It is a new reality for all involved in the NBA’s bubble at Disney World, all the way down to the stats crew.
“It’s like I want to apologize, because I think I’m in the penalty box,” K.C. Colebrooke laughed, as he spoke by phone from the Coronado Springs Resort, having just completed a morning walk that included crossing paths with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Heat trainer Jay Sabol.
As part of the NBA’s safety protocols amid the league’s quarantine setting, the scoring crew is working courtside in a plexiglass-enclosed booth, to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
For Colebrooke, a regular on the Heat stats crew at AmericanAirlines Arena, it is like no previous game-night experience, but also one he is relishing.
“It’s great,” he said of the uniqueness of it all. “It has taken nothing away from our ability to score and staff the game. It is pretty frickin’ awesome, I got to tell you.”
Like players, coaches, referees and league officials, Colebrooke is fully inside the bubble, including the required daily coronavirus testing and league-mandated social-distancing protocols. He is joined in the specially selected stats crew in the bubble by Heat clock operator David Diggs.
For Colebrooke, the timing, even though it could potentially include a Disney stay throughout mid-October, worked out.
“I do transportation for movies, but obviously movies are shut down right now. So it just happened to work out perfectly for me,” he said, his IMBd credits as transportation director including “The Irishman,” “Ballers,” “Dexter,” “The Sopranos,” among many others. “I had a project that was slated to start in Orlando in April, it’s called “David Makes Man,” and it’s been postponed. So this fit in perfectly.”
But it also has required an adjustment from the crew he works with in South Florida that also handles scoring for the Miami Dolphins, University of Miami and Florida International University.
“There is a standard for the stat program for the NBA,” he said, “but everybody, they call differently. So you have to get used to the caller as you input the game into the computer.”
Having worked for the Heat since the team’s 1988 inception, it has meant collecting three championship rings along the way. And, yet, when he reports for duty at Disney, he still finds himself as low man on the totem pole with his crew.
“In my crew, I have the least amount of championships,” he said with a robust laugh. “I got two Laker folks and a Celtics folk. So I can’t talk any trash.”
As for a championship ring, that only comes out when he works Heat games at Disney, which next comes Monday against the Toronto Raptors.
While working in a plexiglass-enclosed booth would seem to increase the challenge, the 59-year-old Florida State graduate said it’s actually the opposite.
“We all love it, because we have no coaches in front of us,” he said. “We’re elevated. In a regular game, we have coaches in front of us, officials positioned in front of us. We’re elevated now. So it’s a great view for us, it’s awesome.”
An added benefit is the partitioning that could reduce some of the griping from players feeling cheated out of a rebound or assist, or charged with a turnover.
“A lot of times, even where we are, we can’t see sometimes,” Colebrooke acknowledged. “And we do go back to review and we’ll look at it. But we’re human, and sometime we will miss things. And if two guys are going up for a tip, sometimes you don’t have a great vantage point. You might miss it.
“But a lot of times they don’t understand about rebounds and assists and turnovers. So that’s something statistically that has to be judged that they don’t understand.”
Mostly, the bubble has created a sense of unity from all involved, as well as increased workload, with doubleheaders part of the scoring-crew workload. For Colebrooke, that is nothing new, having worked up to five games a day during the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League.
For now, the lone hardship has been long-distance dating.
“I have someone,” he said. “That’s a daily phone call.”
Otherwise, it’s simply life in a bubble that for this Heat veteran includes a bubble within the bubble, amid his plexiglass reality.
“The NBA is doing it right so far,” he said. “So far, everything’s working.”
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