Preparing for the season restart in the NBA bubble isn't exactly like preseason training. Besides the usual work on regaining full fitness and body conditioning, teams have to be wary about unforeseen events such as a player testing positive for coronavirus. Then there's the additional set of rules that need to be followed as well.
While some teams have hit the ground running, not every squad has had a merry run inside the NBA bubble. Some teams have been hit by absences due to players testing positive, while in some cases players have suffered injuries or broken quarantine protocols that has sidelined them for days. Beyond that, some players have decided to sit out for the rest of the NBA season.
Major absences in the NBA bubble
So for umpteen reasons, several teams are working at a reduced capacity right now. On that note, let us look at the five most depleted teams in the NBA bubble right now.
#5 Miami Heat
The surprise package of the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat are currently without two critical members of their starting lineup. First-time NBA All-Star Bam Adebayo and rookie sensation Kendrick Nunn both haven't joined the team in Orlando yet.
The Miami Heat recently posted what social message all their players will be wearing at the back of their jerseys. Adebayo and Nunn both featured on that list so we can expect the duo to travel to Disney World at some point in time.
The bigger concern however is the time they will take to get to speed. The Heat have a tough run of fixtures at the beginning of the NBA restart with games lined up against Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks respectively. Jimmy Butler and co. would like to avoid a slip-up and for that, they would need the services of Adebayo and Nunn.
#4 San Antonio Spurs
For a team that likes to work the paint significantly, the San Antonio Spurs will be without their main big man duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles in the NBA bubble. Aldridge had undergone surgery in his right shoulder in June which sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Coach Gregg Popovich would've been hoping that Trey Lyles could use the opportunity to rise to be occasion but it was reported only recently that he has suffered appendicitis. Lyles has also gone under the knife and will be sitting out as well.
The only recognized big man that the Spurs have at their disposal in the NBA bubble now is Jakob Poeltl. Trailing the eighth-placed Memphis Grizzlies by four games, this is certainly not the desired situation for the Spurs whose playoffs hopes are dangling by a thread.
#3 Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets received a massive boost this week with star center Nikola Jokic finally joining the team in practice. The Joker is in his best possible shape and his form will play a huge role in deciding Denver's fortunes in the NBA bubble. However, as per reports, as many as five players are yet to join the team in Orlando.
Chris Haynes revealed that Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, and Michael Porter Jr. are all yet to make the trip to Disney World. Other reports have stated that Monte Morris and PJ Dozier aren't available either.
Nuggets fans will be hoping for some clarity about the participation of these players in the NBA restart. Gary Harris is the most notable name of the lot. While he certainly hasn't met expectations this season, Harris is still a notable backcourt piece for the Nuggets and could play a pivotal role for them in the NBA bubble.
#2 Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have had mixed fortunes for the entirety of the current season but Lady Luck seems to be giving them the short end of the stick once again. Luke Walton's side embarked on a 7-3 run post the All-Star break and re-entered the playoff picture. Life inside the NBA bubble, however, hasn't been really kind to them.
The likes of Harrison Barnes and Alex Len have tested positive for the coronavirus and are yet to travel to Orlando. Buddy Hield and Jabari Parker have only recently rejoined the team following their recovery from COVID-19. Richaun Holmes, on the other hand, has been sent into quarantine in Orlando after flouting NBA bubble rules.
The biggest absence, however, could be that of De'Aaron Fox who suffered an ankle sprain in practice and will be re-evaluated in a week's time. Fox and Barnes were primarily responsible for Sacramento's late surge and their availability will play a key role in the Kings' playoff push in the NBA bubble.
#1 Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets have seen the most chopping and changing in their roster heading into the season restart in Orlando. Superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are both rehabbing from injuries while Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince, and DeAndre Jordan are missing out after testing positive for coronavirus. Meanwhile, Wilson Chandler has decided to sit out due to health concerns.
The Nets did sign several replacement players including Jamal Crawford and Michael Beasley but the latter too tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, even Beasley won't be joining the Nets in the NBA bubble.
Brooklyn still has the services of Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and Joe Harris while Jamal Crawford will also add to the veteran presence. However, these names combined with a few stand-in players barely pose a threat. The Nets don't need to do a lot to lock up the seventh or eighth seed in the East but beyond that, they seem bound for a first-round playoff exit in the NBA bubble.
Published 18 Jul 2020, 10:00 IST