One more day. After a 20-week absence, the NBA is ready to restart its season. Eight teams, including the Warriors, have been left behind, leaving 22 squads to spend 16 days wrestling for berths and seeding in the playoffs.
Or, more accurately, 10 teams sprinting toward the final four spots, two in each conference.
We don't know how the game will look once the ball goes up, but there will be suspense.
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Here are five players, in alphabetical order, worth watching between the start of the seeding games Thursday and the conclusion on Aug. 14.
How good will he look? And how much can he contribute? It was 16 months ago that the "Bosnian Beast" sustained a compound fracture of his left leg.
His return, along with the presence of Hassan Whiteside, gives Portland two legitimate centers. Their skills are such that coach Terry Stotts is showing a willingness to play them together, with Nurkic sliding over to power forward in a jumbo lineup.
There has been no talk of limiting Nurk's minutes, but also no need to push him.
The Blazers, 3.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, must fight to get into the postseason. Don't count them out. Carmelo Anthony is in terrific condition. Zach Collins is back after a nine-month absence. If Nurkic can make an impact, it will be tough to keep Portland from advancing.
Though he was, unquestionably, Indiana's top player when he went down 18 months ago with a ruptured quadriceps tendon in his right knee, it's unfair to expect him to regain that distinction.
If he's close, though, the Pacers are a "dark-horse" candidate for the Eastern Conference finals. Malcolm Brogdon is superb at both ends. Myles Turner is as skilled as any center in the East not named Joel Embiid. And T.J. Warren should be on any list of underappreciated scorers.
Initially unsure about returning, Oladipo put in 28 minutes in the final scrimmage Tuesday. He's moving well but he's clearly rusty. If he can donate 25 quality minutes and show leadership, it will give his teammates a lift. They sorely need one after losing big man Domantas Sabonis, who could miss the reset with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Ben Simmons, 76ers In three scrimmages, he shot 50 from deep! It's a new Benji! The NBA had better ... hide?
Much like Nurkic and Oladipo, the game's biggest point guard (listed position) -- he's expected to play power forward -- is coming off injury. Simmons' back ailment, which cost him the final three weeks of the truncated season, was not nearly as devastating.
Simmons always has had all the goods, except a reliable jumper. He has spent much of his four-month recovery, the last three because of the Covid-19 pandemic, working on his J.
Philly might be the most dangerous club in the East. Boom-or-bust, and they know that Simmons is pivotal. If he makes shots, that changes everything for a talented team on the hot seat.
Oh, and that dazzling 50-percent from deep? Simmons made 1-of-2.
Fred VanVleet, Raptors
That's where VanVleet comes in. He's the X-factor. He was their best 3-point shooter in the 2019 Finals, shooting 40 percent against the Warriors. He'll need to be at least that good to aid in a repeat.
Moreover, VanVleet is a pest when defensively engaged, just a guy when he's not. We suspect he'll want to find his inner pest because unrestricted free agency and potential jackpot deal will be waiting in October.
Visions of dollar signs lead some astray, others to riches.
By essentially trading Kyrie Irving for Walker, the Boston Celtics by all accounts improved their team chemistry. They now have the unity required to win a championship.
But do they have the gifts to overtake the likes of the Raptors and maybe even the Milwaukee Bucks?
Walker has waited nine years -- his entire NBA career -- for a real chance at The Finals. And now he's limping into the postseason on the same gimpy left knee that has plagued him since February. Coach Brad Stevens already has uttered two words neither Celtics fans nor Walker want to hear: Minutes restriction.
No matter what Boston gets from Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart, there is no chance of reaching The Finals without an effective Kemba.
Honorable mentions: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder), Bol Bol (Denver Nuggets), Robert Covington (Houston Rockets), Goran Dragic (Miami Heat) and Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans).
Ben Simmons, four other NBA players to watch as season resumes originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area