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NBA preseason reveals a few surprises

From Eddy Curry being back on the floor to Omer Asik proving his worth in Houston thus far, Sam Smith takes a look at some of the surprises across the NBA with about a week of preseason games in the books.
"Eddy in limited minutes has shown he still can score, and there should finally be a place for him somewhere this season," writes Smith of Curry, the former Bull. "In four games, he has 33 points in 63 minutes."
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images)

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.

Sam Smith Mailbag

The NBA preseason generally means just a bit more than summer league. The games count the same. But you begin to get a sense of whether there’ll be some surprises out there, and already we’re starting to see some. Here’s 10 to watch:

Eddy Curry might be back! The hard luck Chicagoan has been putting in some nice work for the Spurs with another double figure game in Sunday’s win over Houston with 10 points in 13 minutes. Eddy in limited minutes has shown he still can score, and there should finally be a place for him somewhere this season. In four games, he has 33 points in 63 minutes. Curry has played in 24 games the last four years and turns 30 next month. “I feel I’m in a good situation,” Curry told the San Antonio Express. “I worked hard this summer. Every game it’s just about showing everybody what I can do. I’m trying to focus on defense and rebounding, trying to play in the system and soak up as much as I can. I think I’m going to make (the team). Until they tell me I’m not, I feel like I’m part of this team.”

Second-year man Enes Kanter might have Al Jefferson on the block before too long. It may be hard for the Jazz to keep the slimmed down Turk out of the starting lineup with three double-double games already as he’s averaging 12.7 points and 12.3 rebounds in about 21 minutes per game. With the Jazz not playing for the top of the West, it probably makes sense for them to start their young bigs, Kanter and Derrick Favors. Jefferson should be able to get them a decent point guard.

Andre Drummond may push himself into the Pistons starting lineup. And why not? Where are they going? The supposed project rookie from Connecticut is coming off a 19 and 10 game and has 33 points and 17 rebounds in 54 minutes. He could push Greg Monroe back to his power forward position and give the Pistons one of the top developing front lines in the East.

Omer Asik looks like he’s worth it for the Rockets. The former Bull is even making free throws, eight of 12 in three games. He is averaging 9.3 points and 11 rebounds in about 24 minutes per game. The Rockets’ concern, though, may be the continued slow recovery from knee surgery of fellow free agent Jeremy Lin.

John Lucas III is an NBA player. Who figured? Maybe a candidate for Sixth Man. The former Bulls bench player has been a sixth man igniter for the Raptors with an average of 13.7 points on 50 percent shooting in about 24 minutes per game. He’s one of the more surprising stories in the league.

Jared Sullinger may work his way into the Celtics rotation early. Thought maybe too slow and ground based for the NBA, the Ohio State rookie seems to have a knack for getting the ball and has put up good numbers every time he’s played as sort of a mature version of Glen Davis. He could even replace Brandon Bass as a starter as he’s averaged 13 points and 7.3 rebounds in about 23 minutes per game. It’s also a nice comeback from heart surgery in Boston for Jeff Green, scoring in double figures in each of the Celtics’ preseason games.

Cole Aldrich is making Kendrick Perkins expendable fast. The long bench ridden third-year man has double-doubles in each of his two games with Perkins recovering from surgery. With Perkins’ big deal and low production, you figure the Thunder would love to move him out with Aldrich producing.

Meyers Leonard, the Illinois center, isn’t graceful. But he’s been effective for the Trail Blazers averaging 12 points and 6.5 rebounds in a bit less than 20 minutes per game. Fellow rookie Damian Lillard has averaged 14.5 points and six assists in about 30 minutes per game.

Brandon Roy is walking. And shooting 10 for 19 and averaging just over 10 points in about 20 surprising minutes for the Timberwolves. Who figured that?

Harrison Barnes is a backup for now, but should start before long for the Warriors as he’s done what was expected, scored. He’s averaging 14 points in about 27 minutes, though not rebounding much.

Knicks and Nets: Can't keep everyone happy

-- What’s a season without J.R. Smith upset with something? You’re at least warned when you take him on. It’s not starting this time as the Knicks’ sixth man already doesn’t care for his role with former Bull Ronnie Brewer a candidate to start at shooting guard when he returns from surgery in about a week. Iman Shumpert also is said to be in the mix, though I can see Jason Kidd pushing Ray Felton out at point to shooting guard. Amar’e Stoudemire also continues to have knee issues in the third year of his deal when Suns doctors speculated he might have issues and advised the Suns not to offer the five years the Knicks did. Will he hold up? ... I’m really getting worried agreeing with Mark Cuban too often. Of course, in a dispute with diva Deron Williams it’s really no match. Classy of Williams to suggest Cuban not meeting him as a free agent this summer swayed Williams’ decision to go to the Nets. That would be a “liar, liar, pants on fire” classification. Hello, the Mavs basically broke up a title team to try to get Williams. What more did he want Cuban to do? Williams is a major talent and the Nets should be good with he and Joe Johnson in the backcourt. But how much is it worth it to have someone like the divisive Williams as your leader? The Nets, by the way, have Andray Blatche as backup center, and if he buys in and gets serious he could help as he’s best in the post. The Wizards constantly allowed him to roam the court and shoot jumpers with no discipline.

