Williamson is the darling -- he'll be one of the cover athletes of the "NBA 2K" video game series next season -- and his Pelicans are regarded as the favorites to eventually win that final playoff spot. That's how he hopes things play out.
"We're trying to make a playoff push," Williamson said. "And we're trying to get back into our full game condition within those eight games."
Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks will be in the playoffs barring a meltdown in the eight seeding games. Despite traveling home during the shutdown, Doncic said he never considered sitting out the opportunity to finish the season.
"I never hesitated," said Doncic, the rookie of the year last season. "I always wanted to play. I missed basketball a lot. ... There was no question about me."
Somewhat forgotten in this is Morant, the front-runner for this season's rookie of the year, who led the Grizzlies into the No. 8 spot in a remarkable turnaround for a franchise that appeared to be headed for a long rebuild. The break, like it did for everyone, allowed Morant to get healthier -- putting Memphis in a good spot.
"I took it as an opportunity to get better, even if I didn't know how it would play out," he said.
Luka Doncic handles the ball for the Dallas Mavericks on March 11, 2020.
Second-year star Luka Doncic will reach his first playoffs unless things go very wrong for the Mavericks in the eight seeding games.(Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)
"... I feel like I'm in more shape, my knee is feeling way better, no pain or anything. Actually feel like I'm leaving the floor easier and jumping higher. I've just been taking this time to focus on my body and make sure everything is good, so when it's time to go out and play I'll be fine."
With so much uncertain about what the games will look like and with no one knowing for sure which teams were most benefited, or hurt, by the stoppage of the season, maybe a team led by one of the league's young stars can pull off an upset.
All three seem capable.
"We'll see what happens in Orlando," Doncic said.
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