ORLANDO, Fla. -- They stand along the lakeshore using symbols and bold-face lettering and also the color of code red to issue a stern warning:
"Alligators And Snakes In Area."
And there's this bit of advice as well:
"Do Not Feed The Wildlife."
The signs are socially distanced about 10 feet apart and run along Lago Dorado, the body of freshwater that serves as the blue centerpiece for the Coronado Springs Resort, the hotel for NBA personnel and media and a few teams. There's a walking path near the signs, which allows you to (a) enjoy the glistening of the calm water and (b) stray within lunging distance of a gator should the beast feel the urge to venture from the lake and feast.
It's my preferred daily route to the testing site and cafeteria anyway, and when I brave that walk, the head stays on swivel.
I haven't seen a copperhead or black Mamba (RIP, Kobe) or rattler slither into view from the tall weeds yet. And I've already strained my neck multiple times searching the water on the lookout for a pair of eyes and a snout breaking the surface. Nothing. No gator, although I did spot the seven-foot version, Joakim Noah, formerly of Gainesville and the University of Florida, the other day. I suspect Jo is, ahem, chomping at the bit to finally suit up for the Clippers (I'll be here all week. All month, actually).
When Walt Disney purchased gobs of swampland to build this entertainment Goliath back in the 1960s, he wanted to protect as much nature as possible. He was a developer but also an environmentalist; yes, the two can coexist. And so, the entire Walt Disney World property is less than half developed even now. He built his hotels and theme parks around the natural lakes to give wildlife a chance to roam.
Quite often, there are gator and snake sightings. My daughter once competed annually in the AAU national track championships at the stadium just a few hundred yards from the NBA basketball venues at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex, and there was a small lake just beyond the starting line. One year, a gator was sighted swimming in that lake. All the kids had no problem running the fastest times of their young and petrified lives that day.
Actually, I'm eager to see danger, from a distance, of course. The sight of some of Florida's natural creatures would be therapeutic and a sign of normalcy on an NBA campus that is anything but. This has become The Place That Coronavirus Created and we're here only for health reasons. At times, being inside this self-contained campus doesn't seem real, and it's only July; the NBA Finals might stretch to mid-October.
So I'm staying the course by staying on the path for the daily walk, head turning, eyes sharpened, always on alert for a sudden movement, always ready to jump higher and further than Derrick Jones Jr. did at the dunk contest last February.
I suppose if I caught a rattler and carried it around, everyone would make sure they kept their social distance.
Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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