10 Things We Learned During the 1st Week of NBA Training Camps
NBA training camps and preseason games are underway, which means that we basketball fans can focus our full attention on this wonderful sport and forget about the MLB playoffs and the NFL season, among other athletic endeavors.
I'm kidding of course, but it's still exciting news for all basketball fans around the world.
Given the lack of impact on the real standings and the decreased level of competition, this early form of basketball action doesn't fully explain everything that will happen during the 2012-13 season. However, we can still glean some valuable information from the first week of the proceedings.
From impressive rookies to dance moves to veterans making impacts, these are 10 of the many things we've learned, thus far.
Terrence Ross Is Impressing
Terrence Ross was a popular pick to bash after he was taken as the eighth pick of the 2012 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors. After all, that was a bit of a reach, according to most of the draft boards.
However, people who didn't fully do their homework are now becoming aware that Ross has the ability to become the best wing player from this draft class. Yes, even better than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes, Dion Waiters and Jeremy Lamb.
Ross intelligently guarded DeMar DeRozan in practice, getting up in his face to prevent the quick first step that DeRozan uses so well. Defense often gets overlooked, but Ross' play on that end of the court has been special enough to garner attention at this early stage of the proceedings.
During Toronto's first preseason game, a contest with Rudy Fernandez and Real Madrid at the Air Canada Centre, Ross continued to impress.
He sparked a number of runs with Toronto's second unit, scoring 10 points and grabbing three boards in 22 minutes of action.
DeRozan is the fan favorite in Toronto—apparently his glamorous dunks are enough to cancel out his lack of perimeter shooting abilities and lack of improvement—but Ross is going to challenge for his role immediately.
Jared Sullinger Is the Real Deal
Jared Sullinger slipped to No. 21 in the 2012 NBA draft, but that was due to injury red flags and not a lack of talent. He's proving that, and then some, during the beginning of training camp and preseason games.
It's important to temper expectations after just two preseason games, but some supporters of the Boston Celtics already seem to be calling for Jared Sullinger to take over the starting power forward spot, pushing Brandon Bass to a role of import off the bench.
Everything about Sullinger's play has been impressive, thus far, whether we're looking at his defense, rebounding or scoring. He's been particularly stellar on the offensive glass, pulling down five offensive boards against Fenerbahce Ulker and then another three against Emporio Armani.
The rookie power forward out of Ohio State hasn't gone up against NBA competition yet, but he's done all he can against a lower level of talent.
Enes Kanter Might Be the Worst Dancer in the NBA
There's a solid chance that Enes Kanter is the worst dancer in NBA history. I'm pretty sure that I've done The Worm better than that without even realizing I'm doing the worm.
So, what gives? How can anyone possibly have this little skill when the music is playing?
I'm guessing that his recent weight loss has something to do with it. Kanter just doesn't know how to handle his svelte new frame. After all, he checked in at a self-reported 242 pounds after entering the summer at 293 thanks to a slightly unhealthy diet (via Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune):
First my breakfast: I was eating like six eggs, omelet with six eggs; seven or eight pancakes, with sugar, whipped cream, everything; then a breakfast burrito. That was just my breakfast. Then I came to practice and my lunch was just like pasta, chicken alfredo or whatever, and then a burger and an appetizer. Dessert? No. Dessert was at dinnertime. Dinnertime I ate another burger, a big meal again and a dessert.
All kidding aside, this is great news for the Utah Jazz. A healthy Kanter gives them one of the deepest frontcourts in the NBA, between the not-even-one-and-done Kentucky Wildcat, Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.
This could be the first step in a sensational sophomore season.
Steve Nash Makes the Lakers Scary Good
Steve Nash looked like he was already meshing well with the other four starters on the Los Angeles Lakers. That said, it's still really, really weird to see him wearing the jersey you see in the picture to the left.
It took the Canadian floor general only seven minutes to record his first two assists in purple and gold, and he finished with five points and three assists with no turnovers.
Nash left the game for good in the second quarter as Mike Brown chose to roll with the backups for the entirety of the second half.
It's obviously tough to draw conclusions from a 14-minute sample size. But seeing as that's all we have to work with, we might as well roll with it.
This is a ridiculous tiny step for the new-look Lakers, but it was one in the right direction, especially with Robert Sacre filing in for Dwight Howard.
Paul George Is Ready to Break Out
Paul George is a popular pick as a breakout player this year, and the Indiana Pacers' season might depend on how well the young wing can perform during his third season in The Association.
At least that's what George himself thinks, according to an interview with Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star:
I feel like there's a lot riding on me. I like the pressure. I like to be in the situation I'm in. I worked hard the whole summer to get better at my game. I'm the 'X' factor.
