What should we expect from Russell Westbrook in 2013-14?
What is each team's biggest injury question entering the 2013-14 season?
The injury bug can bite at any time, but the concerns outlined here are lingering ones. These issues have fans nervous because they hold weight regarding each squad's potential.
Let's break down these pressing questions and hope they don't need to be analyzed further in the coming months.
There is currently much ambiguity surrounding when Rondo will hit the hardwood.
According to ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg, when Rondo was recently asked about his return, he responded with wit, "the 2013-14 season."
Pressed further, he added, "Probably sometime in the winter. Maybe the fall."
There certainly doesn't appear to be any rush with Rondo. By the time he suits up for the first time under new coach Brad Stevens, it may not only be 2014, but the new-look Celtics may also already be out of the playoff race.
They should always be alert to Williams' health, because while they have more talent now with the additions of Garnett and Pierce, he remains their catalyst.
Williams spent the initial chunk of the 2012-13 season battling ankle injuries, and it led to the following uncharacteristic pre-All Star break averages, per Basketball-Reference: 16.7 points (41.3 percent from the field) and 7.6 assists per game.
Compare this with his eye-popping post-All Star break digits once his health was a nonissue: 22.9 PPG (48.1 percent) and 8.0 APG.
Needless to say, Nets fans should be worried about Williams already facing another ankle injury. They need a healthy Williams throughout 2013-14 if they long to be true contenders.
This signing back in 2010 keeps looking worse and worse. It's to the point of wondering how the Knicks should even handle him once he is healthy.
They added big man Andrea Bargnani in a trade, and Carmelo Anthony can function effectively at the power forward slot. They seemingly have no need for Stoudemire even if he's active.
Therefore, the problem here is twofold. First of all, will it be another injury-plagued season? And secondly, do they even need him?
This is the furthest thing from an ideal scenario.
Nerlens Noel, the sixth overall selection of the 2013 draft, is still rehabbing a torn ACL.
According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Noel's physical therapist does not expect him to return before December.
Since he is only 19 years old, the 76ers will feel no need to hurry him, especially since they may have "tanking" in mind with Andrew Wiggins headlining the 2014 draft.
Therefore, we may not see Noel for a while. It will come at some point this season, but Philadelphia will surely ease him back before anticipating big things from the 6'11'' shot-blocker.
Landry Fields landed a three-year, near-$20 million deal last offseason, but due to injuries, he only played in 51 games during his first year with the Toronto Raptors.
Plus, even in the games he played, he only averaged 4.7 PPG in 20.3 minutes per outing.
If the Raptors are going to justify the contract they gave him, they'll need him to be healthy and much more of a factor. He never found a groove in 2012-13, and this needs to change.
If he can avoid nagging wounds, then he should become a much more integral element to Toronto's attack.
This one is obvious.
The Chicago Bulls instantly become a legitimate contender—and potentially the biggest threat to a Miami Heat three-peat—with Derrick Rose in uniform.
Assuming Rose can stay on the floor, will he regain his MVP form? This is imperative to Chicago's ceiling. The Bulls already lack star power, so they need him at his best.
Rose's return is exciting in and of itself, but his level of play will determine how far the Bulls venture come the spring.
Based on his first preseason game, his acceleration looks like it's there, but his timing is subpar.
This should be recaptured soon, and once that happens, he should vault Chicago into contention.
The Cleveland Cavaliers wait eagerly for Andrew Bynum to make his debut in a Cavs uniform, but according to the Akron Beacon-Journal, Cleveland coach Mike Brown has indicated that Bynum will not be rushed back.
Hopefully, we can witness Bynum and Kyrie Irving on the same team before the Cavaliers are buried in their division behind the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers.
Perhaps most importantly, if Bynum returns and excels, then his beastly presence could help woo LeBron James back to Cleveland next summer.
This is why it's important that Bynum plays sooner rather than later. There is some urgency here because of Cleveland's future outlook.
