We’re one day away from the NBA restart!
—I like the ‘over’ tomorrow night in the Utah vs. New Orleans game. I played it at 220 Tuesday morning. With Zion Williamson out of quarantine and upgraded to ‘probable,’ the number has moved up to 221.5 at the Westgate SuperBook and 222 at FanDuel. Nevertheless, I’m still endorsing the ‘over’ as long as it doesn’t go higher than 222. If you read my explanation in the link above, you’ll see that the three previous Jazz-Pelicans meetings this season had combined scores of 248, 254 and 270 points. This game tips at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on TNT. New Orleans was a 2.5-point favorite as of early this morning. You can check out all the line moves from this VegasInsider feed.
–Williamson cleared quarantine Tuesday, allowing him to have two practices with the Pelicans before tomorrow’s game.
–In Houston’s 137-112 win over Boston in Tuesday’s scrimmage, Russell Westbrook appeared fine after recovering from COVID-19. The perennial All-Star guard contributed 19 points, six rebounds, one steal and had an 8/4 assist-to-turnover ratio in 26 minutes of play. The UCLA product drained 6-of-10 field-goal attempts and all six of his shots from the charity stripe. James Harden logged 29 minutes, pouring in 35 points, eight boards, six assists, one steal and one block. Harden buried 10-of-16 FGAs and drained 8-of-13 launches from downtown.
–Unfortunately for the Rockets, Eric Gordon injured his ankle Tuesday. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, he’s likely to miss a week or two although more will be known today:
—Michael Frazier II, who was a key player for Florida in its 2014 run to the Final Four, has struggled to make it in the NBA since leaving college one year early after the 2014-15 campaign. He played the first eight games of his NBA career for the Rockets back in January and February. Frazier got 9:50 of run Tuesday vs. Boston, making both of his FGAs to finish with four points, two rebounds and one assist, although he did commit a pair of turnovers.
–The season’s postponement has allowed Portland ‘bigs’ Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic to get healthy. Collins went down injured after playing only three games in October. The former one-and-doner (who I will ALWAYS and FOREVER say would’ve led Gonzaga past North Carolina in the 2017 NCAA Tournament finals if he had not been sent to the bench with foul trouble — and eventually fouled out — on multiple bullshit calls when he was dominating in the lane on both ends) for Mark Few’s program was averaging 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in those three October appearances. Collins had 10 points (4-of-4 FGAs), three rebounds and three assists and even knocked down a pair of 3-balls in Tuesday’s 131-120 loss to Oklahoma City. The 7-foot Nurkic had a helluva 2018-19 season before sustaining a season-ending injury a week or two before the playoffs started. That same injury kept him on the sidelines for the Trail Blazers’ entire year thus far. He’s ready now, though, and had five points, five boards, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 15:54 of playing time yesterday. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum did not play (rest).
–In the second game of Thursday’s TNT doubleheader at 9:00 p.m. ET., most books had the Lakers as 4.5-point ‘chalk’ vs. the Clippers as of this morning. The total was 216.5 points. FanDuel and the Westgate had the Lakers at -4. Lou Williams is ‘out,’ in addition to Montrezl Harrell, who averages 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game. Williams averages 18.7 points, 5.7 assists and 3.1 RPG. Like Williams and Harell, Patrick Beverley left the bubble last week for an excused family matter. He has returned but is still ‘questionable’ vs. the Lakers. Beverley, one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders, averages 7.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.1 SPG. Reserve guard Landry Shamet (9.7 PPG), who was late arriving in Orlando while recovering from COVID-19, has been upgraded to ‘probable.’ For the Lakers, Avery Bradley (personal) is out for the season, Rajon Rondo is ‘out’ until at least late August and Anthony Davis (eye) is ‘probable.’
–Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported Tuesday that Harrell is still away due to a family situation, and when he’ll return to Orlando is unknown. Haynes reported that his sources told him that Harrell has tested negative for COVID-19 every day since leaving the bubble last week.
