Two important players will be absent from the Milwaukee Bucks' lineup when the team with the NBA's best record hits the court this week for the long-awaited restart.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer confirmed that Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton will miss Friday's game against the Boston Celtics as they continue to work themselves back into game shape after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Both players participated in Thursday's practice but entered the bubble late after successfully clearing the NBA's mandatory quarantine periods.
"It's a little bit of conditioning, a little bit of just rhythm and everything," Budenholzer said. "Everybody else is getting ready to play in a live game and have had 10 to 12 to 14 days of probably 5-on-5 every other day and individual work and all that, so I think giving Bled and Pat a couple of 5-on-5 sessions at a minimum and getting some 3-on-3 in other situations or days. They just need to play, so I think that's a big hurdle, and with playing will come both conditioning and their rhythm, so we're going to make sure they get some of that before we put them in an NBA game."
Bledsoe and Connaughton also missed Milwaukee's three scrimmage games, in which the team finished 2-1. The Bucks will miss the two guards defensively the most. Bledsoe was named to the 2019 NBA All-Defensive First Team.
Milwaukee ranks first in defensive efficiency and pace, and could join the champion 2014-15 Golden State Warriors as the only teams to rank first in both categories since play-by-play was first recorded in 1996-97, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
"Obviously, both Eric and Pat are great players that bring a lot to the team defensively, both of them, and offensively," Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said. "They're super aggressive, they can knock down shots, but at the end of the day, we've got to do what we've got to do. We've got to go out there and compete, and I think guys are going to step up."