Winners and Losers from Week 3 of NBA Training Camp
The most important preseason goal for every team in the NBA is that their best players emerge healthy enough to compete on opening night.
It's usually the simplest goals that yield the greatest result.
During Week 3 of NBA training camp, we found out that the Knicks, Timberwolves and Mavericks won't be afforded that luxury this year.
The Warriors also have reason for similar concern.
In Boston, however, a relatively new addition looks poised to realize the potential he was once traded for. In New Orleans, a 6'11" rookie is scoring from all over the court.
There's even a former dunk contest champion in Utah who posterized an NBA journeyman.
The Heat were asked questions that won't go away and a power forward from Portland said that he's the best in the league at his position.
Meanwhile, the Lakers welcomed their new center back to the active list at just the right time.
Winners: Jeff Green and the Boston Celtics
One reason Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Jeff Green was to help his team become more athletic up front.
Two seasons later, he may have accomplished that.
Green scored 25 points during the fourth game his Celtics played last week. That output came in a 109-98 preseason win over the Knicks.
Green finished 10-of-16 from the floor overall, stretching out to connect on 3-of-5 attempts from three-point range. He also collected six rebounds and blocked two shots.
Through his first seven preseason games, Green is averaging just over 14 points and four rebounds per night.
If he plays like this when they count, that trade might end up looking like a win for Boston by season's end. As impossible as that might have seemed six months ago...
Losers: Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves
It's hard not to feel bad for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are the two most exciting things to happen to that franchise since Kevin Garnett.
But they're both out now for extended periods of time.
The Timberwolves announced that Kevin Love would be sidelined for up to eight weeks because of a broken hand. Estimates for his return have become a bit more optimistic since that initial announcement, but it appears he will be out for at least a month.
The only silver lining is that there's now an opportunity for Derrick Williams to step up. If Williams balls out while filling in as a starter, then maybe this short-term pain could reap long-term rewards for Minnesota.
Hard to believe that right now though if you're a fan of the Timberwolves.
Winners: Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Hornets
The New Orleans Hornets were smashed by the Atlanta Hawks last week, losing 97-68.
Eric Gordon's still out, and the Hornets have a long way to go collectively to reach a level of competitiveness this season. But Anthony Davis is still there, and he's showing everyone why he was selected first overall in the most recent NBA draft.
Davis finished with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field, to go along with seven rebounds, one assist and one block in that loss to the Hawks.
During his first four preseason games, he's averaging over 15 points and eight rebounds per night, but his progress is going well beyond the box score.
Davis connected on jump shots from 20 and 22 feet out en route to his 19 points. He handled the basketball on the perimeter, while also scoring from the paint.
As he dominated the college ranks defensively, Davis looked like he could also become a versatile offensive weapon at the NBA level.
So far, he still looks that way.
Losers: Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry missed 40 of 66 games last season due to ankle injuries. He was healthy through two weeks of training camp this year.
Then, during Week 3, he sprained his surgically repaired right ankle in Golden State's 101-97 win at Portland on Friday night.
He wanted to re-enter the game, but Coach Mark Jackson wouldn't let him. Since then, the team shut Curry down for the rest of the preseason. He is expected back for opening night.
Curry didn't suffer a major injury, and he's only being sidelined as a precaution. But the recent injury is still discouraging due to his history of surgeries on the same ankle.
When healthy, Curry is a dynamic player who makes this Warriors team a threat to contend for the Western Conference playoffs. If he's not healthy, they won't.
Hopefully these preseason games are the last ones he'll miss this year.
Winners: LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge said that he was the best power forward in the NBA.
I'm not totally sure that he is, but I do like the fact that he's saying so.
Aldridge joined Isaac Ropp and Big Suke on 1080 AM The Fan to discuss the upcoming season when he offered that opinion.
Are you best power forward in the game?
"If I didn't say I was, then it would be weird."
Is there a difference between saying that and truly believing it?
"I'm a realist. I do feel like I'm the best power forward in the game. But I do also know that I have to be an overall better rebounder. I think that's going to come this year. I still do feel like I'm the best power forward in the game."
Now more than ever, the Portland Trail Blazers need Aldridge to assert himself as one of the league's premier players. He began to do that last season by making his first All-Star team.
He needs to make at least three more if Portland's new direction—building around him—is going to lead to playoff games anytime soon.
Entering his seventh season in Rip City, LaMarcus is averaging 17.8 points and 7.5 rebounds for his career. Last year he finished averaging 21.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting just over 51 percent.
In three preseason games last week, he averaged 16 points and four rebounds during 25 minutes of work per night against the Kings, Nuggets and Warriors.
Losers: Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki was forced to have knee surgery during Week 3 of NBA training camp.
Team officials said the Mavericks' biggest star could resume basketball activities within six weeks. That doesn't even necessarily mean he could be healthy enough to play a game in six weeks, but we'll see what happens.
The surgery was done to relieve a constant buildup of fluid on his right knee. No structural damage was found though, which is about the only positive for Dirk and the Mavs.
Dallas is an average team without Nowitzki in the lineup. Vince Carter might need to hop in the DeLorean and return as Vinsanity for the Mavericks to win games while Dirk's gone.
Otherwise, they'll probably lose enough for Mark Cuban to pop a blood vessel in his neck.
Winners: Jeremy Evans and YouTube
The play probably doesn't have any long-term impact for the Utah Jazz, but Jeremy Evans did have one of the most spectacular sequences that we've seen in some time.
If only you could win an ESPY for a play made during the preseason...
Evans first scraped his hand on the rafters while annihilating a shot attempt from Ronny Turiaf. To Turiaf's credit, he raced down the floor to defend Evans on his free run to the basket.
Then Evans dunked on Turiaf's head. Using his off hand. Oh, and Evans then raced back to deflect a pass on the other end of the floor.
It's an NBA highlight that will live on YouTube forever. Another great clip for Evans to add to his portfolio that also includes winning the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest last season.
Unfortunately, it doesn't mean that he will be cracking the rotation in Utah anytime soon.
Despite finishing that game against the Clippers with six points, four rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes, Evans is still only averaging 2.5 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks during six preseason games.
Regardless, a lot of people will remember that play.
Losers: Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat
Things got a bit more annoying for Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat during Week 3 of training camp.
This report from Brian Windhorst at ESPN.com was a primary reason why.
Several teams' executives have told ESPN.com they believe the Lakers are positioning themselves to make a run at LeBron James in 2014, when the Miami Heat star can choose to become a free agent.
Coach Spoelstra didn't want to answer questions about LeBron's free agency in 2014 all season long. To some extent, now he has to.
This may end up being a minor distraction for the Heat, but it's a distraction nonetheless—just as the drama surrounding Miami's Big Three was seeming to settle down.
LeBron's decision in 2014 will now be a topic of discussion as the 2012-13 season continues, regardless of whether it should be at this point or not.
Winners: Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers
Dwight Howard is no longer sitting on the Lakers sideline wearing a bow tie and vest.
He did enough last week to be cleared for live action, and he wore a Los Angeles Lakers uniform for the first time in preseason action on Sunday, Oct. 21.
There's a long way to go at this point, but Dwight being in the lineup now means only good things for Los Angeles.
In addition to the impact he'll make defensively, on the glass and scoring in the paint, he may also account for one half of the best high-low combination in all of basketball.
Don't sleep on Pau Gasol's ability to find Howard open on entry passes from the high post this season. Dwight may end up with more assists from Gasol than from Steve Nash by the time it's all over.
Losers: Amar'e Stoudemire and the New York Knicks
Those preseason smiles feel like a lifetime ago for Amar'e Stoudemire and the New York Knicks right now.
Maybe the hesitation that the Phoenix Suns once had in offering Stoudemire a max contract revolved around reservations about how his knees would hold up.
Or maybe it just looks that way at the moment.
Regardless, for the next two or three weeks, Amar'e will be out with a ruptured popliteal cyst in his left knee. He began to feel pain on Saturday, and in an MRI Sunday, that's what the doctors found.
Stoudemire had missed time in camp already due to a bone bruise on that same knee. He also had microfracture surgery on that knee in Phoenix before the Knicks originally offered him a max contract.
While he's out, expect Carmelo Anthony to attempt 47 shots per game in the meantime.
Whether the Knicks win those games or not, Stoudemire's long-term health is pivotal for New York's chances of making a deep run in the playoffs.
If he doesn't end up playing around 75 percent of the 82 regular-season games, I'm not sure the Knicks will make too much noise in the Eastern Conference.
They might not even end the year as the best team in New York.