PHOENIX — In the most important games of this NBA season, COVID-19 continues to make its impact felt.
The Milwaukee Bucks will be without reserve forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocol before Game 5 of the finals on Saturday. The NBA also announced that Sean Wright wouldn’t be able to officiate due to the league’s health and safety protocols.
Wright was replaced by James Williams.
The loss of Antetokounmpo doesn’t have an impact on the Bucks rotation; he has played 45 minutes in 13 playoff games. The main concern is whether Thanasis’ absence will impact his brother, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The siblings are very close.
“Certainly those two guys’ connection and the closeness, everybody knows it,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “But you know, I think we’re all good. We’re all ready. Ready to go.”
Budenholzer also said that the Bucks won’t have a full staff on the bench for Game 5, though he didn’t specify who would miss the game.
The NBA is trying to get through the finals without a major COVID-19 outbreak as cases are rising throughout most of the country and the world. Suns point guard Chris Paul missed the first two games of the Western Conference finals against the LA Clippers because he was in the league’s protocol.
“I think the health and safety protocols are on the front of everybody’s minds right now,” Budenholzer said. “I think we’re in a good place and ready to go.”
DIVERSITY HIRES ‘REALLY COOL’
Suns coach Monty Williams said Saturday that he’s pleased a handful of Black head coaches have been hired around the NBA over the past few weeks.
Top Suns assistant Willie Green could be joining that group soon: His name has been linked to the New Orleans Pelicans job over the past few days.
“I think the last few weeks have been really cool in that regard,” Williams said. “The way I look at it is I just wanted everybody to have the same opportunities to get a job and I just think it’s important that African Americans, white, brown, it doesn’t matter, I just wish that every team would have a lengthy process so that guys would get the experience, that’s how I view it.”
RETURN OF THE JABBAWOCKEEZ
The Jabbawockeez were set to dance again on a big NBA stage in Phoenix.
It would be hard to top their All-Star Game performance in 2009, they won’t get an assist from Shaquille O’Neal this time around.
The dance crew was scheduled to perform Saturday at halftime of Game 5. Their performance 12 years earlier was before the game, during the introduction of the starting lineups.
O’Neal, then playing for the Suns, came out in his All-Star warmup outfit and white mask and danced with them in the highlight of the night.
O’Neal went on to share MVP award honors that night with Kobe Bryant in their first time playing together since they were Lakers teammates.
FACES IN THE CROWD
Among the celebrities in the crowd on Saturday night were singer/songwriter Adele, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, LeBron James, rapper Lil Wayne and Vanessa Hudgens, who was scheduled to sing the pregame national anthem.
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