Unlikely Storylines That Will Dominate Rest of 2013 Offseason

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2013

Unlikely Storylines That Will Dominate Rest of 2013 Offseason

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    Dwight Howard has a new team, most of the big free agents are now under contract and Summer League action is nearly done. That means we've got nothing but secondary story lines taking over the remainder of the offseason.

    Sure, we're still waiting for guys like Nate Robinson and Brandon Jennings to figure out where they'll be playing next season, but their fates are bleeding over into unexpected conversations.

    For the rest of the summer, things like player movement and front office overhauls will no longer be at the forefront. Instead we'll be looking at early expectations for next season and surprising changes in team dynamics.

    Much of what will come over the next three months isn't what we expected to pop up once the offseason started.

    Along with calculating the odds of a Miami Heat three-peat and how Howard's new team will fare, we'll be looking at how quickly a few players can recover from injuries and the sudden importance of a few new additions.

    The 2013 offseason has been a strange one so far, but most of the odd moves are in the past.

    Now we're in the stage where we have to figure out what those strange moves mean, and how the league will be impacted.

    To prepare for what is sure to be an intriguing stretch going into training camp, let's see how the first month of the offseason has made its mark on the next three.

10. Can Andrew Bynum Play?

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers made a bold move when they signed Andrew Bynum to a partially guaranteed two-year deal this summer, and how he performs could very well change the landscape of the Eastern Conference.

    At the press conference announcing deal, Bynum was adamant about playing a full season.

    I want to play a full season. There is no doubt in my mind that I couldn't do that. Yes, I'm going to be ready [for training camp]. That is the plan. As long as I stick to it, I really believe that I have a great chance with this organization.

    Bynum also said that he wants to get back to playing at an All-Star level and help the Cavs make the playoffs.

    With a healthy Bynum it doesn't seem so much a question of whether or not the Cavs can make the playoffs. Instead, it becomes a conversation about how dangerous they can be.

    This offseason will give us plenty of time to hype up the notion of the Bynum-Kyrie Irving combination and their potential as a tandem.

    Ignoring the fact that those two players have missed a combined 126 games over the past two seasons is definitely silly, but so is going through without considering their possibilities.

    Cleveland could end up being a low-level playoff team that's able to make some noise once the post-season starts.

    Of course, if Bynum can't play again this season, then there's no telling where the Cavs will finish.

9. The Importance of New York's New Players

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    The New York Knicks came into the offseason intent on limiting the damage their salary situation could have on the team.

    J.R. Smith, Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland all looked like candidates to bolt town for a bigger contract. They were able to hang onto Smith and Prigioni, but the Indiana Pacers snagged Copeland with a bigger deal than the Knicks could offer.

    New York went out and traded three draft picks and cap fodder for Andrea Bargnani. They followed that by picking up Metta World Peace after he was amnestied by the Los Angeles Lakers and cleared waivers.

    Seemingly out of nowhere, news came out that Smith needed patellar tendon surgery. That puts his status in question for the start of the season.

    Now that Smith has had his leg cut open and the rest of the Knicks roster is left to be filled by veteran minimum contracts, World Peace and Bargnani suddenly become more important during the first month of the season.

    New York will need some sort of bench production if they're going to have the same hot start as last season, and that means getting contributions from the two of them.


8. Is a Brooklyn Investigation Necessary?

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    Andrei Kirilenko opted out of a $10.2 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves in favor of exploring long-term options.

    Instead, Kirilenko signed a two-year deal at $3.2 million per season with the Brooklyn Nets. 

    Brooklyn signing Kirilenko caused an uprising among executives around the league, with accusations of side deals and calls for an investigation.

    The circumstances around the deal are indeed foggy, but why is Kirilenko suddenly vilified for doing something similar to Ray Allen last summer?

    Allen could have gotten a two-year, $12 million deal from the Boston Celtics and instead signed a three-year contract with the Miami Heat worth right around $9.5 million.

    While Allen's was merely called a ring-chaser, Kirilenko and fellow countryman Mikhail Prokhorov are accused of being in cahoots.

    Prokhorov addressed the suspicions while talking to reporters after announcing the acquisition of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry:

    I think old stereotypes, they are very hard to beat and to break. I respect all the NBA rules and we play by the NBA rules. But I want to stress once again, like with luxury tax, I will do whatever I can in order to win championships -- but under the NBA rules. Please make no mistake about it.

    So does the NBA need to investigate the possibility of some shady business in Brooklyn, or should the other executives around the NBA just curb their jealousy of an owner that doesn't care about spending nearly $200 million on his team this season?

    For now it seems the latter is the case, but anything could happen in this league.

7. Detroit's Strange Leap

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    It seemed unimaginable after they finished 29-53 and 11th in the Eastern Conference, but the Detroit Pistons have been among the biggest movers and shakers of the offseason.

    Along with the acquisition of Josh Smith, the Pistons added Chauncey Billups, nabbed intriguing Italian forward Luigi Datome, and drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

    Jose Calderon and Jason Maxiell were both lost to free agency, but Detroit's acquisitions will hardly be cancelled out by those losses.

    When it seemed as if their strange offseason was just about over, rumors started to crop up that they were after a sign-and-trade deal for Brandon Jennings.

    There's no telling whether that deal will go down or not (Joe Dumars denied such talk), but it certainly makes the Pistons a lot more interesting than they were at this time last year.

    Make what you will of their moves so far, but at least there is a concerted effort to improve their status in the league.

6. Gerald Henderson's Contract Status

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    Gerald Henderson is covered in the Charlotte Bobcats' stink. Even though he averaged 15.5 points per game in 2013 and shot right around 45 percent from the floor, Charlotte is hesitant to give him a sizable contract.

    Henderson is looking for a deal that averages between $7.5 million and $8.5 million per year, which the Bobcats don't want to pay.

