NBA shutdown allowed many in league unexpected time to heal

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FILE - In this March 23, 2019, file photo, Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, right, shoots as Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore. Jusuf Nurkic is back and healthy. So are Zach Collins, Meyers Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and plenty of others. If the four-month NBA shutdown had a silver lining, its that a lot of ailing players got well. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola, File)

Portland guard Damian Lillard was in the gym a few days ago and took notice of what injured Trail Blazers big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins were doing during their individual workouts.

That’s when he realized a bright side of the NBA’s coronavirus shutdown.

The injured guys weren’t injured anymore.

Plenty of aches and pains around the NBA have healed in the almost-four-month span since the league had to suspend its season because of the pandemic, which means the 22 teams that will be arriving at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida next week should be coming in with mostly healthy rosters.

Keeping players healthy once they get to Disney will be another challenge, as workloads ramp up quickly for the July 30 resumption of games — but, at least at the start of camps for the resumed season, rosters will be deeper than they were when the league shut down on March 11.

“I hate to even use that term, like a ‘silver lining’ came out of this because this is something that nobody ever predicted,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And it’s hard to say good things came from it.”

Fact is, though, some good things have emerged on the injury fronts. After 60 or 65 games, most players were likely dealing with some sort of aches-and-pains issue anyway.

Miami’s Meyers Leonard was in a race against time just to get back for what would have been the April start of the playoffs after a horrifically bad sprained ankle, and Heat rookie Tyler Herro had been out with another ankle issue. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was dealing with a slight knee sprain when the season was suspended. Dallas’ Kristaps Porzingis was getting some occasional maintenance days for his surgically repaired knee.