NBA Reset: Former Michigan Wolverines Set To Play In Orlando Bubble
The NBA is set to resume play on Thursday (June 30) after suspending its season in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 22 teams will compete at Disney World in Orlando in pursuit of 16 playoff spots (each team has eight regular-season games before the playoffs begin).
Eight former Michigan basketball players will participate in the league's restart, two of which are new members of their organizations. Jamal Crawford, who has appeared in 1,326 career games (433 starts) across 19 NBA seasons, the most of any active player, signed with the Brooklyn Nets this summer as a Substitute Player, making him a teammate of former Wolverine Caris LeVert.
Meanwhile, former Maize and Blue great Trey Burke inked a deal with the Dallas Mavericks ahead of play resuming (his second stint with the franchise). He was released in February by the Philadelphia 76ers after averaging 5.9 points and 2.1 assists per game in 25 appearances for the club.
Trey Burke, Dallas Mavericks
The former National Player of the year averaged 5.9 points, 1.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in 25 appearances on the season for the Philadelphia 76ers, and was waived by the club soon after the February trade deadline.
Burke signed with the Mavericks for the second time in his career and will play alongside former teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. once again.
"For me, being a part of this organization last year at the end of the season and having some experience out there on the court with a lot of these guys, having some experience under the tutelage of [head] coach [Rick] Carlisle, I feel really comfortable to be honest," Burke said on a virtual press conference this week.
“I feel comfortable, rather than other places coming into a new place and it’s a brand new system and a brand new coaching staff. I pretty much know the pace that coach likes to play with, I know how hard he can be on guys and I’m ready for that. I know that it’s good for this team to have a guy like coach Carlisle who demands a certain standard on both ends of the court. I think that’s what I remember most about playing here last year. But besides that, it’s the play-calling.”
Burke and the Mavericks are scheduled to take on the Houston Rockets on Friday, July 31 at 9 p.m. on ESPN.
Jamal Crawford, Brooklyn Nets
Crawford had not been signed by a team up until this summer, as he's in his 20th season in the NBA at age 40. He's appeared in 1,326 career games (433 starts) across his previous 19 NBA seasons, the most of any active player. Last season (2018-19) for the Phoenix Suns, Crawford averaged 7.9 points, 3.6 assists and 1.3 rebounds per contest in 18.9 minutes.
He's soaking up every opportunity he has left now that he's back on a team.
"I just want to enjoy the moment," Crawford said recently. "Whatever it calls for, I don’t want to come in with an agenda and say I’m going to score 40 every night and I don’t want to come in just do the leadership thing either. I want to do whatever is called upon, whatever’s needed in these next however many months we’re together and that’s my only approach.”
The Nets are 30-34 and hold the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn's first game back will be Friday, July 31 at 2:30 p.m. against the Orlando Magic.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks
Hardaway is the third-leading scorer on the Mavericks, averaging 15.8 points per game while adding 3.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists He has appeared in 63 games with 50 starts. He's shooting a career-best 40.7 percent from three-point range on the year on a Mavericks team that holds a 40-27 record and a seventh-place standing in the Western Conference.
Hardaway has been in the starting five for Dallas' exhibition scrimmages, and is expected to continue his heavy role going forward as the Mavericks look to improve their playoff seeding.
He's excited to get back to playing games, even though he admitted it will be odd without fans in the crowd.
"I'm not really sure how it will be without the fans, but I do know that they will be watching at home," Hardaway said in a press conference. "The atmosphere, I think, will be more of an open gym feel like when we're in the summertime hooping with our peers and so forth.
"It should be fun, it should be enjoyable, and like I said, fans will be watching on T.V., so everybody's gotta be ready."
Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets
LeVert missed 24 games earlier in the season with a thumb injury, but returned just after the new year. He had been coming off the bench after his return, but was inserted back into the starting lineup on Feb. 3 in light of Kyrie Irving's knee injury, and has started every game since.
