“NBA–Basketball and Facemasks”
They are back, the Lakers and the Clippers, and the NBA.
They play hoops in the bubble tonight in Orlando, the start up of the 22-teams chasing for playoff spots.
Each team plays 8-seeding games, to determine the final standings, and the season, a made-for-TV event in Orlando, and it will kick off tonight with the Lakers-vs-Clippers.
The next 8-games will determine the final standings and the playoff matchups when the final 16-teams are seeded.
The Lakers take the floor tonite looking for their 50th win of the season. They are not the complete team they were when we last saw them in March.
Center Anthony Davis will wear goggles to protect an eye injury suffered earlier in the week in practice. How it affects him remains to be seen.
There will be no Avery Bradley, who opted out-deciding not to play. No Rajon Rondo who broke his wrist the first week of practice in Orlando.
But there is LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma and a host of other veteran talent that has gotten the Lakers to this (49-14) record.
The Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, will have his hands full.
Yes they won 40-games before the schedule break, but this is not the same team.
Kawhi Leonard is here, coming off the 3-month pause in play.
But his center Ivica Zubac has just returned from the virus and admits his conditioning is way off.
Their valuable big minutes backup center Montrzl Harrell left camp three weeks ago with family issues, and is not back yet and facing quarantine when he does get back.
Then to complicate things, hi scoring guard Lou Williams is suspended for two games and sitting out 10-days for breaking rules by leaving the bubble to go to a strip club.
And equally tough guy guard Patrick Beverly won’t play, still trying to find basketball shape after a late report with the virus.
Guard Landry Shamet will suit up but with limited minutes having gotten to Orlando late because of his own positive test.
Veteran center Joakim Noah, the ex Bulls star of years ago, will play, but bench depth will be a problem.
So the odds seem stacked that the Clippers can close the gap on the lst place Lakers in the NBA Pacific Division. The bigger issue is whether they can get all the pieces of the roster put back together by the time the playoffs roll around in two weeks.
Of course things can change over night. Guys get hurt. Guys test positive. Guys go to strip clubs against the rules.
Going to be interesting to see who gets it into basketball gear quickly vs who breaks down or has problems.
Facemasks, free throws, jump shots and disjointed rosters. It’s all in front of us beginning Thursday night inside the NBA bubble.