    Had he played in two more games, Henderson would have been considered a qualified player for the points per game leaderboard. Were that the case, Henderson would have ranked eighth among shooting guards.

    He did qualify for the field goal percentage leaderboard, where he finished seventh.

    There's a productive player hidden in a Bobcats uniform, and they seem keen to part ways with him.

    Given a draft pick or a young guy coming back in return, a contender could add Henderson if they're willing to pay him the money he deserves.


5. Will Philadelphia Even Hire a Head Coach?

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers took a proactive approach to hiring a new head coach. They re-acquired Mike Brown on April 24, just six days after firing Byron Scott.

    Doug Collins stepped down as the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers on the same day that the Cavs fired Scott, but they've yet to replace him.

    In the time since Brown's hiring, who was the first coaching addition of the offseason, 11 other teams added new head coaches. The last came on July 3 when the Boston Celtics hired Brad Stevens out of nowhere.

    So what are the 76ers doing, exactly?

    Surely it helps to tank for the top overall pick if they just ignore hiring a new head coach, but that's a bit too obvious.

    In the time since Collins stepped down, they've at least expressed interest in David Fizdale, Melvin Hunt, Ed Pinckney, Adrian Griffin, Brett Brown, Michael Curry, Chris Finch and Kelvin Sampson. 

    However, they seem no closer to hiring a new head coach than they were over two months ago.

    Either they're taking an extremely close look at every possible candidate, or they've just forgotten that they don't currently employ a head coach.

4. Houston's Secondary Moves

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    Acquiring Dwight Howard was a distinct possibility coming into the offseason. Now that the Houston Rockets have actually landed him, it has become obvious that there are still moves to make.

    Most notably is Houston's goal to move Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik's desire to stay away from Howard's shadow.

    The only problem is that nobody wants to take Lin off Houston's hands, and the Rockets don't want to let go of a valuable back-up center.

    These two will possibly be the biggest players moved for the rest of the offseason were a trade to go down, so keep an eye on who Houston talks to.

    Not only could the Rockets fill out their bench by parting out Lin and Asik, but they could end up making a few teams around them much stronger in the process.

    It's just amazing how quickly Daryl Morey works. Two players who were they key parts of his 2012 offseason could easily be the same in 2013, only going out instead of coming in.

3. A Greg Oden Bidding War?

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    Greg Oden hasn't played in an NBA game since December of 2009. Up to that point he had played just 82 games during the first two seasons of his career.

    However, there is a small contingent of teams bidding on Oden's services, ready to compete with each other to land a big man with knee problems.

    We're past the part of his career where we considered him a sorrowful disappointment, we've skidded right through labeling him a lost cause and have moved right on to the "we can rebuild him" stage.

    The latest is that the New Orleans Pelicans are expected to offer him a two-year contract that would be worth $3 million during the fist season.

    Meanwhile, both the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat remain ahead of the pack in the race for Oden, with the Sacramento Kings, Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks striding somewhere in line.

    While it's surprising to see so many teams after a player who has had devastating knee problems throughout his career, it shows the value of a big man who could potentially make an impact.

2. Can Kobe Really Start from Day One?

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    Kobe Bryant tore the Achilles tendon in his left ankle in mid-April. Following surgery, he was given a six-to-nine month window for his return. That would put him back in purple and gold anywhere between mid-October and mid-December.

    As the playoffs started to wrap up, Kobe told ESPN 710 that he was shooting for a return sometime in November, but December at the latest.

    In other words, he was completely on schedule.

    Now we're hearing reports that not only is Kobe ahead of schedule, but he is expected to play in the preseason. Jim Buss told as much to NBA TV during a Los Angeles Lakers Summer League game:

    Well, we're in Vegas, and I would bet a lot of money that this guy comes back probably in preseason. He's real sharp in taking care of himself and he's not going to rush anything just to get back and prove a point. He's going to come back when he's right. He's a machine. He's inhuman. I see him coming back at the beginning of this season. I can't believe how much he's progressed so far.

    Coming from Buss, taking that with a grain of salt seems prudent. Still, Kobe's projection improving so quickly is stunning.

    A lot of Los Angeles' success this season depends on how well he can play when he does return.

    If he's the old Kobe, look for a strong playoff push. Should he struggle out of the gate, then any outcome is possible.

1. What Is the New CBA's Impact?

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    Two key players who remain without a contract for the 2014 season are extremely puzzling. Nate Robinson and Brandon Jennings continue to hunt for a deal, while teams seem hesitant to over-commit.

    By all measurements, Robinson will be a bargain for whichever team signs him this offseason.

    After spending much of the past three years as an NBA vagabond, Robinson has relaxed his errant shooting and reeled in his out-of-control play.

    His 13.1 points per game may not have been a career-high, but it was definitely the most important 13.1 points he's ever averaged.

    With his hot shooting, the Chicago Bulls had a player coming off their bench to provide some pop.

    However, Robinson remains without a team well into the offseason, and interest in him remains in the beginning stages.

    Robinson seems doomed to be a player who only gets one-year contracts as teams worry that he'll revert to his old, erratic self.

    Then there's Brandon Jennings, who has the tools to become a great point guard, but continues to play with a shooter's mentality.

    Jennings is looking for a contract worth $12 million per year, but the Bucks are taking a hard-line approach.

    Five years ago, this seems like a contract that most NBA teams would have signed. A dynamic, young point guard with oodles of potential was worth the gamble.

    With the luxury tax line staring down at every team, however, guys like Jennings and Robinson are bigger risks.

    What we could have is two isolated incidents of precaution, but this might also be evidence that teams feel the need to be more careful with young and volatile players alike.

    If that's a trend that continues, we can look back at this summer as the first moments of moderate fiscal responsibility.