The NBA‘s plan to push through with its season restart in Orlando, Florida at the end of July is already facing some challenges.
Reports have emerged that several players have tested positive for COVID-19. The list includes the Denver Nuggets’ All-Star big man, Nikola Jokic, who is currently in his home country of Serbia.
This major NBA 2020 news comes amid a concerning spike in coronavirus cases in Florida over the last few days. Meanwhile, a few players have already decided not to take part in the season restart.
SBOBET is here to take a look at all the pressing issues the NBA is dealing with as they look to get the season underway once again.
Nikola Jokic, six other players test positive for COVID-19
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus in Serbia, and his return to the U.S. has been delayed.
He has been asymptomatic since testing positive last week, though, and is expected to be cleared to return to Denver within the next week or so.
The Serb is one of at least seven known players in teams set to take part in the Orlando bubble who have recently tested positive. The Phoenix Suns reportedly had two players who tested positive. Meanwhile, an unknown Western Conference playoff team had four positive cases in the past few weeks.
Jokic is having another strong season for the Nuggets, averaging 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game. The Nuggets are currently the third seed in the Western Conference with a record of 43-22, and Jokic’s health will be crucial in their success in the playoffs.
NBA still confident in restart plan amid Florida coronavirus spike
The news of the positive cases on NBA teams comes at a time when Florida is quickly becoming a coronavirus hotspot. The state has now passed 100,000 cases and hit a new record high of over 4,000 in a single day over the weekend.
But despite this concerning development, NBA commissioner Adam Silver remains confident that the league’s Orlando bubble will go on as planned, per a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Baxter Holmes.
“In at least one recent call with high-level team executives, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has acknowledged the spiking numbers in Florida. Multiple team sources described the general tone of that call, including the questions asked of Silver on it, as tense. Another called Silver’s tone “resolute but somber.” He expressed a resolve to go on — a confidence in the NBA’s bubble concept — while recognizing the seriousness of the coronavirus spike, sources said.”
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also raised the point that despite Florida’s rising cases, players should still be safer in Orlando than staying in their respective cities since they will be staying inside a controlled environment with strict health guidelines.
Players opting out of NBA season restart in Orlando
Nevertheless, there is still a significant amount of risk involved in taking part in the Orlando bubble, and some players have already voiced their unwillingness to play when the season restarts for varying reasons.
As of this writing, three players have confirmed they will not participate in Orlando: Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans, Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza, and Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley.
None of those three are star-calibre players and their absences won’t affect their respective teams’ NBA 2020 odds when the play resumes. But still, they were contributors to their teams and will be missed.
Bertans is sitting out as a preventative measure; he is about to enter free agency in the offseason and looks set to land a lucrative contract after his fine play this year. Bertans averaged a career-high 15.4 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 42 per cent on 3-pointers in 54 games for the Wizards this season.
Meanwhile, Ariza and Bradley have opted out citing family concerns. Ariza’s court-ordered, one-month visitation window to visit his son coincides with the season restart, while Bradley’s oldest son has a history of respiratory illness and likely wouldn’t have been cleared to go to Orlando.
With Bradley’s decision to skip the remainder of the season, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is likely to move into the Lakers’ starting line-up.
Meanwhile, JR Smith has reportedly emerged as a leading candidate to take Bradley’s roster spot. Smith, who was team-mates with LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship team in 2016, has not played in the NBA since the start of the 2018-19 season.
The 34-year-old Smith’s addition would add playoff experience and 3-point shooting to the Lakers roster.
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