Bamba’s demotion to third-string center behind Nikola Vucevic and Khem Birch was one of the mysteries of the restart. The revelation by the No. 6 overall pick of the 2018 draft of his positive coronavirus test earlier this summer shed more light on the situation.
The illness led to fatigue and muscle soreness and temporarily removed his senses of smell and taste, according to Robbins. Bamba’s lack of playing time — he’s only made brief appearances in two of Orlando’s four seeding games — led to his decision to make his diagnosis public. He saw action in 60 games this season prior to the suspension of play.
“Part of me is reading the temperature of the room and just knowing that there are definitely going to be questions, and sometimes you’ve just got to address them with honesty,” Bamba said. “In this case, I think it’s best for them to have that context and have that understanding of what, exactly, is going on. I want people to know that I’m still working as hard as ever, if not even harder, and I’ll get through this.”
Due to his illness, Bamba was unable to go through individual workouts at the Magic’s practice facility prior to team’s arrival on the Disney campus. He also had a pair of false positive tests once he was on the campus, forcing him to go into additional quarantine and causing him to miss three days of practice.
Subsequently, he’s been relegated to spot duty due to conditioning issues. Bamba had been bulking up before the diagnosis, putting on 20 pounds. He’s had trouble carrying that extra weight without steady exercise.
He feels he’s ready to contribute if called upon.
“I was frustrated because I really felt ready to contribute like I was earlier in the year,” Bamba said. “But the medical staff is in the perfect place to protect me, so I have to follow their guidelines. It really kills me to be sitting there, but at the same time, it’s also really motivating. When you’re sitting out, you can see the game from different angles, different sights and sounds. Especially in the bubble, with no fans, you can really lock in on the game. But I know I have to stay focused, so whenever I’m called upon, I’m ready.”