Confidence is one thing that almost every player at this level has, though, so we're going to have to see how he backs it up on the court.
Big things are expected from George, and it's a good sign that he's aware of those expectations and ready to live up to them.
Zach Randolph Is Back and the League Should Be Worried
Zach Randolph has stated that his knee is at 100 percent and that he's ready to go for the 2012-13 season, according to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal.
That's terrific news for the Memphis Grizzlies, who would like nothing more than a full season of Z-Bo. His knee injury set the team back a bit during the 2011-12 campaign—although Marreese Speights filled in admirably in Randolph's absence—and he often served as a sixth man once he returned to the lineup.
Randolph is one of the best power forwards in the NBA when healthy, and he could be the piece that pushes the Grizz into true title contention, especially if Mike Conley takes another step forward.
He looked pretty sensational during his first live action, playing 32 minutes against Real Madrid in Memphis' preseason opener. Randolph made six of his eight shots from the field, finishing with a remarkably efficient 12 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Obviously, the competition is going to be ratcheted up a bit when the Grizzlies take on actual NBA teams, but Randolph couldn't have asked for more success in his first game. Plus, it's an encouraging sign that he topped 30 minutes in what is essentially a meaningless contest.
Royce White Is Ready to Go
There's been a lot of noise about Royce White's anxiety disorder during the offseason. His fear-of-flying event resulted in a request for a private bus.
Apparently, it's a request that the Houston Rockets are willing to grant, and the arrangement allowed the rookie forward to report to training camp for the first time on Monday, Oct. 8.
White's learning curve just got even steeper after missing the beginning of team activities, but his arrival brought about a lot of excitement among the Houston camp, according to the Associated Press report:
His teammates seemed happy to have White back, greeting him with high-fives and encouragement when practice began. If White can blossom, the Rockets think he can provide a strong -- and much-needed -- inside presence.
The former Iowa State Cyclone will be one of the most intriguing players to watch during the 2012-13 season, and this early exposure in the news will only increase the desire for Royce White news.
Harrison Barnes Is Going to Get Some ROY Buzz
Brandon Rush has made a push to start for the Golden State Warriors, but according to Marcus Thompson, a beat writer for the Bay Area News Group, the job in the starting five is still Harrison Barnes' to lose:
At media day, when asked about the SF competition, Barnes expressed appreciation that he had a coach willing to consider a rookie to start. But when discussing his chances, he simply left it at “we’ll see.”
Uh oh. Sounds like whatever he had brewing is working.
Late last night, after the evening practice, I was talking with a source about the small forward competition. This source, who I trust and has seen every second of practice, said rookie Harrison Barnes has been special the first two practices. He went as far as saying “it’s Harrison Barnes’ job to lose.” Coming from him, it says something. Trust me.
Barnes looked sensational during summer league, and the dominance has continued now that the Dubs have officially begun training camp. He struggled with his three-point shot against the Los Angeles Lakers during the Warriors' preseason opener, but he still finished with 13 points in only 24 minutes of action.
If the rookie small forward does hold onto the starting role for Golden State, he'll garner a lot of hype for Rookie of the Year because of his ability to score points in bunches. In a fast-paced system, his numbers might be inflated enough for him to win the award.
The Sacramento Kings Are Figuring Things Out, Finally
The Sacramento Kings have been developing a bigger and bigger logjam in the backcourt as the years progress. Somehow, someway, they're going to have to find consistent minutes for Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans and Aaron Brooks with only two guard spots to work with.
And that's assuming that Jimmer Fredette continues to rot away on the bench and doesn't get an opportunity to ever live up to his potential.
The Kings are showing that they might use Marcus Thornton in a sixth-man role, coming off the bench to score points in bunches. Of course, that's based on the way they've split up the teams at practices.
This move would allow Evans to play a more natural shooting guard position, freeing up the small forward spot for...Thomas Robinson?
Seriously though, the Kings have been toying with the idea of using the former Kansas big man in the 3-spot. If that's the case, you can forget about ever getting a rebound when playing Sacramento.
Battle Brewing in Phoenix
One of the more intriguing positional battles going on in training camps across the country is taking place in the desert. Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley are duking it out for the right to start for the Phoenix Suns.
Here's what Alvin Gentry had to say about the battle before the Suns began their preseason schedule, as reported by Paul Coro of AZCentral.com:
Jared and Shannon have both played really good basketball. Both of them feel right now like they are going to be the starting two-guard and they’ve played at that level. If you talk about the two guys who have played the best in the pickup games (prior to the start of camp), they were the two best ones, probably.
While I'd personally roll with Dudley, one of the more underrated players in the league, I obviously don't have the final say in the decision-making process. The preseason games, which begin on Wednesday, Oct. 10, will tell us quite a bit.
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