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Basketball Daily Dose

Domantas leaves Orlando, while Zion returns

by Raphielle Johnson
Updated On: July 25, 2020, 12:08 pm ET

Friday's scrimmage schedule in Orlando was light, as there were only six teams that had yet to play a game. Some of the happenings included Philadelphia rolling out a lineup headlined by Ben Simmons moving to a new position, Oklahoma City welcoming back Andre Roberson, and Russell Westbrook playing just three days after joining his Rockets teammates in the bubble. Below is a look at the games, followed by important happenings off the court involving Domantas Sabonis and Zion Williamson.

Friday’s Games 

76ers 90, Grizzlies 83

Philadelphia rolled out a new starting lineup for its first scrimmage in Orlando, with Shake Milton taking over at the point and Ben Simmons shifting to the power forward spot. Of the 17 minutes that Milton played just over seven were with Simmons, and he finished the game with a line of six points, one rebound, three assists and two steals. As for Simmons, moving off the point doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s giving up the ability to serve as a playmaker. He posted a line of nine points, seven rebounds, nine assists, three steals and one 3-pointer in 22 minutes. 

Both 3-point attempts were from the corner, and Simmons’ willingness to at the very least entertain the possibility of taking those shots is worth keeping an eye on. The respect from opposing defenders won’t come overnight, but it in time it could give them something to think about when it comes to attempting to slow down Simmons. Joel Embiid was limited to 12 minutes, which isn’t a surprise given the medical history, and his workload should increase gradually in the 76ers’ next two scrimmages. Brett Brown used each of his players for at least three minutes Friday, which won’t be the case once the seeding games begin. 

Memphis only went ten players deep, with each of the five starters playing at least 22 minutes. Jaren Jackson Jr. (13 points, three rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer), Dillon Brooks (6/1/1/2 with two 3-pointers) and Ja Morant (7/5/8) led the way minutes-wise, with Jonas Valanciunas (20/11/2/1/1 with one 3-pointer) and Kyle Anderson (14/8/1/1/1 with four 3-pointers) playing 22 minutes apiece. Anderson’s day from deep was the eye-opener, as he made four of his five attempts. 

At the time that the NBA season came to a halt he was shooting 25.8 percent from three, with Anderson making multiple 3-pointers in the same game just twice. We’ll see if Anderson can build on this performance, and hopefully for the Grizzlies’ sake he can as Memphis has been one of the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting teams this season (25th in percentage). Brandon Clarke and De’Anthony Melton both had productive days off the bench and are both worth considering as cheap roster filler options, while Tyus Jones dished out five assists. 

Thunder 98, Celtics 84 

Boston was without Kemba Walker (knee) and Brad Stevens did not play any of the starters after halftime, which gave the reserves plenty of time to shake off the rust and state their cases for spots in the team’s rotation once the season resumes. Marcus Smart (eight points, three assists, three steals) and Jayson Tatum (three points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals) played 18 minutes apiece to lead the way, with Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters playing 16 apiece. Smart filled Walker’s role with the starting five, which in turn opens up more second unit time for the likes of Edwards, Waters and Brad Wanamaker

Enes Kanter was very productive in his 12 minutes off the bench, finishing with 11 points and ten rebounds, and Robert Williams accounted for seven points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal in 11 minutes. Williams is one player who benefitted from the stoppage, as he missed nearly three months due to a left hip injury. The “Time Lord” was able to play in four games before the NBA season ground to a halt, but getting even more time to recuperate may not have been a bad thing for him. Having another big to potentially call upon in the postseason, especially if Williams is able to contribute consistently, wouldn’t be a bad thing. For now exercise some caution when it comes to inserting him into DFS lineups, but if Williams can once again carve out rotation minutes for himself the shot-blocking ability would be worth a look. 

Billy Donovan also went deep into his roster, with 11 players getting at least 11 minutes led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22 minutes). He was the only player to surpass the 20-minute mark in this scrimmage and he led the Thunder in scoring, finishing with 17 points to go along with three rebounds, two assists and one steal. Steven Adams also scored 17 (seven rebounds, one assist and one block), which Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari had relatively quiet scoring nights. Dennis Schroder played 17 minutes off the bench, with Abdel Nader (11 points, two rebounds) and Darius Bazley (9/7/1/1/1 with one 3-pointer) being the most productive of the reserves. 

Another positive development for Oklahoma City was the return of Andre Roberson, who saw his first game action in more than two years. He played 11 minutes, finishing with five points, two rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot. Given the severity of the injury that Roberson is working his way back from, it’s difficult to see him grabbing a rotation role (worthy of fantasy consideration) once the seeding games begin. If he were able to do so, the statistical impact would come on the defensive end of the floor. 

