Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo both unsure if they will play in Orlando

Leave a comment

Both Washington’s Bradley Beal and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo — two players critical to their team’s chances when NBA games restart — said Wednesday they are unsure if they will go to the Orlando bubble.

Beal, in a conference call with reporters, said he and the Wizards medical staff would make the call on his playing. Via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“I have yet to make mine. I’m still working my tail off every single day as if I am playing. It is definitely more or less going to be a decision that comes down to the medical staff and I just because of our precautions and coming back from zero to 100,” he said.

“I had some nagging stuff at the end of the year we are trying to clean up, too. We’re looking at it from all angles. I’m definitely working out every single day in here. It’s good to be back in the facility.”

The Wizards are 5.5 games back of the eighth-seed Magic, six games back of the Nets and their decimated roster. Washington would have to get within four games of one of those teams (whichever is the eighth seed) and then beat them in back-to-back games in a play-in series. It’s a long shot, especially for a team that will not have Davis Bertans with them in Orlando. Even if they pull it off and make the playoffs, the reward is Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

It leads to the question: Is it worth it for the Wizards to bring Beal to Orlando?

It will be a medical question for Oladipo as well, and he has said for a while he would workout toward a return and then decide how he felt. After missing more than a year following a torn right quad tendon, he returned to play 13 games before the league was shut down due to the coronavirus. In the last five of those games he averaged 18.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game, he was starting to look like his old self.

Oladipo still has not made a decision, as reported by J. Michael of the Indy Star.

The Pacers sit as the five seed in the East, tied with the sixth-seed Sixers, and just two games back of the four seed Heat. There could be a lot of shakeups in the East seedings, which would impact first-round playoff matchups. Indiana is right in the middle of all of that and is not the same level of threat without a healthy Oladipo.

While the transaction window the league set up closed and teams wanted to know by today (July 1), there is no hard deadline for players to back out of heading to the Orlando restart up until the team plane takes off next week. There are a number of players monitoring the spike in coronavirus cases in Florida and waiting to make a decision. As is their right, this is not an easy call.

 

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo suspended, ramifications on Western Conference playoff race

Leave a comment

Giannis Antetokounmpo headbutted Moritz Wagner.

OF COURSE Antetokounmpo was getting suspended for that.

NBA release:

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has been suspended one game without pay for headbutting Washington Wizards center Moritz Wagner during a stoppage in play, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

Antetokounmpo will serve his suspension Thursday when Milwaukee faces the Memphis Grizzlies

This is a huge game for the Grizzlies. If they win, they’ll make the play-in. Lose, and they’d need both the Suns (to the Mavericks) and Spurs (to the Jazz) to lose in order to advance.

Obviously, Antetokounmpo is a force. But Milwaukee has nice depth and has been quite good without him. On the other hand, Bucks have also already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and might take it easy tomorrow, regardless. On the other other hand, Milwaukee – with a chance to reach the NBA Finals – might be one of the teams trying to get the top-seeded Lakers the toughest-possible first-round matchup in the West.

That’s not Memphis, which has limped to the finish. The Grizzlies are just 1-6 in seeding games. Jaren Jackson Jr., Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow are all injured.

Memphis has a chance against the Bucks tomorrow. Antetokounmpo’s unavailability only increases it. But it’s not as if this suspension suddenly gives the Grizzlies a shoe-in victory.

As has been the case all along, they’ll have to earn their way into the playoffs.

Russell Westbrook suffers strained quadriceps, out Friday, could miss playoff games

Russell Westbrook injury
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Houston Rockets are going to be a trendy pick to make a deep in the West playoffs, but that will be hard to envision if Russell Westbrook misses time.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey announced that an MRI revealed Westbrook has a strained quadriceps muscle in his right leg. He is not playing today (Wednesday) against the Pacers and will be out Friday against the 76ers as well. He will be re-evaluated before the playoff tip-off next week, but his status for those games is unclear.

Westbrook has been just a little off at the restart. He averaged 27.2 points per game during the regular season, but that has been down to 24.3 in the Orlando restart. His 53.6 true shooting percentage for the season (near the league average) fell to 50% in the bubble.

The Rockets have been a strong 4-2 in the bubble with their small-ball system and have held on to the four seed, but they haven’t completely found a rhythm yet (as we saw pre-shutdown. In a likely first-round matchup with Oklahoma City, Houston would need Westbrook and his explosive athleticism.

Without Westbrook expect more of Eric Gordon, who just returned to the rotation Wednesday from injury, plus Austin Rivers, Ben McLemore, even maybe Jeff Green — with a switchable roster Mike D’Antoni has a lot of options to soak up those minutes.

He just doesn’t have anyone as good.

Celtics sign coach Brad Stevens to contract extension

Celtics coach Brad Stevens
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Celtics shocked by hiring Brad Stevens from Butler in 2013. He was a mid-major college coach, and even big-time college coaches rarely translated to the NBA. In fact, Stevens was viewed as such a college coach, rumors of him returning to that level persisted for years.

But Stevens has turned into a quintessential NBA coach. Despite taking over amid a rebuild, Stevens has won 56% of his games with Boston. It’s difficult to see him anywhere else.

Especially now.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics have signed head coach Brad Stevens to a contract extension, the team announced today.

Stevens, who previously signed a contract extension in 2016, is one of the NBA’s top coaches. He implements crisp schemes on both ends of the floor and communicates roles clearly to his players. At just 43, he could rival some of the longest coaching tenures in NBA history.

There are still questions about Stevens’ ability to coach stars. They might become more pronounced as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown ascend.

But that’s a first-world NBA problem – having a coach who raises his team’s level and premier talent young players who could lift it even higher.

Another week, still zero players test positive at NBA restart

NBA COVID-19
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s starting to sound routine, but it shouldn’t — that the NBA is pulling off an impressive feat keeping COVID-19 outside the bubble (just watch other sports try to come back).

The league announced that 342 players were tested for COVID-19 on the NBA campus in the past week and there were zero confirmed positive tests. The league has had no positive tests inside the NBA bubble since it started.

It’s a testament to the tone Commissioner Adam Silver set (working with Chris Paul and the players’ union) setting a tone of patience and — to use a coaching cliche — not skipping steps.

The NBA began testing players in their home markets before they arrived in Orlando (that’s where a number of players tested positive, and were quarantined/treated in those markets). Once teams arrived in Orlando, players were quarantined and tested again.

The idea was simple — to keep the virus outside of the bubble — but the execution was not. Nor was making sure there was buy-in from the players (and, for the most part, there has been).

At least so far. There are about two months of games remaining through the end of the finals, and when family members arrive next month there will be new ways the virus could penetrate the bubble.

It isn’t time for an NBA victory lap yet, but so far so good.