Under-the-radar storylines as tip-off nears
No NBA All-Stars are threatening to play in Turkey. We don’t quite recall what percentage of league revenues goes where. And we don’t care. The referees are under contract and relatively happy.
Kevin Durant doesn’t have to travel around the country just to find a competitive game. Aaron Brooks, thank goodness, is back from China.
All that’s separating us from an on-time start of training camp is, oh, about one miserable week. So, as the countdown grows louder, we can ratchet up our interest in the major storylines leading into October.
But instead of waiting to see if Kobe Bryant can play nice with Steve Nash, or for how many minutes Dwight Howard must continue rehabilitating his back (and image), or just when the rumors of Phil Jackson’s return to the Lakers pick up steam, we’re here to dig a little deeper.
Sure, the issues just listed will be tricky to ignore. The true hardcore followers, however, will be awaiting the development of a few less-obvious stories.
For example, while most league followers will be tracking the health of Ricky Rubio, former Trail Blazers star Brandon Roy will be attempting to resurrect his career with Rubio’s Timberwolves.
Back in New York, Knicks loyalists are eager to see how much positive influence the low-post teachings of Hakeem Olajuwon will have on Amar’e Stoudemire. I’ll be more interested in finding out if Hakeem’s recent praise of pupil JaVale McGee will translate into the Nuggets’ center actually having a clue about how to operate in the lane.
How much will Linsanity translate in Houston? I’d rather find out if Jeremy Lamb has the chops to excel as an NBA rookie.
Is Mike Dunlap really going to utilize full-court defensive pressure as the first-year head coach of the record-breaking (not the good kind of record) Bobcats?
Can the floor game of power/point forward Royce White make a relatively smooth transition to the NBA hardwood? More importantly, how will White’s anxiety issues hold up as he and the Rockets begin to travel around the country?
Is Weber State star Damian Lillard going to be a steal as the sixth overall selection for the Blazers?
Of local interest is former Phoenix St. Mary’s and University of Arizona star Jerryd Bayless, who has landed with his fourth NBA team (the Grizzlies). Bayless inherits O.J. Mayo’s role of reserve gun, which could be a perfect fit.
According to ESPN The Magazine (with an assist from the number crunchers at basketball-reference.com), NBA point guards reach their peak at age 26.
And, thanks to input from The Mag’s readers, the league’s foremost 26-year-old candidate for an arrival at stardom is ... Goran Dragic of the Suns.
Based on his work in Houston last season, The Dragon certainly seems capable of posting impressive numbers in his return to Phoenix. But his explosion last year occurred while replacing Kyle Lowry; the shoes he’s filling here might be a lot more difficult to walk around in.
A PLAN, BY GEORGE
Nuggets coach George Karl recently suggested that the quality of NBA play would be enhanced by trimming a few games from the regular-season schedule.
George’s opinion has been met with skepticism by a few well-meaning league watchdogs who remind us that last season’s 66-game party wasn’t exactly artful. But it also should be pointed out that Karl isn’t positing that 66 games (or whatever the post-trimming schedule would be) be compacted into a similar time frame.
Those with concerns that statistics would be altered with fewer games probably don’t realize basketball’s numerical success is defined more by averages than totals. True, coaching and team-victory totals would never approach those of heroes past, but a higher caliber of play probably would result with the increase of rest and preparation.
Unfortunately, fewer games would mean less revenue, and that would cause Karl’s proposal to be doomed by owners and players alike.