NBA Training Camp Primer: Updated News, Notes and Buzz from Around the League
With NBA teams getting their houses in order, the overwhelming preseason theme has been recovering from injuries—even (if not especially) when that means giving guys some extra rest here and there for good measure.
That's made a story out of anything even remotely resembling a quick return, including Dwyane Wade's participation in preseason games, games no one would have blamed him for skipping.
John Wall and Ronnie Brewer have some updates of their own, even if they're not back in action just yet. Delonte West will be returning too, just not from an injury.
Of course, the biggest return of all may be the 82-game season we all know and love, a marathon-like grind that probably has something to do with all the caution being exercised in the face of bumps and bruises around the league.
We're keeping of track of all the preseason buzz you might have missed. With season openers less than two weeks away, there's plenty to follow.
Delonte West Back in Action Already
Well, that was fast.
The Dallas Mavericks clearly weren't especially pleased about having to suspend Delonte West, apparently for a locker room outburst after a preseason win over the Houston Rockets. Now they've more or less said "nevermind."
The Forth Worth Star-Telegram's Dwain Price reports that the team opted to make West's suspension a day-long affair, reinstating him and his entertaining baggage along with him. At least one of his teammates will take some solace in that.
Despite the organization's initially heavy hand, O.J. Mayo isn't hanging West out to dry (again via the Star-Telegram's Dwain Price):
"I've never really hung with him or anything,'' Mayo said this afternoon. "He’s a great dude. You hear stories about all of us."
"They say I’m the next thing to a killer. So it is what it is. Perception and reputation is everything, but D-West is great in the locker room. He’s helped me a lot this season.''
Dwyane Wade Is Feeling Good About His Knee
On pace to play his third preseason game after offseason knee surgery, the Miami Heat have to be absolutely thrilled with what they're seeing from Dwyane Wade.
He sounds pretty pleased in any case (via ESPN's Michael Wallace):
"I feel ahead of schedule," Wade said. "If I continue to keep progressing, I'm going to try to play as much as possible but try to be smart as well. I want to play Thursday, get back out there and continue to get my legs under me ... so I can be ready for opening night."
Such progress seemed uncertain at the outset of training camp.
Though the Heat could find ways to survive without Wade for a stretch here and there, it's awfully early in the season to be dealing with that kind of regrouping already. Having Ray Allen around certainly won't hurt.
The real take-away from the quick turnaround is that there were no setbacks that would potentially disrupt the season ahead.
Steve Nash Was Serious About the Raptors
For those living under a rock, Steve Nash is now a Los Angeles Laker.
But that once looked like an unlikely possibility. It once seemed as though the 38-year-old was headed to the Toronto Raptors, availing himself of an opportunity to return to his native Canada for a fitting epilogue to his iconic career.
Nash told QMI Agency he was pretty sold on the scenario, too (via the Toronto Sun's Steve Buffery):
"It wasn't in any way like, 'Oh well, I gotta go to Toronto.' I was thrilled," Nash said.
"Unfortunately it wasn't a team contending for a championship. But I love Toronto, it's home in many senses. And I think it's a first-class organization and a first-class city and I would have been extremely proud to play for them and represent the city, and play for those fans and hopefully help get that team into the playoffs."
Of course, even if Nash was dreading a stint with Toronto, chances are he'd still say all the right things. That's what he does.
Nevertheless, it's certainly reasonable to believe the pass-ready point guard relished one last chance to become a team's savior, potentially ushering the Raptors' young roster to a sooner-than-expected turnaround. It would have made for quite the story if it ever came to fruition.
Oh well. Now Nash will just have to slum it with the Lakers.
Damian Lillard Will Sit One Out
Damian Lillard is due for a break.
The guy has spent the entire offseason proving to the world that he's a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate and giving Portland Trail Blazers fans some hope for the future—and even some pretty good feelings about the present.
After coming away from the Las Vegas Summer League with co-MVP honors, Lillard has picked up where he left off with preseason action and continued to impress (especially with his electric scoring ability), even drawing praise from Steve Nash after the two faced off in their first preseason game.
Unfortunately, it's not entirely clear how long this little break will last, but it doesn't sound too serious. Lillard will, however, miss at least one game according to The Oregonian's Joe Freeman:
#Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard has a bruised left foot and will not play tomorrow vs Nuggets.— Joe Freeman (@BlazerFreeman) October 16, 2012
Portland doesn't have a whole lot of depth at the point, so it wouldn't be at all surprising for the team to play things with Lillard a little extra safe with the regular season just around the corner.
