The Orlando Magic made the roughly half-hour, 20-mile drive down I-4 and arrived at Disney World.
There were, however, a few players unexpectedly missing.
The Magic on Tuesday were the first team to arrive at the NBA’s bubble at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, arriving on a Disney Cruise Line bus with team and staff all wearing face masks.
Among the players who did not travel with the team to Disney, it was later announced by Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, was Markelle Fultz, Al-Farouq Aminu and an unnamed player who recently tested positive for COVID-19.
“We did have one player test positive in the last round when the NBA kind of released its second batch, that was a little while ago now,” Weltman told the media during a Zoom conference on Tuesday. “So, that player, I’m not at liberty to speak about it, but that player is following the protocol and we’re hoping that he can join us shortly.”
That led many on Magic Twitter to scour any and all photos and videos posted by the Magic on social media in an attempt to identify the missing player, which we will not speculate about here.
Fultz, Weltman said, was excused to handle personal business, but is expected to rejoin the team as soon as possible.
“Markelle has a non-COVID personal matter that the he has been excused to address, and the league is aware and he’s following protocol,” Weltman said. “We fully expect his transition to join the team be seamless and hopefully very soon.”
Weltman later added that he doesn’t have a timeline for Fultz’s return.
“He’s on top of everything and hopefully he will be out here shortly,” Wetlman said. “He’s looking very much forward to joining up with his team once he handles his business.”
Aminu, who has been out since November after suffering a torn meniscus, did not travel with the team to Disney as he continues his rehab at the Magic’s facilities.
“He’s at the point in his rehab where our performance staff felt it would be much more beneficial for him to have access to facilities and technology that we have in the practice facility,” Weltman said. “It’s a very important phase of his rehab, he wants to attack it. So, he did not travel with us.”
While disappointing that Aminu would not be available for the restart, the news also seemed to provide a glimmer of hope that Jonathan Isaac, who did travel to Disney despite being out since January with a knee injury, would be available to play.
Weltman, while not entirely shutting down the possibility of Isaac returning, said Isaac is at a stage in his rehab where he can do only light court work and is with the team primarily to support his teammates and gain from the experience.
“We’re planning on life without Jonathan,” Weltman said.
Weltman said, upon arrival, the Magic had an orientation and were informed of the layout of the facility and details of the planning and timing. “Obviously with the caveat that it’s all subject to change depending on what’s throw an all of us,” Weltman said.
The Magic, he said, will remain hunkered down in quarantine for the next few days, while receiving daily coronavirus testing. Further preparation will then begin for the restart when the Magic gather on the court as a team for the first time in a long time.
“We’re going to have a few days of coach ramping us up slowly, and making sure that our performance guys are very closely monitoring the activity and the workload of our players,” he said. “Obviously, we’re trying to accomplish a lot. We’re trying to establish rhythm, we’re trying to hone skills and, most importantly, we’re trying to avoid injury. So, it’s a lot to do in a very short time. But preparation is everything and I think our guys have done a good job of that.”
Weltman said the Magic, as the default home team, have been acting as something of a concierge for the league in helping with the transition to Orlando. During such unprecedented times, Weltman said he wasn’t sure what kind of affect being a road team at home will have on Orlando’s players.
“I really don’t know what impact that will have, the fact that we’re local and we’re a half-hour drive from most of our homes,” he said. “I honestly don’t know. Maybe that will help, maybe it will be more distracting. I really don’t know.”
He did say with certainty, however, that this year will be harder to win an NBA title than any in league history.
“To take this long of a layoff and reconstitute your chemistry and your skills and your rhythm and your togetherness and ramp it up in such a short time, it’s a monumental undertaking,” Weltman said. “And to try to walk that line of winning and ramping up at the right time and managing minutes and loading workload. All that’s stuff it’s a lot to consider. So, I think these playoffs are obviously going to be unique, but I think they’re going to be extraordinarily difficult.”