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Vaughn on ‘bubble’: Keeping everyone safe, secure top priority

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When the Nets flew from New York to Orlando last Tuesday. they went from a city where the rate of infections and deaths have been dropping to almost nothing (there were NO deaths in the city on Saturday) to a city in a state where the coronavirus is raging.

Moreover, Brooklyn —and Queens— have more experience in dealing with the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, than any place in the world. Orange County, Florida, home of Walt Disney World, is rated as having “extremely low” preparedness in a respected nationwide analysis. The rate of infection isn’t expected to peak until September 30, coincidentally the start of the NBA Finals.

So, everyone in the Orlando “bubble” is rightly concerned. Is the “bubble” impermeable or flimsy? Ask Jacque Vaughn, who wears not just a mask but gloves while coaching his team, what his priority is.

“The first part of it is you really don’t want anyone to catch COVID. The safety and the well-being of all our athletes is premium and at the forethought of everyone, just because we don’t have a history of what this does to you,” Vaughn said on the Nets daily Zoom call with reporters. “Overall, there’s a sacrifice, a responsibility for each athlete who enters the bubble, for each individual who enters the bubble to do their part and not tamper with the bubble.”

Vaughn was talking about how the NBA had learned two players — Richaun Holmes of the Kings and Bruno Caboclo of the Rockets— had broken the “bubble” in different ways. Both will now have extended quarantines. Two other players who were still in quarantine — so not yet inside the “bubble” — tested positive. Their identities haven’t been disclosed and they have left Orlando. And Russell Westbrook announced he’s tested positive and is in quarantine.

“So we’ll continue to talk with our group about making the right choices, the right decisions while you’re in the other bubble,” the coach noted.

Then, Vaughn got personal, no doubt from experience. The Nets, after all, have had seven players test positive going back to March ... and at least one, Spencer Dinwiddie, become so ill he had to drop out of the return-to-play.

“I said to the coaches the other day ‘I don’t want to catch it.’ And it’s as simple as that. I have a family. I have two boys that I want to see grow up. But I did take this sacrifice, so I’m going to do my part in doing what I’m asked to do so that I don’t put the rest of the group at harm.”

In general, players have complimented the NBA on how they’ve handled the “bubble” but teams have only been in Orlando —more specifically Lake Buena Vista— for a week or less. So it’s all still a work in progress.

Still, resort workers are, unlike the players, not being tested and return home every night. There’s no indication that’s an issue now but as the infection rate in Florida skyrockets, it has to be a concern.

“It’s 310 players or something like that. Take NBA players out of it: That’s a lot of people to make sure you have complete control and complete guidelines over,” Jarrett Allen said last week. “Then you add the NBA aspect, a bunch of grown men in this situation. We have our needs, we have our wants, and you know how we are.”

Caris LeVert said Monday that he’s less concerned about what other players like Holmes and Caboclo are doing.

“Honestly, I’m not really thinking about what other guys are doing. I’m trying to focus on the Nets and myself, making sure I’m taking the right safety precautions and everything like that. I didn’t know that [Russell Westbrook] tested positive. So hopefully he gets well and everything’s OK with him,” he said.

There is, of course, the issue of mental health in an enclosed space, not matter how big. Family and friends won’t be allowed in until after the first round of the playoffs are complete. That way, the overall number will be reduced.

So little things mean a lot...

In that same vein, the Nets are off today.