Lillard is expected to play a prominent role as the Trail Blazers' starting point guard. He'll likely wind up as either the second or third scoring option behind LaMarcus Aldridge and alongside Nic Batum and Wesley Matthews.
Ronnie Brewer Returning to Practice Soon
With head coach Mike Woodson unlikely to insert J.R. Smith into the starting lineup, the New York Knicks desperately need someone to fill in at the shooting guard spot until Iman Shumpert fully recovers (which won't be anytime soon).
That's where Ronnie Brewer comes in—whenever he's ready to play, anyway.
Newsday's Al Iannazzone reports that could be fairly soon:
Mike Woodson said there is a ''possibility'' Ronnie Brewer could practice this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow.— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) October 16, 2012
Brewer was sidelined after knee surgery in September, leaving Woodson to rely on the likes of unknowns James White and Mychel Thompson to get extended auditions.
New York signed Brewer as a free agent to add some depth and perimeter defense to a roster than need a bit of both. The 27-year-old swingman spent his last two seasons channeling his inner lockdown-defender under Tom Thibodeau with the Chicago Bulls, and he'll fit in nicely as an interim solution for NYC's starting lineup.
Once the playoffs roll around, Brewer should return to the second-unit stopper role in which he thrived with the Bulls.
Kirk Hinrich Considered Signing with the Bucks
It wouldn't have constituted the most exciting summer free-agent haul, but it would have been a step above the summer that was.
That should tell you something about how slow things have been for the Milwaukee Bucks as of late. The organization is still hoping the midseason acquisition of Monta Ellis from the Golden State Warriors pays dividends, and it didn't do much during the offseason outside of re-signing forward Ersan Ilyasova.
Things could have gone differently if Kirk Hinrich had changed his mind about joining the Chicago Bulls (via the Journal-Sentinel's Charles F. Gardner):
"He and I talked at length about it a couple times," Skiles said. "I understand. I love Kirk. He played hard and very well for me and we have a good relationship.
"But you know, we weren't dangling a starting job. With Derrick out, it's kind of Kirk's show right now. And obviously he lives here (in the Chicago area). There were some things that were against us a little bit. But I do know he struggled over it. When he called and told me what he had decided I totally understood."
The presence of Beno Udrih behind starting guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis doesn't quite constitute a logjam in Milwaukee's backcourt, but there's no question Hinrich will see more opportunity in Chicago. After spending last season playing a more limited role with the Atlanta Hawks (partly due to injury), the increased responsibility while star Bulls point guard Derrick Rose recovers from knee surgery made this a pretty easy call.
Rajon Rondo Taking over as Celtics' Leader... This Time for Real
When there isn't much news surrounding the Boston Celtics, you know what that means.
It's time to talk about how much of a leader Rajon Rondo is becoming.
This time, though, perhaps there's a bit more credibility to the claim. It's been a running theme for a while, but the sentiment in Boston's locker room seems to be that the 26-year-old has taken another important step forward (via ESPN's Jackie MacMullan):
"He took so many huge strides last year, he had to be the leader," [Celtics forward Paul] Pierce said. "KG and I aren't going to be here much longer, so it's time for him to have a real voice, especially with Ray [Allen] gone.''
Rondo organized offseason workouts in Los Angeles, oversaw the basketball drills, arranged for flag football games, even tried to coax the Celtics' owners into giving them the private plane to travel to the West Coast. League rules forbid that -- "we paid our own way for everything," Rondo said -- but the trip was his idea, hatched from a conversation he had with Pierce at a Barack Obama fundraiser.
"It was Rajon's show," [Kevin] Garnett said.
Rondo getting leadership advice from the president? The Celtics aren't messing around this time.
The club has as much talent on the floor as ever, but that also means it needs strong personalities to step forward and put that talent to good use. Rondo's never had any problem getting the most out of his troops on the floor, but the floor general is looking to facilitate with more than his passes alone.
John Wall Making Headway
Wall is still several weeks away from returning to the floor, but he has started to do more basketball-related activity. As the Wizards practiced at Air Canada Center on Tuesday, Wall worked out shirtless, doing dribble drills with assistant Ryan Saunders. He also shot free throws.
It may be a stretch to describe the 22-year-old as a veteran presence, but he's one of the most tenured Washington Wizards in any event. Summer acquisitions Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza have plenty of experience, but they're new to Randy Wittman's team.
Nene was acquired midway through last season, so he doesn't have much background with the team either.
The Wizards also don't have much depth at the point, putting even more pressure on Wall to return as soon as possible. Even more importantly, they won't have many other scorers on the floor except for rookie Bradley Beal and combo guard Jordan Crawford.