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Issue 17 Out Now

NBA Training Camp: 5 Things to Watch For

The NBA concluded its 2019–2020 inside of Orlando nearly two months ago. The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals and walked away as champions.

The NBA continued its annual soap opera like off-season, as players requested trades from teams, new coaching hires and firings, reports of teammates dislike of one another and NBA Free Agency.

Training Camp is set to begin this week, so here are five teams to watch for.

A New Regime

The Philadelphia 76ers are entering the 2021 season with a new General Manager in Daryl Morey who spent the past 13 years in Houston before departing during the summer. Doc Rivers was fired from the Clippers as head coach after blowing a 3–1 to the Nuggets in the semi finals of the western conference playoffs just months ago. Rivers quickly became one of the most sought after coaches and Philadelphia moved swiftly to name Rivers as Coach.

Rivers is replacing Brett Brown, who served the team as head coach for six seasons, and will be charged with the task of getting superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embid comfortable playing with one another.

Simmons’ confidence in his jump shot has hindered the offense of reaching its capabilities to some extent. Over a three year span the 6’10 point guard has shot a combined 24 three point attempts while making only two. Teams are literally leaving him open, dating him to shoot to which Simmons neglects to do so. 76ers personnel hasn’t always been the best at elite shooting.

Morey has already started the job as President of Basketball Operations off to a great start. Trading an aging overpaid player in Al Horford to the Thunder for a career 40 percent three point shooter in Danny Green, Trading guard Josh Richardson to Dallas for Seth Curry a 44 percent three point shooter, and drafted two great shooters in Isaiah Joe and Tyrese Maxey.

Maybe now that Embid and Simmons are surrounded by shooters defenses will have to account for Simmons on the offensive end of the court. We won’t truly know until training camp begins but Doc Rivers is hoping so.

“I don’t care about Ben’s shooting as much as so many other people seem to care about it,” he said. “I care that he’s a great player, and I’m going to let him play. I’m going to give him the keys and let him be free and play. If he takes no shots, I’m fine. If he takes 10 threes, I’m fine. If he gets to the line 15 times, I’m fine,”said Rivers to Philadelphia reporters.

What Will Durant Look Like?

Kevin Durant will be making his Brooklyn Nets debut this season. The star missed the entire 2020 season, rehabbing a torn Achilles’ tendon he suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals. Durant career averages are 27 points per game, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assist on 61.3 true shooting percentage.

Stars, like Kobe Bryant, Isiah Thomas who’ve suffered the injury later in their career maintained their superstar talent but the athleticism was no longer present. Durant basketball mortality is at stake, not so much in the sense of how much longer he will play, but in the sense of is he still the box office draw the league needs and depends, opposite of Lebron James.

Training camp will allow fans to get the first glimpse of Durant return, no one knows if he’ll ever be back to 100 percent, neither does the Nets forward when speaking to the media at Nets training camp.

“I mean, I’ve been in the league for 14 years. Even if I didn’t have an Achilles’, I probably wouldn’t be 100 percent, you know? So the wear and tear over time, I guess, but I feel solid.”

Addition By Subtraction

Los Angeles might have had the best off-season of any team. Can the Lakers repeat as NBA champions? Who knows ,only time will tell. On paper the defending champions look like the team to beat. Lebron James turns 36 on December 30 and hasn’t shown any inkling of slowing down. Anthony Davis , was arguably the best player on the Lakers throughout the playoffs.

General manager Rob Pelinka signed veteran Wesley Mathews, Sixth man of the year winner Montrezl Harrell, and champion and former defensive player of the year Marc Gasol in free agency. Traded a struggling Danny Green to the Thunder for point guard Dennis Schroder who shot 38% from three the best of his career.

Outside of having two of six best players in basketball the Lakers chemistry was incredible to witness. Rajon Rondo and Danny Green were two veteran players that played unselfish basketball. Both guys dwelled in their roles on the offensive and defensive end of the floor but will not be returning to the Lakers to defend the champion.

Rondo was willing to come off the bench and let Lebron handle the point guard duties. Championship sacrifice from a veteran not to mention Rondo incredible basketball Iq is hard to match and will be missed. There’s no doubt Schroder is a better player than a soon to be 35 year old Rondo but does he have the necessary sacrifice to help the Lakers repeat as champions. During a videoconference call introductory with media Schroder wasn’t keen on the idea.

“I did this off-the-bench stuff already in two years with OKC,”.

Will Giannis Sign?

Giannis Antetokounmpo is set to become a free agent the Summer of 2021. A player of his caliber will most certainly have a multitude of suitors vying to sign him to their franchise. The Milwaukee Bucks forward has currently won the MVP award two consecutive seasons but has come up short in embarrassing fashion during the postseason.

The Bucks can offer their star a supermax deal of five years 228 million dollars but the question remains will Giannis be willing to sign? The star can put to bed any lingering rumors of him possibly leaving Milwaukee to team up with a star player on another team by signing the contract during training camp.

Giannis could also go the Lebron James route, not sign the extension, wait until the summer and become a free agent to put the pressure on ownership willingness to spend to upgrade the teams roster.

If I was a betting man I would bet the house on Antetokounmpo not re-signing in Milwaukee. 2021 free agent class is expected to be loaded with marquee players. Most notably two-finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

Will Rockets Trade Harden and Westbrook?

James Harden and Russell Westbrook are both said to be unhappy with the direction the franchise is headed. Harden has asked to be traded to Brooklyn where he would be teaming up with former teammate Kevin Durant whereas Westbrook doesn’t have a preferred destination.

Since the trade request from both stars leaked publicly, the Rockets is said to have engaged in trade talk with multiple teams on the two guards. Westbrook to no avail finds himself towards twilight end of his prime and no one is willing to touch the three years 132.8 million dollars left on his deal.

Harden is coming off a season where he averaged over 34 points for the second consecutive year and if he wants out, the rockets aren’t giving him away for free(figuratively speaking). The asking price of what Rockets general manager Rafael Stone is asking for players is said to be too high.

Stephen Silas, Rockets new head coach has been around the league for 20 plus years as an assistant, even more if you count the days he spent in the locker room as a child when his dad Paul Silas coached in the league. Chances are he could deal with two unhappy stars coming into training camp upset about the failures of the past but would the Rockets organization be willing to put him through that? ESPN reporter Tim MacMahon wrote two weeks ago that Houston wouldn’t mind it at all.

“The Houston Rockets feel no pressure to trade James Harden or Russell Westbrook, regardless of the superstars’ strong desire for fresh starts with different franchises, and are “willing to get uncomfortable” as training camp opens and the season begins,”.

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