By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The NBA teams entered the bubble in Orlando, played out the scrimmages, and the next time they step on the court – it will count toward the standings.
The seeding games will be the first official ones as the squads try to grab the best possible spot in front of the playoffs and it all tips off on July 31 at 00:30 CET.
The New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz will have the honors of opening the NBA restart as the latter chase better-placed Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers while the former tries to catch up to the Memphis Grizzlies and snatch a playoff ticket.
Both squads will have one European piece each on their rosters as Rudy Gobert and Nicolo Melli try to help their respective teams win.
Gobert has been with the Jazz from the very start of his NBA career back in 2013 and he’s been one of the key pieces since.
That naturally brings with it a lot of spotlight from all over which can also backfire in some cases. And the French could most certainly feel that this year as he was ‘branded a patient zero’ of the coronavirus in the NBA.
It must have been a tough few months for Gobert as well as his teammates but despite the rumors and predictions that the whole ordeal would tear the Utah squad part – especially so Gobert and Mitchell – the duo proved everyone wrong.
They needed some time to talk things over but it seems that the two may have even bonded closer due to it. Whatever the case may be, their game was on point in the scrimmages.
Pick and roll worked wonders and Mitchell’s passing was a big part of Gobert’s 21 and 20-point performances in Orlando.
Melli might not have the same status as Gobert but in his ‘rookie’ season, the 29-year-old Italian impressed everyone with how well he adopted in a short period of time.
He’s been averaging 6.8 points, three rebounds and 1.3 assists in 17 minutes while adding some impressive performances including a 20-point career-high as well as multiple clutch action from deep as well as from the paint, and on both ends of the floor at that.
Bojan Bogdanovic would have been the third European player featured in the opener but the Croatian forward underwent season-ending wrist surgery during the hiatus.
A couple of hours later, at 03:00 CET, the LA teams will clash in one of the most anticipated duels all-season-long.
The sides may not be at full force as they’ll be missing some players but don’t let it downplay the importance of re-starting the season with a victory, especially in such a game.
In the midst of it all, Ivica Zubac – who was one of the late arrivals to the bubble due to being coronavirus positive – will try to give his contribution for the Clippers and against his former team at that.
The Bosnian big man started 62 out of 64 games this season, averaging eight points and 7.2 rebounds in 18 minutes. He showed consistency throughout the year and he might get even more room to shine tonight.
Clippers won’t be able to count on Montrezl Harrell which might provide some more playing time for Zubac who can also expect to receive some help from a veteran teammate in Joakim Noah if coach Doc Rivers decides on such a rotation.
The duel might become even better for the Europeans if the Lakers coach Frank Vogel decides on using one of the ‘Antetokounbros’ in the 22-year-old Kostas Antetokounmpo who logged five and nine points in the two scrimmages he played in Orlando.
And that is only the beginning of it. Already the next night, there will be 12 teams on the floor and the fans can expect a spectacular ‘Euro show’ as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and many more show off what they’ve got in the race for the ultimate prize.