The NBA offseason means lots of trades, rumors, and speculation about the coming season. The hottest storylines of the NBA offseason are not only the ones that everyone wants to talk about, but also the ones that will affect the players and the league in the coming season. One trade, one injury (or recovery), one “Decision” can change the whole league.
See what I did there?
Dwight Howard to Houston
Dwight Howard stole the spotlight again this offseason. Just one year after his media-crazed departure from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers, Howard is off to a new city and a new team, the Houston Rockets.
His short time in LA was far from what anyone expected.
Expectations were high in Lakerland as Steve Nash and Dwight Howard joined Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol with hopes of adding another ring to Kobe’s already blinged-out hand. The veteran squad of All-Stars never reached these high hopes, however. In fact, the season was a downward spiral of bad: including, D’Antoni’s inability to make the Gasol/Howard combo work, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant’s lack of chemistry (to say the least), and the Lakers barely making the playoffs with an injured Kobe Bryant on the sidelines.
And then came D-Day.
July 5, 2013: The Day Dwight Howard became a Houston Rocket. It was a frustrating day for more than just Laker fans. Multiple teams, including the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks were attempting to woo the 6’11” three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
On that day, Sam Amick of USA Today reported that Dwight Howard had chosen to sign with the Houston Rockets. Contradictory reports, however, surfaced in the next hours, stating Howard had changed his mind and was deciding between Houston and LA. Finally, Laker GM Mitch Kupchak made a statement announcing Dwight had decided not to return to LA, leaving a five-year $117 million contract for a four-year $88 million contract.
As reported by Sam Amick, Howard had this to say about his decision:
"I made this decision for me. I really want to be happy. And like (owner Les Alexander) said earlier, if you can't be happy when you're playing, then it's not fun. I just want to get back to being that guy who's having fun and enjoying basketball but at the same time dominating. I did that with a smile on my face. There's nothing wrong with doing that.”
Dwight Howard’s jump from team to team has garnered some very negative attention.
Kobe Bryant even unfollowed him on Twitter.
Shaquille O’Neal had this to say about the center’s move
“We've all been in L.A., and not a whole lot of people can handle being under the bright lights. Everybody wants to do it, but when you get there, there are certain pressures. I think it was a safe move for him to go to a little town like Houston. That's right, little town. I said it.”
However frustrating or annoying Dwight Howard’s jump from team to team has been, the impact of his move to Houston the coming season is undeniable.
The seven-time All Star, who averages 18.1 points per game, 12.6 rebounds per game and 2.3 blocks per game, joins a squad of budding stars in Houston: James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons. Houston’s upcoming training camp will be interesting as Head Coach Kevin McHale must decide where Howard fits in his league-leading pace offense.
If McHale and the rest of the Rockets’ staff can fit all the pieces they have together and avoid another “Dwightmare,” the Houston Rockets can be a title contender this year. In fact, according to VegasInsider.com, the Rockets are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers as the fifth most favored team for the title in the eyes of oddmakers.
The Return of the MVPs
For two former MVPs, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose, this offseason has been about returning to the NBA at full force. Last season, Kobe Bryant, the 2008 NBA League MVP, tore his Achilles tendon in the final minutes of a mid-April regular season game. And two seasons ago, Derrick Rose, the 2011 regular season MVP, tore his ACL in the final minutes of a late-April playoff game.
Since the moment these two superstars sustained major injuries, their recoveries have been under the microscope.
For 35-year-old Kobe Bryant, who will be returning to his 18th season in the league, his body’s ability to be Kobe-like is definitely questionable. Even before his Achilles tear, the 15-time All Star seemed to be slowing down.
While still averaging 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6 assists (tied for the best of his career) last season, the Kobe explosion to the rim to elevate over a big man for a throw-down dunk was a rare sight—not completely vanished, just rare.
Now that the aging Bryant must recover from a significant injury, one infamous for permanently limiting players even after recovery, the age issue is even more relevant.
Kobe took to his Facebook to vent about his injury—determined with his “mamba mentality” to return at full force.
“If you see me in a fight with a bear, prey for the bear". Ive always loved that quote. That's "mamba mentality" we don't quit, we don't cower, we don't run. We endure and conquer.”
Kobe can be seen on social media making headway on his rehab: jumping off diving boards on vine and running on an anti-gravity treadmill on Instagram.
The future Hall of Fame shooting guard is known for his determination and competitive nature—so, his drive and fierce dedication to get back on the court is no surprise.
But, Kobe isn’t rushing his recovery either.
Although, he is ahead of schedule, Kobe has yet to run on full-weight or train on the court.
Kobe’s return is much anticipated and rightfully so. Everyone wants to see what the Black Mamba can do post-injury—if he can move, score and win like pre-injury Kobe.
These next few seasons will likely be Kobe’s last, and what he does within them will shape his legacy.
Another injured MVP scheduled to be back this season is Derrick Rose.
Rose’s return (or lack there of) has been talked about since he tore his ACL in an early playoff game two seasons ago.
Like Kobe, Rose has not rushed his return—at all. His cautious return has been under much scrutiny. NBA fans want their quick, explosive MVP D. Rose back, and they want him ASAP.
When the 24-year-old point guard finally takes the court this October it will have been 18 months since his last NBA game. No wonder fans want him back so badly.
But, that’s exactly why D. Rose has taken so long to come back.
He uses his explosiveness to get by defenders. He gets to the rim at will—constantly finishing with contact, having to land after being hit in the air quite often.
His explosive style of play is also exactly why his return is so fascinating. Much like Kobe everyone is wondering if his body will be able to sustain his aggressive style of play.
But the quick point guard seems ready to be back.
After his first full practice with the Bulls, Rose told Chicago Tribune reporter K.C. Johnson he “felt back.”
“I feel back,” Rose said. “I'm not worried about anything. I'm reacting when I'm out there. I'm just trying to win every scrimmage and just trying to push everybody to be better.”
He can even be seen taking on some ninjas during his “D. Rose Tour” in Japan.
The 6’3”All-Star is the Chicago Bulls motor. He gets them going on and off the court. The Bulls desperately need his offensive presence this season.
The return of the MVPs this season will surely change the league.
Bryant and Rose’s return to play will definitely be a storyline closely followed, as we watch two premier NBA guards try to return to the NBA with MVP-caliber play.