The NBA is back!
For the first time in 127 days, NBA teams will play against each other on Wednesday as four scrimmages are on the schedule. Per the NBA, games from July 22-24 will be 40-minute games with four 10-minute quarters and normal game-presentation elements will be reduced until the "seeding games" begin.
In order to help get you set, here's a quick primer with the top storyline for each team.
Magic vs Clippers - 3 ET
Orlando Magic: Eye on the 7-seed
Playing in their own backyard, the Magic were starting to play really well prior to the season's suspension as they went 8-4 over their final 12 games. During that stretch, the Magic had the No. 1 offence in the entire league! They enter the restart 0.5 games back of the Brooklyn Nets for the 7-seed in the Eastern Conference.
LA Clippers: Health of Kawhi and PG
Speaking of clicking on all cylinders, the Clippers had the NBA's best scoring margin post-All-Star break and were starting to hit their stride following the acquisition of Marcus Morris. The extended time off afforded Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to rest up and get as healthy as possible for what many presume to be an extended run. This could be the healthiest we've seen the Clippers all season long.
Wizards vs Nuggets - 3:30 ET
Washington Wizards: No Beal, no Bertans
The Wizards face a monumental task to fight their way into the playoff picture without their two leading scorers. Currently 5.5 games back of eighth, the Wizards need to make it within four games to force a play-in situation. They'll have to do it without both Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans, neither of whom are playing in Orlando.
Denver Nuggets: New-look Jokic
Of all the players sporting a new physique post-suspension, none is generating as much attention as Nikola Jokic who looks slim, lean and ready to rock. It will be interesting to see what if any effect Jokic's new look has on his game. Denver coach Mike Malone isn't the least bit concerned.
"He looks great, but I think people are missing a major point here. Nikola had dedicated the last three months prior to the season being suspended to losing weight and getting into the best shape of his life. I expect him to play the way how he was playing prior to the league being suspended and come out and play at a very high level. He's the best center in the NBA, why wouldn't he?"
Pelicans vs Nets - 7 ET
New Orleans Pelicans: Status of Zion
The show-stopping rookie left the Orlando bubble to tend to a private family matter and while he's expected to return, the status of Williamson casts more doubt on the Pelicans' chances of catching the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed (or forcing a play-in). The Pelicans have the NBA's easiest schedule during the eight-game restart and FiveThirtyEight gives them a 45% chance of making the playoffs.
Brooklyn Nets: Who is playing again?
No Kevin Durant. No Kyrie Irving. No Spender Dinwiddie. No DeAndre Jordan. No Taurean Prince. No Wilson Chandler. No Nicolas Claxton.
It's going to be a lot of Caris LeVert and Joe Harris for the Nets who are right now clinging on to the 7-seed in the East. One name to keep an eye on? Jamal Crawford. Although he hasn't played yet this season, Crawford signed with the Nets to help make up for the players who will not be playing in Orlando. The last time we saw Crawford, he dropped 51.
Kings vs Heat - 8 ET
Sacramento Kings: Will De'Aaron Fox recover in time?
The Kings are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Whether or not they can claw back in it likely depends on the health of De'Aaron Fox who suffered an ankle injury in practice in Orlando. It's the same ankle that Fox injured earlier this season which caused him to miss 17 games. At the time of the injury, the Kings announced that Fox would be re-evaluated in 7-10 days, a timeline that presses up to the start of the season. Sacramento's first game is July 31 against the San Antonio Spurs.
Miami Heat: Welcome back!
The Heat are getting reinforcements back in the form of Meyers Leonard and Tyler Herro. Leonard started 49 games for the Heat prior to sustaining an ankle injury on February 3 and hasn't played since. Herro, who got injured in the same game as Leonard, is averaging 12.9 points per game on 39.1 percent shooting from 3. They provide Miami a valuable boost as the Heat look to emerge as a darkhorse contender in the East.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.