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NBA Season Restart Preview: New Orleans faces tough matchup versus Utah

Oct+11%2C+2019%3B+New+Orleans%2C+LA%2C+USA%3B+New+Orleans+Pelicans+guard+Lonzo+Ball+%282%29+drives+against+Utah+Jazz+guard+Donovan+Mitchell+%2845%29+in+the+first+quarter+at+the+Smoothie+King+Center.+Mandatory+Credit%3A+Chuck+Cook-USA+TODAY+Sports
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 11, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) drives against Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) in the first quarter at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst the current pandemic that is going on the National Basketball Association season will restart officially on July 30. A season return is an event that many sports fanatics have been looking forward to since NBA commissioner Adam Silver suspended the season on March 11. 

22 teams were invited to the NBA resort in Orlando, Florida also known as the “bubble” due to the strict protocols to ensure the health and safety of the players and staff are maintained during the durations of their stay with no fans allowed at the games 

Several scrimmages took place between July 22-28 and looked promising despite the players extended period without practices and games giving fans even more excitement and anticipation for the season opener games.  

One of the marquee matchups in the season reopener is the New Orleans Pelicans (28-36) taking on the Utah Jazz (41-23) 

Both teams are coming off a momentous season prior to the suspension. The Pelicans are pushing for the last playoff seed in the Western Conference while the Jazz sit at the fourth seed in the West with a one game lead over the fifth seeded Oklahoma City Thunder and sixth seeded Houston Rockets. 

Youthful Pelicans surge for playoff push 

Starting off the season at 7-23 and without the number one pick in the 2019 NBA draft in Zion Williamson the hopes of the Pelicans making the playoffs were dwindling into being nonexistentFast forward a couple of months later and the team is just three games behind the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) and were gaining traction as a team that could matchup with the first seeded Los Angeles Lakers (49-14) come playoff time. 

A young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Williamson, along with veteran shooter JJ Reddick makes this Pelican team fun to watch especially in transition where it placed fifth in fast break points per game with 17 and fourth in the league in points per game with 116.2. 

Williamson traveled to the bubble with the Pelicans but left July 16th to attend a family emergency and recently returned to the bubble on July 25 and cleared a four-day quarantine upon his return. 

This means that Williamson looks to be available for the July 30th opener but whether he plays versus the Jazz will be a game time decision (https://www.nba.com/pelicans/news/zion-williamson-will-be-game-time-decision-utah-game-thursday). 

After missing the first 44 games of the season the Duke product made an enormous impact as many fans anticipated he would while averaging 23 points per game and six rebounds and shooting 58 percent from the field in just 19 games. 

First year All-star and a leading candidate for the Most Improved Player award and fellow Duke product Brandon Ingram is a unique blend of point guard style playing ability with the size of a powered forward.  

Ingram earned his first all-star selection as the number one scoring choice in the wake of Williamson’s injury absence averaging 24 points per game this season. 

Prior to the season being cut short the Pelicans had a hot hand when it came to three-point shooting.  

Five players in Redick, Ball, IngramJrue Holiday, and Josh Hart all knocked down over 110 treys for the team.  

The Pelicans were the lone team that had players make over 110 threes. This deep shooting threat can help the team tremendously when you combined that with the desire to make its first playoff appearance since the 2017-2018 season.  

Jazz plans to move past soured times 

When the news broke that multiple defensive player of the year and Jazz All-Star Rudy Gobert tested positive for the novel coronavirus it seemed like the basketball world went into shock. Gobert was the first confirmed player to test positive for the virus and soon after fellow teammate and league superstar Donavon Mitchell tested positive as well causing the league to be suspended. 

Mitchell was openly opposed to how Govert handled the severity of the virus and condemned his reckless behavior with Govert carelessly touching microphones in a post-game press conference prior to his confirmed diagnosis 

Mitchell did not speak to Gobert for quite some time, but the Jazz’s biggest superstars have since patched up their relationship and look to capture the franchise’s first championship (https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/jazz/2020/07/25/rudy-gobert-donovan-mitchell-coronavirus-tension/5512454002/). 

Mitchell put on an offensive show prior to the suspension averaging 24 points per game which was in the top 15 of the league 

The Jazz were lights out from three-point range as well averaging 38.3 percent from downtown which was tied for league best.  

Unfortunately for the Jazz it will be without one of its best players and sharpshooter in fifth year small forward Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic suffered a season ending wrist injury back in May. Bogdanovic averaged 20 points per game and 41 percent from three for the Jazz. 

Momentum was on the Jazz’s side as the team won its last five of six games before its season stopped.  

With Gobert and Mitchell and two guards that can be supplying offensive efficiency in Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley who are both averaging close to 15 points per game, this Jazz team has the potential to make a deep playoff run. 

The season restart game for both teams will be broadcasted on TNT at 4:30 p.m. MT. 

Isaiah Ramirez may be reached at [email protected] 

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About the Contributor
Isaiah Ramirez
Isaiah Ramirez is a senior multimedia journalism major at the University of Texas at El Paso. Isaiah has worked for the university’s paper The Prospector since Spring 2018 and has held the position as a sports editor and is currently a reporter at the publication. During the fall semesters he also works as an on-air reporter for Football Friday Nights a weekly radio show showcasing local football games broadcasted by 600 ESPN El Paso. He covers local news as well as local and UTEP sporting events such as football, men’s and women’s basketball, and has covered the annual Hyundai Sun Bowl game and two-time NBA champion Danny Green’s basketball camp here in the Sun City.
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NBA Season Restart Preview: New Orleans faces tough matchup versus Utah