Rose not only NBA player making a comeback
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
This is the season of the comeback in the NBA.
Sure in Chicago, where Derrick Rose’s recovery from reconstructive knee surgery is the story of the year. Rose’s every move and every step is being monitored and chronicled and will be for months. And with fingers and toes crossed. If Rose is as healthy and determined as he says he is and appears to be, then the Bulls have an opportunity to be a serious contender this season.
But while Rose’s recovery and return is the big story in Chicago, there are comeback stories throughout the league of major players. Here’s a look as most teams have their opening of camp media days on Monday:
Russell Westbrook: He tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee when Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley banged knees with him while Westbrook stopped to call a timeout during Game 2 of the first-round NBA playoff series. Westbrook had surgery April 27. It’s not as serious a knee injury as Rose had. But Westbrook is not likely to be back to open the season and could be out through at least the first month. Nevertheless, the Thunder, the supposedly model franchise, is suddenly looking at their picture window closing. Kevin Durant famously said on the eve of last playoffs he was tired of being second. So he finished eighth. They made the much second guessed trade of James Harden, which has positioned the Houston Rockets to play for a title. They’ve failed to fill Harden’s role and have something of a resolution coming. Even without Harden, the Thunder remain contenders. Not without a healthy Westbrook.
Greg Oden: No one expects him to play anytime soon. And no one expects him to have any sort of season long impact. Oden was said to have had multiple microfracture surgeries. So no one knows whether he can do anything. Portland obviously didn’t think so. But the mystery and hope of Oden has been a story for five years. He hasn’t played in the NBA in more than three years. But Oden is that wild card for the Miami Heat who could provide enough to make a difference for that three-peat, of which, yes, Pat Riley holds the copyright rights. As an addendum, there’s Dwyane Wade. It’s not exactly a comeback to qualify in the same category. But Wade’s health and strength of his knee will remain an issue this season. If he is not healthy, it doesn’t matter if Oden plays.
Kobe Bryant: If it weren’t Bryant, we’d probably be saying the end to his career after a torn Achilles last April. But Bryant’s ability to play through injuries has been as remarkable as anyone in league history. It’s a devastating injury at 35, especially given Bryant has been in the NBA since age 18. Bryant won’t be back to start the season, but he will be back. It probably means little to the Lakers, who are a mess with Pau Gasol starting the season late as well and a bunch of spare parts. Their whole season will be about whether they resign free agent Bryant, which they’ve said they would. Though it seems unlikely an aging Bryant can lure major free agents. With Bryant, the Lakers seem destined for a long, slow decline. The Lakers without Jerry Buss don’t seem to have the lure they once did. They’ll have some big decisions after likely missing the playoffs.
Andrew Bynum: Is he the lure for LeBron James to return to Ohio? Or for the Cavaliers to return to the playoffs? The not cleared for contact bulletins, like we heard all season in Philadelphia last year, already have started in Cleveland. There’s hopeful optimism that with the return of Anderson Varejao to pair with Bynum and Kyrie Irving the Cavs have the beginnings of a talented team. And if LeBron wants to opt out in 2014? Bynum hasn’t played for more than a year when he was an All Star center. Whether he becomes one again or close governs much of the Cavs’ future.
Rajon Rondo: He tore his ACL last January, curiously, in a game he went on to finish and didn’t even know the extent of the injury. Since then the Celtics went into rebuilding mode as Doc Rivers left and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded. Rondo is not expected to return for at least a few months, but the Celtics mostly are in breaking bad mode to get a high draft pick. Though they’re not about to say, they hardly need Rondo returning to win games. The question will be whether to trade him (Omer Asik?) or keep him around as you don’t stumble upon all-league point guards and he’s still only 27.
Danilo Gallinari: He tore his ACL last April during a magical season for the Denver Nuggets that faded in the playoffs. Since then, just about the entire management including coach George Karl left. Another 50-plus season seem out of reach, and certainly without Gallinari. He’s saying he could be back in early December, but it could be a tougher season in Denver.
