NBA Training Camp Primer: Latest News and Buzz from Around the League
No, Andrew Bynum's emergent fro isn't the biggest story coming out of Philadelphia 76ers training camp. As it turns out, not practicing is just as newsworthy as practicing.
Juxtaposed against Dwight Howard's rapid recovery from April back surgery, Philly's newest 7-footer is taking things easy after offseason knee treatment—a procedure aimed at improving his condition over the long haul.
Bynum's training camp experience (or lack thereof) is illustrative.
Even the smallest wrinkle in a preseason routine can raise eyebrows. But most of the eyebrow raising of late has to do with the flurry of sentiments players and coaches are expressing when not actually practicing. Those comments are beginning to give us a sense of what to expect from this season—perhaps more so even than the preseason contests already underway.
We're keeping track of all the biggest news coming out of training camp, and here's a rundown of the very latest.
Kobe Still Eyeing 2014 Retirement
Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE
CBS Sports' Ken Berger is only the latest to be mesmerized by Bryant's equivalent of an invitation to a living funeral:
Speaking with CBSSports.com in a quiet moment after practice, Bryant conceded that, in all likelihood, the finish line and the conclusion of his current contract will be one in the same. Bryant has two years left, and though he was careful to point out, "One can never be too sure," he made it clear in the next breath it's almost unfathomable he would play beyond 2013-14, which would be his 18th season.
For all intents and purposes, Bryant's touring the media and delivering a dressed-up version of "maybe" when this retirement question comes around. It's as if Kobe wants to be celebrated now, while he can still savor the moment.
It's as if he's ever so worried what little attention was left after Miami's exploits would be split between his bigger, stronger teammate (Dwight Howard) and his younger, better rival (Kevin Durant). Whatever Kobe's on-court game lacks at age 34, his off-court game is as brilliant as ever.
Just drop the R-word, and the world hangs on your every last word—at least if you're Kobe Bryant.
Blake Griffin Working on Shooting Stroke
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Blake Griffin has always been known for his dunking ability, and it's not just because he has quite the dunking ability.
It's also to do with the fact that no one really wants to talk about his shooting ability. That could be changing, though, according to the Los Angeles Times' Baxter Holmes:
Just as the Clippers' star forward is about to release the ball, he pauses, a hiccup he has tried to stop by working with the team's new shooting coach, Bob Thate.
During warmups before the Clippers' 106-104 exhibition loss against Denver on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Griffin's shooting release looked smoother than before.
Apparently, there were still some mechanics problems with Griffin's free throws, but the Clippers will take any sign of progress at this point. The 23-year-old has gotten by with his explosiveness thus far, but the team needs him to develop more of a mid-range game, something it probably won't be getting anytime soon from frontcourt partner DeAndre Jordan.
Given how productive Griffin's remained even without exceptional range, it's scary to think what kind of damage he could do with those shooting kinks ironed out.
Now for that defense...
Carmelo Still Has That Olympic Glow
Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
Remember when Carmelo Anthony made the London Summer Olympics look like a video game?
Ever think how scary it would be if he did the same thing to the NBA?
Of course, at times he's done just that, scoring a record 33 points in a single quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves back in 2008. He may not have another record-matching performance in store for us, but, per the New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence, head coach Mike Woodson boasted about Anthony's offseason after Monday's practice:
I think Melo was fantastic during the Olympics. He did a lot of wonderful things for that team to help them secure the gold medal. There’s been a nice carry-over in the camp coming back. I think he’s committed. I always thought he was committed. And he’ll have to be committed even more, if you’re talking about trying to take this thing to the next level. That’s everybody. It’s not just Carmelo Anthony.
The talk about being committed probably isn't going anywhere until this team wins a championship. Buckling down and playing harder on the defensive end has been a running theme since Woodson took the helm from Mike D'Antoni, and it's hard to imagine the culture is completely changed just yet.
Otherwise, Woodson's sentiments are encouraging and surely confirm what so many Knicks fans have been secretly hoping: that those Olympics weren't just a fluke.