On the season, LeVert is averaging 17.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game in 39 appearances. The highlight of his season came just before the season's suspension, on March 3, when LeVert scored a career-high 51 points in an overtime win over the Boston Celtics, with 37 of those points coming in the fourth quarter and overtime period.
With Irving, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan (to name a few Nets not currently with the team) out due to injuries, LeVert has stepped up into a leadership role, and his teammates have taken notice.
"You saw it last season," Jarrett Allen said. "He was just starting to come out and be that. You saw it in the Celtics game where he scored [51 points]. So, now that he’s here, he finally has the chance to be able to lead us and he’s done a tremendous job with that."
LeVert put up 23 points while shooting 11-for-22 from the field in Monday's scrimmage, after posting 27 points last Saturday's scrimmage victory over the San Antonio Spurs — a performance that included this nifty stop-and-pop jumper:
Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat
Robinson averages 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game this season, and has started in 60 of his 65 appearances. He checks in at first on the Heat and fourth in the league in three-point field goal percentage at 44.8 percent. He's made 243 three-pointers on the season, which is the third-most in the NBA and is a Heat franchise record for most threes in a season. He participated in the Three-Point Contest on All-Star weekend.
Robinson, who has extensive experience in the G-League, actually may have a leg up on other players when it comes to playing in a quieter environment.
"It's definitely a little different, the atmosphere, just being so quiet," Robinson said on the Dan Patrick Show. "Just some of the conversations you can hear during a game that you wouldn't normally be able to hear.
"To be honest with you, I'm pretty used to it, just because as recent as last year, I was playing in the G-League and those are some pretty quiet gyms as well, so it's nothing new for me."
The Heat are fourth in the Eastern Conference at 41-24 and are set to play the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, Aug. 1 at 6 p.m. on ESPN.
I asked Duncan Robinson this week how long it would take to get his jumper to pre-Covid form.— Five Reasons Sports Network (@5ReasonsSports) July 23, 2020
“Shooters don’t forget how to shoot.”
He has 4 3’s in 7 minutes.
Glenn Robinson III, Philadelphia 76ers
Robinson was traded from the Warriors to the Philadelphia 76ers at the deadline.
Had started in all 48 of his games with the Warriors this season, and averaged 12.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists. With the 76ers, he is averaging 7.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game in 12 contests with four starts.
Robinson, who is fighting for rotational minutes, got banged up in Sunday's scrimmage, a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Fortunately, the injury is not expected to be serious.
“He had a hip pointer. I was told to take him out because of that,” head coach Brett Brown said. “Nothing that serious. I think he’s been playing really well. I’ve been happy with him all over the place. He had great practice sessions as well.”
The 76ers are sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 39-26 record and will face the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, Aug. 1 at 7 p.m.
Moe Wagner, Washington Wizards
Wagner is third in the league in charges drawn with 26 on the season. He averages 9.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists per contest, and has started in five of his 37 appearances on the season.
The German missed nearly two months from early December to early February with an ankle injury, before returning just before the All-Star break and playing in the Rising Stars Game.
Wagner is looking forward to playing games in the bubble, and is embracing the unusual circumstances surrounding the league's restart.
"We've all played in empty gyms before, so it's nothing that is new," Wagner said in a press conference. "It's kind of cool. I'm excited because it emphasizes the purity of the game.
"I'm excited to see how it pans out and how much basketball actually matters, in comparison to the show and the audience, which plays a huge role in the NBA."
The Wizards are 24-40, sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference and are 5.5 games back of the eighth and final playoff spot. They need to be within four games to qualify for a play-in series. The Wizards resume play on Friday, July 31 at 4 p.m. against the Phoenix Suns.
D.J. Wilson, Milwaukee Bucks
Wilson averages 3.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 9.0 minutes per game this season in 31 appearances.
The Bucks are on top of the Eastern Conference, and have the NBA's best record at 53-12. They will play the Boston Celtics on Friday, July 31 at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.
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