Kevin Love: He played just 18 games last season after a broken bone in his shooting hand as one of the more heralded players in the NBA who’s never been in a playoff game. He was part of a devastating series of injuries for the Timberwolves. But Ricky Rubio is back and Love has been more accommodating toward the Timberwolves now that Flip Saunders is running the team. Love is looking to regain the luster that has been wearing off his career.
Amar’e Stoudemire: There was a report in the New York Daily News that Stoudemire had yet another knee surgery this summer. It was said to be minor, but there is no minor when you have had that many. It’s likely Stoudemire’s career as a productive player is over as the Knicks must pay him $21.6 million and $23.4 million the next two seasons. They’ll hope to retain free agent Carmelo Anthony after this season and then tell him with Stoudemire’s salary coming off the books in the summer of 2015 they can restock.
Danny Granger: He missed just about all of last season after finally giving in to knee surgery. The Pacers became the next great thing without him with erratic Lance Stephenson starting. Though there’s talk Granger could be an ideal sixth man, there’s a feeling Granger will return to the starting lineup and give the Pacers a high scoring group with Paul George. There’s always been a question of whether they can play together. But Granger as a free agent to be has plenty of reason to fit in and go along. He is supposed to be ready to open the season as he tries to jump his mental hurdles toward a return.
Lou Williams: The first year Atlanta scoring guard after coming from the 76ers tore his ACL last January and remains hopeful of returning to open the season. Not that it should matter all that much for a restructuring Hawks team.
Eric Gordon: He had another knee scope last spring, which shouldn’t delay his start of the season. But he’s played in about 100 games combined the last three seasons. The Pelicans have a curious collection of potential scorers with Gordon and having acquired Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday to move ahead of Austin Rivers. Gordon didn’t want the Pelicans to match, and with injuries basically no one wanted him. So the Pelicans also want to see what he has left.
Manu Ginobili: He did play in 60 games and the postseason. The Spurs did give him a two-year extension, but he had a weak playoffs and seemed to be in decline. Gregg Popovich will do what he can to nurse him through another season and see how much explosion he has left.
Dwight Howard: It’s difficult to suggest a comeback for someone who led the league in rebounding and missed six games. But Howard spent much of the season returning from his back injury and belying his reputation for dominance. He now joins James Harden in Houston in what he says, finally, is the free agency move he wanted to make. The Rockets now are considered title contenders, assuming, of course, Howard’s back problems are behind him.
NBA news and notes
-- Figures with the Knicks as Glen Grunwald became the Knicks most celebrated general manager last season, third in voting for executive of the year as the Knicks won their first division title in 18 years. So, of course, he was fired and replaced by Steve Mills, a former league and Knicks’ executive mostly on the business side who supposed is closer with the hip hop street agents who can help draw the big free agents like LeBron, who ended up going with Pat Riley. … The Knicks’ Ray Felton says he’s been most impressed this summer watching Knicks’ draft pick Tim Hardaway Jr. … Former Net Gerald Wallace apparently isn’t all that thrilled coming to the rebuilding Celtics as Danny Ainge told Boston media last week no one had heard from Wallace yet…The 76ers are going to be awful. Perhaps not 9-73 bad, and that may be because of former No. 2 overall pick and player of the year, Evan Turner, the St. Joseph’s product who has been an NBA disappointment. With Jrue Holiday traded to New Orleans, he’ll share the ball with rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams and will be looking to enhance his free agent value. "We hope to help him find a real joy to play again. Find a passion to play again,” said coach Brett Brown. The 76ers, by the way, now have Royce White, who says he sees no problem flying with the team to exhibition games in Europe next week. White with an alleged fear of flying had an arrangement with the Rockets last season to drive to some D-League games.
-- The biggest test of teamwork’s going to be in Milwaukee, which has 11 new players, though Zaza Pachulia, Luke Ridnour and Carlos Delfino are starting second stints in Milwaukee. Left from last season are Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh. … The Pistons have eight new players, including former Atlanta forward Josh Smith, who’ll be a small forward, which he hasn’t played much in the NBA. With the Pistons high on rookie shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, they have four point guards, Chauncey Billups, Brandon Jennings, Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey. The team also signed rookie point guard Peyton Siva. Jennings, by the way, is again off to a fast start as his entourage and the entourage of rapper The Game (according to a Hollywood web site) got into a fight and Jennings apparently was punched out by the rapper. De-troit bas-ket-ball! Jennings tweeted he was sucker punched. After being drafted by the Bucks, Jennings taped and posted a talk he had with rapper Joe Budden criticizing several NBA veterans. Jennings is believed to be seeking a role in the new Detroit movie One Mile.
