The NBA is set to resume its season in just a couple weeks, with teams already in the Orlando bubble as they get ready to return to action.
However, some teams’ preparations have been hampered by more challenges in the form of additional positive tests, delayed arrivals, violations, and injuries.
The Houston Rockets, in particular, have been hit with several problems — none bigger than superstar Russell Westbrook testing positive — that they have to sort out ahead of the restart.
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Russell Westbrook tests positive, James Harden arrives late
The Rockets are potential championship dark horses in the Orlando bubble, in large part due to their dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook and James Harden. However, they made NBA 2020 news when their two superstars weren’t with the team as they arrived in Orlando.
As it turns out, Westbrook stayed behind because he tested positive for COVID-19 before the team’s departure. But he assured fans that he was “feeling well” and quarantining. The Rockets are hoping that Westbrook will be clear to travel at some point this week.
Meanwhile, Harden just arrived in Orlando on Tuesday, although the reason for his delayed arrival remains unknown. Harden must now go through an initial quarantine period in his hotel room before he can join team practice.
Denver Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic, who also tested positive for COVID-19 in late June, just cleared quarantine on Tuesday and is set to rejoin his team in the coming days.
Aside from Westbrook, the Rockets are also still awaiting the arrival of forward Luc Mbah a Moute, whom they signed after Thabo Sefolosha opted out of playing in the bubble.
Meanwhile, fringe forward Bruno Caboclo added to Houston’s problems by unintentionally breaking quarantine after leaving his room. He has to complete a 10-day quarantine in his room before being cleared to rejoin the team.
The Rockets’ NBA 2020 odds to win the title hinge heavily on the health of both Westbrook and Harden. If those two stars do not play up to their usually high standards, then the Rockets will struggle to make much of an impact in Orlando.
Lakers lose Rajon Rondo for 6-8 weeks with thumb injury
Los Angeles Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo will miss 6-8 weeks after fracturing his right thumb in practice. However, head coach Frank Vogel still expects the veteran to return in time for the team’s playoff run.
“What we have to understand about Rajon, losing Rajon is a huge loss for our team, but we expect Rajon to be a part of our playoff run,” Vogel said per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
Rondo, 34, has averaged 7.1 points and 5.0 assists in 20.5 minutes over 48 games for the Lakers this season.
Rondo’s injury will deal another blow to the Lakers’ backcourt depth, which was already hurt by Avery Bradley’s decision not to play in the bubble. The Lakers have since signed veteran JR Smith to take Bradley’s spot on the roster.
With Rondo out, Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook are likely to see more playing time backing up LeBron James, who has played primarily as the team’s starting point guard this season.
Kings’ Harrison Barnes, Nets’ Michael Beasley test positive
Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes and Brooklyn Nets forward Michael Beasley are two of the latest NBA players to test positive for COVID-19.
Beasley, who just signed with the Nets last week, has already left the Orlando bubble and it remains to be seen whether he will still take part in the season restart. The Nets have signed forward Lance Thomas after the news of Beasley’s positive test.
The Nets, who are already without injured superstars Kevin Durant — who was one of the first known NBA players to test positive for COVID-19 — and Kyrie Irving — have been hit hard by the coronavirus.
DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie both tested positive and opted out of playing in Orlando. Taurean Prince also tested positive and was ruled out, while Wilson Chandler opted not to play, citing family concerns.
Meanwhile, Barnes is the fourth Kings player to get COVID-19. Team-mates Buddy Hield, Jabari Parker, and Alex Len all tested positive in late June. Hield has only just returned to practice.
The Nets are currently the No. 7 seed in the East, and with their roster completely decimated, they are unlikely to be competitive in the playoffs. As for the Kings, they are 3.5 games back of the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies and will be hoping to force a play-in game.
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