LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Denver coach Michael Malone spent his 60th day inside the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World on Friday, and he’d like two things known.
One, he misses his family.
Two, he doesn’t understand why they aren’t with him now.
But the NBA confirmed Friday night that the policy may change later this month.
“We are hoping to add additional family members for other participants beginning with the Conference Finals,” a league spokesman said. “We are mindful of the incredible hardship these restrictions impose and wish it were not necessary for the health and safety of everyone involved.”
Malone — offering perhaps the most impassioned plea of any coach who has spoken on the topic — railed against the policy that says coaches are unable to bring family or a guest into the bubble. Some players were reunited in the bubble with family members or guests for the first time this week, and referees had the option of bringing one guest into the bubble. No referee has yet exercised that right, however.
“I say, `Shame on you, NBA.′ This is crazy,” Malone said. “I miss my family, and I think I speak for me, I speak for my coaches and probably all the coaches down here — 60 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. Shouldn’t be at all.”
It might not be that way as the playoffs move along. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra — who previously criticized the policy — said the league’s head coaches, led by Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, are lobbying for change and that the NBA “hasn’t totally, absolutely, 100% shut the door” on the notion.
“I understand that these are not easy decisions, and this is not a normal period of time in our history,” Spoelstra said. “This is unprecedented. You can’t compare this to anything else. You’re trying to put together something that has protocols, that has structure, that is working in a world where there is COVID and a global pandemic. … The more people you add to it, then you’re also increasing the risk of something happening.”
The league worked with Disney officials as well as health authorities to determine how many people could be safely allowed inside the so-called bubble. The restart began with 22 teams; only eight remain, and the population drop allows room for family members and in some cases additional team staff to enter the bubble.
Spoelstra hasn’t seen his wife and two young sons since the Heat left for Lake Buena Vista two months ago.
“We’re not in the military. We don’t have a background in this,” Spoelstra said. “I miss my family dearly. These are extraordinary times and this is an extraordinary opportunity here in this bubble. So, I get it. This is not easy.”