NBA news and notes

-- Pretty poor of Andre Iguodala in an interview with CBS Sports last week to blame Doug Collins for two unhappy seasons with the 76ers, saying he didn’t enjoy basketball the last two years. You mean he enjoyed it winning 27 games before that? Iguodala got to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in his career, and also to the All-Star game (thanks, in part, to Collins’ lobbying for him as well) and the Olympic team as the defender Collins demanded he be. He certainly wasn’t being chosen for his offense. Iguodala complained Collins prevented him from shooting threes and now he’s free, which suggests George Karl may have some issues as Iguodala was barely a 60 percent free throw shooter last season. ... It’s been an early struggle for No. 4 pick Dion Waiters, who found himself already yanked by Cavs coach Byron Scott for messing up plays. Waiters, shooting about 35 percent, could become a solid pro. But he is one of the object lessons of why you don’t miss the playoffs to get in the draft. In this era with players entering so young, there aren’t many who make a significant impact on your team for awhile. ... Preseason is all about Billy Mumphreyesque unbridled optimism. Though I have to question the cockeyed optimism the Hawks seem to have for letting go Joe Johnson and picking up Lou Williams, Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson and Devin Harris. Point guard Jeff Teague said the offense will be more free flowing without having to go through so called “iso-Joe.” Good luck when they need a basket and it’s those guys. Explained Josh Smith to the Atlanta Constitution of a simpler, free flowing offense: “Sometimes simple is better. Sometimes I’d rather have a pizza than a Kobe steak, mashed potatoes and gravy.” Oh. ... Already some brutal games for Tyrus Thomas, like being the only scoreless starter in the Bobcats second game in 18 minutes and 13 points and five rebounds in 45 minutes in preseason. New coach Mike Dunlap is now playing small lineups with rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at power forward. ... No. 1 pick Anthony Davis did tweak a groin and sit, though after averaging 17 points and nine rebounds his first two games. It doesn’t sound good, though, with Eric Gordon still being held out with a sore knee after the Hornets matched a big free agent contract from the Suns that Gordon asked them not to match. Rookie Austin Rivers gets up a lot of shots, but his thin frame doesn’t look NBA ready. ... Veterans are good to have, though better if they are healthy. Chris Kaman had some back issues again, which he said are OK now. We’ll see. Dirk Nowitzki is contemplating a knee procedure. Elton Brand, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter? The Mavs are looking very Knick-like. ... Referees have been telling teams in preseason meetings they won’t make any flopping calls or recommendations as all will be viewed and determined by the league office.

-- One of the more curious moves was the Jazz picking up the laconic Marvin Williams, who told the Salt Lake Tribune, "People talk a lot about expectations and living up to expectations, but I hit them up with the million dollar question every time. My question is: Whose expectations do I have to live up to? I’m very satisfied with where I came from and what I’m working toward." Nice guy, but always satisfied to be a fifth option after being the No. 2 pick in the draft. Good for your own mental health probably. ... The late Dick Harter, famous in Oregon for the University of Oregon Kamikaze Kids teams and a longtime NBA assistant, is having an influence in Portland with new coach Terry Stotts, who was a disciple and is installing many of the defensive concepts Harter employed to be perhaps the premier NBA defensive assistant in the 1980s. ... Former Bull and recent Suns broadcaster Scott Williams is trying to get into coaching and will be an assistant coach for Idaho, the Portland Trail Blazers' D-League affiliate. ... Yeah, this is going to work. Said Michael Beasley to the Arizona Republic: “This is the first year I really applied 100 percent to the defensive side.” I like coach Alvin Gentry, but good luck. He’s a wonderful pick and roll up-tempo coach whose management has filled the roster with postup players like Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola, Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal. ... Suns broadcaster Al McCoy turns 80 this season going strong calling his 40th season with the team. ... Kings coach Keith Smart gets the bravest man award this season as he says he’s going to run the triangle offense. Yes, he knows DeMarcus Cousins is on the team. What he didn’t know — and I didn’t either — is he says he picked up the idea from watching a 1943 video of the Harlem Globetrotters, who were running the offense. “There's not so much standing around," Cousins told the Sacramento Bee. "Everyone gets involved, everyone gets touches. It's going to be harder to guard us as a team." The Bulls open the season on Halloween again the Kings. Hide the confetti bucket.

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