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The NBA is still planning on restarting in late July, with playoffs set to begin Aug. 17

PMG FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Can the Trail Blazers be a factor in the restarted NBA season with the return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins?The NBA season is scheduled to restart July 30 at Wide World of Sports Resort at Orlando, Florida, but many issues remain before we see players on the court.

The two-pronged issue of physical health because of the COVID-19 pandemic and mental health because of the distressing social justice happenings have some players questioning whether to resume the season.

Then you have the motivation factor. Other than Olympians and national team members, players usually take off July to early October from organized practice and competition, and now many of them basically will be quarantined — albeit at a resort — for up to 2 1/2 months. And, there'll be no fans.

Portland's Trevor Ariza opted out of playing in the restarted season, citing family reasons.

And, who realistically has a shot to win the NBA title?

The Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Clippers in the Western Conference and Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference would enter the restarted season with the best records. They're the favorites; maybe half of the 22 teams have a realistic shot at making the conference finals.

But given the unprecedented nature of the restarted season, why couldn't a Portland Trail Blazers team be a factor in the West? They have two big men coming back (Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins), a star yearning for a championship (Damian Lillard) and players who understand that the team came one step away from the NBA Finals in 2019.

"I don't feel 100% (about the restart), but it's a risk that I'm willing to take," Lillard told ESPN recently. "This is what we do. This is our job. This is how we take care of our families. It's also my way of providing for communities."

As far as returning amid the ongoing social justice movement, Lillard said it would be better to play to help people than not play.

So, it should be an interesting month of July to see what happens.

Here's the timetable for the NBA season:

July 1-9, individual workouts; July 7-9, arriving at Disney campus; July 21-22, intersquad scrimmages; July 30-Aug. 14, seeding games; Aug. 15-16, two-game play-in series for No. 8 seed, if necessary; Aug. 17, playoffs begin; Aug. 30, family members/guests allowed on Disney campus; Aug. 31-Sept. 13, conference semifinals; Sept. 15-28, conference finals; Sept. 30-Oct. 13, NBA Finals.

— Jason Vondersmith


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