These are the biggest moments we're anticipating this season
POSTED: Oct 26, 2015 1:00 PM ET
The Starters: 1 Wish For 2015-16
Healthier stars? Less complaining about video reviews? Selfish team goals?
Also This Week:
It is the length of a day on Earth, and the first and last year Washington won the World Series, and permission for Jack Bauer to go upside your head with whatever's handy. It was Kobe Bryant's second jersey number and Sam Jones' first, the number of days in December before Christmas and the number of millions it reportedly cost the TLC network to cancel that show about the couple with 19 kids.
And it's the number of seconds an NBA team has to shoot the basketball on every possession.
It is perfect, the result of division by the former Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone, who was trying to figure out some way to speed up what had become an incredibly boring pro game, filled with stalling, in the early 1950s. Biasone figured out that in a regular, non-stalled -- and fun -- game, the two teams averaged about 120 shots total. There were 48 minutes in an NBA game, or 2,880 seconds.
The latter divided by the former equaled 24. And Biasone's discovery helped save the league.
Thus 24 is a special number in these parts. In that spirit, as we begin yet another season, with the Larry O'Brien and Bill Russell trophies in Oakland, and most of the injured and infirm from last season back in uniform, here are 24 things I Can't Wait to see this season:
1. I Can't Wait to see a healthy Kevin Durant again.
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2. I Can't Wait for DeAndre Jordan's return to Dallas, Nov. 11, with the Clippers.
3. I Can't Wait to spend an entire night in front of the TV, on League Pass, maybe in early January, and just watch Anthony Davis play 40 minutes or so. No one else. I'm just going to watch what he does every second he's on the floor, to get a real sense of how good he really is.
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4. I Can't Wait for what will be a surprisingly fun season with far less drama than we expect in Sacramento. (Note: I said "fun season," not "winning season.") Not sure what Rajon Rondo has left, but I know George Karl can coach, and I know DeMarcus Cousins is the best center in the game, and I know there's some talent on that roster, including Marco Bellinelli and rookie Willie Cauley-Stein.
5. I Can't Wait for Warriors-Clippers. It's quickly becoming one of the league's best rivalries, and, yes, they've met before in the playoffs, but that was before the Warriors became champs under Steve Kerr, and the Clippers went all in with Steve Ballmer, giving Doc Rivers full say and bringing in Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith to get over the hump. Until this iteration of each team meets in a playoff series, and one team is sent home bitterly disappointed, it can't be tops.
6. I Can't Wait to see if the Miami Heat has something that could come together this season. I like Miami's starting five, and I like its bench. But I can't see either unit staying healthy long enough to make the Heat a real contender in the East. Maybe I'm wrong.
7. I Can't Wait for that two-second interval between the time I finish asking Spurs Gregg Popovich the question and when he starts his answer, for in those two seconds, he makes the decision on whether to go snarky, extra-crispy snarky or Global Thermonuclear Snarky.
GameTime: Coach Pop Has Some Fun With Jared
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has some fun at NBATV's Jared Greenberg's expense during San Antonio's media day.
8. I Can't Wait to see Draymond Green show and recover, taking away the roll man.
9. I Can't Wait for those 6 to 12 nights this season when Kobe gets in the Wayback Machine.
10. I Can't Wait for Giannis Antetokounmpo to be cleared for takeoff.
11. I Can't Wait to see the look of disgust and confusion on his defender's face, not knowing whether to cuss the ref or ask genuinely what he can do differently, as James Harden marches to the foul line for his 12th and 13th free throws of the evening.
12. I Can't Wait to see the Memphis Grizzlies, talking and switching on defense, moving in concert as they snuff out another opposition's pet play in the Grindhouse.
13. I Can't Wait to hear Lakers public address announcer Lawrence Tanter's Voice, which has to be fueled by brown liquor, patchouli oil, imported cigars and warm nights on a skimmer just off Catalina.
14. I Can't Wait for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to just go off one night and combine for like 60, 65.
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15. I Can't Wait to time John Wall from free throw line to free throw line.
16. I Can't Wait to get to Toronto for All-Star Weekend. I love Y'all The North, even when it's 10 degrees outside. I've yet to meet a jerky Canadian. (But you're a little sensitive about the supposed lack of attention we give the Raptors. When they're good, they get ink, like everyone else.)
17. I Can't Wait for the combination of squeal and bass that comprises the sound in Oracle Arena as Stephen Curry rises up, two feet behind the 3-point line.
18. I Can't Wait to see how Scott Skiles molds all that young talent in Orlando into a long, snarling, defensive unit -- the way Quin Snyder did in Utah last year.
