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NBA Training Camp Primer: Breaking Down the Hottest News, Notes and More

Stephen BabbFeatured Columnist IVOctober 21, 2016

NBA Training Camp Primer: Breaking Down the Hottest News, Notes and More

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    Is Derrick Rose seriously considering taking the season off to allow his knee the utmost time to recover?

    That's the word on the street. If true, that would make Adidas' "Return of Derrick Rose" ad campaign either really awkward or the most extensive series of commercials in human history. Forget the expectations of Bulls fans and teammates—Rose could be screening his caller ID for sneaker execs if he shuts it down for good this season.

    Of course, the former MVP isn't the only one trying to get healthy.

    Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul are too, albeit in far more limited capacities. You also might have heard a thing or two about Dwight Howard's return from back surgery. And if the latest news about Dirk Nowitzki is as bad as it sounds, he could be next in line.

    From the latest injury updates to the scintillating drama that typifies the kickoff of an NBA season, we're bringing you all the latest news brewing in training camps around the league.

    Here's the latest rundown.

Will Derrick Rose Return at All This Season?

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    Despite continued reports suggesting Derrick Rose's recovery is ahead of schedule, he's leaving open the possibility that he might not return at all this season after undergoing knee surgery in May for a torn ACL.

    Talk about keeping us in suspense.

    According to Rotoworld, the former MVP told NBA TV's Steve Aschburner his recovery might be a season-long endeavor, and he had this to say to ESPN's Rachel Nichols (via ESPN Chicago staff):

    "When the time comes I just have to be ready and prove to the people here that I am ready to play. Who knows when that time is? If it's all year I might wait the whole year, so what? If I come back at the All-Star (break), so what?

    Of course, it's entirely possible Rose is simply trying to reduce any expectations that could pressure him to return ahead of schedule. However, it's also possible he's heeding the advice of Tim Hardaway, who believes Rose should consider missing the entire season.

    The uncertainty will create a sense of independence for the rest of the Chicago Bulls, who must now go to work without making any assumptions about the health of their superstar point guard.

Dirk's Knee a Problem Once Again, Surgery an Option

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    After a roller-coaster offseason that swung from the disappointment of missing out on Deron Williams to signing O.J. Mayo at a bargain rate, the Dallas Mavericks are staring down another low point.

    Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko reports franchise face Dirk Nowitzki has a sore and swollen right knee, a problem that plagued him early in the 2011-12 season:

    “We’ll see how it responds,” [Nowitzki] said. “But the longer we wait, obviously the worse it is. If we have to do something, it’d be better to do it quick.

    “But we’re still hopeful that this is a temporary thing. If we relax and rest it for a week and see how it goes, then we’ll have a better idea.”

    Should doctors determine rest and relaxation won't cut it, Dirk would undergo a relatively minor arthroscopic surgery—Sefko suggests a potential recovery period of mere weeks.

    Either way, we're not yet looking at the kind of problem that jeopardizes Nowitzki's season. The worst-case scenario would be for the soreness to become a nagging problem that persists for a matter of months.

    Though the Mavericks rank as one of the league's deepest teams, they're in trouble without Dirk. He's far and away the team's best (and most versatile) scorer, and it's doubtful Dallas would even make the postseason without his services.

    One has to assume that there's a temptation to nip this in the bud and opt for surgery sooner rather than later. 

Dwight Allowed to Practice in 5-on-5 Drills

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    Dwight Howard hasn't wasted any time returning to the court, participating in most of the Los Angeles Lakers' first week of training camp.

    Now doctors are allowing him to take the next step, according to the Los Angeles Times' Mark Medina:

    Lakers say Dwight Howard has been cleared for full court five on five for limited minutes.

    — Mark Medina (@MarkGMedina) October 9, 2012

    It's still unclear when Howard will be available for games and whether he'll return in time for a preseason contest or two, but this an important step in the right direction and bodes well for his chances of playing in L.A.'s season opener.

    By this point, we all know that Dwight's recovery has gone as well as anyone could have expected. With new teammates and a new offensive scheme before him, the opportunity to spend some extra time getting acclimated to his new team should pay dividends and help the Lakers get off to a smooth start.

Dwyane Wade to Play in Preseason Game This Week

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    After having knee surgery this summer, Dwyane Wade has gradually returned to practice and looked pretty good in the process.

    The AP's Tim Reynolds reports that Wade will try to play in the Miami Heat's two games against the Los Angeles Clippers in China:

    More Wade news: He's hoping to play at least some minutes both Thursday in Beijing and Sunday in Shanghai vs. Clippers.

    — Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) October 9, 2012

    After inking a new deal with a Chinese shoe brand, you have to think there's some pressure on Wade to play those limited minutes. There will be even more pressure to keep that knee healthy throughout the season, though.

    Wade had his knee treated during Miami's second-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers, and his performances throughout the postseason were hit-or-miss. LeBron James was able to pick up the slack, but the Heat aren't eager to test their luck again.