Raptors 94, Rockets 83

As noted above Russell Westbrook played in Houston's first scrimmage, starting the game and playing 15 first-half minutes. He finished with a line of ten points, nine rebounds, one assist and four turnovers. James Harden looked good in his Orlando debut, pumping in 24 points in 25 minutes while also tallying four rebounds, ten assists, two steals and three 3-pointers. If there's anything to take from the Rockets in this one it was the fact that Mike D'Antoni said beforehand that not only will Eric Gordon start once the seeding games begin, but he'll play 30-35 minutes per night.

Gordon played 25 minutes against the Raptors, finishing with 11 points, two 3-pointers and four turnovers. His line didn't look great, as he was 4-of-11 from the field, but Gordon looked to have more burst than he's had in recent years. The hiatus may have been a positive for him given the medical history, but we'll see how that plays out. Not having Austin Rivers due to a family emergency opened things up even more for Danuel House and he took advantage, scoring 18 points in 30 minutes off the bench. He's the player to watch should Rivers not be back with the team once the eight-game slate gets underway. 

For the Raptors, both Marc Gasol and Patrick McCaw were given the night off with the expectation being that they'll be good to go for the team's second scrimmage on Sunday. Serge Ibaka picked up where he left off in March, pacing the team with 18 points (8-of-10 FGs) in just 17 minutes of action. Gasol's return doesn't bode well for Chris Boucher, who drops down a spot in the rotation as a result. Pascal Siakam shot the ball well, scoring 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, but the five turnovers were a sign of rust (no shame in that, as he isn't the only one dealing with that issue). 

Terence Davis and Norman Powell both had good nights off the bench, and both will continue to figure prominently in the second unit. McCaw may siphon a few minutes away from Davis, but he isn't going to completely fall out of the rotation. Davis' name is one to file away for next season, especially if Toronto were to lose Fred VanVleet in free agency. 

Domantas Sabonis (left foot), Austin Rivers (family reason) leave the bubble 

There were two noteworthy departures from the bubble Friday, with one being for injury reasons. Pacers center Domantas Sabonis, who had been dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, departed to meet with a specialist in order to address the issue. This is bad news for Indiana on multiple fronts. First and foremost, it isn’t easy for any time to account for the loss of an All-Star. At the time that the season came to a halt, Sabonis was averaging 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. That isn’t easy production to replace for healthy teams, much less one as banged up in the post as the Pacers currently are. 

Myles Turner has returned to practice since injuring his calf and he’s considered to be day-to-day, while Goga Bitadze remains out indefinitely due to a knee injury. If Turner is good to go once the seeding games begin Indiana can easily slide him into the center spot, thus allowing him to spend more time around the basket than he did when sharing the floor with Sabonis. No Sabonis would also move JaKarr Sampson into the starting lineup, and while he can produce some defensive/rebounding stats it isn’t enough to justify using him in any fantasy leagues. 

As for the other departure, Rockets guard Austin Rivers had to leave due to a family emergency. Without him Houston is down a shooter for its second unit, but this frees up more minutes for Danuel House. He played 30 minutes in Friday’s loss to the Raptors and put up a nice stat line, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds, one assist, two steals and three 3-pointers. Chris Clemons played ten minutes but didn’t shoot the ball well, going 0-of-6 from the field and finishing with zero points, two rebounds, two assists and three steals. 

Zion Williamson (personal matter) returns to Orlando 

Queue up the “Welcome Back, Kotter” theme (or Mase, if you prefer), as Zion made his return to the Orlando campus Friday afternoon after leaving to attend to a family emergency. The rookie forward was tested for COVID-19 each day of his absence and was negative for each, but he will still need to quarantine for at least four days (and produce two more negative tests) per league rules. Given the timeline Williamson won’t be available for either of the Pelicans’ final two scrimmages before their first seeding game on July 30. With that being the case, will he be available for that game given the lack of live reps (and his missing a major portion of the pre-stoppage slate due to the knee injury he suffered in Summer League)? New Orleans faces Denver in its second scrimmage Saturday night, so maybe more will be learned then. 

Nicolo Melli is the player most impacted by Williamson’s status, as he moved into the starting lineup for Wednesday’s win over the Nets. Melli’s perimeter shooting can be an asset to that group, and for that reason he also has some value when coming off the bench. Jaxson Hayes’ minutes/value are impacted more by the presence of Derrick Favors, who was held out of the first scrimmage. 

Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn practice for first time

Three days after arriving in Orlando, Heat starters Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn went through a full practice for the first time. Both looked good per multiple reports, with Erik Spoelstra saying that he was open to both playing in Saturday’s scrimmage against the Jazz. Neither stands to play much if they do participate, but in the case of Adebayo he sounded like a player that is willing to take his time.

“I would say I’m ready. But that’s ‘cause I’m a freak of nature and I just want to play,” Adebayo said according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. “That’s the bottom line. But I got to take it one day at a time, so I don’t think I’m going to play tomorrow.” Counting Saturday the Heat have two more scrimmages to play, so there’s no reason for either player to rush back. 

Raphielle Johnson
Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.