19. I Can't Wait to see who winds up fighting for the last two spots in the Western Conference. (We can all agree, barring major injuries, on Golden State, San Antonio, the Clippers, Houston, Oklahoma City and Memphis, right?) I would think New Orleans and/or Dallas would be right there for seven, with the other battling teams like Phoenix and ... maybe Denver? Speaking of which ...
20. I Can't Wait to see Emmanuel Mudiay with the ball in his hands, in transition, at altitude, on a cold winter night in Denver.
21. I Can't Wait to be frightened by owner Steve Ballmer as he starts spazzing out after a Blake Griffin alley-oop, and to wonder if the Clippers should give a couple of front row seats to paramedics for the entire home schedule.
Ballmer Busts A Move
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer gets loose on the dance floor during Fergie's performance at Wednesday's game against the Lakers.
22. I Can't Wait for PG-13 pick up where he left off.
23. I Can't Wait to see what Atlanta Hawks team president Steve Koonin and those imps in GameOps at Philips Arena come up with for player intros this season. Holograms? Learning robots?
24. I Can't Wait for the breakfast meetings with our unbeatable staff of producers, directors, researchers and talent. It's just great to talk hoops with men and women who love the game as much as I do, and execute their vision on the air. The NBA on TNT: among the best words in the English Language.
24, part 2. I Can't Wait to see the TimberPups in action. Especially now.
For people who love baseball, Oct. 25, 1986 is a seminal moment in the game's history. That night, in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series, the New York Mets -- who began the last half down 5-3 to the Boston Red Sox, and down 3-2 in the Series, three outs from losing -- rallied for a miraculous victory, capped by a Mookie Wilson ground ball rolling through the legs of Boston first baseman Bill Buckner, allowing Ray Knight to score from second with the game-winning run. The Mets went on to win the Series; the Red Sox's curse lasted another 18 years.
Remembering Flip Saunders
Timberwolves Phil "Flip" Saunders, President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach passed away today at age 60.
But that game means something else to me.
The morning after, my father woke me up at 6 in the morning to tell me that my mother had died of liver cancer.
This morning is the 29th anniversary of my mother's passing. It remains the defining moment of my life. It cleaved my memories; there is what happened before my mother died, and everything that happened after. Everything is different after you lose a parent, and for a boy, there is his mother, and then every other female with whom he has any association in a lifetime. In time, you laugh again, you love again. But things are never the same. You become a very sober person afterward. At least I did. That it was cancer that killed my mother was an even crueler blow, because she had beaten it before, just after I was born. Yet 18 years later, it came back, with lethal force.
Being among the most non-discriminatory of diseases, we all know people who've lived, and who died, with it. That does not make the sense of loss easier, even after all these years. And so there is great empathy today with the family and friends of Flip Saunders, who lost his battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma Sunday morning at the age of 60 -- the same age as my mom.
The tributes that came Sunday afternoon, and didn't stop for hours, came from all over -- players, coaches, teams, leagues. From people who became superstars on Saunders' watch (like Kevin Garnett), those who struggled and ultimately failed him (like Andray Blatche) and those in between (like Stephon Marbury). From writers who covered his Timberwolves teams for years, and writers who never covered him at all. From Jim Petersen, the Wolves' color man and assistant coach of the WNBA's champion Lynx, who met Saunders in 1976 as a ninth grader, and people that had never met him.
He had the biggest playbook in the world. You never could figure out how to scout him, because he ran 100 different plays a year. I was happy when he had success in the NBA, because he was like a CBA fraternity brother.
– Sacramento Kings coach George Karl, on Flip Saunders
The respect for Flip was universal, because he never changed. He was a talented, smart and competitive guy, one who loved aphorisms about "the basketball gods" and who seemed to see KG in every other player he coached. Every guy with any talent "was a little like KG," even if they weren't anything like KG. It was like a tic, a tell, that he needed to pump up guys that weren't that special. Because he saw something salvageable in all of them.
He was one of the first NBA coaches to embrace playing zone, having used that and a dozen other defenses while coaching in the Continental Basketball Association, where he won two titles and was twice named Coach of the Year.
His longtime friend and assistant, Don Zierden, often told the story of when he and Saunders would sit in a steakhouse in LaCrosse, Wisc., day after day, when it was cheapest for two guys making CBA money coaching the LaCrosse Firebirds to eat. Even then, in the early 1990s, Saunders was convinced he'd be coaching in the NBA, and soon.
