Since the NBA resumed its season on July 30 inside the Disney World bubble, it’s mostly gone off without a hitch. The league has reported three straight weeks without a positive COVID-19 test, and the quality of basketball has largely been top notch, with several overtime games and down-to-the-wire endings. There’s one more week of seeding games left before the NBA embarks on the postseason, and while everything seems great in the bubble, the one thing the league couldn’t be shielded from was player injuries.
When the league announced its decision to restart the season, injuries came up as one of the primary concerns for many players. Some, like Davis Bertans, even decided to play it extra cautious and sit out due to concerns of getting injured because of the condensed time frame and lengthy time off since last playing. Injuries are a part of the game, though, and unfortunately, the bubble has seen its fare share of them. To keep you updated, here’s a running list of all the major injuries in the NBA bubble, and how they are affecting teams and players moving forward.
Simmons left the bubble to receive surgery on his left knee to remove a “loose body,” and he’s reportedly unlikely to return and play for the 76ers again this season. The loss of Simmons is a monumental blow for Philadelphia, which will miss his versatile defensive presence, playmaking ability and downhill speed when he’s in transition. There’s no easy plug in for Simmons for the Sixers here. Joel Embiid will be asked to do considerably more than the ridiculous amount he’s already doing. Tobias Harris and Al Horford will need to step up significantly on both ends of the floor to fill the void left behind on defense as well as on offense and Shake Milton will see increased responsibility going forward. Philly was viewed as a team with enough sheer talent to reach the Eastern Conference finals, but without Simmons it appears that reality will be snatched from their hands once again.
The Lakers have been without Rondo their entire stay in the bubble, and while it isn’t ideal to be down a player heading into the postseason — especially someone who has the basketball IQ of Rondo — statistics show that L.A. has actually been better without him in the rotation this season. When Rondo is on the floor, the Lakers outscore opponents by just 1.4 points per 100 possessions, and when he’s on the bench it just up to 9.5 points. That’s a sizable difference that shouldn’t be ignored, especially when it comes to the playoffs. Right now, the Lakers have used a combination of Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to soak up Rondo’s minutes, and while L.A. is still trying to fine-tune lineups and figure out its shooting woes, the loss of Rondo shouldn’t hamper them too much when the postseason starts.
Even before Jackson went down, the Grizzlies were struggling mightily in the bubble. They lost their first three games, and the injury to Jackson against the Pelicans only made matters worse. The second-year big man had successful surgery to repair his meniscus and is expected to make a full recovery, so for Memphis’ long-term future Jackson should be OK. However, in the team’s current quest to make the postseason, the path is a little murky still. Jackson’s absence pushed rookie Brandon Clarke into the starting lineup, and the Grizzlies have had to rely on the scoring of Ja Morant more than ever. While the team has only recorded one win since its time in the bubble, the Grizzlies have been getting surprising production out of Grayson Allen off the bench. Allen is averaging 13.6 points, and shooting over 58 percent from 3-point range through five games, which will be needed when Memphis plays whichever team secures the No. 9 seed for the play-in game. The loss of Jackson’s size and offensive versatility will be detrimental for the Grizzlies for the play-in game, and in the playoffs if they make it that far.
Since leaving the bubble on July 24 to deal with plantar fasciitis, Sabonis has not returned, and Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said he’s still “a ways away” from rejoining the team. The Pacers were all set to be an under-the-radar team entering the bubble with Victor Oladipo back in the fold, but that was derailed quickly when Sabonis left. However, Indiana has fared well without its All-Star forward, going 4-1 in its first five games, due to absurd performances from TJ Warren, who is leading the league in scoring in the bubble with 34.8 points a game. Indiana is currently tied with the Heat for the No. 4 spot in the East, and only a half-game up on a 76ers team that just lost Simmons for potentially the season. If Sabonis returns for the playoffs, that would bode well for the Pacers’ chances of winning in the first round, because while this team has had success without him in the seeding games, when the postseason rolls around it’s a whole different ball game. His scoring and rebounding would take more pressure off Warren and Oladipo.
The Magic will be heading to the playoffs without Isaac after he tore his ACL in a seeding game against the Sacramento Kings. The typical timeline for recovery from such an injury is a year, so depending on when the 2020-21 season starts, Orlando could be without him for all of next season as well. The loss of Isaac is a bigger blow for Orlando’s long-term plans than this season. Isaac was beginning to blossom with the Magic this season, putting up career-best shooting numbers while averaging 12.1 points per game. His size, athleticism and length made him invaluable as a defender in the post and on the perimeter. Even though he was coming off the bench, he was by far the most complete young player the Magic had on their roster. Losing him for not just the remainder of this season, but potentially all of next season is a tough loss for the franchise and for Isaac’s development.
Winslow’s debut for the Grizzlies will have to wait until the 2020-21 season as the forward suffered a hip injury during a practice before the season resumed. Seeing as Memphis hasn’t had Winslow in its lineup since trading for him back in February, his absence doesn’t change too much for them in the bubble. However, his defense and scoring ability on the wing would’ve helped this young team greatly, especially with Jackson down, too. Unfortunately, though, we’ll have to wait for next season to see what Winslow can add to this up-and-coming team.
Bagley has been in and out of Sacramento’s lineup all season, playing in just 13 games in his second year in the league. When an MRI revealed that Bagley sustained a lateral right foot sprain during practice prior to the season resuming, the Kings decided to shut him down for the NBA restart. He’s expected to make a full recovery. However, the string of injuries he’s had in just two seasons should be a bit concerning for the Kings. When Bagley’s healthy, though, he’s proven to be a dynamic forward on offense, but maintaining that health this season has been the problem. Sacramento has struggled in the bubble, winning just one game thus far, and it’s hard to say if having Bagley healthy would’ve significantly impacted that in any way, given how little he’s played this season. Hopefully Bagley can return to full health for next season — and stay healthy — so Sacramento can figure out if there is a future with a core of him, De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic.