NBA Training Camp Primer: Buzz on Dirk Nowitzki's Knee, Jeremy Lin's Knee & More
Dirk Nowitzki is riding the bench thanks to a sore knee, and who knows what Delonte West will be riding after his latest outburst? Meanwhile, teams like the Golden State Warriors are having better luck than the club they famously upset in that 2007 first-round series as two of their key pieces return to health.
Ah, the circle of life—or of NBA life, anyway.
That circle may be best epitomized by a role reversal for two players traded for one another prior to the 2011-12 season. The Orlando Magic's Glen Davis struggled in his first year with the team, ultimately settling into a sixth-man role in which he was only marginally effective. Brandon Bass, meanwhile, won a starting job with the Boston Celtics and played a key role in the team's deep postseason run.
Already, the tables appear to be turning this season. Bass could be headed to the bench, and Davis is poised to take on a far more prominent role in Dwight Howard's absence.
No, the preseason isn't just about news. There's plenty of irony to go along with it.
We're keeping track of the news and irony alike. Here's the latest rundown of everything happening in training camps and preseason contests around the league.
Dirk's Knee Creates Uncertainty
Dirk Nowitzki hasn't been shelved entirely, nor is he playing in preseason games at the moment. Despite some brief signs of hope when the 34-year-old returned to practice on Friday, the swelling in Dirk's right knee is back with a vengeance and giving rise to speculation he may indeed require surgery to avoid a protracted struggle.
That's not exactly the forward's first option, but it may be his best one. Via ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon, Nowitzki said:
I'm doing everything I can not to have surgery. I guess that's obvious that I really don't want it done now. If I want to do it, I would love to do it after the season, get through the season somehow, but the swelling came back three or four times now. That's obviously not good news.
If it's going to keep swelling up on me, that's obviously not a way to go throughout an 82-game season and hopefully long playoff run.
MacMahon cites the average recovery time for this kind of surgery as ranging between three and six weeks, so Dirk's decision belongs in perspective.
We're not talking about a season-ending procedure here.
In fact, the greater risk to Nowitzki's season may be doing nothing and just waiting for the swelling to abate. Even if he didn't miss the same period of time, the pain could loom, reducing his effectiveness over the course of the season and/or re-emerging at an inopportune time prior to the postseason.
The Mavericks obviously won't want to embark upon the season without their best player, but the upshot of surgery is that it would allow a remodeled roster to find something of an identity without relying so heavily on its leading scorer. That would create opportunities for guys like O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman to assert themselves on the offensive end and get into an early rhythm.
Jeremy Lin Sits out Preseason Game vs. Mavs
Jeremy Lin missed the Houston Rockets' preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks, but the team is maintaining that it's just part of his recovery process, according to the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen:
Jeremy Lin's day off part of the scheduled plan for October while coming back from the knee, McHale said.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) October 15, 2012
The reaction has a distinct "nothing to see here" vibe to it, but that doesn't mean it's inaccurate. With some in the New York media already expressing doubts about Lin's next chapter, it's hard to tell whether the Rockets organization is posturing to protect its investment or just telling it like it is.
Either way, Houston can afford to play it safe with its rising star.
Barring additional moves this season, the Rockets aren't especially likely to make the postseason, so Lin's best days may well come in 2013-14 after the roster has further taken shape. Until then, there's no sense in rushing a guy back to the floor so that he can oversee some on-court rebuilding.
Delonte West Suspended Indefinitely
Delonte West has been no stranger to run-ins with authority, but his latest transgression is bad news for a team that could certainly use the depth behind new point guard Darren Collison.
ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon reports that the 29-year-old has been suspended indefinitely by the Dallas Mavericks in what can only be described as a less-than-ideal kickoff to the season:
Sources told ESPNDallas.com that West's suspension stems at least in part from an outburst in the locker room after the Mavs' 123-104 preseason win Monday over the Houston Rockets. He had 2 points, 2 assists and 1 rebound in 16 minutes during the win.
