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UConn in the Bubble: Kemba, Rudy, and Shabazz have sights set on playoffs

A look at the games ahead for UConn’s professional alumni.

2020 NBA Restart - All Access Practice
Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics smiles during practice as part of the NBA Restart. (David Sherman - NBAE via Getty Images)
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

With preseason scrimmages completed and meaningful games beginning tonight, the NBA restart in Walt Disney World, Florida is in full swing, ready to help provide a welcome reprieve from reality outside the bubble. This is the perfect time to check in with UConn products in the NBA, many of which still have a lot to play for this season.

There are 22 teams vying for playoff spots in the remaining eight games of the year and four of those teams have UConn men’s basketball alumni amongst their ranks. NBA bubble season is a upon us, so let’s take a look and see what’s coming up for the former Huskies.


Kemba Walker - Boston Celtics

The Celtics have already secured their spot in the NBA playoffs as they were 43-21 before the season was shut down. They are No. 3 in the Eastern Conference right now and they can slide as low as the seventh seed – but I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

They have a challenge right out of the gate with the Milwaukee Bucks in game one on Friday. After that, they don’t play a team with a better record than them until a matchup with the Toronto Raptors on August 7. They beat every team they’re scheduled to play at least once this season.

There has been an air of uncertainty surrounding Walker after he experienced some pain in his left knee during the team’s workouts, but Brad Stevens said earlier Wednesday that his knee is the “strongest it’s been” since Walker arrived in September.

Walker has played well for Boston this season, even with his numbers taking a slight dip from 2019. In 50 games, he has averaged 21.2 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game. Since he has a real roster around him in Boston, with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and company, his scoring has taken a hit.

The time off gave Walker and his teammates time to get healthy, which could make this Celtics squad scary.

Celtics Schedule

Opponent Date Time Where to Watch
Opponent Date Time Where to Watch
Milwaukee Bucks 7/31 6:30 p.m. EST ESPN/NBC Sports Boston
Portland Trailblazers 8/2 3:30 p.m. EST ABC/NBC Sports Boston
Miami Heat 8/4 6:30 p.m. EST TNT/NBC Sports Boston
Brooklyn Nets 8/5 9:00 p.m. EST ESPN/NBC Sports Boston
Toronto Raptops 8/7 9:00 p.m. EST NBC Sports Boston
Orlando Magic 8/9 5:00 p.m. EST NBC Sports Boston
Memphis Grizzlies 8/11 6:30 p.m. EST NBC Sports Boston
Washington Wizards 8/13 TBD NBC Sports Boston

Jeremy Lamb - Indiana Pacers

Lamb is out for the rest of the season after tearing his left ACL in February against Toronto, so he’ll have to watch the Pacers’ run from the sidelines. Like the Celtics, they have already locked up a playoff spot, sitting at 39-26 on the season. The lowest the fifth-seeded Pacers could drop is to seventh.

There has been quite a bit of speculation on the status of Pacer’s star Victor Oladipo, who was not supposed to come back this season from a knee injury. He started in the Pacers final scrimmage against the San Antonio Tuesday but didn’t play particularly well, shooting 4-for-16 in 28 minutes.

Lamb averaged 12.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in his first season with the Pacers, after signing a three-year deal with them this past offseason.

Pacers Schedule

Opponent Date Time Where to Watch
Opponent Date Time Where to Watch
Philadelphia 76ers 8/1 7:00 p.m. EST Fox Sports Indiana
Washington Wizards 8/3 4:00 p.m. EST Fox Sports Indiana
Orlando Magic 8/4 6:00 p.m. EST Fox Sports Indiana
Phoenix Suns 8/6 4:00 p.m. EST Fox Sports Indiana
Los Angeles Lakers 8/8 6:00 p.m. EST Fox Sports Indiana
Miami Heat 8/10 8:00 p.m. EST Fox Sports Indiana
Houston Rockets 8/13 4:00 p.m. EST Fox Sports Indiana
Miami Heat 8/14 TBD Fox Sports Indiana

Rudy Gay - San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have a chance in the Western Conference, but it is slim. Currently in 10th place, they’re four games back of the No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies and will be without LaMarcus Aldridge who miss the 2020 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in April. As a result, Gay has been asked to play the five at times throughout the season in Aldridge’s absence.

The Spurs first two games are against teams they need to jump in order to secure the eighth seed, with games against the Sacramento Kings and Grizzlies to start. They also play the New Orleans Pelicans later on in the seeding games, who are a half-game up on them in the standings.

Overall, Gay has had a down year across the board. His 40% shooting from beyond the arc from last year has dipped back down all the way to 31.4%.

He isn’t averaging as many points per game, but both his minutes and his shot attempts have also dipped. The 14-year veteran started just five games this year and he has played more than 30 minutes just twice all season.

Spurs Schedule

Opponent Date Time Where to Watch
Opponent Date Time Where to Watch
Sacramento Kings 7/31 7:00 p.m. CT Fox Sports Southwest
Memphis Grizzlies 8/2 3:00 p.m. CT Fox Sports Southwest
Philadelphia 76ers 8/3 7:00 p.m. CT Fox Sports Southwest
Denver Nuggets 8/5 3:00 p.m. CT Fox Sports Southwest
Utah Jazz 8/7 12:00 p.m. CT Fox Sports Southwest
New Orleans Pelicans 8/9 2:00 p.m. CT Fox Sports Southwest
Houston Rockets 8/11 1:00 p.m. CT Fox Sports Southwest
Utah Jazz 8/13 TBD Fox Sports Southwest

Shabazz Napier - Washington Wizards

Napier and the Wizards face a long, uphill climb during the last eight games of the year. They have a particularly slim chance to make the playoffs, 5% to be exact, according to FiveThirtyEight. Factoring in that they are without their two top-scorers in Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans for the remaining games, trying to overcome a six-game deficit will be difficult at best.

They have to win at least seven games in a schedule that has them playing some winnable games early on, but then they have to face off against the Bucks and Celtics to cap off their season. If they fail to win any of the first six games - they are essentially toast.

Napier is averaging a career high 10.3 points on the year, 12 points per game in his time in Washington, which will likely continue to climb with Beal and Bertans out. In 15 games with the Wizards after being dealt by the Minnesota Timberwolves, he has hit on 38.1% of his three-point attempts on about four attempts per game.

Despite the relatively low chance they go anywhere, at the very least we get a Walker versus Napier matchup to cap off the year.

Wizards Schedule

Opponent Date Time Where to Watch
Opponent Date Time Where to Watch
Phoenix Suns 7/31 4:00 p.m. EST NBC Sports Washington
Brooklyn Nets 8/2 2:00 p.m. EST NBC Sports Washington
Indiana Pacers 8/3 4:00 p.m. EST NBC Sports Washington
Philadelphia 76ers 8/5 4:00 p.m. EST NBC Sports Washington
New Orleans Pelicans 8/7 8:00 p.m. EST NBC Sports Washington
Oklahoma City Thunder 8/9 12:30 p.m. EST NBC Sports Washington
Milwaukee Bucks 8/11 9:00 p.m. EST NBC Sports Washington
Washington Wizards 8/13 TBD NBC Sports Washington