Zion Williamson

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Zion Williamson ‘just went back to square one’ with quarantine workouts

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Zion Williamson looks cut — like he spent the entire quarantine doing workouts — and ready to be a force at the NBA restart in Orlando.

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What workouts did Zion Williamson do during the break to get that look? He took everything back down to step one and built it up again working out with his stepfather Lee Anderson, Williamson told reporters on Friday (hat tip Andrew Lopez of ESPN):

“It just felt like I was 5 years old again,” Williamson said Friday. “Just went back to square one, tried to get my body where it needs to be, get my fundamentals back to square one and start from there. So yeah, it was just like starting over at 5 again. It was a great process to learn it all over.”

Williamson did a little more than that. He also had approval from the league to go to the Pelicans practice facility throughout the quarantine and get treatment on his knee, the one that kept him out the first 45 games of the season. So he stayed healthy.

He also worked on other aspects of this game, such as his jump shot. Williamson took 76.7% of his shot attempts at the rim this season, and while getting to the rim is critical to his game, he’s going to have confidence in his shot and knock down jumpers to reach higher levels in the league.

The Pelicans enter the bubble 3.5 games back of Memphis for the eighth seed in the West, and with the softest schedule of any team in Orlando (matching their schedule before the interruption), they have a legitimate chance of forcing a two-game play-in series. It’s not easy, but there is a path to the playoffs for New Orleans (setting up a Zion vs. LeBron James first-round showdown that league broadcast partners are drooling over).

A stronger, improved Zion could help get the Pelicans there.

NBA schedule 2020: Dates, times, matchups for restart in Orlando

NBA schedule 2020
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The NBA schedule release for 2020 is out.

Well, the revised, 22-teams on the Orlando campus playing “seeding games” schedule is out. Players will have been there for three weeks (for a mini training camp) by the time gams tip-off on July 30.

And the NBA is leaning right into its biggest stars.

Opening night has two games. First, it’s Zion Williamson and the Pelicans against the Jazz; then it’s the matchup everyone wants in the West — Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers vs. LeBron James and the Lakers. The next day, July 31, we get a battle at the top of the East, the Celtics vs. the Bucks.

Here are a few more notes on the NBA schedule release 2020:

• These “seeding games” count toward the regular-season standings and the stats count toward regular-season statistics.
• The Pelicans got their easy schedule back. New Orleans had the easiest schedule remaining in the NBA before the interruption, and it is the only team whose opponents have a cumulative win/loss of under .500.
• The most difficult schedule (based on opponent winning percentage) belongs to the defending champion Toronto Raptors.
• Each of the three courts used for games will be sanitized between games, meaning it is at least four hours between games on a court (once warmup time is factored in).
• Games will start as early as 12:30 Eastern on weekdays, 1 p.m. Eastern on the weekends.
• Games will start as late as 9 p.m. Eastern, and those will mostly involve West Coast teams.
• Each team has one back-to-back.
• The times and national broadcasts for games on Aug 12 and 13 are not set. They are flexible, allowing the most important games for seeding to be nationally televised.

NBA schedule 2020 for Orlando restart. (All times ET)

July 30, Opening Night

Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Pelicans 6:30 p.m (TNT)
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers 9 p.m. (TNT)

July 31

Orlando Magic vs. Brooklyn Nets 2:30 p.m.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trail Blazers 4 p.m. (NBA TV)
Phoenix Suns vs. Washington Wizards 4 p.m.
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs 8 p.m.
Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Aug. 1

Miami Heat vs. Denver Nuggets, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers, 7 p.m.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Toronto Raptors, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Aug. 2

Washington Wizards vs. Brooklyn Nets, 2 p.m.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Boston Celtics, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 4 p.m.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns, 6 p.m.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Houston Rockets, 8 p.m. (ABC)
Sacramento Kings vs. Orlando Magic, 9 p.m.

