Joe Ingles, Ben Simmons, Aron Baynes and Patty Mills have traversed a painful path to make it to Walt Disney World for the resumption of the NBA regular season.
Another Aussie, Ryan Broekhoff, didn’t make it to the “bubble” in Orlando, Florida, after his wife tested positive to COVID-19.
The season restart begins on Thursday (Friday 8.30am AEST) when Ingles’ Utah Jazz play the New Orleans Pelicans.
Ingles is struggling being so far away from his wife Renae, who is 22 weeks pregnant, and his four-year-old twins Milla and Jacob.
He faces the prospect of being away for four months if the Jazz make it to the championship series.
Ingles misses dropping Milla off at school and was not present when Jacob achieved a grand milestone.
“Jacob started potty training,” Ingles told reporters during a recent chat.
“He peed at school this morning, which is really cool.”
Simmons’ season appeared over in February when he pinched a nerve in his back against the Milwaukee Bucks, struggled to the locker room, vomited and missed multiple games
Ironically, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to halt the season on March 11 – after Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert tested positive to COVID-19 – gave time for Simmons to get healthy.
It also allowed his Philadelphia 76ers the chance to reverse the downward trajectory of their season – after they won just 10 of their 34 road games and lost five of their final 10 games before the pandemic-enforced hiatus.
The 76ers added Melbourne-born free agent sharpshooter Broekhoff in late June but when his wife Katie, who has an auto-immune disease and is highly-susceptible to COVID-19, tested positive he left the team.
The couple has a one-year-old son, Jackson.
Baynes caught COVID-19 a month ago and it took its toll on the 208cm tall, 118kg, Phoenix Suns big man.
The Queenslander was bedridden for four days, his wife and young children also contracted the virus and he only arrived inside the bubble earlier this week.
Patty Mills, who is donating the $A1.5 million he will earn during the first eight games of the season restart to Black Lives Matter Australia, Black Deaths in Custody and The We Got You campaign, was an omission from the San Antonio Spurs’ three scrimmage games.
“His body is aching from head-to-toe in a myriad of ways,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters.
“His energy level is always so high and frantic we are just sitting him for right now.”
The NBA appears to have pulled off what Major League Baseball failed to do and what the NFL looks unlikely to achieve – create a secure environment for players, coaches and officials to play during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NBA announced on Wednesday it has tested 344 players for the virus inside the bubble since July 20 and not one was positive.
Las Vegas odds makers have the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee joint favourites to win the championship.
The LA Clippers are next, followed by the Houston Rockets and the defending champion Toronto Raptors.
The 76ers and Boston Celtics are joint sixth in the betting with the Jazz not given much hope while the Spurs and Suns are long shots.