NBA Rumors: Latest Preseason Buzz from Around the League
After one of the most eventful offseason periods in NBA history, the anticipation for the 2012-13 regular season is running rampant. With just under four weeks until the madness begins, teams are preparing for what will certainly be a memorable year in basketball.
Before we can get to the big show, however, we must make it through the preseason.
Although many NBA fans may feel a disconnect until the regular season begins, there is plenty to talk about from this offseason. From new NBA regulations to superstars facing injury, dull moments have been at a minimum thus far.
As for what you need to know and why you need to know it, the following slides will answer just that.
Anti-Flopping Rules Established
The NBA has finally cracked down on flopping, per a report via ESPN.com. Although this subjective matter is certain to spark controversy, the league has acknowledged the growing issue and put severe punishments in place for those who commit the frustrating act.
David Stern and company have created a system in which each offense will be punished accordingly.
Players will get a warning the first time, then be fined $5,000 for a second violation. The fines increase to $10,000 for a third offense, $15,000 for a fourth and $30,000 for the fifth. Six or more could lead to a suspension.
There are very few fans who will oppose the fact that floppers will be punished. Although some have debated the severity of the punishments, it is clear that there is no place for flopping in the NBA.
Even VP of basketball operations Stu Jackson said it (via ESPN link above):
Flops have no place in our game—they either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call. Accordingly, both the Board of Governors and the competition committee felt strongly that any player who the league determines, following video review, to have committed a flop should—after a warning—be given an automatic penalty.
For anyone who expected NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter to keep out of this issue, better luck next time. The players association has responded and appears none too likely to remain idle as these punishments are handed down.
The NBA is not permitted to unilaterally impose new economic discipline against the players without first bargaining with the union. We believe that any monetary penalty for an act of this type is inappropriate and without precedent in our sport or any other sport.
We will bring appropriate legal action to challenge what is clearly a vague and arbitrary overreaction and overreach by the Commissioner's office.
Yet another issue on which the NBA and the players association simply can't agree.
Lakers Still Kobe's Team
This offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired two-time MVP Steve Nash and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard. In turn, many speculated as to the ramifications these moves would have on the mental makeup of the team.
Specifically, every fan appears inclined to ask and answer: Whose team are the Los Angeles Lakers?
Said Bryant at the recent Lakers media day:
I got a question earlier about whose team this is. I don't want to get into the, "Well, we share ..." No, it's my team. But I want to make sure that Dwight, when I retire, this is going to be his. I want to teach him everything I possibly know so that when I step away this organization can ride on as if I never left.
Considering Kobe has won more NBA titles than Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison and Metta World Peace combined, we'll put any arguments off until further notice.
As for D-12, who many believe to be the best big man in the NBA, he has no issue accepting this secondary role. In one of the most underreported stories of the preseason, which likely comes as a result of the media's desire to crucify Kobe Bryant, D-12 embraced such a position (via ESPN link above):
I'm willing to go through that process, learn from one of the greatest to ever play the game and I think it will be great. I think learning from a guy like Kobe, I know he's going to be tough on me but I expect that and I want him to do that. So, I'll take all the heat that he's going to give me because I know at the end of the day that's going to make me a better player and a better person and it's going to make this team better.
No qualms from the players, so why question it as fans?
Lakers to Monitor Kobe's Minutes
In more Kobe Bryant-related news, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Los Angeles Lakers will closely monitor the Black Mamba's minutes throughout the duration of the season. That's a seemingly necessary precaution for a 34-year-old who has spent 17 years in the league—longer than other players of the same age.
Don't forget, folks: Bryant has played in 220 career postseason games, equating to nearly three additional regular seasons. He has also made three international trips with Team USA, including this past summer when the Americans struck gold in London.
Monitoring Kobe's minutes should lead to expanded opportunities for reserves Jodie Meeks and Andrew Goudelock.
D-12 Ahead of Schedule
One of the quiet but concerning offseason stories has been the long road to recovery for Dwight Howard from back surgery. Per a report via Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, the process is in its final stages, and D-12 could be back in action sooner than expected.