Remembering Flip Saunders: Steve Aschburner
NBA.com's Steve Aschburner remembers Flip Saunders from his time covering the Timberwolves as a beat writer in Minnesota.
"He had the biggest playbook in the world," Kings coach George Karl said Sunday evening. "You never could figure out how to scout him, because he ran 100 different plays a year. I was happy when he had success in the NBA, because he was like a CBA fraternity brother. He and I never had a close relationship, but the professional competition and the kind of bond of coming from the minor leagues was ... when it happened this morning, when I heard about it, it was just heavy. A real heavy moment."
Karl, of course, is a two-time cancer survivor, who knows better than just about everyone the burden of carrying the disease in you, and the turmoil that having your own body attack you creates in your mind.
"Cancer has an impact on you, maybe not daily, but weekly," he said. "It's always something. I'm not saying I get tests, but you're always observing your body, trying to figure out what's going wrong. And then when you get older, there's always someone -- not weekly, but at least twice a month -- someone you know gets cancer. And you learn about it. You learn about the treatments, and learn about the chemotherapy, and sometimes, when they're family or close to family, you call people and just try to support them. When I heard about Flip, we exchanged a few texts, and I was just hoping (he'd call) if he wanted someone to talk to about it."
Saunders had been so happy this summer, thinking about what his young Timberwolves could do if they were given enough time to learn and grow -- and lose -- by a fan base that had already suffered through so much. They'd just opened a $29 million practice facility across the street from Target Center, with all the bells and whistles.
He was in complete control in his second go-round in Minnesota, having been hired back by owner Glen Taylor to clean up the mess created by the former GM, David Kahn, and to ultimately coach the team when it became clear there was no one better who would take the gig. With 638 NBA victories under his belt at the start of last season, he went back on the bench, even as he continued to be the chief decision maker for all aspects of the franchise off the court.
Remembering Flip Saunders: Steve Smith
NBA TV's Steve Smith calls in to react to the passing of Timberwolves president and head coach Flip Saunders.
They'd had a run, for them, of incredible good fortune. Andrew Wiggins won Kia Rookie of the Year, Zach LaVine won the Dunk Contest and was named All-Rookie second team, Saunders had convinced Garnett to come back and finish his career where it started and Nemanja Bjelica agreed to come over from Europe. And then, improbably, the Wolves had won the Lottery, allowing them to take Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns No. 1 overall.
"What's happened is that we haven't looked back, and we haven't stopped," he said in August. "Everything's kind of kept going."
Things will stop now for the Wolves, and they won't be the same for a long time. In time the Wolves will win again, and laugh again. But in Minnesota there will be the things that happened while Saunders lived, and what happened to the Wolves after he died. And even in the moments when they are happiest and have won the most, there will be an almost inexplicable sadness in their eyes, and in their hearts.
This time, there was no misunderstanding. Not that there was any real alternative.
Jerry Colangelo talked it out with Gregg Popovich in person, in June, in Carmel, Calif. The head of USA Basketball had already decided that Popovich was his first and only choice to succeed Mike Krzyzewski as coach of the U.S. Senior Men's team. But he also knew he had to reach out and make sure Popovich knew that he had absolutely no doubts about him.
"He was the guy," Colangelo said via phone Sunday. "What needed to take place was he and I needed to have a meeting and clear the air about everything that had happened in the past, because the re was a lot of speculation."
That speculation had helped keep the best coach in the NBA, and one of the greatest coaches of all time, from getting a chance at something he'd desperately wanted for more than a decade.
We spent a few hours together. We talked everything through. I said 'Pop, it's yours if you want it. You have to decide. I'm not giving you any time limit here. You think it through. When you make a decision, you call me.'
– USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo
It wasn't that Coach K hadn't been incredible as coach of the team. Since taking over as coach in 2005, Krzyzewski is 75-1, won two Olympic gold medals and two World Championships (now called World Cups). The buy-in by NBA players to him and his system has been complete and the respect, universal.
But some fence-mending remained with Popovich.
In 2005, Colangelo had gauged Popovich's interest in the job, after the immolation of the 2004 Olympic team in Athens. Popovich had been an assistant coach on that team to Larry Brown, one of his best friends in the business.
Despite the tumult on that team, with Brown not playing young guys like LeBron James major minutes in favor of veterans like Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury, James didn't hold the disaster against Popovich. (Last week, after the announcement that Popovich was taking over, James said, "It's almost like 'The Godfather.' We hand it off to Michael Corleone now.")
But Colangelo told the Sacramento Bee's Ailene Voisin that when he was deciding between Krzyzewski and Popovich, in separate phone conversations with each man, Krzyzewski "almost jumped through the phone. I didn't sense that same enthusiasm in my conversation with Pop."
