We are just days away from NBA basketball being back in our lives — not just NBA players fishing, golfing, or shotgunning beers from an ice tub, but actual, on-court basketball. With the first NBA scrimmages set to take place on Wednesday, and the Sixers retaking the floor on Friday, let’s quickly examine some recent news.
Scrimmages will be 10-minute quarters
The league announced that scrimmages will be 40-minute games, rather than the typical 48-minute affairs. The decision was made to ease players back into a full workload, after many of them were unable to keep up their usual conditioning during the COVID-19-forced quarantine period. Here was Orlando head coach Steve Clifford on the situation, per ESPN:
“I believe that it’s done just trying to get safety first for the players. I think most teams are like us, where everybody is just feeling their way and guys aren’t in the type of condition they would normally be in a training camp situation.”
I’m sure most of us would settle for four minutes of basketball. 40 minutes will be just fine.
Embiid-Horford pairing not getting run in Orlando training camp
I recently took a quick look at the Ben Simmons-Al Horford lineup combination, something we should see plenty of during the 15 or so minutes per game Embiid rests on the bench. Yet, if Horford isn’t going to be used strictly as Joel’s backup (highly unlikely given Al’s skill level, pedigree, and contract), the two big men will have to play some minutes together. However, Brett Brown said recently that pairing hasn’t been seeing run during the team’s Orlando training camp sessions.
Brett Brown was pretty coy when asked what he envisions Al Horford’s role being in Orlando. Says they haven’t yet used any Joel-Al lineups down there, though it’s in the plans, and basically tells us we’ll have to wait and see— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) July 18, 2020
I don’t think Embiid-Horford lineups are as doomed to fail as one might think, but they definitely have to coincide with the time when Simmons is on the bench as much as possible. Use similar logic to the Simmons-Horford lineups, with three spot-up shooters/secondary creators filling out the rest of the on-court grouping, and you can envision a Joel-Al offense working to some degree. The main difference would be centering the offense around Joel post-ups, rather than Simmons drives in those Ben-Al lineups we discussed. Still, Horford defending opposing power forwards is not ideal, so these groups are likely far from the most successful lineups Brett Brown can throw out there. We’ll see what shakes out.
Jimmy Butler not allowed to go nameless on the back of his jersey
Per sources, it appears as of now that Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler's request to wear no name on the back of his jersey at the NBA restart will not be honored.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) July 19, 2020
The NBA and NBPA struck deals on the messaging, but wearing of a name is part of the uniform player agreement.
I know many of us often groan at “all things Jimmy Butler,” but I actually thought this represented a positive way to peaceably protest and bring attention to social justice issues from the former Sixer. Here was his statement on why he wanted to go nameless:
“I love and respect all the messages that the league did choose. But for me, I felt like with no message, with no name, it’s going back to like who I was. And if I wasn’t who I was today, I’m no different than anybody else of color.
And I want that to be my message in the sense that just because I’m an NBA player, everybody has the same rights no matter what. That’s how I feel about my people of color.”
Anyway, I understand the league’s desire to stick to the fine print of their agreement with the NBPA, but this feels like an instance where they could have acquiesced.