Aug. 3

Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat, 1:30 p.m.
Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 4 p.m.
Indiana Pacers vs. Washington Wizards, 4 p.m.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
San Antonio Spurs vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 8 p.m.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Aug. 4

Brooklyn Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 1:30 p.m.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Sacramento Kings, 2:30 p.m.
Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 4 p.m.
Orlando Magic vs. Indiana Pacers, 6 p.m.
Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 9 p.m. (TNT)

Aug. 5

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Utah Jazz, 2:30 p.m.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Washington Wizards, 4 p.m
Denver Nuggets vs. San Antonio Spurs, 4 p.m.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Toronto Raptors vs. Orlando Magic, 8 p.m.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Aug. 6

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Sacramento Kings, 1:30 p.m.
Indiana Pacers vs. Phoenix Suns, 4 p.m.
Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 4 p.m. (TNT)
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Denver Nuggets, 8 p.m.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets, 9 p.m. (TNT)

Aug. 7

Utah Jazz vs. San Antonio Spurs, 1 p.m.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 4 p.m.
Sacramento Kings vs. Brooklyn Nets, 5 p.m.
Orlando Magic vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Washington Wizards vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 8 p.m.
Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors, 9 p.m. (TNT)

Aug. 8

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 1 p.m. (TNT)
Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets, 3:30 p.m. (TNT)
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers, 6 p.m. (TNT)
Phoenix Suns vs. Miami Heat, 7:30 p.m.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Dallas Mavericks, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Aug. 9

Washington Wizards vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 12:30 p.m.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Toronto Raptors, 2 p.m.
San Antonio Spurs vs. New Orleans Pelicans, 3 p.m. (ABC)
Orlando Magic vs. Boston Celtics, 5 p.m.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 6:30 p.m.
Houston Rockets vs. Sacramento Kings, 8 p.m.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 9 p.m.

Aug. 10

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns, 2:30 p.m.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Utah Jazz, 3 p.m.
Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat, 8 p.m.
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 9 p.m. (TNT)

Aug. 11

Brooklyn Nets vs. Orlando Magic, 1 p.m.
Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs, 2 p.m.
Phoenix Suns vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 4:30 p.m.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks, 5 p.m.
Boston Celtics vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Sacramento Kings, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Washington Wizards, 9 p.m.

Aug. 12

Indiana Pacers vs. Houston Rockets, 4 p.m.
Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 8 p.m.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Denver Nuggets, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Aug. 13

Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Orlando Magic
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns
San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Brooklyn Nets

Aug. 14

Denver Nuggets vs. Toronto Raptors
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers

Schedule by team for Orlando

Boston Celtics

vs. Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, July 31 (6:30 p.m., ESPN)
vs. Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, August 2 (3:30 p.m., ABC)
vs. Miami Heat on Tuesday, August 4 (6:30 p.m. ET, TNT)
vs. Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, August 5 (9 p.m., ESPN)
vs. Toronto Raptors on Friday, August 7 (9 p.m. ET, TNT)
vs. Orlando Magic on Sunday, August 9 (5 p.m.)
vs. Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, August 11 (6:30 p.m., TNT)
vs. Washington Wizards on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Brooklyn Nets

vs. Orlando Magic on Friday, July 31 (2:30 p.m.)
vs. Washington Wizards on Sunday, August 2 (2 p.m.)
vs. Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, August 4 (1:30 p.m., NBA TV)
vs. Boston Celtics on Wednesday, August 5 (9 p.m., ESPN)
vs. Sacramento Kings on Friday, August 7 (5 p.m.)
vs. LA Clippers on Sunday, August 9 (9 p.m., NBA TV)
vs. Orlando Magic on Tuesday, August 11 (1 p.m.)
vs. Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Dallas Mavericks

vs. Houston Rockets on Friday, July 31 (9 p.m., ESPN)
vs. Phoenix Suns on Sunday, August 2 (9 p.m.)
vs. Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, August 4 (2:30 p.m.)
vs. LA Clippers on Thursday, August 6 (6:30 p.m, TNT)
vs. Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, August 8 (8:30 p.m., ESPN)
vs. Utah Jazz on Monday, August 10 (3 p.m., NBA TV)
vs. Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, August 11 (5 p.m.)
vs. Phoenix Suns on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Denver Nuggets

vs. Miami Heat on Saturday, August 1 (1 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, August 3 (4 p.m., NBA TV)
vs. San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, August 5 (4 p.m.)
vs. Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, August 6 (8 p.m.)
vs. Utah Jazz on Saturday, August 8 (3:30 p.m., TNT)
vs. Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, August 10 (9 p.m, TNT)
vs. LA Clippers on Wednesday, August 12 (9 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Toronto Raptors on Friday, August 14 (TBD)

Houston Rockets

vs. Dallas Mavericks on Friday, July 31 (9 p.m., ESPN)
vs. Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, August 2 (8:30 p.m., ABC)
vs. Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, August 4 (9 p.m., TNT)
vs. Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, August 6 (9 p.m., TNT)
vs. Sacramento Kings on Sunday, August 9 (8 p.m.)
vs. San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, August 11 (2 p.m., NBA TV)
vs. Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, August 12 (4 p.m., NBA TV)
vs. Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, August 14 (TBD)

Indiana Pacers

vs. Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, August 1 (7 p.m.)
vs. Washington Wizards on Monday, August 3 (4 p.m.)
vs. Orlando Magic on Tuesday, August 4 (6 p.m.)
vs. Phoenix Suns on Thursday, August 6 (4 p.m.)
vs. Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, August 8 (6 p.m., TNT)
vs. Miami Heat on Monday, August 10 (8 p.m.)
vs. Houston Rockets on Wednesday, August 12 (4 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Miami Heat on Friday, August 14 (TBD)

LA Clippers

vs. Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, July 30 (9 p.m, TNT)
vs. New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, August 1 (6 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, August 4 (4 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, August 6 (6:30 pm, TNT)
vs. Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, August 8 (1 p.m. ET, TNT)
vs. Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, August 9 (9 p.m. ET, NBA TV)
vs. Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, August 12 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
vs. Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, August 14 (TBD)

Los Angeles Lakers

vs. LA Clippers on Thursday, July 30 (9 p.m, TNT)
vs. Toronto Raptors on Saturday, August 1 (8:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Utah Jazz on Monday, August 3 (9:00 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, August 5 (6:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Houston Rockets on Thursday, August 6 (9 p.m, TNT)
vs. Indiana Pacers on Saturday, August 8 (6 p.m, TNT)
vs. Denver Nuggets on Monday, August 10 (9 p.m, TNT)
vs. Sacramento Kings on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Memphis Grizzlies

vs. Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, July 31 (4 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, August 2 (4 p.m.)
vs. New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, August 3 (6:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Utah Jazz on Wednesday, August 5 (2:30 p.m.)
vs. Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, August 7 (4 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Toronto Raptors on Sunday, August 9 (2 p.m.)
vs. Boston Celtics on Tuesday, August 11 (6:30 p.m, TNT)
vs. Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Miami Heat

vs. Denver Nuggets on Saturday, August 1 (1 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Toronto Raptors on Monday, August 3 (1:30 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Boston Celtics on Tuesday, August 4 (6:30 p.m, TNT)
vs. Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, August 6 (4 p.m, TNT)
vs. Phoenix Suns on Saturday, August 8 (7:30 p.m)
vs. Indiana Pacers on Monday, August 10 (8 p.m.)
vs. Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, August 12 (8 p.m.)
vs. Indiana Pacers on Friday, August 14 (TBD)

Milwaukee Bucks

vs. Boston Celtics on Friday, July 31 (6:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Houston Rockets on Sunday, August 2 (8:30 p.m, ABC)
vs. Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, August 4 (1:30 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Miami Heat on Thursday, August 6 (4 p.m, TNT)
vs. Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, August 8 (8:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Toronto Raptors on Monday, August 10 (6:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Washington Wizards on Tuesday, August 11 (9 p.m)
vs. Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

New Orleans Pelicans

vs. Utah Jazz on Thursday, July 30 (6:30 p.m, TNT)
vs. LA Clippers on Saturday, August 1 (6 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, August 3 (6:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Sacramento Kings on Thursday, August 6 (1:30 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Washington Wizards on Friday, August 7 (8 p.m.)
vs. San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, August 9 (3 p.m, ABC)
vs. Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, August 11 (9 p.m, TNT)
vs. Orlando Magic on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Oklahoma City Thunder

vs. Utah Jazz on Saturday, August 1 (3:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Denver Nuggets on Monday, August 3 (4 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, August 5 (6:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, August 7 (4 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Washington Wizards on Sunday, August 9 (12:30 p.m.)
vs. Phoenix Suns on Monday, August 10 (2:30 p.m.)
vs. Miami Heat on Wednesday, August 12 (8 p.m.)
vs. LA Clippers on Friday, August 14 (TBD)

