The Indiana Pacers have had a tough time in the 2020 NBA playoffs so far. Victor Oladipo missed most of Game 1 due to an eye injury, and they’re down 2-0 to the Miami Heat in their first-round series. Ahead of Game 3 on Saturday, however, they got a bit of good news. Or, at least, it seemed like it anyway.
Pacers coach Nate McMillan announced pre-game that Domantas Sabonis is returning to the bubble Saturday and will enter quarantine. Assuming the standard four-day period for those who leave with team and league approval, that timeline would mean Sabonis will be cleared by Game 5. However, Sabonis is not expected to rejoin the active roster, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Sabonis departed the bubble just about a month ago in order to see a foot specialist. He had been been dealing with plantar fasciitis, and left before the seeding games started. He didn’t even suit up in any of the scrimmages in Orlando, which means he hasn’t played a real game since way back in March before the season was shut down.
While Sabonis is now healthy to rejoin the team, he spent the past month doing rehab, and is not ready to get right back onto the floor. Even if he was, jumping right back into the middle of a playoff series would be a lot to ask for someone who hasn’t played a game in over five months.
And, of course, the Pacers have to win one of these next two games to even make sure Game 5 happens. It would be a pretty tough break for Sabonis if he came back to Orlando, went into quarantine for four days and then the Pacers get swept and he has to leave again.
Sabonis was the Pacers’ best player this season, putting together a career year in which he averaged 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and five assists, and had the best on/off differential of any key member of the rotation at plus-3.9 points per 100 possessions.