We should know better by now. This is still the same Carmelo Anthony for whom NYC traded a small village worth of young basketball talent. He may have struggled to find his footing under D'Antoni, but those with short memories have confused the first three months of 2011-12 with some kind of permanent decline.
What Anthony did at season's end suggests quite the opposite—29.8 points on just under 50 percent shooting.
Forget the Olympics. A repeat of that April will get the job done just fine.
Deron Williams Goes on the Offensive
Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
The Brooklyn Nets are learning what life is like with a franchise superstar.
Despite a billion-dollar arena, a new name and a new look, this has been the summer of Deron Williams—and nothing short of a Humphries-Kardashian reunion is going to change that right now.
After pretending the Dallas Mavericks weren't all that gung-ho about Deron Williams in the first place, the jilted Mark Cuban has maintained that his organization's offseason worked out more or less as planned, maybe even better than planned. It doesn't take a code-breaker to sense the underlying resentment toward D-Will and his decision to remain with the Nets shortly after his visit with the Mavs.
The native Texan now has some none-too-subtle sentiments of his own, according to The New York Times' Howard Beck:
Deron Williams elaborated on choice of Nets over Mavs. Says Mark Cuban's absence at meeting helped cinch decision.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeckNYT) October 8, 2012
The fame hasn't just gone to Cuban's head. It's replaced whatever was there in the first place.
Then again, if Cuban was at all sincere about his franchise's interest in Williams being lukewarm, maybe throwing around some money on a reality TV show was a good call. It was certainly the cheaper option.
No Worries About Andrew Bynum
Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
You can forgive Philadelphia 76ers fans for being a bit apprehensive at the news that recently-acquired star center Andrew Bynum would miss practice time after receiving offseason knee treatment, but that news deserves a caveat.
The decision is only a precaution (via Philly.com's John Mitchell).
At the end of the morning session at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, 76ers center Andrew Bynum, who has been watching his teammates practice from the sidelines, said that if the team were actually playing meaningful games he would be out there with them.
“I feel pretty good,” Bynum said. “I’m definitely getting better.”
That's encouraging given just how heavily the 76ers will depend on the 24-year-old this season—and given how much the organization gave up by trading away All-Star Andre Iguodala. Philadelphia can ill-afford to endure long stretches without a guy who's proved to be a dominant post presence and one of the two best centers in the league.
To that end, Bynum's knee treatment and subsequent rest are probably good things. The team is far better off waiting now than missing the guy when it really matters.
As for his return? Philly.com's Bob Cooney reports that Bynum isn't so sure, noting that the decision is, "really up to the trainers and the doctors right now."
J.R. Smith Still Not Starting
Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
The way things are looking, the New York Knicks would have to be down to five active players for J.R. Smith to get a crack at the starting lineup.
He said (via ESPN New York's Jared Zwerling) that he'd, "prefer to start," last week, but even injuries to Iman Shumpert and Ronnie Brewer apparently haven't shaken head coach Mike Woodson's interest in using him as a sixth man, according to Newsday's Alan Hahn.
FWIW: Woodson keeping JR Smith with reserves. SG spot with starters filled by Mychael Thompson today, James White before, as Brewer recovers— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) October 8, 2012
Of course, there are some good reasons to keep Smith on the bench—including keeping him out of the starting lineup.
It's not that Smith doesn't have what it takes to start. You just have to wonder how the trigger-happy scorer would gel with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. The last thing that unit needs is another guy looking to shoot.
That lack of shyness actually pays dividends with the second unit, however. The Knicks' bench has some solid defenders, and Jason Kidd will be more than happy to spot up for a few three-pointers, but there's no one else who screams "spark plug" quite like Smith does.
OKC and Harden Work on Extension, but What About Eric Maynor?
Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
The Oklahoma City Thunder are still working with James Harden's representation to negotiate an extension, but it goes without saying he won't be the only one affected.
The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry suggests that it won't be financially viable for the organization to retain backup point guard Eric Maynor in the event Harden sticks around:
If Harden signs, Maynor is gone. If Harden doesn't sign, Maynor has a great shot at staying. But even then it depends on his price tag. The Thunder isn't going to overpay for Maynor when Reggie Jackson is waiting in the wings.