-- Lots of curiosity about unexpected No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, who didn’t work out because of shoulder problems and had surgery this summer. He says he’s recovered and the 6-8 forward says he weighs 255 and teammates say he’s been an explosive dunker. … Another overdrafted big man, Patrick O’Bryant from Bradley who’s been in Europe and Latin America playing in recent years, gets a shot in Bobcats’ camp..There ought to be some interesting and potentially confusing situations in the Eastern Conference this season with new coaches Jason Kidd in Brooklyn and Brad Stevens in Boston never having coached in the NBA and Steve Clifford in Charlotte, Brett Brown in Philadelphia and Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta never having been NBA coaches…In Orlando they’re talking about rookie Victor Oladipo, taking over ballhandling duties after not doing so in college, like Russell Westbrook, as perhaps another Westbrook. … The Bobcats have Mark Price, one of the league’s best ever shooters, working on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot. … The Wizards believe John Wall with a return-to-health Bradley Beal will have a breakthrough season as Wall worked this summer with trainer Rob McClanaghan, who has worked extensively with Derrick Rose. Wall also worked out with Kevin Durant for several weeks.
-- Marcus Camby already recorded his first injury of the season as he missed the opening of Rockets camp with plantar fasciitis. Omer Asik was abrupt about saying he is just there to play, though it seems unlikely Dwight Howard will switch to power forward to accommodate him at times, as coach Kevin McHale has suggested. Asik apparently got the message about his rumored unhappiness with the addition of Howard when McHale told the Houston Chronicle: “I didn't know Omer was the general manager. That surprises me. He's a player. His job is to come in and play. I haven't had an opportunity to talk with him about all that, but Daryl (Morey's) job is to try to improve the team. Omer's job is not to wonder how that affects him. His job is to figure out how they can play together and be effective.” Asik basically repeated McHale’s comments when asked about playing with Howard. Howard in his most uncontroversial preseason of late told local media he and Omer should work fine: “For me and Omer to work is real simple. If I get the rebound, he has to run the floor, be that first big to seal, try to get easy buckets. If he gets the rebound, it's the same thing. On the defensive end, I have the ability to guard fours. I've done it in the past. I like the challenge. I think me and him can play together. Even if he comes off the bench, I think that's great because the defense won't go down. He's a great defender. I think he's going to be great. I know he wants to win just like we all do. With me and Omer, we have an opportunity to mess up a lot of teams on the defensive end because of our presence. He's a very big guy. If we play together, it gives me a chance to roam around, block a lot of shots, be who I am on the defensive end. I'm very excited about that.” Sure. … It’s not clear how Pat Riley expects to retain LeBron James after this season as James has an opt out. But moving training camp to the trendy Atlantic resort in the Bahamas, where many of the NBA players come for gambling and relaxation in the offseason, is a nice start.
-- New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, who had a somewhat disappointing rookie season due to injuries, says he’s up 10 pounds and looking to add five more as the Pelicans may use him at center. … Kevin Durant’s all-time top five to the Oklahoman: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaq. That’s right. If ESPN doesn’t show clips, as they don’t of Russell and Chamberlain, the kids basically never have heard of them. … The Jazz comes into the season with smallish rookie point guard Trey Burke backed up by John Lucas III. It could be the franchise’s worst ever season, but scouts are saying to watch out for center Enes Kanter, who is coming back from shoulder surgery. … Warriors players have been raving about center Andrew Bogut, which tells you it’s a contract season. … These are players who will be on the Lakers this season other than Kobe Bryant coming off Achilles surgery, Pau Gasol, off summer knee surgery and oldest in the league Steve Nash: Steve Blake, Nick Young, Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, Jodie Meeks, Robert Sacre, Dan Gadzuric, Shawne Williams and Jordan Hill. Wonder who Charles Barkley will have rolling over in his grave about that one.