–By the way (in reference to Lou Williams here), Smith’s Olde Bar has the best lemon pepper wings in Atlanta.
–There’s a five-game NBA slate on Friday, including a pair of afternoon tilts tipping at 4:00 p.m. ET. Portland is a two-point ‘chalk’ vs. Memphis, and Phoenix is a seven-point favorite vs. Washington in the early games. Remember, the Wizards are without Bradley Beal, John Wall, Davis Bertans and Ish Smith. The Suns won’t have Frank Kaminsky, Cameron Johnson, Kelly Oubre and Aron Baynes. The Trail Blazers will be missing Trevor Ariza and Rodney Hood, while the Grizzlies won’t have Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen.
–Former five-star recruit Khalan Laborn was dismissed from the FSU football program Tuesday for an unspecified violation of team rules. The running back out of Virginia Beach, VA., took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2017. Then he played in only two games, returning three kickoffs for 64 yards and making one 37-yard reception, due to a season-ending injury in 2018. As a third-year sophomore in 2019, Laborn had 297 rushing yards, four TDs and a 4.7 yards-per-carry average. He also had 10 catches for 66 yards. Laborn’s departure leaves the Seminoles thin on depth and experience in the backfield. Mike Norvell will look to Jashaun Corbin and Deonte’ Sheffield for increased playing time. Corbin is a transfer from Texas A&M who had three starts and 483 (5.0 YPC) rushing yards in two years with the Aggies. Sheffield had 135 rushing yards, one TD and a 5.0 YPC average on 27 carries last season.
–Six New England Patriots, including three starters, have decided not to play in the 2020 season. The big news Tuesday was LB Dont’a Hightower opting out. His reasons are completely understandable, as his child was born July 16 and the mother suffers from diabetes. According to an agreement reached by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, players who are considered high risk for COVID-19 can opt out and still earn a $350,000 salary. That’s still a big paycut for Hightower, who was due to make $8 million in 2020. Hightower has played all eight seasons with New England since the club made him its first-round pick with the No. 25 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. He has 314 career solo tackles, 191 assists, 25.5 sacks, five fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and one interception in 102 games. Hightower is a big-time winner, collecting a pair of national titles in 2009 and 2011 at Alabama. He’s a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots and has been to a pair of Pro Bowls. Safety Patrick Chung and OT Marcus Cannon are the other starters who are out for 2020. Also, New England FB Danny Vitale, RB Brandon Bolden and OL Najee Toran are opting out.
–Jacksonville OT Jawaan Taylor was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday. Players are put on the list if they’ve tested positive or are in quarantine. Taylor, the Jags’ second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, started all 16 games as a rookie.
—Dana Stubblefield, who spent most of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, was a first-round pick and three-time Pro-Bowler as a defensive lineman. He was convicted of rape Monday and is facing 15 years to life in prison.
–Here’s the latest on ex-Arizona LB Tony Fields:
–Iowa’s men’s basketball team has paused its offseason workouts after two players tested positive for COVID-19. Both players have been quarantined since getting their positive tests Monday. The Hawkeyes will be Final Four contenders this upcoming season IF center Luka Garza, who many have predicted as the preseason National Player of the Year, returns for his senior season. Garza has until Monday to pull out of the NBA Draft.
–Missouri got great news last week when three of its players — Xavier Pinson, Mitchell Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon — withdrew from the NBA Draft.
–MLB announced Tuesday that all of the Miami Marlins’ games are postponed through Sunday due to the COVID-19 breakout on their team.
—Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje is official for UFC 255 on Oct. 24. Since I published this yesterday, the odds at BetOnline for a potential Khabib-GSP fight have moved. Nurmagomedov is now -250, with St. Pierre as a +210 underdog.
–Wednesday’s Nuggette is Oksana Rykova. Have a good one, ya’ll!