NBA Stars Forced to Leave Bubble
The NBA bubble in Orlando is meant to serve as a safe haven of sorts for players and staff of the 22 NBA teams that will participate in the season restart.
In fact, with no one being allowed to enter or exit the bubble, the NBA registered zero positive tests for COVID-19 since the league last announced results on July 13.
However, while the players haven't been allowed to have family or friends in the bubble, several NBA stars have been forced to exit the bubble to tend to family matters and other pressing concerns.
The most notable of which is New Orleans Pelicans rookie sensation Zion Williamson.
Williamson departed Orlando on July 16 due to a family matter and there is no clear timetable on when he is set to return.
The Pelicans are in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and Williamson will be required to self-isolate for a number of days upon his return to the bubble, as well as register multiple negative tests.
If he hasn't returned to Orlando by Monday, chances are Williamson might not be available to play in the Pelicans' first official game on Thursday against the Utah Jazz.
While Williamson is potentially a huge individual loss for New Orleans, the Los Angeles Clippers, in the midst of vying for their first NBA title in franchise history, have seen more key players depart Orlando than any current team.
Last Friday, it was reported that reserve forward Montrezl Harrell had to leave the bubble due to an emergency family matter.
Then on Tuesday, starting point guard Patrick Beverley also departed the bubble due to an emergency family matter.
And on Friday, reigning back-to-back Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams left for personal reasons.
The Clippers are oft-regarded as the deepest team in the NBA, but they are now without Williams and Harrell – a duo that averages 37.2 points combined off the bench – and Beverley. They are also missing starting center Ivica Zubac and starting shooting guard Landry Shamet, both of whon have yet to report to Orlando.
The Clippers, currently the 2-seed in the Western Conference, will first take the floor on Thursday night against the top team in the West, the rival Los Angeles Lakers.
And lastly, the Houston Rockets have also experienced a player leaving the bubble, with reserve guard Austin Rivers departing on Friday.
This news comes after the Rockets MVP backcourt of James Harden and Russell Westbrook both arrived in Orlando days after the team did – Harden for unknown reasons and Westbrook because he tested positive for COVID-19.
With teams having to get back into a rhythm after a 4-month hiatus, it will be interesting to see just how difficult it will be for these specific players to work themselves back into the fold after having to leave Orlando.
Depth, more than anything, could be the difference between winning a championship and going home early this season.