With all 22 teams having arrived in Orlando, the return of the NBA season is closer than ever. Just two weeks remain until Re-opening Night, when we're served a Jazz-Pelicans and Lakers-Clippers doubleheader to begin the eight-game finish to the regular season.
While some notable players are yet to enter the bubble, all teams have begun practicing over the last week. In the coming days, teams will partake in a set of scrimmages preceding the games that will actually count.
As July 30 nears, here are the news items worth tracking this week:
Victor Oladipo: 'Strong possibility' he'll play in restart
After initially ruling himself out, Oladipo has reversed course in recent days, and he's now trending toward returning to action in Orlando. Oladipo made his season debut back in January but mostly struggled through 13 appearances, shooting just 39.1 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three.
No official decision has been made, but Oladipo is on the Pacers' official roster, so his status could he handled on a game-to-game basis – much like it was prior to the shutdown.
"I feel like if my body keeps trending and the situation keeps trending up, there's a strong possibility that I might play. So, I'm definitely trying to," Oladipo said Wednesday. "I'm definitely here trying to play and training myself in order to prepare to play. I guess I'm going to have to make set decision so you all can write it. 'He's actually playing.' But right now I'm definitely coming in and I'm trying to play. There's no definite answer, but I'm trending upward. Hopefully when it comes time to make that decision, it will be easy to make."
Fox to miss at least a week
There's been very little chatter about the Kings, who enter Orlando with nearly the exact same record as the Pelicans and Trail Blazers. Sacramento will have an opportunity to chase the eighth seed, but the Kings will be without their best player for the next 7-to-10 days. Assuming that timetable holds up, Fox should be back in time for the team's first seeding game on Jul. 31 against San Antonio.
Jonathan Isaac nearing return?
Isaac hasn't played since injuring his knee in January, but he joined the team in Orlando, and it's looking increasingly possible that he could make his return at some point. However, a decision likely won't come until next month.
The Magic are in great position to hold on to a playoff spot, but even so it's fair to question whether bringing Isaac back for a matchup against Milwaukee or Toronto would ultimately be worth it. In 32 games, Isaac averaged 12.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.4 blocks.
Oubre contemplating return from knee injury
Sidelined since February with a torn meniscus, Oubre's status has been in limbo for the last few weeks. The Suns denied a report in June that he'd been ruled out for the restart, and while Oubre joined the team in Orlando, his status is still very much up in the air. He appears to be fully recovered, physically, but is still dealing with the mental barriers of returning from a knee injury.
"For me it's a mental thing," Oubre said. "Mentally, it's a lot thrown at me in a short amount of time for me to get out there and resume high-level playing as everybody expects of me. I understand a lot of people want to see me play, but at the end of the day, you'd rather see Kelly Oubre come (back) on top of his game than Kelly Oubre being mediocre."
Simmons working at power forward
On the surface, this is somewhat surprising, but Simmons has spent his fair share of time off the ball since arriving in Philadelphia. Defensively, Simmons can guard four positions, so moving him up to the nominal power forward spot enables the Sixers to put another shooter on the floor.
As of this week, Shake Milton appears to be the player set to benefit most, while Brett Brown looks to be keeping Al Horford in a bench role. A second-year guard out of SMU, Milton averaged 17.8 points (on 57% shooting), 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals over the Sixers' final nine games before the shutdown. Simmons missed eight of those games with a back injury.
Fultz arrives in Orlando
A late arrival to the bubble, Fultz will remain in quarantine for several days before being cleared to practice and scrimmage with the team. He's a few days behind, but all signs point to Fultz being available when the seeding games begin.
Schroder bracing to leave bubble
Schroder's wife is expected to give birth to the couple's second child in early-August, so Schroder will likely miss several seeding games, and his absence could extend into the postseason. The Sixth Man of the Year candidate is in the midst of the best season of his career. Through 63 games, he averaged 19.0 points, 4.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds, while shooting career-bests from the field (46.8%) and from three (38.1%).
Farewell, Michael Beasley
Looking back, it all seemed too good to be true. With virtually the entire Nets' roster opting out of the restart, Beasley was poised to play serious minutes for a team in playoff position. Alas, the former No. 2 pick left the bubble on Wednesday, and on Thursday we learned that he will not return.
Zion leaves the bubble (temporarily)
Few details have emerged, but Williamson departed Orlando on Thursday morning due to a family matter. When he returns, he'll be subject to another quarantine period, so depending on how long he's away, Williamson could end up missing seeding games.
Harden back at practice
Another late arrival to Orlando, Harden went through his first practice with the Rockets on Thursday. Houston is still without Russell Westbrook, who tested positive for COVID-19, but he's expected to join the team within the next week.
Jokic joins Nuggets
The slightly-less-big man's arrival was delayed by a positive COVID-19 test, as well as international travel issues, but he reported to the team on Tuesday and should have plenty of time to get acclimated before Denver begins play on Aug. 1 against Miami.
Spurs lose Trey Lyles
This was already shaping up to be a rough restart for the Spurs, and they received more bad injury news Wednesday night. Without both Lyles and LaMarcus Aldridge (shoulder), San Antonio's depth will be tested. Jakob Poeltl and Rudy Gay now project to start up front, with Tyler Zeller, Drew Eubanks, Chimizie Metu, and Luka Samanic available off the bench. Shoutout to the Austin Spurs.
Thomas Bryant joins the Wizards
The big man is fully recovered from a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, but he'll remain in quarantine before officially rejoining the team. Given the current state of the Wizards' depth chart – which you can view here (make sure to use an incognito window) – Bryant may very well be their best player available.
Jabari Parker practicing with Kings
Parker tested positive for COVID-19 back in June, but he's fully recovered and is on track to be available for the Kings' first seeding game on July 31. The Kings are Parker's fifth team in three years. He saw action in only one game for Sacramento during the regular season (Feb. 20 vs. MEM), and he's played in just two NBA games since Christmas Day.