After being suspended for nearly two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA announced last week that the league would return to play with games tentatively set to start on July 31st.
22 of the 30 NBA teams will head to Orlando, giving all the teams that are still mathematically eligible a chance to still make the playoffs.
Two of the teams currently on the outside but looking to steal the eighth seed are the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs. But it appears the Spurs will not pose as big of a threat to the Blazers as we thought.
It was announced by the Spurs on Monday that star power forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
The Spurs today announced that LaMarcus Aldridge had a surgical procedure performed on his right shoulder, which will cause him to miss the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season.— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) June 8, 2020
MORE: https://t.co/wFM31GwLjq pic.twitter.com/kwfI6hVdXU
According to the official press release, Aldridge initially injured his shoulder against Utah on February 21st and underwent the procedure, officially an "arthroscopic subacromial decompression and rotator cuff debridement on his right shoulder" on April 24th.
Disappointed I won't get to finish the season with my teammates, but excited that I'll be fully ready to go next season and beyond. - LaMarcus Aldridge
When the season was suspended on March 11, the Blazers held just a half-game lead over the Spurs, while sitting 3.5 games back from the No.8 Memphis Grizzlies.
To have a chance to make the playoffs, Portland has to finish in ninth place and be no more than four games behind the Grizzlies. The teams battling with them for that spot are the Spurs, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, and Sacramento Kings.
With Aldridge sitting out, it's one less team for Portland to worry about... or is it?
The schedule for the 8-game seeding phase has yet to be released, but will be based on what was the team's remaining schedule on March 11th.
It will be interesting to see what the NBA's eight-game slate looks like. While Portland didn't have a game remaining against the Spurs, San Antonio did have three games against New Orleans, two games against Sacramento, and one game against Memphis remaining on their schedule.
If the NBA keeps these games on the schedule, it would be easier for the Pelicans and Kings to gain ground or create space between themselves and Portland.
Of the 16 games Portland had remaining at that time, two of them were to be against the Grizzlies. While 11 were to be against the current top eight teams in the east and the west. They had no remaining games against the Spurs, Suns, Pelicans, or Kings.
Aldridge missing the remainder of the season adds a very interesting little wrinkle to NBA's return, to say the least.
The race to the finish is going to be intense.
Be sure to check out the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.