Toronto has long craved the media attention worthy of a perennial playoff contender in a world-class city. Milwaukee, like so many small-market NBA towns, always jockeys for moments in the spotlight. Monday was supposed to fulfill those wishes for at least one night, when the Raptors and Bucks are scheduled to play in the league’s first-ever game between two unbeatens with 6-0 records or better.
But circumstances closed the curtains on Monday’s main event before the show even opened, as both team’s MVP candidates were ruled out within mere moments in the hours before the marquee game.
First came a tweet from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, sharing Toronto’s announcement that newly acquired All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard would rest Monday for the second time in just seven games:
Toronto is resting Kawhi Leonard for tonight's game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 29, 2018
Fifteen minutes later, the Bucks announced, via ESPN’s Malika Andrews, that their counter to Leonard, All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, would also miss Monday’s game due to a concussion:
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been placed in NBA’s concussion protocol and will not play tonight against Toronto.
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) October 29, 2018
The timing of Leonard’s rest was somewhat surprising, considering the ratings potential for Monday’s game, but it did not come as a complete shock, given that Leonard missed all but nine games last season with a lingering quadriceps injury and the Raptors play another high-profile game against the Philadelphia 76ers at home on Tuesday. Toronto must protect its best asset, and the city needs as many opportunities as possible to shower Leonard with praise before he becomes a free agent in July.
News of Antetokounmpo’s is slightly more alarming. He suffered a blow to the head against the Orlando Magic and underwent league-mandated neurological testing during the game, only to be cleared to return to action with a head contusion on Saturday night. Antetokounmpo complained of a lingering headache on Monday and entered NBA concussion protocol, according to a team statement.
Not only will Antetokounmpo miss Monday’s game, the hurdles required to exit NBA concussion protocol put his status for Thursday’s nationally televised meeting with the Boston Celtics in doubt.
If there was anything to glean from a handful of star-studded matchups between the Eastern Conference elite, those takeaways will have to wait until the teams can meet at full strength. To expect anything else in early October was maybe wishful thinking on the part of Milwaukee and Toronto.
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