MIAMI (WSVN) - The Miami Heat is heading off to Orlando Wednesday, as the team is set to play out the remainder of the basketball season after the coronavirus pandemic put the regular NBA season on hold.
7News cameras captured the team’s buses leaving the AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami on Wednesday.
“We all are experiencing a certain level of anxiety and angst and stress about being away from our families,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There is an unknown and uncertainty to this on how long we’ll be gone.”
Playing at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports campus in Lake Buena Vista will be a new normal for the Heat and the 21 other teams involved to resume the season, followed by the playoffs.
The mental grind will be difficult under the current conditions for everyone with the restart.
“Number one, I’m getting paid millions of dollars to play basketball. Let’s start there. It’s something I love to do anyways,” Heat center Meyers Leonard said. “Number two, my brother did two nine-month tours in Afghanistan for a lot less pay. We’re gonna be there for three or four months max. It’s not gonna be easy, I know that, but we all have to understand there’s a sacrifice in place, number one, for our team and also for the future of the NBA.”
There are rules in place to ensure everyone’s safety once they arrive to the NBA campus.
Heat players and staff will undergo a COVID-19 test at check-in, followed by quarantine in individual hotel rooms before being tested again at least 24 hours later.
After two negative tests, full team activities can begin.
“Everyone’s gonna be playing catchup in some regards,” Heat forward Duncan Robinson said. “You know, all teams have been handled in having to deal with the same restrictions, so we’re just excited to get there and start competing.”
The Heat will be playing their first exhibition game against the Sacramento Kings on July 22. The first of eight games for Miami that count will be Aug. 1 against Denver.
Coming in, the Heat are the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I’m just going down there and, like, the rest of my teammates are just open-minded, ready to go,” Heat guard Tyler Herro said. “Like they said, nothing’s gonna be perfect. We don’t really know what to expect, but we’re going down there to compete and hopefully win a lot of games.”
“There will be some challenges working back into it, but obviously I’ll have impulses to give people high-fives and dabs and all that, fist pounds, all that type of stuff, but it’s gonna have to be different,” Robinson said. “I mean, that’s one thing this whole pandemic has taught everybody.”
The Heat has had at least three players test positive for COVID-19. Derrick Jones Jr., who was diagnosed on June 23, has been cleared to go to Orlando. Two other unidentified players have to wait until they’re clear of the virus before they can play in Orlando.
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