NBA players have two days remaining to notify their teams if they do not wish to participate in the league’s resumption of the 2019-20 season starting next month. News broke this morning that Davis Bertans has opted out of making the trip to Orlando.
Adrian Wojnarowski, an NBA Insider for ESPN, reported early on Monday via Twitter that the Washington Wizards power forward is going to bypass the unprecedented bubble experiment.
Reporting with @TimBontemps: Washington Wizards F Davis Bertans has decided to sit out the Orlando restart, sources tell ESPN. Bertans is entering free agency off of his most productive NBA season – with two ACL injuries in his past.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 22, 2020
No one should take offense with Bertans’ decision for a host of reasons. As Wojnarowksi reported, Bertans has previously suffered two ACL injuries in his career, and the feeling across the league is that the risk for injury will be elevated in Orlando.
Preceded by a very short training camp, eight regular season “seeding” games will be played in quick succession. Donovan Mitchell, among others, has voiced concerns about injuring himself and jeopardizing his future.
Similar to Mitchell who stands at the precipice of a rich extension this summer, Bertans is in great position to sign on the dotted line for easily the biggest paycheck of his career. Long story short, the 27-year-old doesn’t need to add anything else to his resume in advance of free agency.
Washington’s most profile bomber is coming off the best season of his career where he established himself as a premier threat from three-point range. In addition to a 15.4 points per game average, Bertans knocked down 3.7 threes at a 42.4% clip. Only James Harden, Damian Lillard and Buddy Hield boasted a higher number of makes — but none of them bettered Bertans in the efficiency category.
Before anyone decides to make the argument that Bertans is placing himself ahead of the team, realize the Wizards sit 5.5 games in back of the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference standings. The playoffs are quite the long shot when simply considering a play-in tournament will only trigger if the ninth seed is within four games or closer to the eighth seed.
Bertans sitting out the games in Orlando makes all the sense in the world, but how does his news affect the Pelicans? Well, we must acknowledge that a regular rotation member could decide to skip the bubble despite passing the NBA’s medical questionnaire and the fact New Orleans playoff odds are higher than Washington’s.
Many have contemplated Zion Williamson should avoid resuming action this season because he tore a knee meniscus in October and proceeded to miss around the next three months. However, all indications are that he been able to stay on top of his conditioning throughout the COVID-19 suspension, and Alvin Gentry recently stated on a Zoom video that he doesn’t expect restrictions to be placed on Zion’s availability.
While Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram have dealt with their share of injuries in the past, expectations are their histories should not hold them out of action in Orlando. No, when looking up and down New Orleans roster, one of the veterans feels more apt to stay home for their individual set of reasons.
E’Twaun Moore jumps to mind first as his contract expires at the conclusion of this season plus he endured the most inconsistent role of his career while in New Orleans. Barring a casualty ahead of him on the roster, odds seem low Moore would receive a chance to raise his profile in Orlando.
JJ Redick is the elder statesman of the team at age 35, and while he’s miles from the CDC’s higher-at-risk 65+ age group, his potential for injury may be at higher risk. In addition, he lives in Brooklyn and saw first hand the devastating impact of the COVID-19. Would his family be able to sleep at night soundly knowing he’ll have to spend weeks in Florida, where coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in recent days? Having said that, Redick did sound positive about soon rejoining teammates in New Orleans on his latest podcast.
Derrick Favors is another free agent, but unlike Moore, he proved pivotal to the Pelicans success from mid-December on. While I have doubts he could significantly raise his free agency stock, I do think an appearance in Orlando could cement a decision to re-sign with New Orleans, the Pelicans front office come closer to his agent’s desired ball park figure on a next contract, or both.
Lastly, we come to Jrue Holiday who understands the threat of personal tragedy better than most of his peers. Will Guillory of The Athletic reminded us in today’s wonderful read that Holiday isn’t far removed from the time his wife and daughter faced grave danger. While Lauren and J.T. survived and have gone on to lead healthy lives, Jrue may not be keen to find himself apart from his family for weeks. Plus, we should perhaps factor the potential participation of one of Holiday’s brothers. The Indianapolis Star detailed last week, “Justin Holiday is currently the only potential holdout for the Indiana Pacers.”
While we’ve read and heard around the league to expect the vast majority of players to return, it’s not a given that the Pelicans will travel to Orlando at full strength. In a world where the coronavirus continues to rage at unsettling rates and the fight against social injustice remains of the utmost priority, no one should fault any NBA player for deciding to forgo the resumption of the season inside a bubble not without risk.