David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
Wizney World Blog: Bubble back-to-back
August 3, 9:10 P.M.
As you can imagine, it’s been a busy 48 hours with games on both Sunday and Monday. Even with all of the work, I’ve still been able to find some random Disney gems within our hotel. The food has been very solid the last couple days, with chicken alfredo, burrito bowls, and mango slices topping my list. Disney continues to make our (s)wishes come true.
During a normal situation, back-to-backs are absolutely brutal on everybody. We almost always are traveling from one city to another, landing in the second location after at least 1:00 A.M. The back-to-back here in the bubble felt more like a home-home back-to-back, something we usually have once or twice per year. It helped that both games were in the afternoon, but the team will have a full day off physically after logging so many minutes in back-to-back days.
There’s no doubt that it was a tough back-to-back. The team competed hard in both games, but didn’t make enough plays to win. The Wizards struggled to stop Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and Joe Harris on Sunday, and then T.J. Warren had his way on Monday. Still, Thomas Bryant averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds in the two games, and Troy Brown Jr. continued to show his all-around game. Seeing him run the point in the final five-plus minutes of Monday’s game may have been a peak into something the Wizards will experiment with in their final five games. Like Coach Brooks mentioned postgame, Rui Hachimura had a really solid performance against the Pacers, logging a career-high in assists.
As aforementioned, the team will not do anything physically on Tuesday. There will be a film session and players will work on their recovery. After a back-to-back, massage therapist Electra Liatos will be very busy! It will be a good day for all of us to rest up with five games to go and do something off the court. I know Troy has some things planned, which you’ll be able to see in the sixth episode of his vlog on Thursday.
If you want to hear me talk more about the bubble, check out my interview with my good friend Dan Nolan (10:30 mark). This was part of our Mountain Dew Virtual Gameday show, which you can see on our channels and Monumental Sports Network on every gameday.
To end this post, I’ll be continuing my bubble interview series with Eric Sebastian, the Wizards’ director of coaching operations. Eric is one of the unsung heroes of the organization, the man with all of the answers. We would be lost without him, especially in Orlando.
1. What is your role with the team and what was your career path?
I started working in the NBA in 1994 and spent 15 years with the Denver Nuggets in media relations. From 2009-2016, I was the Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Memphis before joining the Wizards as Director of Coaching Operations in 2016. Here, I serve as Coach Brooks’ right-hand man and work with him to develop our daily schedule, among other things. I’m in charge of communicating that schedule to the Monumental Basketball staff and arranging for any logistical support – buses, planes, hotels, practice space, etc. I also set up our coaches’ meetings, serve as the team’s rules liaison with the NBA and work with Tommy [Sheppard] and Coach to develop a schedule for our G-League assignments.
2. What went into all of the planning to get ready for the bubble?
Oh man, lots of Zoom calls! This is so different from anything we normally do. Aside from Summer League, we never spend more than three or four days in one location. We spent a lot of time trying to get an idea of what bubble life would look like and then working to get everyone familiarized and comfortable with it. It was like trying to learn a semester’s worth in only a few weeks. Obviously, keeping everyone healthy and safe was priority number one.
3. How has your role changed during our time in Orlando?
The core of my role has stayed the same – developing the daily schedule, communicating it, setting up coaches’ meetings and coordinating any logistics. However, like everyone else who is down here, I’m just trying to help out wherever I can. Whether that’s helping the equipment manager out with bags, grabbing chairs at timeouts or flashing back to my PR days by walking a wandering player to the interview room.
4. What have you noticed about the game down here and how it compares to a more traditional situation?
When I worked at Memphis, we played in the Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas and the setup here reminds me of that with basketball courts in these huge ballrooms for practice. It was a little bit of a shock to the system at first compared to the arenas we’re used to playing in. But, the players have acclimated very well to the environment. The three scrimmages were extremely helpful in getting everyone used to the lighting and sight lines of the different arenas and playing without fans. These guys are the best athletes in the world and hoop is hoop. Right off the bat we saw some great performances and really exciting, competitive games. In some ways, the biggest challenges are coping with the stress of being away from our families and adjusting to new routines. An NBA season has a certain rhythm to it – practice and shootaround times are usually the same, game times are usually the same. Here, it’s more challenging to find that rhythm, as times are usually different day to day.
5. What have you taken away from the experience so far, both personally and professionally?
Well for one, I can’t say enough about the leadership that Tommy and Coach Brooks have provided. Everyone is really pulling in the same direction and we truly feel like one big family. Secondly, this experience has solidified that the NBA is the greatest league in the world when it comes to putting on events. The level of detail that went into the planning is remarkable – from the venues to the experiences (golf, bowling, fishing), to the grooming services. This was extremely well thought-out in a very short amount of time. I’ve personally enjoyed the time here. It’s been rewarding to get to develop stronger relationships with players and staff and to spend time with friends from the league and other teams. The most rewarding thing, though, was sinking a 20-foot putt to beat Coach in a playoff.