Chauncey Billups is now 37 years old, and he's coming off a season in which he only played in 22 games.
Further, he has switched teams and is now expected to play some shooting guard (he's typically been a point guard) for the Detroit Pistons.
Does "Mr. Big Shot" have anything left in the tank? Can his body hold up?
Even if it does, he will have a hard time keeping pace at his age, particularly on the defensive end.
If Billups looks like he's out of gas or suffers new injuries, he could find himself hanging up the sneakers in the near future.
Danny Granger's return from his knee injury could give the Indiana Pacers the missing piece to the championship puzzle.
But if his injury woes continue or he is no longer an elite small forward, then the Pacers could still possess a void in their quest to reach the NBA Finals.
Granger is now 30 years old, so it's by no means an automatic that he'll regain his old form. His status and ability to orchestrate chemistry with his teammates are major storylines for the 2013-14 Pacers.
If he exhibits skills like he did three or four years ago, then the Pacers could not only reach the Finals, but also take home the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
His health and performance are key ingredients to this.
Despite already having an array of frontcourt options, the Milwaukee Bucks inked veteran Zaza Pachulia to a three-year, $15.6 million deal over the summer.
He is already dealing with an Achilles injury, limiting him to partial participation in practice.
If Pachulia, who is nearing age 30, struggles with injuries, then he is undoubtedly not worth the contract he received. Even if he is active, his deal is still perplexing.
The Bucks do not possess any major injury concerns, yet this could become a minor but still unfortunate one if Pachulia's Achilles takes a turn for the worse.
Louis Williams still has no timetable for a return from a torn ACL, and this could be problematic since the Atlanta Hawks are weak in the backcourt.
In particular, they lack a playmaker on the wing, and Williams is adept at both setting up his teammates and creating his own shot.
If he remains sidelined for a good portion of 2013-14, then the Hawks' backcourt troubles could really constrain them.
A lengthy absence from Williams could lead to the Hawks missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Charlotte Bobcats do not have any significant health questions, unless you consider Josh McRoberts' turf toe a pressing concern.
Therefore, let's just dream about if Michael Jordan could be in good enough shape to play. At 50 years old, this is doubtful, but we're talking about "His Airness."
Jalen Rose recently expressed that he thinks Jordan will play one game this year, so maybe this analysis isn't too outlandish.
One thing is for sure: This would at least put some fans in the stands.
Injuries and age are vital worries for the 31-year-old Dwyane Wade.
The bruises seem to mount each year, and there's reason to speculate if this dynamic could inhibit the Miami Heat from attaining a three-peat.
If Wade is less than 100 percent come the playoffs, then the Heat could be ousted due to their lack of weapons outside of LeBron James.
An active Wade gives Miami the secondary threat necessary to take pressure off of James. This has been evident in the past couple years, and if it's not apparent during 2013-14 due to an ailing Wade, Miami is in danger.
According to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, Glen Davis could miss the beginning of the regular season as he is still recovering from his most recent foot surgery.
"Big Baby" Davis has been nursing himself since last January. He was having a decent season (15.1 PPG and 7.2 RPG) when the injury occurred.
The Orlando Magic have little depth in the frontcourt, so his return will certainly enhance their approach.
While Davis will almost surely never become an All-Star-caliber power forward, he can be productive, especially for a below-average squad like the Magic.
John Wall has never played 70 or more games in his three-year NBA tenure.
Last year, he was only in uniform for 49 outings.
The Wizards are loaded with potential, but Wall is their clear leader, and they need him to be durable. This is a concern at this point.
If he continues to labor through injuries, then the Wizards will remain a lackluster squad.
If he is consistently healthy, though, then a playoff appearance next spring is very much within reason.
Andrew Bogut played a total of just 44 games in the past couple seasons. Prior to this battle with injuries, Bogut was a double-double machine with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Can he once again become this with the Golden State Warriors? This is pivotal to their 2013-14 potential.