Although he's scheduled to miss the entirety of the preseason, Howard is reportedly looking to suit up for the regular-season opener on October 30th. For skeptics out there, know that Howard is recovering at a rapid pace.
Said Howard, via McMenamin:
I'm getting better every day. I'm getting stronger every day and I'm just looking forward to that day when I'm 100 percent. Until then, I'm going to keep training. I think from the last time you guys saw me to now, I think I look a lot different. I've been working extremely hard to get back on the court and I think we're going to have an awesome year.
If you weren't skeptical before, you may be now. After all, Dwight Howard would not be the first player to return too quickly from a major injury.
Fortunately for the Los Angeles Lakers, D-12 offers no reason for fear. Howard is far more inclined to make a full recovery prior to his return than he is to return early and risk further injury.
He said so himself (via ESPN):
I just want to be 100 percent for the season. I don't want to have any setbacks. I don't want to play a couple games and then have to sit down. I want to be able to play the whole season. I owe that to myself, I owe that to the fans here and my team. We all have one mission, one goal and I want to be 100 percent for that, so I can give my teammates everything I got.
This remains a story to monitor, but Howard is taking all of the necessary precautions. If he can suit up for the season opener, that simply means that his campaign for Defensive Player of the Year will begin sooner than expected.
Andrew Bynum Temporarily Sidelined
Dwight Howard isn't the only superstar big man sidelined by injury, as Andrew Bynum joins him in such a category. Although Bynum's absence is more of a precautionary measure to fully heal his historically bad knees, the Philadelphia 76ers have opted to shut him down for 21 days as of October 1, 2012 (h/t Bob Cooney, Philadelphia Daily News).
That would suggest that Bynum will miss the entirety of the Sixers preseason, with a game-time decision coming October 22 when Philly hosts the New York Knicks.
This news hasn't been too popular in Philadelphia, where multiple members of the team are "disappointed" by such news. Two of those people just so happen to be Andrew Bynum himself and head coach Doug Collins.
Said Coach Collins, via Cooney:
Obviously, it's disappointing. Nobody's more disappointed than Andrew. I spoke to him the other day, and he is so champing at the bit to come in here and to live up to all the expectations. He knows what's at stake. So much of what we're going to do offensively and in the half court is going to revolve around Andrew.
On one hand, you feel Bynum's pain. On the other hand, one can't help but be excited for Bynum as he becomes the offensive centerpiece of a postseason contender. Until he's at full health, however, Collins and the 76ers will keep him idle.
I think it's very important, as a player who went through injuries, one of the things you have to be very careful about is not letting the guy's ambition and wanting to get out there too quickly get in the way of any long-term place of where you want to be. It could be that on Opening Night against Denver [Oct. 31], it could be the first game he plays for us.
Expect big things from Andrew Bynum and the Philadelphia 76ers. Just don't expect such to transpire until his knees are in the best shape possible.
Doug Collins Signs One-Year Extension
Doug Collins and the Philadelphia 76ers have agreed on a one-year contract extension (h/t Bob Cooney, Philadelphia Daily News). This deal will keep Collins with the team through the 2013-14 season.
After that season, the Sixers are hopeful that the 1973 NBA draft's first overall draft choice will remain in charge for years to come.
Said Sixers managing owner Josh Harris, via Cooney:
We have Doug for at least 2 years contractually, but hopefully a lot longer than that. Obviously, from my point of view and the team's point of view we feel very lucky to have a world-class coach like Doug running our team.
In his two years with the 76ers, Collins has led the team to a 76-72 record and made the postseason twice. Most recently, Collins' group upset the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs and took the heavily favored Boston Celtics to a tightly contested Game 7.
Prior to Collins' arrival, the Sixers went 27-55 with virtually the same core of players they've had in each of the past two seasons.
Bulls, Thibs Agree to Four-Year Extension
After months of speculation, the Chicago Bulls have unraveled the knot in head coach Tom Thibodeau's stomach. The 2011 NBA Coach of the Year finally has his contract extension.
