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Bubble doesn’t break at Orleans tourney for ex-NBA players

By now you are probably tired hearing of the myriad sporting events that have been postponed or canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.

But here’s a story about one that only existed because of COVID-19.

The 5 Tournament, a $500,000, 3-on-3 event featuring retired NBA players and those still trying to make their way back to the league, concluded without a virus-related incident at Orleans Arena last week.

So said Las Vegas resident Jerry Castello, founder of the B1 sports wellness performance patch and tournament organizer. And so said the advertising firm he hired that offered testimonials from players.

“A lot of our professional basketball players, whether they are in the NBA or are signed to overseas contracts, all of that revenue got shut down (by the virus),” Castello said. “There’s this void in sports. At the time we created this, we were planning for an early July launch. We really felt we were going to be the only game in town.”

That was the only thing that didn’t go according to Castello’s vision. The NBA was able to build its bubble and resume its season sooner than expected.

But The 5 Tournament showed — as the NBA and NHL are continuing to show — that by keeping sports manageable and containing them in controlled environments, they can exist during a pandemic.

“This wasn’t going to be a prison sentence but (we said) we’re going to have multiple tests in the bubble (and) we checked temperatures daily,” Castello said after former Syracuse star Donte Greene scored 31 points and Mike Bibby 21 to lead Team Sacramento to a 81-74 victory over a team comprised of former Toronto Raptors in the championship game.

“Once players saw we weren’t joking around — that your name was secondary, that nobody was bigger than the pandemic or the situation — that allowed us to have a really disciplined bubble.”

Thirty-four players stayed at the Artisan boutique hotel. They were joined by 21 coaches and tournament personnel. Almost $30,000 in COVID-19 tests were administered over two weeks, Castello said.

Not one positive case.

No affront to Mario Chalmers’ 50-point effort in a third-round game. But of all the statistics accumulated during The 5 Tournament, that one probably resonated most.

Around the horn

— NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan has been cleared to drive in the Aug. 16 race on the Daytona International Speedway road course after a recent bout with COVID-19.

“The mighty 62 Beard Oil Chevy will be racing the Daytona road course,” the veteran Las Vegas racer told sidekick Jeff Motley on “Gone Racin’” at the VSiN studio at South Point Thursday about being locked into the 40th starting spot. “We’re going to the front, baby.”

— Headline on this week’s Lights FC news release: “San Diego Loyal SC Coached by U.S. Soccer Legend Landon Donovan Visits Cashman Field Saturday.” Didn’t the Lights have a U.S. Soccer legend of their own before firing coach Eric Wynalda for a vague violation of training rules during the virus protocol?

With most live sports on hiatus in Las Vegas due to the pandemic, the matchup might have warranted some column inches had Wynalda been let off with a slap on the wrist for whatever he did. Donovan was the one who broke his record as the U.S. Men’s National Team’s all-time goal scorer when he converted a penalty kick against Sweden in 2008.

— Interesting stat of the week, and further proof that you are only as big as your stadium: Four of the top 5 attended sporting events in New Mexico over the past 15 years are Lobos football games against New Mexico State and Texas-San Antonio. (The fifth-most attended was UNM’s 2015 New Mexico Bowl appearance against Arizona that drew 30,289.)

Dreamstyle Stadium near the New Mexico campus in Albuquerque has a seating capacity of 39,224.


Sam Fels on Deadspin, about the Blue Jays being prevented from putting pitcher Jacob Waguespack into a game despite not being listed on the lineup card:

“We did this in high school once because the freshman who was supposed to run over to the other dugout to inform the other manager of our pinch hitter was too afraid of said other manager to do so. Shame, we started that inning with a leadoff double that became an out.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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