5 NBA Players Who Are Off to Promising Starts in the Preseason
The excitement around the NBA surrounding the first full offseason since last year's lockout has been evident, and so have the promising starts that some players are off to this preseason.
Five, to be precise.
For most players, the preseason is a time to hone skills and familiarize with teammates, coaches and plays.
These next five guys have been showing positive indications of good things to come for the 2012-13 season.
Carmelo Anthony: The Leader?
It's become popular to dismiss Carmelo Anthony as being a leader, but he appears ready to bring a gold medal-winning attitude and culture to the Knicks this year.
He'll have veteran leadership at every position around him, and he finally has the chance to go through his first full offseason with the Knicks.
These are all positives for the often-scrutinized 6'8" forward.
Amar'e Stoudemire came into camp sporting a Greek god-like-physique and with no back ailments, but the Knicks are Melo's team now.
Anthony showed why by throwing in 17 points in the preseason-opening win over the Washington Wizards.
He further validated that by pouring in 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting on Saturday night's overtime victory against the Boston Celtics.
Coach Mike Woodson has also made it a priority that Carmelo and Amar'e play on the same team in practice, which is sure to enhance their chemistry going into the regular season.
Listen here to Anthony talk about the impact of having a full offseason and the outlook of the Knicks for 2012-13.
Jeff Green Has Heart
During the shortened preseason last year, Jeff Green was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm that required surgery.
Green appears to be back with a vengeance, showing no ill signs of being slowed down by the career- and life-threatening heart surgery.
In his first game back in more than a year, Green dropped 16 points in an efficient 27 minutes in a Boston Celtics loss to Turkish team Fenerbahce Ulker.
That wasn't a fluke; he put in 17 points in the win over Milano EA7 Emporio Armani Milano.
The Celts returned to American soil to play the Knicks on Saturday night, and Green scored 12 points—two of which came on this emphatic dunk.
Green's solid production for the Celtics is a welcomed sight for them and a bad sign for the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Head coach Doc Rivers was very pleased with Green's comfort level and transition back to the NBA, and he sees a bright future for him.
Via ESPN.com, Rivers said:
I think we're making too big of a deal about this whole being assertive and all this stuff with Jeff. I just think that he needs to get comfortable. When he came to us the first time, he never had a chance to get comfortable, and now he is. He plays the way he plays. He's a smooth player, and I thought tonight he was really comfortable, and you could see that, and I think that's from going through training camp. Jeff's going to be what you saw tonight. That's pretty good.
Joe Johnson dropped 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in Brooklyn's preseason debut win over the Philadelphia 76ers, and he showed flashes of the man that the Nets need him to be.
Brooklyn is hopeful that "Iso Joe" left his game in Atlanta and is willing and able to share the backcourt with his star-studded running mate, Deron Williams.
That shouldn't be a problem, seeing as Johnson played alongside Steve Nash for four seasons in Phoenix with the Suns, though you could argue that that success came due to playing in a Mike D'Antoni system.
Head coach Avery Johnson runs an offense that is predicated on passing and sharing, and he is optimistic about Joe Johnson and Williams playing well off each other.
Via Howard Beck of The New York Times, Avery said, "There’s some growing pains there, in terms of where they’re going to be, but the main thing is they got great chemistry, they got great respect for each other."
The future looks bright for Johnson sharing the rock with Williams for years to come in Brooklyn.
Andre Drummond: The Honorable Mention
Before you go crazy that all-world rookie Anthony Davis and his 14 points and 8.7 rebounds through three preseason games isn't in this slot, let's not ignore the promising big man that is Andre Drummond.
Drummond showcased his freakish ability with 12 points, seven boards, two blocked shots and two steals in Detroit's preseason-opening win over the Toronto Raptors.
Despite scoring just two points in the Pistons' second exhibition game against those same Raptors, he had his strongest effort in the following game against the Milwaukee Bucks with 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.
The ninth overall draft pick is showing the league that he brings tremendous value—value that nobody predicted he would develop as early as he has.
The Pistons desperately need a guy like Drummond if they want to sniff contention in the crowded Eastern Conference.
Greg Monroe and Drummond could prove to be a formidable frontcourt pairing.
In the interim, the 19-year-old Drummond is ahead of the curve on the court and with the media.
Via Pistons.com, Drummond said:
I can’t do it without the help of my teammates. Really, it all starts on the defensive end. We got started well on the defensive end. Once you get going on the defensive end, everybody gets going. That got me in the flow of the game.
LeBron James: The King Is Back
There appears to be no hangover for King James, as the Summer of LeBron is spilling over into the preseason.
James put up a pedestrian 10 points, six rebounds and six assists in the Heat's preseason-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Then it was off to China to play the first of two exhibition games against the Los Angeles Clippers.
James gave fans their money's worth with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in the first game.
In the second game, he dropped 11 points in only 20 minutes.
LeBron rounds out this list of players who are off to a promising start because he still has the most promise of anybody in the league—scarily.
James is entering his 10th NBA season, and he doesn't even turn 29 until December 30 of this year.
Fresh off his first NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal, James looks sharper and hungrier than he did before he added that hardware. Look for him to improve upon his 27.1 points per game from a season ago.
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