It's not entirely clear whether Mayberry's response to a fan question is grounded in speculation or his understanding based on sources within the franchise, but there's nothing especially controversial about the conclusion either way.
It would be prohibitively expensive to retain both over the long term.
Maynor played in just nine games last season before being sidelined by an ACL injury, but the 25-year-old could probably use an opportunity to run the point for a team that doesn't have Russell Westbrook hogging all those starter's minutes.
The Thunder can make him a restricted free agent at season's end by extending him a qualifying offer, but don't expect them to get into any kind of bidding war—especially if Harden is still in a Thunder uniform.
Eric Gordon Still Playing It Safe
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
The New Orleans Hornets didn't see much of Eric Gordon last season after a knee injury held him to just nine games.
So far, not much has changed (via The Times-Picayune's Jimmy Smith):
Gordon did not participate in any contact work during the first week of training camp, and Coach Monty Williams said Monday it's unlikely Gordon will see the floor much this week as well. The Hornets play three exhibition games in four days this week, beginning Tuesday night whenNew Orleans' hosts the Charlotte Bobcats in New Orleans Arena.
It's still too soon to tell how much of Gordon's absence is a function of precaution and how much is attributable to ongoing soreness. Either way, the organization can't be happy about watching the centerpiece of the Chris Paul deal remain seemingly always on the verge of lengthy inaction.
The delayed return to the court is especially disconcerting given the team's decision to match a four-year, $58 million offer extended by the Phoenix Suns.
When healthy, Gordon's an electric young scorer with the potential to play at an All-Star level for years to come. So far, Hornets fans will just have to take our word for it.
O.J. Mayo Not Happy with His Memphis Chapter
Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
With Elton Brand looking to avenge the Philadelphia 76ers' decision to amnesty him and Darren Collison hoping to rediscover his breakout rookie form, the Dallas Mavericks are hoping to make the most of chips on shoulders and their power to motivate.
You can add O.J. Mayo to that list of guys on the rebound. He's not especially pleased with how things went south in Memphis (via Hoopshype):
I was disappointed because in my life I had always exceeded expectations. But (in Memphis), it was a little bit of a failure. I have to stay focused every night, practice hard, do extra work and stay prepared so that it won't happen again.
I felt like I could have done better (in Memphis). Starting and then moving to bench would be tough on everybody. I had started all my life, so that was something I had to adjust to. It's a new opportunity in Dallas, so I have to play hard and hold my ground.
Mayo will be starting again in Dallas, and the Mavs have understandably high hopes for the 24-year-old. He averaged 18.5 points as a rookie and 17.5 points a season later. There's no question about his scoring ability, and that ability could make him the team's second option after the legendary Dirk Nowitzki.
Stephen Curry Takes Himself Out of Preseason Game
Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
As if there weren't enough injury anxiety surrounding the fates of Eric Gordon and Andrew Bynum, Stephen Curry's preseason has the Golden State Warriors holding their breaths as well.
The postseason hasn't looked like such a distinct possibility in years for those fans, but it'll continue to look just as distant without a healthy Curry. Though it doesn't necessarily mean anything for the season ahead, it's worth noting the 24-year-old's first preseason game yielded some mixed results, according to the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson:
Curry said he felt his ankle getting sore so he called it a night after 12 minutes of action. He told Mark Jackson he was done and he stayed in the locker room to get ice. He still said the outing was good. For most of the night, he said his ankle felt "great" and he didn't look limited while cutting, running, jumping, driving, etc. Now, they'll monitor how his ankle responds tomorrow. If he's problem free, he'll play more minutes on Thursday.
It's not the best of news, but it's not the worst either.
On the one hand, you have to be pleased there was no discomfort for the bulk of those 12 minutes, and even happier with the young player's discipline and willingness to monitor himself. On the other hand, the bulk of 12 minutes isn't much.
Some soreness is to be expected after his April ankle surgery—now the only question is how much longer we should be expecting it.