The Utah Jazz said guard Mike Conley left Walt Disney World on Sunday to return to Columbus, Ohio, for the birth of his son.
The sixth-seeded Jazz begin a first-round playoff series against No. 3 seed Denver on Monday. Players who leave the bubble are subject to a quarantine upon their return, though the length won't be determined until then.
It’s a blow to a Jazz team already missing Bojan Bogdanovic, who underwent right wrist surgery in May. Denver and Utah are also scheduled to play Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.
The 32-year-old Conley is averaging 14.4 points and 4.4 assists in his first season with Utah. He was acquired as part of a deal with Memphis on July 6, 2019.
Finally, it’s playoff season
The restart gets real now.
The NBA playoffs will start Monday, the beginning of a two-month journey to see which team will be able to say it won a championship. It would come in the most unusual, most trying season the league has ever seen because of a shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic and 22 teams eventually moving into a so-called bubble at the Disney complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to salvage the season.
“This is why we got here, why we worked so hard, why everyone put their egos aside and put their effort into this, so we could get to that point where we could crown a champion,” said guard Kyle Lowry of the defending champion Toronto Raptors. “The best part of the NBA season is the playoffs.”
The Raptors are back, with realistic aspirations to repeat their title. The Eastern Conference field also includes the Bucks, who posted the best regular-season record for the second consecutive year and have MVP finalist in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In the Western Conference, for the first time since 2015, the Warriors won’t be going to the NBA Finals — their gap year, so to speak, meant they fell to the bottom of the West as they look to reset with a healthy Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson next season, possibly with the No. 1 overall draft pick as well.
LeBron James is back in the playoffs, after taking the Lakers — who couldn’t get to the postseason in his injury-marred first year in Hollywood — to the best record in the West. He’s gone to the NBA Finals in each of his last eight postseason trips; four with Miami, then four more with Cleveland.
“We’ve been through a lot this year,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters last week. “But really, all of it is just a build-up to us . . . going into the playoffs. So we’re here, we’re excited about it and confident in what we can accomplish.”
The matchups: Bucks-Magic, Raptors-Nets, Celtics-Sixers, and Pacers-Heat in the East, with the Lakers against play-in game winner Portland, the Clippers against the Mavericks, Nuggets-Jazz, and Rockets-Thunder.
Some of those clubs can say they are happy to be in the postseason. For others, only a title will do.
“I didn’t mention that we secured the 2 seed,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t think anybody in the locker room talked about it. We really don’t care. Like, we want to win it all. ... That’s the only thing that matters right now for us.”
Teams have been in the bubble for nearly six weeks now, first for a couple weeks of training camp, then three scrimmages followed by eight seeding games that were critical to some clubs and little more than tuneups to others.
There’s no travel in these playoffs, obviously. It’ll be 16 teams, with games limited to two arenas at Disney. For the first round, it’ll be four games per day at each site, meaning drama will begin in the early afternoon and continue until late in the evening.