According to Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com, Thibodeau and the Bulls have agreed to a four-year contract extension. It is reported that the deal will be in the neighborhood of the $18 million that the Oklahoma City Thunder gave to head coach Scott Brooks.
This should inspire faith and euphoria in Bulls fans. As for the players, the 2011 NBA MVP is certainly behind this deal getting done.
Said Derrick Rose, via Isaacson:
It's great, man. Just to know that we finally got a deal done, he got his deal done. I don't know if he has been thinking about it. He hasn't said anything (to) me. No one has said anything to me about that but you all. I'm just happy that he's my coach for an x amount of years. He's a guy that we need around this organization, where he's pushing everyone in the entire organization to want to be better and try to push this organization to win a championship.
During a year in which Rose will be sidelined for roughly half of the regular season, it was imperative for the Bulls to eliminate any distractions. Thibodeau's potential contract extension was certainly one that the media would catch onto.
Considering Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported that Thibs was upset that he hadn't received a lucrative offer during the 2011-12 season, it's safe to say that the distraction was already there. Excellent job by the Bulls front office to handle their business.
Royce White Absent from Rockets Training Camp
According to Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com, rookie forward Royce White missed the Houston Rockets' first day of training camp. As for why, sources cite his fear of flying and overwhelming anxiety disorder.
Although he displayed remorse for missing the first day of training camp, White wasted no time with his first unusual request of the year.
Via Medcalf, White said:
What it's going to look like is every game that's drivable, I'm going to get a bus for myself. And I'm going to make that bus feel like home so that there's a level of consistency in a job where inconsistency is very apparent because of the schedule. I'm going to try and level that out and make sure that my stress levels stay low.
To sum it up, White has requested that the Houston Rockets provide him with a private bus to the relatively close away games. This comes as a result of his fear of flying, which many speculated would derail his NBA career.
If this report is any sign of the future, there may not be a career to have at all.
New York Knicks Sign Rasheed Wallace
Four-time All-Star and 2008 NBA champion Rasheed Wallace has officially ended his retirement. According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, Wallace has signed a non-guaranteed contract with the New York Knicks.
As for what we can expect from Wallace, it may not be much at all. Knicks head coach Mike Woodson has all but assured the media of that (via Begley):
It's not like we're looking at a player who's going to play a lot of minutes. He's an insurance policy and (a) what-if. If he gets in and plays 5-10 minutes, we've got to hope it's the best 5-10 minutes to help us win basketball games. We've got enough guys on this team that we don't have to play guys a lot of minutes.
If anyone can fight his way into a larger role than expected, it's Wallace. He's one of the most passionate players in NBA history and has made a name for himself as one of the most dynamic players in the game.
His ability to hit the three-ball, swat shots, swipe pockets and hit the clutch shot made him a fan favorite. His unparalleled energy made him a legend. The question is: How much does 'Sheed have left in the tank?
Tracy McGrady to Play Overseas?
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com, one of the game's all-time great scorers could be walking away from the NBA. Two-time scoring champion and seven-time All-Star Tracy McGrady could be on his way out.
And no, he's not retiring.
Broussard reports that T-Mac is considering taking his talents overseas. McGrady could follow in the footsteps of Stephon Marbury by playing in China, where basketball's fanbase is growing significantly and star power is always appreciated.
With that being said, McGrady's preference is to sign with an NBA team that can contend for a championship. The injury-plagued 33-year-old is clearly looking to grab gold before he concludes his career, which has stretched a magnificent 15 years.
More on this story as details emerge.
Raymond Felton Named Knicks' Starting Point Guard
The New York Knicks have had as active an offseason as any franchise in the NBA. They've signed respected veterans, allowed a global superstar to walk and bolstered their roster at virtually every position possible.
Point guard is a perfect example, as the team acquired Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni.
With three high-profile names at one position, many have speculated as to who would emerge as the team's starter. According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, that question has been answered.
Raymond Felton will be the starting point guard of the New York Knicks.
That is point guard for Felton...I apologize to J.R. Smith— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) October 2, 2012