That perception infuriated Popovich, an Air Force graduate who was one of the last cuts from the 1972 Olympic team as a player, and who'd served his country following graduation. He wrote Colangelo an impassioned letter that said, in no uncertain terms, that Colangelo had been wrong in his interpretation.
Popovich Named USAB Coach
Gregg Popovich addresses the media about being named 2017-20 USA National Team head coach.
But that was almost a decade ago. And despite his five NBA titles and status, Popovich was now 66. I asked him on a conference call Friday if he'd thought during the past four to six years -- as the U.S. team dominated international competition -- that his time to coach the team may have passed. That he'd never get the job he'd dreamed of having, and how he compartmentalized that sense of loss against all of the successes he'd had.
"Well, I would be dishonest if I didn't say that it's gone through my mind," Popovich said. "Anybody would have aspirations to be in this sort of position, and of course it went through my head. But in that period of the last four to six years that you just mentioned, I think I pretty much thought that that ship had sailed, in all honesty.
"But as far as compartmentalizing it, you're a grown up. We're all mature. We have families, we have lives, our lives take different paths. Everything one might want, one does not get, and you move on. When you look at the program and you see the success, the right coach at the right time was picked, and there couldn't have been a better selection at that time or through the last few years. When you're rolling, you roll, and that's what they did."
Now, though, Coach K was ready to retire, after the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Colangelo knew he needed to see Popovich in person.
"We spent a few hours together," Colangelo said. "We talked everything through. I said 'Pop, it's yours if you want it. You have to decide. I'm not giving you any time limit here. You think it through. When you make a decision, you call me.' "
In September, Popovich made the call. "He was very upbeat," Colangelo said. "He said 'look, if you want me, I'm ready to go.' "
Now, Colangelo knows he didn't know Popovich's heart during that 2005 phone call.
"That was a misread," he said Sunday. "And that wasn't face to face; that was a phone conversation. When you're around Pop, you get to know more about how he communicates. In retrospect, that was unfair in terms of getting a quick read like that and me misinterpreting that. What's happened to Pop here is with the addition of (LaMarcus) Aldridge and the commitment he was going to stay on as head coach, and the opportunity to take on the USA Basketball program after Coach K steps down, this is all helping him a great deal. You get re-invigorated when you have new challenges. Just as I thought Coach K was the right guy then, for the reasons that I thought, I'm just as certain that Pop is the right guy now."
Everything pointed to an NBA coach for the U.S. program going forward after Krzyzewski's retirement. Coach K had universal respect from Kobe Bryant, James and down the line, but there were few others in the college ranks who had the mix of championship pedigree and unassailable character.
But there really aren't that many NBA coaches who fit the bill, either.
When Colangelo mapped out all of the league's current coaches, he realized it had become a very young man's profession. Three-quarters of the NBA's coaches had less than five years experience. And of those who did, only one had five NBA rings. It wasn't a hard choice.
You get re-invigorated when you have new challenges. Just as I thought Coach K was the right guy then, for the reasons that I thought, I'm just as certain that Pop is the right guy now.
– USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo
There is a lot of work to be done in the next few months. Because of the new calendar FIBA is using for international competition beginning in 2017, qualifying for the 2019 World Cup will take place during the 2018 NBA season, meaning it's unlikely that NBA players will be on the U.S. qualifying team.
Even if the U.S. team wins the gold medal in Rio next year, that will not automatically qualify them for the World Cup. Currently, there are no plans to alter the 2018 NBA schedule to take advantage of potential windows in November of that year or February, 2019 to send NBA players to qualifying tournaments. The likelihood is that NBA D-League players will comprise most of the roster for the World Cup, with another roster of NBA players put together for the 2020 Olympic Games in China.
Popovich and Krzyzewski have already started talking with one another about the transition and the challenges going forward.
"They really didn't know each other at all," Colangelo said. "Two of the great coaches in the game, but living in two different worlds. I heard from both of them, and they were both excited about the future, just being able to communicate. Here's what I think is so neat. We have a training camp and an Olympics coming up. Pop has a chance to see as much as he wants to. He'll pick his spots. He's welcome everywhere. It'll be helpful for him. How things were done in '04 are a lot different from how we've done them."
The good news is that almost every young player of significance in U.S. basketball, both on the amateur and professional levels, is already in the national program. The United States is currently the defending gold medal champions in FIBA's Under-17 and Under-19 World Championships, the World Cup and Olympics. (The U.S. women's team is also defending champions in the same categories.) USA Basketball is currently ranked number in all five of FIBA's world ranking categories, including combined, men's, women's, boys and girls. There is already plenty of potential talent in the pipeline to succeed the Jameses and Wades as they leave the international scene.
