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Kings assistant coach Roy Rana comfortable in NBA bubble

NBA players and staff are getting settled into a routine at the league bubble in Orlando, Fla., after their first week at the Disneyland facility. 

“Right now I think it’s so early that it hasn’t been very bad at all. It’s been fairly smooth,” said Roy Rana, assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings and former Ryerson Rams head coach. 

Rana, who is from Toronto and is in his first year of NBA coaching, arrived at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex last week.

He said he was given a short education session on what to expect and what rules need to be followed. He was then tested and had to isolate for two days while waiting for test results.  

Rana said he had to put some thought into whether he’d return to finish the season in Florida.

“I think each and every one of us dealt with some sort of semblance of anxiety. Is it the right thing? Are we putting ourselves at risk?” said Rana, who grew up in Toronto.

NBA teams are scheduled to play games at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World in Florida at the end of the month. (Associated Press)

“You’re flooded constantly with news and most of it is not great, so that has a little bit of an impact on you.”

Rana decided to go because he was confident in the NBA’s plan on keeping teams safe during the restart. People are required to wear masks, and must stay on the designated campus at Disneyland. 

“There’s hand sanitizer all over the place,” said Rana. 

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to keep ourselves safe. There’s no guarantee, we all understand that. But it feels like a really great, safe environment.”

Bubble life

Vancouver’s Brandon Clarke (15) is looking forward to playing games again. (Associated Press)

Rana and the Kings will be battling for a playoff spot over the eight seeding games with the Memphis Grizzlies.

For Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke, the decision to return was about the love of the game. He’s excited his team is one of the 22 teams chosen to be in the bubble and that have a shot at making the 16-team playoffs.

“Obviously it’s a tough time,” said the Vancouver-born Clarke. 

 “With that being said, basketball is my thing. Playing basketball is what I love doing so to be able to be back on the court and be playing is really what I was always planning to try and get back to.”

While some of his teammates have used the time in the bubble to fish, Clarke has been hanging out with teammate Jaren Jackson Jr., playing video games, and connecting with friends and family online. 

Rana has also been catching up with friends and family, but instead of video games he’s spent a lot of time reading and working out. 

“You got a lot of time so you just get on that elliptical and sweat it out,” said Rana. “We got to take care of ourselves. This is going to be a pretty drawn out process.”

Back on the court

Rana hopes players walk away from this experience with a greater appreciation for basketball. (Jeremy Eaton/ CBC)

Teams will have been in Orlando for over a month before games start July 31. That stay will be extended by two weeks for teams that make the playoffs, with the finals ending in October.

For Rana, that means he won’t be able to see his family until mid-august at the earliest. He said that will be the toughest part about being in Orlando. 

“That will be the challenge,” said Rana. “Just being in two places at one time where you know that maybe they’re having a hard time or they’re doing something fun and you’re not able to be a part of that.”

Rana said for the most part the Kings players came back in great shape, making the transition to practising again easy.

Teams get three hourd to practise each day, as well as time to work out, and additional court time for players looking to put in more work.  

Brandon Clarke is looking forward to getting back on the court and playing meaningful basketball. But even practice has been exciting.

“It’s just been really fun getting that chemistry back. It’s been four or five months since we played five on five practice,” said Clarke. 

“It’s something we all missed so much and I’m just really grateful that I can be back here to play with them.”

Rana and the Kings will need a strong run to make the playoffs, but hw said the bubble experience is about more than just getting wins.

“For all of us, it’s really about having a great sense of gratitude and really appreciating everything we have,” said Rana. 

“Who would’ve ever thought that in mid-March we would step off the floor and maybe not play again, and now here we are again, we have another chance almost four months later, so I think for all of us it’s given us a newfound appreciation for what we have.”

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