The N.B.A.’s Early Story Lines: Missing Stars, Big-Time Bulls, Jokic

After two seasons that were dramatically disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, the N.B.A. thought it was returning to some version of normal this year. Instead, a wave of infections in the past few weeks has had a major impact on rosters and schedules, prompting game postponements and sidelining key players.

Before that, though, several key story lines had begun emerging on the court.

Golden State and Phoenix have established themselves as the best teams in the Western Conference, while the Lakers, laden with former All-Stars, have struggled to find their way. And even though injuries have stymied the Nuggets as a team, their big man Nikola Jokic has been making a case to win the Most Valuable Player Award again.

The Chicago Bulls have proved to be surprising contenders with a team of…

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