But the choice of who will ultimately succeed Popovich will be up to the next guy. Colangelo signed on for four more years, through 2020, to allay Popovich's concerns. By then, Pop will be 70, Colangelo, 79. The next four years in charge of the program he's rebuilt into an international juggernaut will be his last four.
"For sure, I'm done in '20," Colangelo said. "There's an end date."
1) Golden State: Looks like my dude Ian Clark made the roster after final cuts, though his deal is non-guaranteed and he won't be out of the woods until opening night.
Warriors vs. Lakers
Stephen Curry records 24 points and 10 assists, Klay Thompson adds 24 points as the Warriors defeat the Lakers.
2) San Antonio: Thought Jimmer Fredette had a shot there, but he didn't make the final cut.
3) L.A. Clippers: Last roster spot goes to Luc Mbah a Moute over Chuck Hayes.
4) Cleveland: All summer, people around the game would say that while they liked Tristan Thompson and knew how important he was to the Cavs, he needed to remember who he was and stay in his financial lane. He just went Autobahn on all those fools.
5) Houston: Why do the Rockets think Clint Capela might be able to help them this season? "He rebounds," one team source said, "he cuts to the basket and he finishes. And he knows how to make a layup." That last one isn't as obvious as it seems. Big men can struggle with that, especially on the move.
Defense Leads To Offense
Terrence Jones gets the block on one end and Clint Capela finishes with the slam on the other.
6) Oklahoma City: Just something random: the Thunder's longest homestand this season is four games -- Christmas Day to New Year's Eve.
8) Memphis: Second-year forward JaMychal Green had a very good training camp/preseason for the Grizzlies and earned playing time when the season begins.
9) Atlanta: Very quietly, the Hawks have the second-longest current playoff streak (eight seasons). Only the Spurs (18 seasons) are ahead of them.
11) Dallas: The Diggler wondered via Twitter last week if he could beat Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in a 40-yard dash. Our money is on Dirk, if only because it cannot be effectively determined that Manning has ever run 40 yards in any direction during his adult lifetime.
13) Toronto: Raptors looked at Luis Scola at power forward at the end of the preseason, but that position looks like it'll be a work in progress for a while.
14) New Orleans: Anthony Davis went 7 of 13 on 3-pointers in the preseason. Life is just not fair.
When will the NBA amend this insipid exhibition schedule?
Every athlete can only play for so long. That the NBA continues to waste the finite number of jumps that its players have in their legs with eight completely meaningless preseason games is ridiculous -- a combination of owners chasing every dollar they can get and the league exporting the game everywhere it can.
What is most galling is that teams charge fans the same amount for watered-down exhibition games, in which star players often barely break a sweat, as they do for regular season games.
Fortunately, the league is coming around. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last week during the Board of Governors news conference that he expected the league to ultimately reduce the number of preseason games.
"I think there's a general sense right now that in this day and age where players are in condition all year round, are working out hard in the summer, that we don't necessarily need an eight game preseason moving into the regular season," Silver said. "There still is a sense that training camp is very important. You have a lot of young players in the league. You have maybe more movement than you had historically. So practice time is still important. There's a financial component of the preseason as well that we have to look at with the Players' Association."
Commissioner Silver on Preseason Games
NBA commissioner Adam Silver says changes could come to the preseason schedule.
If preseason was just a null set, you could live with it as a boring but necessary part of getting ready for the year. But it's not enough that the games are meaningless; playing them can put your season in peril.
The latest awful examples came late last week. On Thursday, the Lakers -- in desperate need of getting off to a good start this week -- lost starting guard Jordan Clarkson to a sprained shoulder during a pointless exhibition loss to the Warriors. He may be able to play in the Lakers' regular season opener Wednesday. On Friday, the Knicks' expected starting shooting guard, Arron Afflalo, re-aggravated the hamstring pull that had kept him out most of camp and the preseason.
Catastrophic preseason game injuries, unfortunately, have been a trend in recent years.
Blake Griffin missed all of what would have been his rookie season in 2009 after fracturing his kneecap in the Clippers' last preseason game. Last year, the Wizards' Bradley Beal broke his wrist in a preseason game and was out six weeks. And Kobe Bryant initially injured his shoulder during the preseason -- an injury that he aggravated during the regular season, leading to the torn rotator cuff in January that ended his season.
