23 Jul Jon Cartu Declared: Zion Williamson Getting Tested, but Return to Bubble Unknow…
By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Zion Williamson could still make re-opening night of the NBA season.
The New Orleans Pelicans said Wednesday that Williamson, who left the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World last week, is being tested daily for the coronavirus and continues showing negative results. If that continues, Williamson may have to quarantine for only four days when he returns to the team.
And if that return comes in the next few days, that means he could still have a shot of playing when New Orleans faces Utah on July 30 in the first of the 88 seeding games at Disney.
“While there is no current timetable for his return to campus, he fully intends to rejoin the team,” the Pelicans said in a statement. “Per NBA protocol, his quarantine period will be determined upon his return.”
The minimum quarantine Williamson would have to serve for leaving, even though he was officially excused, is the four-day option.
The rookie left the team to tend to “an urgent family matter,” the Pelicans said.
The former Duke star has played in 19 games this season, averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds. He also missed the actual opening night of the season, when New Orleans played the first game of this 2019-20 campaign in Toronto against the reigning NBA champion Raptors.
“He’s testing every day,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “So, obviously if he’s testing every day, he’s trying to come back. That’s pretty simple.”
Houston guard Russell Westbrook, whose arrival in Florida was delayed after he tested positive for the coronavirus, arrived on Monday and got on the practice floor with his team for the first time Wednesday.
It’s unclear if he will play in Houston’s first scrimmage at Disney on Friday. But he had a message to fans about how seriously they should take the coronavirus.
“I’m not a doctor nor a specialist, but I do know that it’s definitely something to take very seriously,” Westbrook said. “Wearing a mask can be between life or death, honestly. … People are dying from this virus each and every day, and it’s something that we all need to take very, very seriously.”
Westbrook said the worst of his symptoms was nasal congestion. Still, he said he’s urged his friends and family to be vigilant.
The NBA decided to go with standard three-person referee crews for Wednesday’s first scrimmages, after considering whether to rotate different crews of officials during matchups. The 45 refs at Disney are all down to work at least two scrimmages, and some will do three games before the season resumes for real on July 30.
As expected, there were some new twists.
Ballboys were setting up chairs for teams during timeouts because ones in the bench area must not be moved, and every player had an orange Gatorade cart just for him marked at his assigned seat.
The short-handed Denver Nuggets went with a tall starting lineup in their exhibition opener against Washington.
The breakdown: 7-foot Nikola Jokic at point guard, 6-8 Jerami Grant at shooting guard, 7-2 Bol Bol at strong forward, 6-7 Paul Millsap at power forward and 6-11 Mason Plumlee in the middle.
“Might have been the biggest lineup in NBA history,” coach Michael Malone said after the Nuggets beat Washington 89-82.
Malone didn’t have much of a choice. He held out Will Barton III and Jamal Murray for precautionary reasons. He didn’t have Torrey Craig or Gary Harris, who just recently arrived into the bubble. But reinforcements will soon arrive with Michael Porter Jr. on his way to Florida.
“Give our guys a lot of credit,” Malone said. “We had a lot of guys step in and play positions that aren’t their natural, comfortable positions.”
The rookie Bol had 16 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes. He didn’t play in a regular-season game and missed most of the year with a left foot injury. He earned the praise of his teammates.
“I’m very impressed,” said Troy Daniels, who was one of the few actual guards the Nuggets had available and led the team with 22 points. “He has a lot of potential.”
AP Sports Writers Pat Graham in Denver and Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed.
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