The Warriors boast what may be the league's best backcourt in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, but they need an intimidator in the middle. While David Lee is a skilled offensive player, he isn't the shot-blocker and bruiser that Bogut is.
There are already positive signs here, as coach Mark Jackson, according to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, has said that Bogut has been terrific in their workouts.
Golden State needs an injury-free campaign from its 7'0'' center. If this happens, the Warriors could realistically travel their way to the NBA Finals.
Thankfully, the Los Angeles Clippers do not have any eye-opening injury questions. Their core members have typically been healthy during recent years and are currently in good shape.
Rookie Reggie Bullock could face an uphill battle, though, if his knee keeps forcing him to miss practice. He already missed practice last week.
This is especially detrimental for a rookie seeking to prove himself. Such an individual needs a quality preseason if he is going to raise the eyebrows of his coach, particularly a championship-caliber one like Doc Rivers.
If his knee issue lingers, then Bullock could easily find himself buried behind Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes with little chance come the regular season to actually showcase his talent.
No timetable for his return has been set, but it could reasonably happen sooner rather than later due to his drive and steady progression. Coach Mike D'Antoni has affirmed this progression, according to ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin.
But is this a good thing? Is Bryant rushing back? At 35 years old, it would not be foolish of him to be extra cautious in this process, especially because the Lakers should struggle to contend in a deep Western Conference.
Bryant's re-emergence is the featured storyline for the Lakers, but let's hope he doesn't push too hard and reaggravate his tender Achilles.
Channing Frye missed the entire 2012-13 season with an enlarged heart, a condition that could've become very serious had it not been detected when it was.
The 6'11'' Frye, known for his three-point shooting (39.0 percent from distance in his career), now rejoins a young and revamped Phoenix Suns team. Can he contribute effectively?
If he does, this will spark an inspiring story for not only Frye and the Suns, but also the NBA world.
Truthfully, the Suns need the excitement that would stem from this, because they likely won't have much else to cheer about as they're in the thick of rebuilding.
The Sacramento Kings added floor general Greivis Vasquez over the summer. Vasquez averaged 13.9 PPG and 9.0 APG in 2012-13 with the New Orleans Hornets, but he had offseason surgery on his right ankle.
According to The Sacramento Bee, Vasquez is almost 100 percent, so he could be inserted into the rotation fairly soon.
However, will the starting gig be his, or will it belong to Isaiah Thomas? If healthy, Vasquez has the upper hand, but if his ankle putters along, then Thomas could get the initial nod.
In time, expect Vasquez to be in the starting role and playing hefty minutes, particularly because he is a pass-first point guard who will help develop youngsters DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore.
Since the Dallas Mavericks won the championship in 2011, Dirk Nowitzki has encountered two injury-plagued, unproductive seasons.
Will this trend continue?
According to ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon, Nowitzki is feeling good and motivated after a fruitful offseason. This gives Mavs fans hope that he can regain his old form.
Dallas inked Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert over the summer, so Nowitzki will have worthwhile support. But he's still the face of this franchise, and the Mavs will only go as far as his 35-year-old knees take them.
If Nowitzki once again meets the injury bug, then speculation will surface if Nowitzki's retirement is within sight.
A subnarrative of their upcoming season will be if a healthy Aaron Brooks cracks Houston's rotation. Since Brooks endured an ankle injury in 2010, his career has never really regained footing.
He had previously won the 2009-10 Most Improved Player award after averaging 19.6 PPG and 5.3 APG.
At 28 years old, he should still be able to produce. Unfortunately, it will even be a challenge for him to weave his way into the second unit since Patrick Beverley has emerged.
Brooks can be a spark plug, and perhaps at some point, he'll have his chance to reveal that his skills haven't waned.
Mike Miller's injury history seems to grow every year. Can the 33-year-old's body sustain itself so he can fill a clear void for the Memphis Grizzlies?