The NBA isn't alone. The NFL saw players like the Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin go down for the season with injuries suffered in exhibitions.
Teams schedule their preseason games, not the league. Revenue is usually already baked in, as most teams make their season ticket holders buy preseason game seats as part of their packages. Those packages are usually bought or renewed before the start of the season.
Additional revenues can come in the form of deals with promoters who put games in neutral cities. The "home" team in those games can get a cut of tickets sold, but the revenues from those games are minimal. Team executives put the figure for such games at around $250,000 per game.
I believe a shortened preseason would benefit our team far greater in the health and season-long well being of our players beyond the fractional revenue implications of the preseason, as compared to the benefits financially of having healthy players in the regular season.
– Orlando Magic President and CEO Alex Martins
But the additional revenue is increasingly not viewed as worth the risk of catastrophic injury.
"I believe a shortened preseason would benefit our team far greater in the health and season-long well being of our players beyond the fractional revenue implications of the preseason, as compared to the benefits financially of having healthy players in the regular season," Orlando Magic President and CEO Alex Martins said Friday. "We at the Orlando Magic strongly support a preseason that is reduced by as much as 50 percent."
But the league has also played a role in wearing its players out prematurely, as it continues to schedule exhibition games internationally. This year, the Boston Celtics played in Italy and Spain, the Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Hornets played two games in China, and Orlando Magic played in Brazil. Silver said the league remains committed to growing the game, and it's understandable and desirable within reason to get players in front of fans and sponsors all over the world. But there's also a limit to how much travel players can take without there being an impact.
This year, 14 of the league's teams had at least one set of back-to-back games during the preseason, and three teams had more -- Cleveland (three sets), and Miami and Charlotte (two apiece).
"I've expressed myself to the people that make those decisions on more than one occasion," Cavaliers coach David Blatt told reporters in Cleveland. "My voice is only one, but it's clearly my opinion that we should play four, maximum five preseason games and create a situation where we could have fewer back-to-backs and give players a little bit more time to rest and a little bit less wear and tear during the preseason."
Things didn't used to be this way -- or, at least, they were less this way.
Back in the stone ages (the late 1980s/early 1990s), teams still played six to eight preseason games. But at least there was a reason.
In the old days, there was more of a need to see the long-shot players invited to camps. Teams would have one or two roster spots available every year, and would use the preseason games to determine who'd win those last coveted spots on the roster.
Today, while there are occasional outliers, teams already know going into camp who's going to be on the roster, because they know how many guaranteed contracts they're willing to carry in a given season -- whether that's 13, 14 or 15. The exhibition games rarely determine anything with regard to the roster anymore. (To be fair, preseason games can and are used today by teams who make regular use and have strong ties with their NBA D-League affiliates, and plan to utilize those players on their D-League teams. But, again, they already have a pretty good idea of who those players are going to be before camps begin.)
My voice is only one, but it's clearly my opinion that we should play four, maximum five preseason games and create a situation where we could have fewer back-to-backs and give players a little bit more time to rest ...
– Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt
But training camps were also much longer back then. Rookies, after attending a three-day anti-drug seminar, would report to camp. Veterans were not allowed to come to camp until 30 days before the first regular season game. And the preseason games were a secondary concern to the three weeks of work that a team would have to put in its offensive and defensive sets, end of game plays, specials and the like.
That changed in 2003. The NBA wanted to expand its first-round playoff series from five games -- the format since the league eliminated the three-game first-round "miniseries" in 1984 -- to seven, in order to maximize postseason revenues for teams. In exchange for the increase in playoff games, the Players' Association got an increase in playoff money and a shorter training camp. Veterans did not have to report until later in the first week of camp, and teams were prohibited from conducting two-a-day practices after the 10th day of camp.
The rules were further amended a few years later, prohibiting two-a-days after the sixth day of camp. During the first six days of camp -- basically, the week-long training camp we have now -- teams can practice twice a day, but only for a total of three and a half hours. Most teams that go twice a day during camp will scrimmage during one session, then do conditioning and shooting drills, with non-contact walkthroughs on defense, in the other session.
Coaches lament the loss of two-a-days, both as a corrective once the exhibition season begins, and as a carrot: play well, either in a game or in the first workout, and we won't do a second.
The result is much less time for teams to work together in camp, while still having to slog through all those games. Hopefully, that time is coming to an end.
"I think the expectation is we'll be reducing the number of preseason games," Silver said. "Precisely where the line will be is uncertain."
