It has been just over four months since Bahamian professional basketball players Chavano “Buddy” Hield and DeAndre Ayton played a regular season game in the National Basketball Association (NBA). That is about to change for both players as they prepare for game action today.
Ayton and the Phoenix Suns will be up first when they look to get a win over the Washington Wizards. That game will be played at 4 p.m. Hield and the Sacramento Kings will play a crucial game against a conference foe, the San Antonio Spurs, who are also fighting for the eighth seed in the Western Conference of the NBA. That game will get underway at 8 p.m.
Bahamian sharp shooter Hield missed some time in training camp before the scrimmage games started last week. He told reporters on Wednesday that he feels conditioned heading into the match-up tonight.
“I feel I am there now. Of course, preseason (scrimmage) is different form a real game,” Hield said. “The anxiety and the mental preparation is different but we will go out there and just compete. I am ready to go out there and compete for everything we worked for. When my number gets called, I will go out there and produce for my team. The goal is to take threes and score as [many] points as I can score or get my teammates involved as much as I can and play on both sides of the floor.”
The Kings sit tied for 10th in the Western Conference with a 28-36 win/loss record – three and a half games behind the 32-33 Memphis Grizzlies who occupy the eighth and final spot in the west. Sitting six games behind the Grizzles at 26-29 are the Suns.
If the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, no play-in tournament would be necessary. The final playoff berth would simply go to the team with the eighth-best record, regular season games plus seeding games, in the conference. There are just eight seeding games remaining for each team.
If the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, then there will be a battle for the final spot between those two teams.
The tournament would be a two-game series, where the number nine seed would have to win two head-to-head match-ups to take over the number eight spot. If the number eight seed wins just one of the two games, they advance to the playoffs. The playoffs will take the traditional format.
Both the Kings and the Suns will have to get close to an unblemished record in order to get a chance to advance to the playoffs.
The Kings had a 1-2 record during the scrimmage portion of the restart over the past week. Held, the 2020 Mountain Dew Three-Point Champion, said that he and his teammates have switched it on and are ready to go out there and compete.
“The guys have picked up the intensity level. I think we are competing now, and we know what is at stake. It’s an eight-game tournament and every game is serious so we have to go out there and compete every possession… We are going to try be mistake-free and play Kings basketball. Every game we are going to try win,” said Hield.
The Suns had a better scrimmage portion, winning two games and losing one. Ayton had a quiet scrimmage experience, but he is looking forward to the restart, particularly after missing 25 games due to a violation of the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Anti-Drug Program this season when he tested positive for a diuretic.
During the scrimmage games, the big man flashed a little of his arsenal when he went a perfect 2-for-2 from three-point territory. He is averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds per game – both career highs. He is also averaging a career-high in blocks at 1.7 per contest. Ayton became the fastest Suns player to reach 1,000 rebounds in team history.
Hield is averaging 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. The Grand Bahamian has connected on 244 three-point shots this season, second in the league, and 34 three-pointers shy of his career-high and franchise record of 278 from a year ago. The 278 threes was the seventh most prolific shooting performance from downtown in NBA history in a season. Hield is also the fastest player in league history to reach 800 made three-pointers. He accomplished that in 296 games.
Players from the 22 teams selected for the NBA restart are housed in a bubble at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida as the league enforces strict COVID-19 prevention protocols. They are away from their family and friends as they look to complete the 2019-2020 season. Hield is away from his toddler daughter and says it is not only difficult for him but for everyone.
“It is something that nobody has been through before and we have to adjust but it is life. We are blessed to be here,” he said. “We may not get to see our families, but we get to provide for them, giving them food on the table and a roof over their heads and that is the main point. I am thankful to God for this opportunity to resume the NBA season, so we are able to make money to help our families. It sucks right now but it will all be better in the long run.”
After today, Hield and the Kings will return to the court on Sunday to play the Orlando Magic. The Suns’ next match-up will be against the Dallas Mavericks at 9 p.m. on Sunday.
Jump Line – Both players will be back in action on Sunday