LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — For nearly two months when they spoke on video chat every day, Genevieve McGee told her father she wanted to come to his house.
JaVale McGee, 32, would try to explain it again.
“I’m like, ‘I’m not at my house: I’m in Orlando,’” he said, rolling his eyes in the retelling. “And she’s like, ‘OK whatever. Whatever Orlando is.’”
The NBA bubble at Disney World may be difficult to explain to an average person; to a 3-year-old, it’s impossible. A 3-year-old doesn’t care about how important it might be for her father to help the Lakers win a championship — she just doesn’t want to talk to her father through a screen.
So as the pregame countdown clock was winding down before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, McGee, the gangly, often goofy 7-footer, took a divergence from his typical routine to run out into the fan section — consisting of a few dozen spectators carefully spaced — to scoop his daughter up and kiss her face before jogging back to the Lakers bench.
For players cooped up in the bubble, guests have been a needed dose of love and support in a title chase that has entered its third month. As one of the oldest teams, the Lakers might have the most children of any remaining team in the bubble (no official guest list is publicly available), who have brightened up what was becoming a grinding and monotonous routine away from home.
After a recent Lakers practice, Dion Waiters watched his son, also named Dion Waiters, with a smile that seemingly kept spreading wider and wider. Though he is only 7, already the resemblance of their game is uncanny: between-the-legs dribbles, crossovers, hesitations and, of course, a hair-trigger shooting motion.
Waiters credits a halfcourt floor layout installed in his son’s room, complete with a foul line and 3-point line, for the hours his son — who goes by Lil’ Cheese or Philly Cheese Jr. in the bubble — has put into his handles. Occasionally Waiters has to knock on his door to tell him to stop when his 1-year-old daughter is napping.
After a recent Lakers practice, Lil’ Cheese teamed up with Justus Dudley, the 8-year-old son of his Lakers teammate Jared Dudley, against assistant coach Phil Handy. Their tenacity off the dribble and their tiny, swiping hands on defense caught the veteran coach off guard, and eventually he surrendered in laughter. Waiters watched proudly from the corner of the ballroom: “Go and get you one!” he shouted.
“I just enjoy his growth every day, so you see I’m more upbeat, I’m more happy,” Waiters said, before cocking his eyes. “This bubble right here, man, it can drive you crazy. I’m not gonna lie to you.”
In the month leading up to the arrival of guests, the Lakers became more vocal about their desire to be around their families. Waiters had not seen his son for three months after he reported to Los Angeles for workouts. J.R. Smith spent as many as five hours a day FaceTiming with his four daughters.
The season hiatus took away games, trips, and many workouts in distant cities. Most players spent the four-plus months between games with their families, which for some were some of the longest continuous stretches of time they’ve been home without traveling for work. Jared Dudley’s family had movie nights and board game nights. McGee, who didn’t grow up with a dinner table, said he finally started getting a feel for what that was like.
“I never really took that into perspective,” he said. “But yeah, now I love sitting at the dinner table and actually having a home-cooked meal, not always going out to eat.”
After so much time together, the time apart was even harder. These reunions were emotional: Waiters shared a video of his son running up to him and weeping silently in his arms.
But in the bubble, Lil’ Cheese seems right at home on a court. He spent part of Saturday crossing his arms while skeptically surveying LeBron James shoot threes from the corner. When James missed one, he joked he had only missed one to let him know he was human.
Lil Cheese’s pointed reply: “Yeah, right.”
Waiters’ son has met Shaq, Dwyane Wade, LeBron — there’s no one in the basketball world that he’s intimidated to walk up to.
“He’s 7,” Waiters said, “going on 30.”
The bushy haired Justus Dudley — who goes by “Juju” — has also haunted the sidelines of Lakers’ practice in one of the most extreme “take-your-son-to-work” trips there’s ever been. Jared, 35, and likely in one of his final seasons has made more of a point to take his son to games this year, to soak up some of the NBA experience at an age when he can finally appreciate it — earlier this season, they’d take pregame strolls down the Staples Center hallway together in matching outfits.
