The Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo guarding the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James in a March … [+]
Mark J. Terrill/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A week after Major League Baseball returned to the field, it’s the NBA’s turn to resume its season, with two games scheduled for tomorrow night at the league’s Disney bubble in Florida. It hasn’t been the easiest adjustment for the players, who have been separated from their families, and there’s still a long way to go: The teams that advance to the NBA finals will spend up to 98 straight days at the Disney complex. Fans won’t be allowed anywhere near the arena, but Microsoft and Twitter are working to bring them inside.
What’s in store for this unprecedented stretch run? Who can say? The races for individual awards and the scoring title have already been decided, but superstars like James Harden and contenders like the Bucks still have plenty to lose. (Bettors, beware!) Will the time off turn rookies into bigger contributors? Will the roster shuffle give the restart a replacement season feel? Will we see more injuries for knees under strain? Will the empty arenas influence the referees?
All we know for sure is that it’s going to be a wild ride. So as we drop into this roller-coaster of a restart, allow our expert SportsMoney contributors to get you up to speed.
The Bucks have the East’s top seed all but locked up and can turn their attention to getting the most out of their wings and guards for the playoffs, with Donte DiVincenzo perhaps the missing link to a Milwaukee championship. Still, the Bucks should face a stern challenge from the Raptors, led by a newly svelte Marc Gasol, and the 76ers, who enter the bubble with a new-look rotation.
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The Wizards may not have much of a prayer, but the return of Rui Hachimura is welcome news for the NBA in its effort to boost the popularity of the sport in Japan.
All eyes are on Los Angeles’ juggernauts: the Clippers, who are actually overachieving a year after their big shakeup, and the Lakers, who suddenly have a new starter and an effective bench unit. Also in the mix could be the Nuggets, who might make a deep playoff run if Jamal Murray can show some more consistency, and the Mavericks, led by a resolute Luka Doncic and a confident Kristaps Porzingis.
The Jazz have high energy and high hopes, with Mike Conley ready to go and Rudy Gobert picking up new skills on both offense and defense. But Bojan Bogdanovic’s injury and the wrong playoff matchup could sink this team.
The Grizzlies will feature some different faces. Meanwhile, some familiar faces on the Spurs are staring at uncertain futures. Jrue Holiday is living up to the hype with the Pelicans, and with the continued development of Jaxson Hayes—and, of course, Zion Williamson—New Orleans has its fans excited.
The Last Word
“When I was cooking for Grant, he lost eight pounds in one week.”
Personal chef Chianti Peek spent the NBA break cooking for Boston’s Kemba Walker and Grant Williams. But Peek, who started cooking for Walker when he was playing for the Hornets, couldn’t travel with the Celtics to the NBA’s Disney campus, and that is causing separation anxiety on both sides. For more on Peek’s life as an NBA chef, read the full story here.