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Bubble format leaving Griffith sympathetic

Jordan Griffith, a Hollidaysburg graduate who is also the Golden Tigers’ assistant boys basketball coach, is one of several people within The Basketball Tournament’s “bubble” at the Hyatt Hotel in Columbus, Ohio.

The experience, which indirectly is serving as a test run for the NBA’s proposed plan for a return later this month in Orlando, has been tough.

“Honestly, it’s terrible,” said Griffith, who is serving as an assistant coach for the Sideline Cancer team, which is named after his mother Cathy’s foundation in Hollidaysburg. “The only times we have been outside is to walk to our games. Other than that, we have about an hour and a half to two hours of practice every day. Then you’re stuck in your room the rest of the day. You can go to the team room, but you’re very limited as to what you’re allowed and not allowed to do. When you’re used to your freedoms, and that’s taken away from you, it can be difficult sometimes.

“But we have made the most of it, and we enjoy each other’s company. We play a lot of NBA 2K tournaments, and we’ve kept it fresh, but you can tell even with the other people staying here — we’re all going through the same situation. We know what we signed up for, and we’re getting through it. It’s a good thing we enjoy each other’s company.”

The tournament consists of 23 games over 11 days and has been a challenge for players, as Sideline Cancer’s Remy Abell mentioned during his postgame interview with ESPN following Sideline Cancer’s 76-66 win over Challenge ALS on Tuesday.

“You’re in the hotel a lot, and you can’t go nowhere,” Abell said. “It’s just about bonding with the team. It’s not easy, but I feel like TBT has done a great job making the bubble safe for everybody, and we’re playing basketball. Basketball is back, and it feels good.”

The 24-team tournament required the use of 3,000 coronavirus tests, but the NBA will require more than 10,000.

During Tuesday’s game, ESPN showed a sign at the hotel warning players and staff if they left the building, they would be disqualified from continuing to play in TBT.

“It leaves me not very optimistic that some of the bigger leagues can do this,” Griffith said. “We’re lucky that this tournament only is two weeks long. It started July 4, and we came here June 30. It goes until July 14, but I couldn’t imagine doing this for three months. It’s going to be really, really difficult for these guys to do it. They are used to a certain quality of life, and it gets taken from you when you’re inside this bubble.”

Griffith will remain in the bubble until at least Saturday, when Sideline Cancer takes on Syracuse alumni team Boeheim’s Army in the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. on ESPN.

After that, he hopes he’ll get a chance to watch the NBA, but he isn’t sure how everything will play out.

“They’ll have a nicer bubble than ours, because they’re making millions of dollars,” Griffith said. “But we are staying at a Hyatt, and it doesn’t get much nicer than a Hyatt in hotels. It’s tough. Imagine yourself being locked in a hotel for basically 24 hours a day whenever we aren’t in the Nationwide Arena to play or at a practice.”

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