Although the 2019-20 NBA season is set to resume in less than two weeks at the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the road to restarting the campaign hasn’t been problem-free, with multiple players testing positive for coronavirus and others leaving the league’s bubble environment for unrelated reasons. On Friday, Los Angeles Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell reportedly became the latest to depart, doing so to deal with an emergency family matter.
The Athletic‘s Shams Charania was the first to report on Harrell leaving the Orlando site, breaking the story via Twitter.
Although Harrell is expected to return to the Clippers, he’ll have to submit to a strict protocol established by the league to minimize the COVID-19 risk before he is allowed to do so. As relayed by ESPN in June, any player who leaves the NBA campus without prior approval will be required to go through a 10- to 14-day self-quarantine, enhanced virus screening — including deep nasal swab testing — and reduced pay for any game they miss as a result of their departure.
As it stands, the only other Clippers center known to have already joined the club in Orlando is Joakim Noah. The veteran recently signed with Los Angeles for the remainder of the season after joining the team on a series of 10-day contracts ahead of the pandemic-induced suspension of play in March. Whether or not starting center Ivica Zubac will join the team in the bubble has not been confirmed.
Harrell is in the midst of a career season with the Clippers, averaging nearly 19 points and just over seven rebounds per contest in 63 games with the club in 2019-20. He is arguably among the frontrunners for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, having done almost all of his damage on the court in a reserve role.
The athletic 26-year-old could be on track for a huge pay raise this offseason — the two-year, $12 million pact he signed in 2018 will expire at the end of the current campaign, which will make him an unrestricted free agent. On the other hand, NBA insider Tim Bontemps said last month that Harrell’s value could drop in free agency compared to the deal he may be expecting.
Harrell isn’t the only noteworthy player to have left the bubble in recent days. As reported by ESPN and other outlets, New Orleans Pelicans star and former No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson also left, similarly citing an urgent family matter.