Yes, you can get hurt at any time, including during practice. Kevin Love broke his right hand doing knuckle pushups during a workout in 2012 that cost him two months. Kyrie Irving broke his hand punching a padded wall during summer league practice. Derrick Rose suffered a broken eye socket after getting an inadvertent elbow from a teammate during the first day of training camp this year. But if a player gets hurt during practice, at least he was working on something that would have value for him down the road.
Practice is important. Preseason games are not.
I can handle things. I'm smart. Not like everybody says, like dumb. I'm smart and I want respect! From John Lee:
My question involves the concept of "basketball IQ." It's becoming all the more important in the current pace-and-space era -- but how exactly does one define it? It seems to combine some grand mixture of passing ability, knowing "when" to cut, how well one has been coached, mere peripheral vision, even one's ability to simply learn a play. Sure it can be all of these things, but how much of basketball IQ is innate, like athleticism and strength, and how much of it can be honed and trained?
It's always been important, John. Hubie Brown talked about it with his Hawks teams back in the early '80s. To me, it just means you're someone who knows how to play. You "feel" the game. You don't need to be told what to do, or when, or why. You know your opponents' tendencies, so you can anticipate what they're going to do in a given moment, and act/react accordingly (e.g., you beat your man to the spot on the floor where he plans to drive to take the charge). Your fundamentals are sound; you catch the ball in triple-threat position, your footwork never changes. In other words, everything I never did on a basketball court.
Working on some new material. From Marko Nemet:
Cousin LaMarcus' signing for the Spurs is, to me, the biggest story of the offseason, so I'll offer the gazillionth take on it. First let me say that there's no doubt in my mind that the Spurs will make it work -- as they have almost everything else they attempted, but it seems a bit of a first for the Pop/Tim Duncan-era Spurs -- bringing in a player in his prime that was top dog (sorry, Dame...) on a really good playoff team. Am I wrong? Out of a bunch of questions that this situation creates, here are two. 1. How does Aldridge's post-up / ISO / mid-range offensive game fit into the Spurs mirror-opposite offense? Last season he was second in post-up FGA behind only Zach Randolph, he was last in assists per 36 minutes out of 39 forwards who logged in at least 2200 minutes (most centers had more) and of all the players in the NBA he had by far the most (if I'm using the nba.com stats page right) mid-range FGA's. 2. I REALLY hate the silly discussions on "whose team is it" like the one going on in Chicago. So childish, especially in a grown-up franchise like the Spurs. However, what do you think the dynamic will be between the perennial all-star Aldridge, considered by some to be the best PF in the game, and the ultimate Swiss army knife, Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard?
Spurs Season Preview: New Addiitions
How will the newest Spurs fit into the system in San Antonio?
Good players fit into any system. The Spurs wouldn't have coveted or signed Aldridge without having put significant thought into how he would fit. But it will take some time, at both ends of the floor, for his skill set to mesh with San Antonio's concepts. Offensively, I think he'll be fine. Terry Stotts found places for him all over the floor in Portland, and Gregg Popovich will do the same. He'll get open looks off of pick and pops with Tony Parker, hi-lows with Tim Duncan and on the box if he's playing on one side with Manu Ginobili or Danny Green. Aldridge has never been known as a physical, lockdown defender, so he'll need to figure out how to work with Tim Duncan down low, the way Tiago Splitter did so effectively the last couple of seasons. As far as LaMarcus and Kawhi go, they'll be fine. Kawhi can dominate a game in so many ways, he doesn't need the ball in his hands all the time to be effective. And Aldridge isn't selfish; he'll move the ball where it needs to go. He doesn't hunt shots.
For the man who does everything. From Magnus Linde:
How willing do you think LeBron James is to reinvent his game? Looking at the Cavs roster, the thing that would give them the best chance to win big seems to me to have LeBron change to full facilitator and defense mode and give up much of the scoring. He has big-time scorers in Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, but Love can't defend and Irving can't pass.
I don't accept the premise of your question, Magnus. James doesn't have to re-invent anything. He already passes at every opportunity; he has since the minute he came into the league. (Don't you remember all the heat he got for not driving to the cup against Detroit in the conference finals in '07 and passing to an open Donyell Marshall in the corner instead?) Other than the occasional jacked three, James doesn't force shots; his offense comes in the flow and when matchups demand he take somebody into the paint (especially when he's playing the four). Defensively he's best as a rover, especially when playing next to a ballhawking two like Iman Shumpert. The Cavs' postseason defense without Love was sensational. It's up to Love to fit in to what Cleveland is doing defensively, not to James to cover for him.
