NBA Training Camp Primer: Rounding Up the Most Noteworthy Buzz from Week 2

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistOctober 12, 2012

NBA Training Camp Primer: Rounding Up the Most Noteworthy Buzz from Week 2

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    Do you ever feel like the NBA's news of the day is just a series of journal entries about what's going on in Dwight Howard's life?

    If not, let me help you out. Lakers reporter Mike Trudell Tweets that nothing has really changed as far as Howard's concerned:

    Though @dwighthoward continues to improve & look great at practice, he will not play on Saturday vs. Utah.

    — Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) October 11, 2012

    In this case, no news isn't necessarily good news, but it could certainly be worse news. Hey, at least it's Dwight Howard news—is there any other kind?

    Believe it or not, there is.

    Of course, a lot of it has to do with the drama-factory that is the Los Angeles Lakers, but the other 29 teams have been just as busy working to lay foundations for regular season and postseason success.

    From troubling injuries to encouraging preseason performances, here's the latest rundown of news coming out of training camps around the league.

Amar'e Stoudemire Already Has a Sore Knee

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    Some people have all the luck.

    Amar'e Stoudemire would like to meet with one of those people.

    After a season replete with injury, personal tragedy and the punch heard around the world, the New York Knicks 29-year-old power forward is already limping—and we're nowhere close to the finish line (via the New York Post's Marc Berman):

    #Knicks greaseboard has Amar'e Stoudemire as not practicing with sore left knee though he told MSG's Tina Cervasio he would practice. Hmm.

    — Marc Berman (@NYPost_Berman) October 12, 2012

    Some speculation is in order here. 

    If Stoudemire is telling people he'll practice and the club thinks otherwise, it sounds like he might be especially sensitive about any perception that he's coming into the season as damaged goods.

    Of course, maybe the inclination to keep him out of practice is an overreaction, but such reactions are par for the course in preseason when nothing's on the line.

    Should Amar'e insist on practicing anyway, it would just go to show how much public perception has affected this steam (and Stoudemire in particular). He'll be making over $23 million in 2014-15, so that pressure isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Jrue Holiday Makes Quick Statement

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    If the Philadelphia 76ers had any doubts about showing Jrue Holiday the money, those doubts just got a little less tenable.

    CSNPhilly.com's John Finger reports that the organization is attempting to work out an extension with the 22-year-old point guard prior to an Oct. 30 deadline.

    Though ESPN's Marc Stein has already indicated Holiday has pretty good chances of working out a deal, those chances had to get a little bit better after the point guard's preseason opener.

    He made 12-of-14 field-goal attempts, scoring 27 points in just 20 minutes of action.

    Holiday told the Inquirer's John N. Mitchell that he was more interested in winning than making big money, but he's at a bizarre career juncture when it comes to just how much money he should make.

    On the one hand, he's a talented young player with the skills and physical tools to match, and he's already proven capable of acting as a driving force for the 76ers on both ends of the floor. His length makes him a capable defensive presence, while his improved shooting range bodes well for his scoring output.

    On the other hand, his production dipped ever so slightly in his third season, but that could have more to do with playing in a system wherein the ball's shared so much.

    Whatever the contract ends up looking like, it'll be hard to argue Holiday isn't worth it. The UCLA product made extra sure of that with his preseason explosion (for whatever such explosions are worth).

Dirk Practices, Mavs Fans Sigh in Relief

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    Dirk Nowitzki may not be entirely out of the woods just yet, but Dallas Mavericks fans will be feeling a whole lot better this weekend (via Mavs.com's Earl K. Sneed):

    Rick Carlisle says Dirk Nowitzki (right knee effusion) was a full participant in today's practice.

    — Earl K. Sneed (@EKS_MavsNBA) October 12, 2012

    Just days ago, the soreness had given rise to some speculation on Dirk's part that minor surgery might be needed to prevent pain from nagging him throughout long stretches of the season.

    He may not be entirely out of the woods just yet, but the fact he's cleared for full practice can only come as pretty amazing news—if trainers were at all concerned about the knee, there's no chance he'd be back in action so quickly.

    Dallas is looking to turn some heads with a deep, overachieving roster (much the way it did in 2010-11), but Dirk will clearly be integral to any success along those lines. 

Smush Parker Explains Himself

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    It didn't take long for Kobe Bryant's disparaging comments about ex-teammates (Smush Parker, Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm) to flood the news, and it didn't take long to hear what Smush Parker thought about being termed "the worst" teammate of Kobe's career.

    Though he acted as if he were flattered to be mentioned, Parker went on to explain his beef with Bryant, which predates the most recent comments (via Larry Brown Sports):

    You can’t knock the man’s legacy, you can’t knock what he’s done in basketball. His work ethic is tremendous. There’s not an ounce of hate in my blood whatsoever. The guy can play basketball — you’ve seen that throughout his career.

