Before he can leave his room at the the Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World, Steve Clifford takes his temperature and checks his blood oxidation level. Clifford, a Maine native and University of Maine at Farmington graduate, does this with a phone app provided by the National Basketball Association.

Before the Orlando Magic head coach leaves his room, whether it’s to go to breakfast or attend a team function, Clifford makes sure he is wearing a green wristband that allows him to freely travel anywhere inside the NBA bubble.

Clifford, who graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington, is one of two NBA coaches with Maine ties — Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown is a South Portland native.

The wristband is a smart device. NBA security can read it and know Clifford is healthy and free to join his team. Even with the bill of health the wristband provides, Clifford wears a mask when out and about. Everybody does, he said. Everybody is tested for the coronavirus every day since the NBA resumed play July 30 in Florida, Clifford said.

“It’s incredibly well-organized,” Clifford said Monday morning. “The commissioner (Adam Silver) said before we got here, this would be one of the safest places in the country, and it is.”

Clifford and the Magic entered the NBA’s bubble at Walt Disney World in late July. Unlike the other teams spread across three hotels in the Disney complex, the Magic are not far from home and their families.


Clifford said his home is approximately 20 minutes from the Grand Floridian. Players Markelle Fultz and Terrence Ross are each 10 minutes from home, Clifford said.

“The players have handled it pretty well. They love to play. They love to compete,” Clifford said. “You can see games are getting better as guys get into rhythm.”

The first two weeks inside the bubble, teams were restricted to where they could go. Since then, nobody can leave, but more of the resort is available. If you want to try dinner at another hotel, for example, that is permitted. The pools are open, and players can enjoy recreational opportunities like fishing and golf, Clifford said. While teams may mingle, it’s not completely open.

Orlando Magic head coach Steve Clifford, left, and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens shake hands before a game Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. AP photo

“Jeff and Stan Van Gundy are here (as media covering the games) and we can’t even have coffee together,” Clifford said.

The big challenge in the bubble, Clifford said, is trying to find a sense of routine. Professional teams are creatures of habit. Before the season was suspended in March, the Magic practiced at the same time every day. In the bubble, with 22 teams sharing seven practice facilities, the three-hour block each team is allowed for practice every day can be at a different time every day.

“Some days we have practice at 9 a.m. We had a practice at 7 p.m.,” Clifford said.


Before the league shut down, the Magic had won three consecutive games and six of nine. Orlando was 2-4 inside the bubble entering Tuesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets. Orlando, which has clinched the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, closes the seeding round Thursday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Magic will take on the top seed Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.


Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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