Posted Dec 9 2011 9:42AM
The moment you all have been waiting for has arrived.
Other than a resolution to the Chris Paul Derby.
And the Dwight Howard Sweepstakes.
And the Metta World Peace Countdown ... to what, who knows, but definitely to something.
And a view of the final standings to see where Kentucky finishes in the Eastern Conference.
OK, so one of the moments has arrived. After a quintuple-overtime labor dispute, a slow start to free agency as organizations and players spent a few days window shopping under a running clock, and most recently the explosion of reports of transactions real and imagined, training camps finally open Friday in the first full gathering of teams since the end of last season.
The latest, and one of the biggest, benchmarks of the return of the NBA comes with the usual offseason craziness. Only this time it's crammed into an accelerated calendar. These have been the hectic few days everyone has been waiting for. Here are a few storylines to watch.
1. Hornets: Yeah, big surprise. Intersection moments are everywhere, from likely superstar relocation to possible, but apparently fading, franchise relocation. So only their entire universe is coming to a head at once.
It is especially that way on the roster front because the Hornets want a quick resolution to the Paul saga, and thought they had one. Instead, a bigger microscope will follow them into camp. Their superstar point guard may or may not be sticking around, former All-Star David West is a free agent who could also leave, and an unsettled ownership situation creates uncertainty about the franchise's future in New Orleans.
Other than that, nothing's going on here.
2. Lakers: Usually contenders, always interesting, they just went from compelling story trying to climb back from an embarrassing playoff exit to the center of the NBA universe again by landing Paul. And then not landing him. And then waiting for an explanation from David Stern that might allow L.A. to make a re-tooled bid.
They were must-see reality TV even without the complicated Paul chase, of course. That's just the Lakers.
3. Mavericks: They're the defending champions, which is storyline enough. Only they're the defending champions likely needing to replace free agent Tyson Chandler, an integral part of the title run, and possibly needing to replace free agents J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson. Interesting times.
4. Nuggets: Or what remains of the Nuggets. No team has been hit so severely by attrition, to the point where Denver has 10 players under contract. Two of those are rookies Jordan Hamilton and Kenneth Faried and another is Kosta Koufos. Nene and Arron Afflalo are important free agents.
5. Timberwolves: Where transition time is a time of encouragement and not concern. Ricky Rubio has finally come to the NBA, which will be closely tracked, and the Timberwolves have a new coach, Rick Adelman. They also have one of the leading contenders for Rookie of the Year, No. 2 pick Derrick Williams.
1. The Magic: The Howard crisis has so far remained relatively in the background in comparison to constant headlines with Paul and the Hornets, but that won't last forever. It may not even last until the start of the regular season. The franchise-altering decisions will have to be made soon enough, and this will have to do for peace in Orlando.
2. The Knicks: The move to sign Chandler away from Dallas, if it becomes official, is an important and much-needed move to improve the defense and rebounding. Plus, it will be the first training camp with Carmelo Anthony, heading into a season when success will be particularly important just before the Nets move into New York City, perhaps as a rising franchise with Howard and Deron Williams.
3. The Celtics: Kevin Garnett is 35. Ray Allen is 36. Paul Pierce is 34. Rajon Rondo remains prominent in trade speculation. Glen Davis and Jeff Green are free agents. This season could go a lot of different ways for Boston.
4. The Cavaliers: They're the new Cavaliers, with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson going among the first four picks in the Draft, looking to turn the mood after the gloom of the post-LeBron James apocalypse. They still have a long way to go. But at least the Cavs are finally going again.
5. The Heat: While Miami will never go under-the-radar, and whole expectations remain at the same unforgiving level, the Heat at least head into camp without the frenzy of Fall 2010. Even if it returns once the season gets heated, the chance at relative normalcy will be welcome.
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