In the bubble, Juju waits patiently for practice to end so he can get his work in: sometimes against Handy or assistant coach Miles Simon, but most often against his dad. He’s competitive, Dudley said, and he has early signs of some of his dad’s basketball IQ. He hopes that some of the experience he has rubs off on Juju down the road: advice from James or Rajon Rondo; playful drills with Lakers’ coaches; or simply watching his own father shoot late into the night.
“He sees the work ethic,” Dudley said. “He sees when Daddy’s tired from working out, I need to take these naps, or rest, or stretch, so he’s asking questions about it. He’ll use it. And kids remember everything.”
What’s just as striking as the children who are in the bubble are the children who aren’t. Rondo’s son Pierre has made perennial visits to Lakers games, and sometimes has been in the pregame locker room, dribbling on the carpet. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and his wife chose to not bring his three boys, leaving them with family and allowing them to keep in their routine.
It sometimes doesn’t come across how little the Coronado Springs Resort campus offers, and though there are pools, bikes for rent and some activities geared for children, there’s no Disney park access, and once you’re in the bubble, you can’t leave without losing your status. While James said talking to his three children keeps him “sane,” he didn’t want them to have to spend weeks in the bubble just for his sake.
“My kids are too adventurous and they love to do so much stuff, it makes no sense for them to be here: There’s nothing for them to do here,” James said during the Houston series. “You go outside, come back in. Go outside, come back in. They can stay in L.A. and they’re great.”
Many worried about quarantine: Supervising adults would have their hands full with children bouncing around in hotel rooms for up to seven days. McGee’s daughter filled her time with crafts — her mother told her a white lie, that there was “peepee and poopoo” in the pool they could see from the window in their room.
Now that the kids are out, the NBA and NBPA has attempted to cater to them as best they can. There are movie nights and family events. Waiters watches TV with his son — the episodes of Game of Thrones which he binged since arriving in the bubble have been replaced by Aladdin and The Lion King.
A bubble “school” for ages 3 to 7 teaches lessons in the morning based on a Montessori approach. McGee’s daughter attends with one of her closest friends: Markieff Morris’ daughter Jyzelle. There’s also taekwondo lessons available — even though Juju is “attending” his classes back in Los Angeles digitally, he’s tried that, Dudley said.
After a recent bubble school lesson, McGee saw his daughter had made a flower out of Play-Doh with labels of each part, like “stem” and “petal.”
“I’m like ‘OK, she’s really learning stuff, all right, cool,’” he said. “Shout out to the bubble school.’ I wonder what the curriculum is on — Harvard-Westlake, I hope.”
Players were only allowed four to five guests, so some children have been left at home. Waiters didn’t want to saddle his partner with his youngest daughters in quarantine, who are both under 2 years old (he was heartbroken to have missed his youngest daughter’s first birthday on Aug. 1). Dudley thought about bringing his daughters in a second shift, but learned that his wife, Christina, couldn’t go back into quarantine to accompany them, and that the NBA would mandate a seven-day quarantine when his family only had to do four after flying in directly from L.A.
“I’m in the process of thinking, do I bring the two girls out and experience something that’s maybe once in a lifetime?” he said. “Or do I eventually send my wife back to be with my daughters? So it’s a tougher decision to make.”
Eventually the Dudleys decided Christina would go back to L.A. with the girls, leaving Juju in the care of Jared’s mother Melinda. Christina and his daughters may come back to Disney, but if they do, it will likely be in the outer tier behind a wall of plexiglass.
Coaches and staff who also have young families have been less fortunate. The NBA announced that each team would be afforded 10 spots total for family members, but between the difficulty of quarantining, the expense of $550 nightly hotel rates and trying to come to a consensus on who should be able to bring family, not many spots have been used. Frank Vogel said earlier this week that it was “still up in the air” if his wife and teenage daughters would be able to join him, and other staffers with grade-school aged children told SCNG that their families likely wouldn’t come for the Lakers’ title run.
So for the fathers who have children here, these moments are all the more precious. Waiters has found himself injured for the past few weeks with a groin strain, so an outlet to play has dried up. But there are days when watching Lil’ Cheese firing up shots is satisfaction enough.
“Just to have him up here takes a lot off, takes the edge off,” he said. “More happy, more at peace right now.”آموزش سئو