ORLANDO, Fla. - Freedom began Sunday afternoon with a knock on the door, a greeting from a smiling NBA employee (that's purely an assumption, given the mask he wore) and most of all, a press credential, which around here is as precious as a green card.
My seven-day, in-room quarantine at the NBA campus was over. I could step outside my hotel room and walk into the sunlight, and those first few steps were wobbly, uncertain, disoriented, newborn calf-like.
Would I fall? What did it feel like to run? If you've ever been shoehorned for a week inside a 12-foot-by-18-foot space, those are the initial thoughts swirling about. Never before has a human felt this anxious to feel the sticky warmth of Orlando humidity.
In hindsight, confinement wasn't terribly inconvenient. The social isolation proved the biggest challenge; the only humans I interacted with arrived daily to give the mandated coronavirus test and that lasted 60 seconds. Technology helped pass the time; the internet and video and the like allows for a certain sense of comfort and connectivity. There were also stories that needed to be written for the website, of course. Had this happened in the tech stone age of 25 years ago, the only device would be books.
The other issue that's thankfully in the rear view is the food. Three meals were delivered daily at 8, noon and 6. The quality varied, but that wasn't the issue. It's almost impossible to please everyone with the options so they sent multiple choices, and every meal left me with more regrets than calories.
It became a wasteful exercise. All the iced coffee, sodas, egg biscuits, carrots, celery, sausages and milk never left their packaging. I don't eat them, didn't want them. And because of all the health precautions here at the Disney reboot, you couldn't return them. I immediately thought of the handful of trips I took through the Skid Row neighborhood over the last few years, the epicenter of the homelessness in L.A., and what that food would've meant to the less fortunate. Now that I'm out of quarantine, I can choose my food, and I'm promising that everything will be eaten. The plate will be cleaner than LeBron's block on Iguodala.
Once freedom rings at Disney, what's the first stop? Well, that's easy. The health club at the Coronado Springs Resort is rather on the small side and yet, for someone who hasn't broken a sweat in a week, it was the size of Staples Center. The treadmill and weights were more punishing than normal and never felt so good.
There is a running trail that can and perhaps will be used at another time. Not that this hotel complex is hurting for space to stretch out and expand and roam. The vast parking lot, which would normally be full of rental cars this time of year, is virtually empty. The NBA rented out the resort for staff and media. No tourists. This is now a business hotel.
And business begins tomorrow for me with practices to attend and interviews to conduct. Fresh out of one-week isolation, it will be refreshing and normal to once again be around a group of people, although here in this new uncertain world, even that will be different for sports reporters.
I can almost hear the hard and stern instructions now: "Please remain six feet from LeBron James at all times, thank you."
Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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