View Full Version : David Aldridge: Return of NBA normalcy creates must-watch camp storylines

09-24-2012, 01:54 PM
Finally, a full season again. Never have so many people been so excited about two-a-days.

The lockout ruined a great many things about last season, but the thing it took away that did the most damage was rhythm. The NBA season, like any other, follows a familiar rhythm, a pattern, just like baseball's slow stirrings in late January and early February, as players start reporting to Florida and Arizona. With no summer work in 2011, and no training camp in the fall, the jumbled, anxious Christmas Day start produced uneven, bad basketball. The injuries were just the half of it. The game, frankly, stunk for most of the regular season.

That should change in a week or so. The summer was slightly jangled for some with the Olympics robbing many of a restful offseason. But the rest of the league was able to fall into its familiar patterns, from the Vegas Summer League to offseason workouts under the watchful eyes of team physicians and conditioning coaches.

And next week, teams will again have the luxury of a full training camp, able to take a good long look at players throughout the exhibition season. Players will be able to build themselves up for the long grind, work on things during the preseason games that they may or may not show once the games are for real.

1) Can't Wait ... to see Damian Lillard play for the Blazers. Just have a feeling that the Blazers' first first-round pick is going to be a pretty dynamic player. He is a rarity in our 500-channel universe: a lottery pick that wasn't on TV five times a week at Weber State. He's going to be as exciting a first-year player as there is.

"Damian was the player we coveted and targeted early in the Draft process," general manager Neil Olshey texted Sunday night, "and from day 1 he has exhibited every trait we were looking for in a franchise PG. We are anticipating long term continuity and leadership at the position. If he plays at a level commensurate with his character, dedication and work ethic he will exceed expectations."

2) Can't Wait ... to see Kyrie Irving. Last season's 60-yard dash of a season prevented me from getting to Cleveland to see the Rookie of the Year in action. He showed a much more mature game than a 20-year-old with the rock should possess. My guess is that Dion Waiters will set Irving up much more than people may believe.

3) Can't Wait ... to see what diabolical ways George Karl utilizes Andre Iguodala. Iggy fits right into Karl's sweet spot as a player -- defensive oriented, a willing but not forceful scorer, smart. With JaVale McGee behind him and Ty Lawson in front of him, Iguodala could be freed to do a great many things defensively. And at the other end, he'll be a highlight reel many nights (our guy John Schuhmann had Iggy rated fifth-best in the league last season in field goal percentage in the restricted area) if the Nuggets can turn people over the way they did last year.

4) Can't Wait ... to finally see the Nets' new arena, Barclays Center, next week. I've read and seen so much about the Brooklyn Dodgers and the impact of that team leaving for Los Angeles had on the borough. Now, the first major pro sports team since 1957 is putting down stakes there. Any new building displaces old residents, and there has been enough controversy about Bruce Ratner's vision and plans for that neighborhood to fill a book (or, maybe, just a magazine.) I remain fascinated, and skeptical, of what that building will (or will not) do for the surrounding community.

5) Can't Wait ... for Kevin McHale's first practice in Houston. "Jeremy, you cut here, and wait for...uhh, tall guy? What's your name again? Omer, right. After Omer sets the screen, you come across and, the big kid, uh...Rice? Royce? Right, Royce, you flash in the lane here, and then Jeremy -- not you, Lin, I'm talking to Lamb -- you come off the pin down. Is Camby still here? Coach Sampson, can you work with Motiejunas? What ... Kelvin's gone, too? Really? Where? Milwaukee? What did we get for him?"

6) Can't Wait ... to see Brandon Roy on the court again. He has insisted all summer that his knees feel fine and that while he may not be able to explode the way he once could, he can still play. The Wolves have a lot of parts that should complement Roy's game, with willing passers like forwards Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko and a big man like Nikola Pekovic that should draw attention. The only thing missing is Ricky Rubio, but if the Wolves can tread water until his expected December return ... could be interesting.

7) Can't Wait ... to see what Monty Williams does with better, younger talent. The Hornets' boss had to coach with one hand tied behind his back last season, as the league-owned Bugs sold off Chris Paul and spent most of the year prepping for their purchase by new owner Tom Benson. But two first-round picks, including top selection Anthony Davis, and several trades have given Williams a roster of callow (average age: 24.1 years old) but talented players. Establishing a work ethic will not be a problem for a guy who communicates with his players as well as any coach in the game.

8) Can't Wait ... to get a full season out of Steph Curry, who was cleared last week to resume full-court activities by the Warriors' doctors. His teammate, Andrew Bogut, is not quite as far along and the regular-season opener is still a goal, not a certainty. But Golden State could be a breakout team in the West this season if it could get, say, 140 games combined out of its guard/center duo.

9) Can't Wait ... for that night next spring -- hopefully, it's a cold, cold night in Chicago, like 7 degrees, wind chill of -20, because that's the kind of winter night in the Second City that is usually endured, not enjoyed -- when Derrick Rose looks at Tom Thibodeau and nods, and Thibs sends him to the scorer's table, and the United Center explodes.

10) Can't Wait ... for this election to be over. The 5-year-old looked at a picture of the president the other day and said, "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message." That was cute. The undercurrent of mistrust and anger on all sides that has poisoned the waters and made it impossible to seek any compromise on any issue, or think it at all possible that someone from the other side may have a point, is not so cute. It is a threat to our country. We disagree on just about everything, but we always have, and yet, managed to figure out ways to get big things done that needed doing. Now there is just my side and your side, his side and her side, and everyone goes on Facebook and likes Obama or likes Romney, and we all watch the cable channels that we agree with and never look at the ones we don't. It's just corrosive, all of it, and no matter who wins Nov. 6, there will be a country in need of leadership, parents who need jobs, old folks who need medicine and kids who need to not to go to school hungry or come home uneducated. There's a lot of work to be done. I have little faith it will happen.


09-24-2012, 02:17 PM
i'm excited again...

09-24-2012, 10:17 PM
Nice hype piece.

The start of last season was about as ugly as it gets.

09-24-2012, 10:28 PM
Shocked to not see him mention Howard and Nash in LA and the young team in Philly. Or about how awful the Magic will be lol