The Jazz will likely have a tough time getting back to where they were before the league’s suspension. Sitting at 4th in the West, the reason for their and every other teams’ season being interrupted so early was the presence of the virus through the league – beginning with Rudy Gobert, and spreading after he accidentally infected his teammate Donovan Mitchell. Before the Jazz look to challenge anyone for the championship, they might be keen to rebuild the team’s chemistry and trust first, as there is sure to be some locker room issues needing a seeing to.
The Miami Heat have had their fair share of COVID-19 cases, but it really is just one of a few issues stemming from the pandemic that they face. Miami has had an up and down season, which saw them reach the #4 seed in the East prior to the break.
However, COVID really has been a spanner (or wrench) in the works for them, as their young squad will likely be unable to run with the rest of the competition due to the disruption of their game. Most of their wins can be credited to their ‘hot’ streaks, but with no momentum, it will be difficult for their first and second-year players to get back into the rhythm, with just 8 games remaining. Also, any efforts to get back into winning form will be hindered now that their workouts have been suspended with the confirmation of a further 3 cases within the organisation.
The Heat might be best off looking towards the 2021 season, especially since sharing a hotel with the Bucks in Orlando will give them quality time with Giannis.
The Nuggets have by no means been the worst hit by COVID-19 in terms of confirmed cases, but in recent days they have experienced a number of issues regarding the few they have. Nikola Jokic, who leads the team in points, rebounds, and assists per game, has been the latest Nuggets player to contract the virus. Though he is expected to return in time for the proposed restart, any threat to your team’s star player is a huge concern. His return to full health will be more of a struggle than for the infected on other teams too since the Nuggets have also been forced to close their training facility. Another of their star players, Will Barton, is among the players that have expressed their concerns over the NBA resuming play so early. Sitting at 3rd in the West, the Nuggets will surely have no problem making the playoffs, but they will need a lot to go right in the coming weeks to make a run.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that Kyrie and KD have been injured all season, now Wilson Chandler has opted out of the restart and Deandre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie will likely not be travelling to Orlando either, as the past week saw them become the most recent NBA superstars to contract COVID-19.
On top of all of this, the break in sports has apparently given Kyrie more time to ponder upon his wild thoughts. Irving, who is no stranger to being a controversial character, has been the subject of some criticism in the past weeks over his ideas to create a new league, and to side-line the return of the NBA in favour of the ongoing protests. He has also come under fire from his former teammate Ryan Hollins, as well as Kendrick Perkins regarding his leadership abilities. This break, and the events which have followed, have really kicked the Nets while they are down, and it may have triggered the next big locker room issue involving Uncle Drew.
Sitting at 11th in the West prior to the league’s suspension, the Kings were faced with their best chance of making playoffs in recent memory. But while teams such as the Jazz and the Nets have struggled since the beginning of the lockdown, the Kings have waited for the season’s recommencement to draw near before falling apart.
Three Kings players – Jabari Parker, Buddy Hield, and Alex Len – have tested positive for the virus in recent days. Though the trio will be eligible to travel to Orlando, health issues are the last thing they would want as they look to compete for the #8 seed. The Kings have emerged as unanimous underdogs in the playoff skirmish, with ESPN giving them a 0% chance of beating out the Grizzlies, Spurs, Blazers, and Pelicans for the last playoff spot.
As for the rest of the teams, the break has been somewhat positive in allowing time for recovery, with Marvin Bagley expected to travel with the team. But when in such a fragile situation, with a team as troubled as the Kings, they couldn’t afford to take the hits that they have in the past month. Plus, the possibility of a condensed off-season before jumping into the 2020-21 season may well prevent the Kings from building on what has been their best season in a while.