaceTime family and friends who they’ve been separated from for weeks. Watch other games on television. Sleep.

Such is the typical itinerary for basketball players at the Tokyo Olympics.

For those who were in the NBA and WNBA bubbles in Florida last summer, it seems familiar. That has no doubt played a role in both U.S. basketball teams reaching the Olympic semifinals.

There are clear similarities between what basketball players are having to endure at these Tokyo Olympics and what went on last summer for NBA players in Lake Buena Vista, Florida and WNBA players in Bradenton, Florida. The days have seemed a bit monotonous, there’s separation from loved ones and there’s hardly anyone in the buildings to cheer for them.

“The bubble was brutal,” said France guard Evan Fournier, who played in the NBA’s bubble with the Orlando Magic. “It was, it really was.”

The Olympics, in Fournier’s estimation, aren’t quite as difficult as the bubble was. The rules in Tokyo designed to keep everyone safe are restrictive, yes. But Fournier said there are at least some opportunities to see other athletes, whether it was through taking part in the opening ceremony and then going to the Olympic village or simply by being able to get away from basketball by tuning into something else on television.

U.S. women’s player Breanna Stewart said the flashbacks to last summer are only natural to have.

“This is even more because we are in a foreign country,” Stewart said. “We go to the hotel, the practice gym, the arena and we’ve gone to the village a couple of times. We’re not getting out and we don’t have areas to just chill outside. That’s one thing that is unique to the Olympics, spending time inside cooped up.”

Stewart and the U.S. women have had familiar faces at some of their games at the Olympics. Those faces belong to the U.S. men, who have sent contingents to the arena to watch their fellow Americans on off days.

Typically at an Olympics, the NBA stars pop into some of the other big events — like swimming, track and field, gymnastics — whenever possible. It creates a stir, a buzz in the crowd and even the athletes in those sports have said it’s a big deal to have some of the best-known players in the world in attendance.

In Tokyo, that’s just not an option.

“The restrictions don’t allow us to do that,” Durant said. “That was the fun part about the last few Olympics, is that we could go out and support other athletes, watch other sports that we probably never get a chance to watch, take in the whole Olympic experience. But again, it’s somewhat of a bubble and we can’t do that.”

Even without a bubble, at least not the same sort that the NBA and WNBA players had last summer, the restrictions in place this summer likely deterred some from coming to the Olympics. There are undoubtedly other factors on that front: the NBA, for example, saw its 2019-20 season resume in July 2020, go through October, resume in December and some players haven’t gotten much of a break since — which will be a talking point when NBA training camps start up again next month.

“If you put it frankly, it kind of sucks,” Australia guard Joe Ingles said.

Put simply, nothing has been easy. And sometimes, it doesn’t seem fun. It can appear to be light-hearted at times — U.S. men’s coach Gregg Popovich is a well-known wine connoisseur, and getting wine into the famous staff dinners has been more of a challenge than usual, for example — but it’s a clear grind.

“A lot of them called me and wanted to play and then later, for whatever reason, said, ‘Hmm, I’m not so sure,'” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “I can understand it. I mean, there’s a lot of things going on. We’ve had to adjust, I mean, how would you like to get a group of guys coming to Japan and tell them they’re going to be in another bubble, basically, because that’s the way it is. That’s really challenging.”

Yet when the winners get their gold medals this coming weekend, it’ll all seem worth the trouble.

“We still get to do what we’re here for,” Ingles said.

___

AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this story.

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams drives past Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) during the firs...
Associated Press

Tatum, Brown lead Celtics to easy 125-98 win over Suns

PHOENIX (AP) — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each cored 25 points, Malcolm Brodgon added 16 off the bench and the Boston Celtics embarrassed the Phoenix Suns 125-98 on Wednesday night. The Celtics won for the eighth time in nine games, improving their NBA-best record to 21-5. The Suns — who came into the game […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

AP source: Cardinals, Contreras agree to 5-year contract

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Willson Contreras is going to St. Louis to replace Yadier Molina at catcher, agreeing to an $87.5 million, five-year contract with the Cardinals on Wednesday. A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the move to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a physical. The addition […]
21 hours ago
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, rear, fouls Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga during ...
Associated Press

Fontecchio lifts Jazz past Warriors in short-handed matchup

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Simone Fontecchio dunked with 1.4 seconds remaining off Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s steal and the Utah Jazz beat the Golden State Warriors 124-123 on Wednesday night in a matchup of short-handed teams. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins sat out for Golden State, while Utah was missing Lauri Markkanen and Mike […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Lawrence’s free throws give Vanderbilt 75-74 win over Pitt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tyrin Lawrence’s two free throws with 1.1 seconds left gave Vanderbilt a 75-74 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. Pitt had taken the lead after Nelly Cummings capped an 8-0 run with a midrange jumper with 14.3 seconds remaining. Coming out of a timeout, Quentin Millora-Brown drove the baseline and passed […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Pearson scores 20 as Ball State takes down E. Illinois 76-59

CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) — Mickey Pearson Jr. had 20 points in Ball State’s 76-59 victory against Eastern Illinois on Wednesday night. Pearson had nine rebounds for the Cardinals (5-4). Payton Sparks scored 12 points while shooting 6 of 9 from the field. Jarron Coleman shot 3 for 9, including 3 for 7 from beyond the […]
21 hours ago
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) wears sneakers with logos covered in tape with the words "I A...
Associated Press

Irving touts freedom on game sneakers after split with Nike

Kyrie Irving is a sneaker free agent and he used the Brooklyn Nets’ game Wednesday night to advertise it. Irving played with tape covering the logo on his black sneakers, two days after Nike ended its relationship with him. “I AM FREE Thank you God … I AM,” was written in gold marker on the […]
21 hours ago
A restrictive Olympics has reminders of NBA, WNBA bubbles