COVID-19 continues to shape NBA’s return, as more players test positive

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With basketball only a month away, the list of NBA players affected by COVID-19 is growing.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that New Orleans Pelicans have tested positive, according executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin. Out of privacy, the athletes remain unnamed.

The players were tested when they returned to the team facility last week, and no other members have tested positive since.

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In addition, Brooklyn Nets center and former All-Star DeAndre Jordan announced Monday night that he has tested positive for the virus and will opt out of the remainder of this NBA season.

The news came just hours after one of Jordan’s teammates, Spencer Dinwiddie, told The Athletic that he has also tested positive.

However, Dinwiddie has not ruled out playing in the NBA’s “bubble” in Orlando, Florida.

The Nets, currently 7th in the East, will also be without Kevin Durant (Achilles) and Kyrie Irving (shoulder).

Jordan and Dinwiddie join 16 others who tested positive earlier this week, according to the NBA, including Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Sacramento’s Buddy Hield, and Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon.

In addition, several players have opted out of playing without testing positive, such as Lakers starting guard Avery Bradley.

Speaking of Bradley, the NBA is allowing teams to replace players who aren’t participating — and the Lakers are reportedly eyeing LeBron’s former teammate, J.R. Smith, to fill in.

On Monday, reports indicated the two sides had all but finalized a deal, with no potential obstacles in sight.

Smith would give Los Angeles a veteran shooter who already knows how to play alongside James, as the two were on the Cleveland Cavaliers together from 2015 to 2018.

Over that time, Smith had the third-highest postseason 3-point percentage in the NBA (40.6%), trailing Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (tied at 41.1%).

And 3-point shooting is a potential weakness for the Lakers, who rank 17th in the NBA in 3-point percentage this season (35.5%), connecting on only 11.2 3s per game (22nd in the league).

While the deal might not officially be done, fellow NBA players congratulated Smith, who hasn’t played a game since November of 2018:

That included journeyman Jamal Crawford, who was another potential fit for Los Angeles:

The 22 teams participating in the NBA’s return — the current top eight in each conference, plus the six teams within six games of a playoff spot — have until Wednesday to submit their rosters to the league.

Games start July 30 and will be played in Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, which has three arenas. Teams will stay in one of three hotels on the Walt Disney World grounds.

Each team is scheduled to play eight regular season games to determine playoff seeding, with the potential for a play-in round if necessary.

From there, the postseason will feature the same format as any other year, starting on August 17. The Finals begin September 30.

The Lakers and Bucks are the co-favorites to win the title at +250, followed closely by the Clippers (+300), with the Houston Rockets next but further back at +1600, according to FOX Bet.

This is a developing story.

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