The 2020 NBA All-Star break has come and gone, and now it’s time for each organization to gear up for the final stretch in preparation for the playoffs or tank the remainder of the season away to secure that sweet, sweet lottery pick (in a god-awful draft, by the way).
If you missed any of the action from an amazing All-Star weekend in Chicago, we’ve got you covered.
The season kicks back up later on Thursday, with six NBA games and plenty of former Wildcats in the mix. TNT has the two nationally broadcasted games, although neither of them features any Kentucky alum. So if you have NBA League Pass, here’s what to expect.
7:00: Bucks (Bledsoe) @ Pistons
7:30: Heat (Adebayo, Herro-out) @ Hawks
8:00 (TNT): Nets @ 76ers
8:00: Hornets (Monk, Washington) @ Bulls
10:00: Grizzlies @ Kings (Fox)
10:30 (TNT): Rockets @ Warriors
Miami Heat rookie Tyler Herro is not expected to make his return to the rotation against the Hawks on Thursday due to a nagging foot injury that sidelined him for the All-Star festivities. He’s sat out the previous five games for Miami since suffering a foot injury on Feb. 3 against the Philadelphia 76ers. At the All-Star media day in Chicago, Herro said he feared his regular season would be done for, but fortunately, that was ruled out by a trip to the doctor. The expectation now is that he gets the boot off his foot sometime this week, according to the Miami Herald.
Herro recently said that he doesn’t feel any pain anymore and now it’s just a matter of making sure he gets the required amount of rest to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy to return. Miami is in a great spot for the playoffs and Herro has been a component of the success. In 46 games this season, the first-year player is putting up averages of 13.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on shooting splits of 41.4/39.3/83.5. His shooting will be a major boost to the team once the playoffs roll around. Miami is currently 35-19, good enough for 4th in the Eastern Conference.
Bam Adebayo is coming off a special weekend that saw him play in his first-ever All-Star game along with winning the Skills Challenge despite Las Vegas listing him with the worst odds to win. Following the massively successful weekend for the 22-year old, Adebayo said that his “Confidence is definitely through the roof right now,” and why wouldn’t it be? He’s arguably the most versatile defender in the entire NBA not named Giannis Antetokounmpo and just showed up a bunch of highly experienced ball-handlers in the Skills Challenge. Look for Adebayo to finish the season even stronger than he started it.
But Adebayo and Herro aren’t the only two former ‘Cats looking for strong finishes down the stretch. Anthony Davis (LAL) and Eric Bledsoe (MIL) will look to maintain the top spot in their respective conferences. Bledsoe’s Milwaukee Bucks have a shot to post one of the NBA’s all-time best records. They’re currently on pace to finish with a winning percentage that has only been bested by the 1996 Chicago Bulls and 2016 Golden State Warriors. The Bucks currently sit with an NBA-leading 46-8 record and a legitimate shot to reach the 70-win threshold for only the third time in league history. Bledsoe has been putting up borderline All-Star numbers this year and closed the pre-All-Star break playing his best basketball of the season. The Bucks are on a mission.
As for Davis, his Los Angeles Lakers are in a different situation. Unlike Milwaukee, who could lose half of their remaining games and still lead the East, the Lakers can’t cruise to home-court advantage. The Nuggets, Clippers, and Jazz are all withing 5.5 games of the Lakers.
Denver has rattled off a six and seven-game winning streak already this season. The Clippers have hardly had a healthy roster all year long and just got a whole week off to rest Kawhi Leonard and Paul Geroge. The Jazz opened up 2020 with a 10-game win streak. The Lakers are anything but a safe bet to win the West. Depending on how much the organization wants to gun for that top seed could determine how much LeBron James and Davis even play the rest of the regular season. Do they pull back LeBron and AD, drop a few winnable games, and go into the postseason just a tad bit more rested than they would have been? Or do they go all out and see if they can hit the 60-win mark with LeBron and AD as two of the lead candidates for MVP? Remember, LeBron is 35 years old now. Rest is going to play a role in how he finishes the regular season.
What I’m particularly interested to see the rest of the season is how D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns play for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Minny isn’t making the playoffs this year. They’re 11.5 games back out of the 8th seed and completely overhauled the roster in a matter of weeks. Robert Covington and Andrew Wiggins are gone. Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez are exciting replacements, specifically Beasley, in my opinion. Josh Okogie – one of my favorite young players in the entire league – and rookie Jarrett Culver are still there. I actually like a lot about what the Wolves front office did ahead of the trade deadline. But none of it matters if KAT and his best friend D’Lo don’t work like a symphony.
I wouldn’t imagine chemistry will be a major issue for the two outside of maybe the first few games. Had Towns not missed 15 games with a knee injury, he likely would have been named an All-Star. If Russell was in the Eastern Conference (instead of playing for the Golden State Warriors, who boast the worst record in the NBA), there’s a good chance he makes the All-Star roster for the second straight year. Both are playing the best basketball they ever had and Minnesota has them locked down for a while. They have time to make it work. The pick-and-roll/pop has the potential to be unguardable. Towns was already unstoppable on offense without any whiff of a starting-caliber NBA point guard running the show. Now he has one. These final 30ish games will be a great test-run for a real run at the playoffs next season. The Wolves are a good offseason away from competing for the postseason in 2021.
There are hundreds of other minute storylines I could rabble on about endlessly but I want to hear from you. What do you want to see from the BBNBA for the final 30-game stretch? Will Willie Cauley-Stein and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist turn their careers around in Dallas? What’s going to happen to Kevin Knox? Just how good can DeMarcus Cousins be once he returns from another devastating injury? Or anything in between.
Leave your questions in the comments or tweet me @ZackGeoghegan (I’m much more likely to interact through Twitter). I am VERY hyped up for the next few months of basketball. It all starts back up tonight.