Orlando Magic

vs. Brooklyn Nets on Friday, July 31 (2:30 p.m.)
vs. Sacramento Kings on Sunday, August 2 (6 p.m.)
vs. Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, August 4 (6 p.m.)
vs. Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, August 5 (8 p.m.)
vs. Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, August 7 (6:30 p.m, TNT)
vs. Boston Celtics on Sunday, August 9 (5 p.m.)
vs. Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, August 11 (1 p.m.)
vs. New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Philadelphia 76ers

vs. Indiana Pacers on Saturday, August 1 (7 p.m.)
vs. San Antonio Spurs on Monday, August 3 (8 p.m.)
vs. Washington Wizards on Wednesday, August 5 (4 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Orlando Magic on Friday, August 7 (6:30 p.m, TNT)
vs. Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, August 9 (6:30 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, August 11 (4:30 p.m.)
vs. Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, August 12 (6:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Houston Rockets on Friday, August 14 (TBD)

Phoenix Suns

vs. Washington Wizards on Friday, July 31 (4 p.m.)
vs. Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, August 2 (9 p.m.)
vs. LA Clippers on Tuesday, August 4 (4 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Indiana Pacers on Thursday, August 6 (4 p.m.)
vs. Miami Heat on Saturday, August 8 (7:30 p.m.)
vs. Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, August 10 (2:30 p.m.)
vs. Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, August 11 (4:30 p.m.)
vs. Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Portland Trail Blazers

vs. Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, July 31 (4 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Boston Celtics on Sunday, August 2 (3:30 p.m, ABC)
vs. Houston Rockets on Tuesday, August 4 (9 p.m, TNT)
vs. Denver Nuggets on Thursday, August 6 (8 p.m.)
vs. LA Clippers on Saturday, August 8 (1 p.m, TNT)
vs. Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, August 9 (6:30 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, August 11 (5 p.m.)
vs. Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Sacramento Kings

vs. San Antonio Spurs on Friday, July 31 (8 p.m.)
vs. Orlando Magic on Sunday, August 2 (6 p.m.)
vs. Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, August 4 (2:30 p.m.)
vs. New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, August 6 (1:30 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Brooklyn Nets on Friday, August 7 (5 p.m.)
vs. Houston Rockets on Sunday, August 9 (8 p.m.)
vs. New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, August 11 (9 p.m., TNT)
vs. Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

San Antonio Spurs

vs. Sacramento Kings on Friday, July 31 (8 p.m.)
vs. Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, August 2 (4 p.m.)
vs. Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, August 3 (8 p.m.)
vs. Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, August 5 (4 p.m.)
vs. Utah Jazz on Friday, August 7 (1 p.m.)
vs. New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, August 9 (3 p.m, ABC)
vs. Houston Rockets on Tuesday, August 11 (2 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Utah Jazz on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Toronto Raptors

vs. Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, August 1 (8 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Miami Heat on Monday, August 3 (1:30 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. Orlando Magic on Wednesday, August 5 (8 p.m.)
vs. Boston Celtics on Friday, August 7 (9 p.m, TNT)
vs. Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, August 9 (2 p.m.)
vs. Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, August 10 (6:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, August 12 (6:30 p.m, ESPN)
vs. Denver Nuggets on Friday, August 14 (TBD)

Utah Jazz

vs. New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, July 30 (6:30, TNT)
vs. Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, August 1 (3:30, ESPN)
vs. Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, August 3 (9 p.m., ESPN)
vs. Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, August 5 (2:30 p.m.)
vs. San Antonio Spurs on Friday, August 7 (1 p.m.)
vs. Denver Nuggets on Saturday, August 8 (3:30 p.m, TNT)
vs. Dallas Mavericks on Monday, August 10 (3 p.m., NBA TV)
vs. San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Washington Wizards

vs. Phoenix Suns on Friday, July 31 (4 p.m.)
vs. Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, August 2 (2 p.m.)
vs. Indiana Pacers on Monday, August 3 (4 p.m.)
vs. Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, August 5 (4 p.m, NBA TV)
vs. New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, August 7 (8 p.m.)
vs. Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, August 9 (12:30 p.m.)
vs. Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, August 11 (9 p.m.)
vs. Boston Celtics on Thursday, August 13 (TBD)

Pelicans sign Sindarius Thornwell as a substitute player. For whom?

Sindarius Thornwell vs. Pelicans
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Three Pelicans tested positive for coronavirus. At least.

Is one of them not playing in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World?

Despite having a full roster, New Orleans is signing Sindarius Thornwell.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans today announced that the team has signed free agent guard Sindarius Thornwell as a substitute player for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

Thornwell will wear #12 for the Pelicans.

Christian Clark of The Times-Picayune:

At this stage, only players who can’t play due to coronavirus or choose to it out can be replaced. That’s not Darius Miller, who’s still recovering from an Achilles injury.

With Zion Williamson looking fit, the Pelicans could be dangerous. They’re in a tight race to force play-in games. But they don’t have much margin for error in the playoff race.

So, keep an eye on whom Thornwell is replacing.

Pelicans top assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik will not join team at restart

Pelicans Jeff Bzdelik
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It’s still unknown whether Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry, 65, will be able to accompany his players to Orlando for the NBA restart.

What we do know: Pelicans’ associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik, 67, will not join the team due to underlying health concerns. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story.

Bzdelik is known as a defensive specialist, one who helped turn the Rockets defense around a couple of years back with a switching scheme. While the Pelicans defense was not sharp early in the season as the team battled through injuries, they were a top 10 defense after the All-Star break.

After negotiations by the NBA Coaches Association, coaches cannot be blocked from travel to Orlando based on their age alone. There must be other underlying factors. That appears to be the case with Bzdelik.

Bzdelik was the head coach of the Denver Nuggets for three years and has been an assistant coach for a number of teams.

The loss of Bzdelik hurts, but it becomes exponentially more difficult for the Pelicans if Gentry is not the head coach. Where does that stand? “I have no idea, I really don’t,” Gentry said in a conference call with reporters this week. He added he plans on coaching, but the decision on whether he can attend is not his.

The Pelicans are not alone, the Lakers will not have assistant coach Lionel Hollins on the bench either.

New Orleans enters the restart with the best chance of any team in the West to finish with the nine seed and force a play-in series with Memphis (that series is two games, the Pelicans would have to win both). While New Orleans is in a virtual logjam with Portland, Sacramento, and San Antonio, it is the Pelicans who have the easiest schedule.

And, Zion Williamson looks ripped and ready.

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Grizzlies’ Ja Morant says he added 12 pounds of muscle, will ‘prove people wrong’ at restart

Ja Morant
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Ja Morant has taken advantage of the NBA’s hiatus, adding 12 pounds of muscle to help absorb contact when the NBA’s likely rookie of the year fearlessly attacks the basketball.

And the Memphis Grizzlies point guard knows exactly what he wants when he leads his team to Orlando.

“Going out there to win, prove people wrong,” Morant said Thursday in a Zoom video call with reporters.

Morant, the No. 2 pick overall in the 2019 draft, already has taken advantage of Zion Williamson missing much of the season to make his case as the league’s top rookie. Morant is the Grizzlies’ leading scorer averaging 17.6 points in 59 games played compared to just 19 for Williamson with the Pelicans.

With Morant leading the way, the Grizzlies won four of their final six before the NBA stopped play March 12. Memphis goes into Orlando’s seeding games sitting in the eighth spot in the Western Conference with a 3 1/2-game lead trying to clinch the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2017.

Morant, who turns 21 on Aug. 10, didn’t just spend his downtime during the coronavirus shutdown spending time with his family and baby daughter waiting to hear when the NBA would resume play.

Nope, Morant said he worked in the weight room and gym adding the 12 pounds of muscle since a loss to Orlando on March 10. That helped fend off worries that the season – and all the work he had put in – was over.

“I just took it as an opportunity to get even better, even though I didn’t know how it would play out,” Morant said.

The extra pounds not only make Morant stronger, but the guard listed at 6-foot-3 and 174 pounds when play stopped expects he will be able to absorb contact better.

“Able to use my body more, get through different screens,” Morant said. “That’s why I’m just looking to do, go to Orlando to be able to do the things I’ve been doing before but better.”

The added muscle is noticeable, at least to his teammates. Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said a couple Grizzlies were talking about Morant being bigger Wednesday.

“Gaining strength has been a priority of his and continues to maintain his supreme athleticism,” Jenkins said.

Morant went into his rookie season recovering from arthroscopic surgery to clean up his right knee before the 2019 draft. The time off means he has no pain in his knee, which is easy to see when he’s on the floor.

“Feel like I’m actually leaving the floor easier and jumping higher,” Morant said. “I’ve just been taking this time to just focus on my body, make sure everything’s good so when it’s time to go out and play, I’ll be fine.”