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0 -- Preseason wins by the Mavericks, the only team in the league who didn't win a single exhibition (0-7) game this year. Dallas also only played one of those games with its likely starting backcourt of Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews on the floor.
$18,000,000 -- "Brand Value" of Kevin Durant, ranked by Forbes Magazine as the sixth-best among all athletes. As defined by the magazine, brand value is the athlete's individual endorsement income minus the average endorsement income of the top 10 players in that athlete's sport. On Forbes's list, Durant trailed Tiger Woods ($30 million), Phil Mickleson ($28 million), LeBron James and Roger Federer (tied at $27 million) and cricket player Mahendra Singh Dhoni ($21 million). Durant tied for sixth with sprinter and world champion Usain Bolt.
$298,694,000 -- New contract commitments agreed to this season by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, after signing Tristan Thompson to a five-year, $82 million deal last week. That followed offseason deals with Kevin Love ($110 million), LeBron James ($47 million), Iman Shumpert ($40 million), J.R. Smith ($10 million), Mo Williams ($4.2 million), Sasha Kaun ($2.5 million), Matthew Dellavedova ($1.1 million), James Jones ($947,000) and Richard Jefferson ($947,000). LeBron James has an option for the second year of the deal, after making $22.9 million this season.
1) Let's tip it off!
2) Glad to see Michele Roberts thinking about getting the union to adopt a more formal role in helping former players transition to real life after they're done playing. The union already utilizes former players to give its current ones an unvarnished look at real life: during the NBPA Orientation this year, Jayson Williams -- who pled guilty to the accidental shooting death of his chauffeur in 2002 -- spoke to them about the dangers of guns. And former All-Star Antoine Walker, who famously went through just about all of his more than $100 million in career earnings before declaring bankruptcy, scared them (hopefully) straight about looking after their money. A guy like Lamar Odom would be a perfect addition to the cautionary tales.
3) At some point, people have to acknowledge that Rich Paul gets his guys crazy paid.
4) Good to see both Ohio Governor John Kasich and the Philadelphia 76ers have a sense of humor.
5) I know I should be cynical at this point in my career, but I'm still a sucker for stories like these.
6) Outstanding reporting and writing by Ramona Shelbourne of ESPN.com on Odom's days in that Nevada brothel, and the people with whom he spent time before overdosing.
1) Something never seemed right about the AmeriLeague, the fledgling pro basketball league based out of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, a lot of good people who only dreamed of getting a chance to play or coach on a big stage appear to have been taken by a con man who lied about his identity. People are capable of doing such lousy things to others for a buck. Hopefully the players and coaches who gave their trust to the organization can find jobs elsewhere.
2) Hope you are back soon, Coach Steve Kerr. It must be dreadful to have to miss Opening Night with your Warriors.
GameTime: Myers on Kerr
Kristen Ledlow talks with Warriors GM Bob Myers about starting the season without Steve Kerr.
3) Sounds like Robert Covington won't miss too much time, considering. But the Sixers are going to need him as a catch and shoot three/stretch four if they are to have any chance to improve this season.
4) We have to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here.
5) When you do what I do for a living, you have an empathy for others who do the same thing. And it is thus so disheartening to read the Tweets and FB postings of people who rip the Fox crew doing the ALCS, or our TBS crew doing the NLCS, and the people doing the studio shows. It's so easy to sit on your Barcalounger and have all the answers. These are humans, trying their best in a highly stressful situation. Sometimes, they make mistakes, of omission, commission and a half dozen other ways. But the instant scorn on social media is hard to take.
"I saw the bull-- they put out. It's just bull--. Just saving face. It was what it was. It was clear. The whole process was going on while I was basically still in the jersey."
"I thought that stuff was blown out of proportion. I feel like the organization blew it out of proportion and I felt like the media blew it out of proportion. Of course him and I could've talked more and been closer. You know we're both ... the issue you have when you have two guys that are very similar as far as competitiveness and drive and kind of being brought up the same way is that they're both the same way so you don't have one person that really goes out of his way to make a relationship."
"I've got 12 years in this thing, and you're out here trying to throw elbows at me and wrap me up and do all that. That makes no sense to me. Just play and you don't have to do all of that. You're big enough and strong enough that you can just box me out without doing all of that."
-- The Warriors' Shaun Livingston, to CSNBayArea.com, ticked off at what he thought were roughhouse tactics by the Clippers' Blake Griffin against him during last week's preseason game. Livingston, of course, spent years getting back into form after suffering a gruesome knee injury in 2007. Though, to be fair, Griffin knows about coming back from injury, too. He broke his kneecap in the preseason in 2009, which cost him the 2009-10 season.
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