For a team that's already facing the possibility of spending some time without star Dirk Nowitzki, the prospect of playing without another veteran (and holdover from last season's roster) could put the Mavs in line for a slow start to the season.
The rest of the rotation includes a number of new faces playing important roles in the starting lineup and off the bench alike. They'll be pressed into action from the outset in the worst-case event that the club enters the season shorthanded.
For his part, West gives head coach Rick Carlisle a combo guard who can handle the ball, defend and shoot. He averaged 9.6 points last season in just over 24 minutes of action.
Though currently sidelined with a sprained ankle, Rodrigue Beaubois stands the most to gain from West's absence. He could solidify a spot in the rotation as the team's backup point guard.
Eric Gordon's Return Just Around the Corner
Here's what hasn't changed: New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon hasn't been active for training camp or preseason games, and that will remain the case for the time being.
Nevertheless, Gordon's making some serious progress this week as he tests his sore knee with some increased activity. Via The Times-Picayune's John Reid, Gordon said:
I definitely want to get back to where I should be. As of right now, I’m just going through the rehab with a lot of strengthening, running and all that. I want to take a real toll on it this week and then see how it goes from there next week. I definitely want to be back before the season starts and that’s what we’re striving right now.
Of course, "striving" is hardly a guarantee, but this is a week for Hornets fans to keep their eyes open. If the added workload causes discomfort, Gordon's open-ended timetable may become even more uncertain. If all goes well, a return for the season opener is a real possibility.
Though a game or two won't make much difference for this team, its long-shot postseason chances obviously depend on Gordon remaining healthy for the duration of the season. He's been getting to that point for months now, and we'll hopefully see results shortly.
Is Brandon Bass Getting Moody?
When discussing how he's most frequently utilized in the Boston Celtics offense, power forward Brandon Bass had this to say (via The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn):
I want to [take opponents in the post] but Doc would rather me just pick-and-pop but I want to. That’s part of my game that I’ve always been good at over the years. But I think Doc just wants me to be a pick-and-pop because we already have the guys who do enough isos here, so I guess he don’t want me to be the third or the fourth guy to have the offense stagnant.
It could just be that Bass struggles a bit when it comes to phrasing things diplomatically, but you can't help but detect a hint of passive aggression in that last part about Rivers not wanting Bass "to be the third or the fourth guy to have the offense stagnant."
That none-too-subtly implies there are at least a couple of other guys who do just that, and you'd think Kevin Garnett is one of them.
The 27-year-old Bass recently refused to comment about the possibility of coming off the bench, which is in itself a bizarre gesture in a world where the politically correct thing to say is something along the lines of, "I'll do whatever it takes to help my team win."
So much for being P.C.
Bass may be feeling the heat a bit with rookie Jared Sullinger opening so many eyes and Jeff Green's return to the front line after missing last season with a heart condition.
Stephen Curry on Point in Latest Preseason Game
We've been wondering how exactly Stephen Curry's recovery is progressing, especially after the Golden State Warriors point guard took himself out of his first preseason contest last week.
San Jose Mercury News' Brian Howell reports that Curry was able to log some extra minutes this time around—and make the most of them in the process:
The fourth-year point guard, who is returning from right ankle surgery, had a game-high 25 points in 25 minutes. He knocked down 10 of 15 shots from the floor, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc in logging his most extensive playing time since Feb. 20.
"The ankle felt good," he said. "I was able to move pretty fluidly out there and not really think about my ankle. It's a step in the right direction."
The Warriors will be hoping for a similar return from center Andrew Bogut (also coming back from ankle surgery), but they'll take what they can get, particularly when they can get 24 points in just 25 minutes.
Curry and Bogut are both indispensable to Golden State's postseason hopes, albeit in very different ways. Bogut will serve as a defensive anchor, Curry as the team's engine on the offensive end. Curry's shortened 2011-12 campaign wasn't his best work, but he averaged as many as 18.6 points a game the year prior.