Jonas Valanciunas' Returns to Practice

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    Jonas Valanciunas was the fifth-overall pick in 2011, but he still hasn't played in an actual NBA game after spending last season overseas.

    His preseason career got off to a rough start too after a calf strain kept him out of a week's worth of practice. The Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat reports that the wait is over:

    Jonas Valanciunas returned to full practice for the #raptors today. Closing in on his debut

    — Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) October 9, 2012

    The addition of the 20-year-old center (or "centre") gives Toronto an intriguing, albeit unproven, interior rotation. If all goes well, Valanciunas could find himself with a starting job, but he'll have to beat out Aaron Gray to get there.

    Meanwhile, the Raptors also feature young big men like Andrea Bargnani and Ed Davis, so this is definitely a team with some options—the only questions is whether (or when) those options will begin living up to their potential.

    A native Lithuanian who's spent his career in Europe thus far, Valanciunas has star potential written all over him, but he'll first have to get used to the size and athleticism he'll have to face on a nightly basis in the NBA.

Chris Paul Now Practicing in Full

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    Chris Paul enjoyed some full-contact practice with the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday for the first time since he had surgery on his thumb in August.

    The Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner reports that it went well and marks a step beyond the workouts and drills to which he'd previously been limited.

    “It felt great,” Paul told Clippers.com on Tuesday after practice. “I actually felt like I was part of the team. I was a little winded out there, but it felt good to get back out there and get in the mix.”

    It's looking like the torn ligament in Paul's right thumb was but a minor detour, and there's no reason to believe it should affect his performance in the regular season.

    In the event there are any setbacks, the Clippers can rely on 22-year-old Eric Bledsoe to temporarily pick up the slack. The Kentucky product opened some eyes with his 23-point performance in Game 1 of the 2012 conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs.

J.R. Smith Unlikely to Get That Starting Gig

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    Being told that you're the perfect sixth-man material isn't exactly the kind of compliment J.R. Smith was hoping to hear from head coach Mike Woodson.

    However, Newsday's Barbara Barker reports that a starting job seems like a longshot at this point.

    "I kind of like where J.R. is coming off the bench," Woodson said. "He could start, you never know. But everybody can't start. I have a nice mixture of guys at this starting unit and I have to have some offense coming off the bench, as well.

    "There's nothing wrong with that. He could be the best player coming off the bench in this league and perhaps win the Sixth Man Award."

    Unless there's a change of heart, that suggests that offseason acquisition Ronnie Brewer will own the starting gig once he returns to the floor, which should be in "another week or so" according to the New York Post's Brian Lewis.

    That could certainly change once Iman Shumpert comes back from knee surgery, but that's months away.

    Brewer and Shumpert are both more dedicated defenders than Smith, and that likely has something to do with Woodson's thinking. Additionally, Smith is a prolific shooter, and that could make for too many cooks in the kitchen alongside go-to scoring options Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.

Carlos Boozer Is Tiring of the Haters

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    When you pay a guy over $15 million a year, the expectation is typically that said guy will produce at an All-Star level—if not as an outright superstar.

    Since signing on with the Chicago Bulls, Carlos Boozer has been neither, and fans have taken notice, much to the 30-year-old's chagrin (via the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley).

    “People look at it from the wrong perspective,’’ Boozer said. “This isn’t Utah, and this isn’t just a team with me and [former Jazz point guard] Deron Williams on it. We’re playing with five scorers here, so your touches aren’t going to be the same, your looks aren’t going to be the same. It’s a different system."

    The criticisms of Boozer may not be entirely fair, but nor is it reasonable to let the underwhelming power forward off the hook.

    If he's playing a smaller role in an ensemble cast, then why is he getting paid so much? No one would complain if his salary was commensurate with his contributions (i.e. somewhere on the order of $9 or $10 million per season).

    Of course, there isn't a salary low enough to make fans feel better about that 1-for-11 shooting performance Boozer turned in for Game 6 of the Bulls' first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers—a one-point loss that ultimately ended Chicago's season.

Warriors' Small-Forward Spot Still Up in the Air

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    The plot is thickening in the Golden State Warriors' in-house competition for that starting small-forward job.

    Actually, this plot is just plain convoluted.

    The San Jose Mercury News' Marcus Thompson now reports that veteran Brandon Rush has the edge:

    Sources say Rush has advantage because... Rush is clearly the better defender at this point. The starting lineup needs someone who can really make it tough for opposing perimeter stars, and Rush is even better with Andrew Bogut backing him up. Plus, to this point, Rush is shooting better. 

    Thompson might want to double-check with that source. Just days ago, Thompson had this to say:

    [The source] went as far as saying “it’s Harrison Barnes’ job to lose.” Coming from him, it says something. Trust me.

    Yes, it says something indeed—that it's time for a new source. 

    Warriors fans are surely hoping the uncertainty has more to do with how good these two forwards are than head coach Mark Jackson's indecision. Hopefully they're both worthy of starting—that's the kind of problem Golden State has been waiting for.

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