NBA bubble life: How Magic equipment manager juggles laundry, luggage and even practice duties

This is the third entry of an ongoing series highlighting what life is like in the NBA bubble. Today we profile Jacob Diamond, the Orlando Magic head equipment manager. This diary entry is based on an interview with USA TODAY Sports and has been edited for length and clarity.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On a normal practice day, I get up in the morning, distribute practice gear to the players and situate all of my bags. I make sure I got the right shoes for certain guys, and I make sure I got everything loaded onto the bus when we get to practice. On an average trip, I’m carrying about 30 bags. I travel pretty light so I can consolidate. But for this, I’ve expanded to about 50 bags. I had to bring a lot of extra stuff and made sure to over-pack. I had to convert one of my rooms here into an equipment room so I have everything where I need it.

Because our bubble number for our team is much less than what we normally travel with (35), a couple of the trainers and myself will be involved in practice a little bit. The coaches put us to work since we’re understaffed for this adventure. It’s probably the most involved I’ve been in practice. Our coaches have me set picks as players are running around screens. I keep the rotations moving with rebounding and passing the ball to players. Normally, that’s stuff our video guys participate in during the regular season under normal circumstances. They might be the fifth guy in a rotation and run through the plays with the players. I can’t do that personally because I don’t know our plays. I’m not skilled enough to do that, but if they need me to pass or set a screen or rebound, I’ll help with that.

Jacob Diamond, head equipment manager for the Orlando Magic (Photo: Jacob Diamond, Orlando Magic)

I would say my rebounding and passing are average. I didn’t play basketball growing up, so I’m still working on all of these details. And the conditioning? It’s tough when you’re wearing a mask. I’m always wearing a mask. Even just walking from our hotel to the convention center where we are for practice. I’m still wearing a mask when I’m pushing a cart with three or four bags on it, and it’s July in Florida. I’m huffing and puffing there. So in practice, when I’m running, I’m breathing a lot heavier. In practice, I still wear a mask. The only individuals that aren’t wearing a mask are the players and the coaches as they are communicating. Everybody else is wearing their mask.

Then after practice, I collect all of the practice gear from the players and then I will shuttle over to Disney’s Wide World of Sports where we have our laundry facility. The NBA did an amazing job putting together this massive laundry setup for NBA equipment managers and converted the former batting cage of the Atlanta Braves’ spring training complex into this laundry facility with 66 washers and 66 dryers. Obviously, that is plenty to house and support 22 teams that are here. I’ll spend a few hours getting our laundry done. Then I’ll bring the laundry back to the hotel.

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If there’s a scrimmage, I need to go to the arena a few hours early and set up our locker room and hang all the uniforms. Because we have fewer staff members than normal and the new game protocols, I’ll assist with carrying the chairs to the floor for timeouts. Our bench is assigned seating, so I’ll make sure all of our guys are sitting in their spots that they like to sit in. Then after the game, it’s more laundry.

Then it’s another day. Normally I’m up around 7 a.m. because we have earlier practices. When we practiced at 9 or 10 a.m., I was got laundry done a lot sooner. But as we move toward playing games in the evenings, that’s definitely extending the day. After one evening scrimmage, I was at the laundry facility until about midnight. By the time I’m back at the hotel, it’s getting close to 12:30 or 1 in the morning.

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