Though he's a bit more of a scorer than he is a facilitator, he'll keep defenders busy on the perimeter one way or the other.
Big Baby Goes off Against Cleveland Cavaliers
Glen "Big Baby" Davis never quite fit in with Dwight Howard's version of the Orlando Magic—a slight irony, given that the two have had a close friendship.
The chemistry problem had more to do with playing styles on the court than anything else. Both Howard and Davis are guys who don't have much scoring ability outside of the painted area, and they take up a lot of space in the process. In other words, it stands to reason that Davis would bounce back from the career-low 42 percent shooting he put up last season.
So far, so good.
Davis scored 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a preseason matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, proving he can still score at a decent clip. You probably shouldn't expect that kind of production with any frequency during the regular season, but it wouldn't be at all surprising to see the power forward score in excess of the career-high 11.7 points he averaged in 2010-11.
Andrew Bogut Getting Closer to Return
Stephen Curry's preseason scoring outburst wasn't the only good news for Golden State Warriors fans.
The San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons reports that the team's prized seven-footer is on pace for a timely return to action. He "was cleared for one-on-one contact drills."
Coach Mark Jackson is hopeful for his return, stating (per Simmons):
His presence alone makes a difference. He's doing all of the things he's supposed to do with rehab and treatment. He looks better and better every day. We're very happy with where he is right now, and we hope he'll be in a position to get some work prior to this thing starting.
The oft-injured 27-year-old has averaged 12.7 points and 9.3 rebounds over the course of his seven seasons, but his most important contributions will come on the defensive end for a team that sorely needs them.
Bogut has blocked two or more shots per game in each of his last three seasons (though he only played in 12 games last season), and he gives the Warriors something that power forwards David Lee and Carl Landry certainly do not—namely, an intimidating interior presence.
Barring any setbacks, Golden State appears poised to begin the season with both Bogut and Curry (himself recovering from ankle surgery) healthy and in the starting lineup.
Jason Terry and Boston Celtics Already Thinking Lakers, Heat
Doc Rivers has always been one to inspire his troops, and it looks like he's already touched a nerve with free-agent signee Jason Terry. In a piece for ESPNBoston.com, Terry writes:
It didn't take me long to embrace being a Celtic. I hate whoever they hate. The Lakers are number one up there and the Heat aren't too far behind. Doc tells us every day to think about the Heat. Not only does he tell us, but the film plays over and over if you go to the practice facility. Before practice and after practice, that series [2012 Eastern Conference Finals] is playing over and over on the television.
You can't help but imagine the Celtics being forced in front of TVs, eyes pried open, Clockwork Orange-style, to soak it all in. And if that's what it takes, fans in Boston won't protest. That series against the Heat was nothing short of traumatic.
It's telling, however, that this team already has its eyes on the prize. There's no "one game at a time" rubbish coming out of this training camp, no sugar-coating or posturing.
This is a club that's already thinking championship, and for good reason.
Tyreke Evans Unlikely To Get That Extension
The Sacramento Kings may be the latest team to take a pass on working out an extension prior to an Oct. 31 deadline.
Of course, that doesn't mean the 23-year-old Tyreke Evans is going anywhere next summer—it just means we won't know quite yet. At least, that seems to be the most likely event, according to NBA.com's David Aldridge:
Evans has shown flashes in his first three seasons, but not enough to pique Sacramento's interest to give him a deal. The Kings will "probably not" be offering an extension, a source says.
The Kings won't have an easy time replacing Evans' upside or playmaking ability. Though they have young talent in the backcourt and a frontcourt boasting DeMarcus Cousins and rookie Thomas Robinson, there's really no one with Evans' skill set.
In the final analysis, that probably means he isn't going anywhere unless he gets traded. That also makes one more thing for this locker room to be thinking about in the meantime.