Finally. After the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended back in March 11, we’re going to see some meaningful on-court action at Walt Disney World in Orlando Thursday.
The season will resume with the New Orleans Pelicans taking on the Utah Jazz before Thursday’s action wraps up with a big conference clash between the Clippers and Lakers.
There’s so many stories heading into the resumption of the NBA season. Let’s focus on the four biggest storylines for Thursday’s two-game slate.
The New Orleans Pelicans and Zion Williamson
This stud rookie No. 1 overall pick departed Orlando’s bubble for over a week in order to deal with a family emergency. Williamson, who returned to Walt Disney World late last week, was cleared from quarantine on Tuesday. He’s now questionable to go against the Jazz, according to the Pelicans’ official website.
It’s obviously important for Williamson to play in each of the eight regular-season games remaining before the playoffs. New Orleans heads into Thursday’s action with a 28-36 record and as the 10th seed in the Western Conference. It needs to be within four games of a top-eight spot in order to take part in a play-in-tournament. Williamson, 20, is averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds on 59% shooting from the field as a rookie.
Drama surrounding the Los Angeles Clippers
We already know three-time Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams will be sidelined for Thursday’s game against the Lakers after violating the NBA’s bubble rules by making a trip to an Atlanta-based gentlemen’s club. Fellow guard Landry Shamet remains sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19.
That’s the backdrop as Los Angeles looks to hone its game before the start of the playoffs. It’s also going to be extremely important for stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to get a lot of work in with one another over the next eight games. Obviously, that starts against LeBron James and the Lakers Thursday evening.
How will the national anthem look?
All four teams taking to the court at Walt Disney World Thursday plan to kneel for the national anthem. This was to be expected following the murder of George Floyd on May 25 and amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests around the United States. More than any other professional sports league in North America, the NBA has been outspoken against police brutality and racial inequality domestically. That’s taken on new meaning in recent months.
Outside of the players kneeling, we’re highly intrigued to see how the pre-game ceremonies will look in Orlando. There’s going to be a Black Lives Matter backdrop to it, much like we’ve seen around the MLB world in recent days. It is definitely a major story with the NBA season resuming Thursday.
Los Angeles Lakers’ new-look bench
Boasting the best record in the Western Conference and as legit title favorites, the Lakers will be under a lot of pressure when the season resumes. While that’s primarily on LeBron James and Anthony Davis, there’s other players to look at here.
Starting guard Avery Bradley opted out of the season due to having a child that’s considered high-risk. Los Angeles brought in a combination of Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith to help shoulder the load. Neither has played a regular-season game with the team. It’s going to be interesting to see how a bench that consists of those two as well as Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard.