Tar Heels in NBA: Little talks about COVID-19 battle; Johnson’s Suns win; tough game for White

By R.L. Bynum

On a mostly forgettable night for former Tar Heels in the NBA, the bigger news came with the Portland Trail Blazers’ Nassir Little revealing his battle with COVID-19.

Little hasn’t played this season and the reason given by the team each time was “health and safety protocols.” That was clarified when he explained in this story in The Athletic that he went through a difficult experience with COVID-19 and still isn’t close to playing shape.

He learned of a positive test on Dec. 1 and didn’t next text negative after that until Dec. 22 after a difficult three weeks in which he lost 20 pounds.

“For me, I was on the worst part of the spectrum, the hard end of the disease,” Little told The Athletic. “I didn’t have to go to the hospital or be on a ventilator, but I went through it bad. It hit me really bad. For about seven to 10 days, I was just really miserable.”

Little, of course, didn’t play in Portland’s 123–98 win at Golden State. Read much more about his experience in The Athletic.

The only Tar Heel to play and win Friday was Cameron Johnson, who had nine points in the Phoenix Suns’ 106–103 win at Denver. The Suns have the best record in the NBA at 5–1.

After a big game the night before, Coby White had a tougher go of it in the Chicago Bulls’ 126–96 loss at Milwaukee. In 29 minutes, White had 12 points but three assists against four turnovers.

“We were just trying to force stuff that wasn’t really there,” said White, who had a season-low 2.6 game score. “We were trying to make the right play against a good defensive team like them. Sometimes the right play is always the hardest. We’ve just got to make smart decisions off the ball.”

It was the second time in six games this season that he’s had more turnovers than assists, the other game being against Indiana on Dec. 26 with the identical numbers in both categories.

“We just came out flat. There’s really no excuse. We’ve got to play better,” said White, who was 4 of 13 from the floor. “Shots that usually fall weren’t falling. I’ve just got to come out more ready to play than that.”

Ed Davis’ Minnesota Timberwolves became the first team to lose to the Washington Wizards. In Minnesota’s 130–109 loss, Davis didn’t score but had 10 rebounds. That was his best rebounding total since pulling down 10 on April 10, 2019, for the Brooklyn Nets against the Charlotte Hornets.

Wayne Ellington has played in only one of Detroit’s five games and again didn’t get off the bench for the Pistons’ 96–93 home win over the Boston Celtics.

How Tar Heels did Friday and when they play next

Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic guard
No game
Season statistics — 5 games, 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 33.3FG%, 23.1%3P, 15–15FT
Up next — Saturday vs. Oklahoma City, 7 p.m.; Monday vs. Cleveland, 7 p.m.
Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings guard
No game
Season statistics — 5 games, 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists 46.2FG%, 29.4%3P, 82.4FT%Up next — Saturday at Houston, 5 p.m., NBATV; Monday vs. Sacramento, 10 p.m.
Tony Bradley, Philadelphia Sixers center/forward
No game
Season statistics — 1 game, 4.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 28.6 FG%, no 3-point or FT attemptsUp next — Saturday vs. Charlotte, 7 p.m. FSS; Monday vs Charlotte, 7 p.m., FSS
Reggie Bullock, New York Knicks guard/forward
No game
Season statistics — 5 games, 9.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 34.0FG%, 31.3%3P, 75.0FT%
Up next — Saturday at Indiana, 7 p.m.; Monday at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.
Ed Davis, Minnesota Timberwolves center/forward
130–109 loss vs. Washington — 16 minutes, 0 points, 0–4 FG, 0–0 3FG, 0–0 FT, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, -20, 3.5 game score
Season statistics — 4 games, 1.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 20.0FG%, no 3-point or FT attempts
Up next — Sunday vs. Denver, 7 p.m.; Tuesday at Denver, 9 p.m.
Wayne Ellington, Detroit Pistons guard
96–93 win vs. Boston — Didn’t play
Season statistics — 1 game, 20 minutes, 11 points, 4–10 FG, 2–7 3P%, 1–1 FT, 1 rebound, 1 turnover, -6
Up next — Sunday vs Boston, 3 p.m., NBATV; Monday at Milwaukee, 8 p.m.
Danny Green, Philadelphia 76ers guard
No game
Season statistics — 5 games, 4.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 32.0FG%, 21.1%3P, 2–2 FTsUp next — Saturday vs. Charlotte, 7 p.m. FSS; Monday vs Charlotte, 7 p.m., FSS
Justin Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder forward
No game
Season statistics — 1 game, 8.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 50.0FG%, 0–3 3FG, 2–2 FT
Up next — Saturday at Orlando, 7 p.m.; Monday at Miami, 7:30 p.m.
Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns forward
106–103 win at Denver — 22 minutes, 9 points, 3–9 FG, 0–1 3FG, 0–0 FT, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, +14, 6.5 game score
Season statistics — 6 games, 13.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.2 assist, 51.9FG%, 42.9%3P, 10–10 FT
Up next — Sunday vs. L.A. Clippers, 8 p.m.; Wednesday vs. Toronto, 9 p.m.
Nassir Little, Portland Blazers forward/guard
123–98 win at Golden State — Didn’t play.
Season statistics — Hasn’t made season debut as he tries to get into shape after a battle with COVID-19.
Up next — Sunday at Golden State, 8:30 p.m., NBATV; Tuesday vs. Chicago, 10:30 p.m., NBATV
Theo Pinson, New York Knicks guard/forward
No game
Season statistics — 4 games, 0 points, 0.3 of an assist, 0–3 FG, 0–1 3FG, 1 rebound
Up next — Saturday at Indiana, 7 p.m.; Monday at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.
Coby White, Chicago Bulls point guard
126–96 loss at Milwaukee — 29 minutes, 12 points, 4–13 FG, 1–5 3FG, 3–4 FT, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers, -21, 2.6 game score
Season statistics — 6 games, 14.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 34.9FG%, 35.7%3P, 82.4 FT
Up next — Sunday vs. Dallas, 8 p.m.; Tuesday at Portland, 10:30 p.m., NBATV

What is a game score? Here is an exclamation.

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