    What I don’t like about him is the man that he is. His personality. How he treats people. I don’t like that side of Kobe Bryant.

    Parker probably isn't the only one. There are few big names in sports who have been quite so polarizing at one time or another.

    Nevertheless, Smush's most recent reaction is sure to spark all manner of indignation among Lakers fans flummoxed by the notion that Kobe could do any wrong.

    Meanwhile, Parker is getting ready for another season playing in China.

Blake and Duhon on Trading Block

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    The Los Angeles Lakers improved their bench pretty dramatically this summer, but that doesn't mean they're opposed to tweaking it a bit here and there.

    In fact, ESPN's Marc Stein reports that backup point guards Steve Blake and Chris Duhon could be had for the right price, potentially in an attempt to create room in the rotation for an eventual Derek Fisher return:

    Yet sources with knowledge of the Lakers' thinking say that the team is already trying to create a backcourt opening, having made it clear to the rest of the league that Chris Duhon and Steve Blake are available via trade to any interested party willing to absorb one of those contracts. 

    Of course, the idea of functionally exchanging one of the current pieces for Fisher clearly has to do with righting a past wrong, adding veteran leadership and making fans happy.

    Fish isn't a significant upgrade over the current lot right now, but he's almost an institution in Los Angeles.

    According to Stein, the 38-year-old couldn't officially re-sign with the team until March, so he could find himself taking it easy for a few months before coming aboard in time for another title run.

Who Needs Gregg Popovich?

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    Tony Parker is the youngest of the San Antonio Spurs three stars, but he may be the closest to a career in coaching—or at least the most capable (via the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Monroe):

    Popovich turned the team over to Parker — who had the night off — after he pestered his coach with advice after Atlanta made things close in the waning seconds.

    After the Hawks tied the score at 99, Parker drew up a play for rookie Nando De Colo, who nailed the winning jumper.

    “It’s easy to do Pop’s job,” Parker said. “He’s a little bit overpaid, I think. That’s just my opinion.”

    Of course, Parker's just having some fun with his coach, a guy who's dished far more than he's taken over the years. But there is a slightly serious note to be gleaned from all this: The 30-year-old point guard's ability to run an offense and make decisions has improved dramatically of late.

    Once viewed as more of a scoring guard than legitimate distributor, Parker proved last season he was the engine behind San Antonio's electric offense, and that he's still every bit as good as when he won that NBA Finals MVP.

    The Spurs will need another well-rounded season from Parker to remain relevant out West. 

MarShon Brooks Could Miss Preseason

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    With all the talk surrounding the acquisition of Joe Johnson, attempts to land Andrew Bynum and bringing back key free agents, it's easy to forget MarShon Brooks still plays for the Brooklyn Nets.

    The second-year guard is poised to take on a sixth-man role now that Johnson's in town, but he'll have to wait before developing some additional chemistry with that second unit.

    The New York Times' Howard Beck reports that the 23-year-old, "could miss most of the preseason schedule because of tendinitis in his right foot," and that he was wearing a walking boot on Thursday.

    There appears to be a chance Brooks will return before the regular season commences, so Brooklyn Nets fans shouldn't despair too much.

    Like so many preseason bumps and bruises, this one's being handled with the utmost caution.

James Harden Getting Some Time off

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't in any mood to push reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden more than necessary in the preseason. To that end, he'll miss at least one preseason contest according to The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry:

    Serge Ibaka will play tomorrow against the Jazz. James Harden (quad) will not.

    — Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) October 11, 2012

    Thunderous Intentions' Andrew Kennedy reports that OKC's list of minor injuries (including Harden's) wasn't "any cause for concern though."

    All the same, it's worth keeping an eye on Harden until he's back on the floor and playing like himself again. We all know he struggled in the NBA Finals last season, and he shot just 3-of-11 from the floor in his first preseason game.

    Lately, the beard has been feared for all the wrong reasons—and mostly by Thunder fans.

J.R. Smith Serves Up a Reminder

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    There's already been some back-and-forth between J.R. Smith and head coach Mike Woodson regarding regarding whether the shooting guard will start or come off the bench this season.

    Smith is understandably interested in a starting gig after so many years as a sixth man, while Woodson would prefer another legitimate scoring presence in the second unit.

    Given the backstory, it's hard to know what to make of Smith's 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting—a performance he turned in after coming off the bench in NYC's preseason debut.

    The first thing to make of it is that it was against the depleted Washington Wizards. So, this wasn't just a preseason game—it was a preseason game. 

    The other takeaway, though, is that—as good as Smith is—Woodson has a point.

    Smith is a guy who can score a lot of points in limited minutes, and he should feel free to take his shots when he has them. That's a lot easier to do when Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire aren't both on the floor, and it's a lot more valuable at those times to boot.

    However you want to read Smith's performance, it was a good sign for a team that won't have Iman Shumpert back for months to come.