Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis clear COVID-19 health and safety protocols; Donte DiVincenzo to return vs. Celtics, Budenholzer says
Milwaukee Bucks fans received an early Christmas present Friday.
Actually two. And then the gifts kept coming on Christmas morning.
On Friday, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis were not on the team's injury report, giving the team hope that the two could return for the Christmas Day game against the COVID-19 ravaged Boston Celtics.
Antetokounmpo has been in the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols since Dec. 14. He was required to be out a minimum of 10 days or after he produced two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart.
Portis entered the league’s health and safety protocols a day after Antetokounmpo following his 20-point, nine-rebound game in the team's 114-99 win over the Indiana Pacers Dec. 15.
It would be a gift for head coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff to get those two players back, but another player is expected to suit up for the first time on Christmas. Shams Charania of the Athletic reported Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo will make his season debut against the Celtics. DiVincenzo hasn't played all season after injuring his ankle during last season's playoffs. He was scheduled to return Dec. 15 when he too went into the NBA's health and safety protocols Dec. 14, the same day as Antetokounmpo. DiVincenzo was listed on the team's injury report Friday as questionable.
DiVincenzo acknowledged his pending return in a tweet Saturday morning.
In a pre-game interview Saturday, Budenholzer said he expected all three to play Saturday.
"We're full expecting (Giannis, Bobby and Dante) to be ready to go," Budenholzer said.
Antetokounmpo was seen on the court ahead of the game going through his regular warm ups.
The Bucks (21-13) have gone 3-2 in Antetokounmpo's absence, the most recent a win over the Dallas Mavericks Thursday night, a team also hit by COVID-19.
Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA Finals MVP and two-time league MVP, is averaging 27.0 points, 11.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.6 blocks this season.
Wesley Matthews, who went into the health and safety protocols Dec. 11, returned to the team this week.
With all the players reportedly out of the protocols, Brook Lopez was the only other player on the Bucks' injury report Friday. Lopez had back surgery earlier this month and a timetable on his return is unknown.
While the Bucks improved their COVID-19 status, the Celtics continued to lose players.
Their injury list Friday resembled a child’s long Christmas list. It didn’t seem to end. Fourteen players were listed on the injury list, 12 of whom were in the league’s health and safety protocols. Just on Friday, five players were added to the protocols list. In total, eight will be out Saturday due to COVID-19 related issues. Another four players who are in the health and safety protocols enter the game as questionable.
Whether all three of the Bucks players who were in the protocols play is to be determined — they'll all have to go through a process on the court to return based on how they felt while out.
But not appearing on the injury report is a good sign for the Bucks and the NBA, a league dealing with a rash of COVID-19 outbreaks. The Brooklyn Nets have been devastated by COVID-19 over the last week and will be without star Kevin Durant for their Christmas Day showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Bucks and Celtics are scheduled to tip off at 1:30 p.m. at Fiserv Forum.