The Grizzlies made the least amount of three-pointers a game (4.7) in 2012-13. It didn't hinder their success too much, as they reached the Western Conference Finals due to their strong frontcourt play and defense.
Yet, it's still clear that a proven threat from distance was a necessary offseason addition.
Miller could add a lethal element to Memphis' arsenal, but his recurring ailments could unsurprisingly derail the potential here.
Eric Gordon has only played in 51 games since joining the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) prior to the 2011-12 season.
Since he boasts a lucrative contract, the time is now for a breakout season that is free of injuries.
According to The Times-Picayune, Gordon is healthy and happy, but he will be smart in his approach to returning.
He could conceivably ease his way into the starting unit during the preseason while ramping up for the regular season.
The new-look Pelicans have an intriguing feel, and a healthy Gordon would go a long way in helping them achieve a playoff berth.
Tony Parker played all the way through Game 7 of a grueling NBA Finals, and he then led France to the EuroBasket Championship in September.
Parker's body has logged plenty of wear and tear, and according to the San Antonio Express-News, he even admitted to being "very tired" after a busy summer.
This is not a good way for the 31-year-old Parker to begin 2013-14. The emotional and physical toll he has taken over the past year is undeniable, and fatigue could strain his efforts in the coming months.
Parker is a mental warrior, so he could overcome this hurdle with relative ease. However, his age is now an issue, and he could find himself accumulating nagging wounds and persistent fatigue more readily.
According to The Denver Post, Danilo Gallinari recently indicated that his return from a torn ACL could take place in late November or early December.
Gallinari's insertion into the Denver Nuggets' mix is crucial as they battle for Western Conference positioning. His proficient three-point shooting fuels their high-scoring offensive output.
In 2012-13, the Nuggets won 57 games and secured the No. 3 seed in the West. It will be tough for Denver to win this many games again if Gallo misses lots of contests, particularly because it lost Andre Iguodala and it's also adjusting to new coach Brian Shaw.
The 25-year-old Italian is a difference-maker, and if the Nuggets desire to be feared, they need him healthy for the overwhelming majority of the 2013-14 journey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have suffered excessive injuries in the past couple years. Marquee figures such as Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio have been at the center of this.
Sadly, the injury bug has already bit again during training camp.
Chase Budinger has been listed out indefinitely as he faces a similar knee injury to what he dealt with last season. The hope is that the recovery time is limited compared to last year's four months, but this waits to be seen.
At any rate, this is a discouraging way for the T'Wolves to open their campaign. Hopefully, their roster isn't infested with injuries once again. This bunch could be compelling if they could just all stay on the floor consistently.
Russell Westbrook had a setback in his road to recovery from a torn meniscus, and surgery on the knee will force him to miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season.
This is scary news for Oklahoma City Thunder fans. Could Westbrook's knee become a chronic problem? Will he struggle to find his rhythm upon his return?
What should we expect from him in 2013-14?
It's unquestionable how important Westbrook is to the Thunder, evidenced after his injury during last year's playoffs. Oklahoma City was ousted in the second round, much earlier than anticipated.
If his knee injury persists or he simply can't generate his normal production, then the Thunder could endure a disappointing playoff exit for the second straight year.
The Portland Trail Blazers received depressing news last week as rookie C.J. McCollum broke his left foot in practice.
What makes this extra disheartening is the fact that McCollum broke this same foot in January. This occurred during a game while he was playing at Lehigh.
This already raises fears in the minds of Portland fans, who have witnessed more than their fair share of injuries (i.e. Greg Oden, Brandon Roy).
Hopefully, McCollum's career trajectory isn't overly crippled by this, but when a foot is broken twice within a year, you can't help but wonder how one's future could be stunted.
This injury requires surgery, and the Blazers have not unveiled a timetable for a return.
There will certainly be wisdom in being extra cautious with McCollum, even if it means he forfeits most of his rookie season.
Veteran Marvin Williams is recovering from a surgically repaired Achilles tendon.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Williams doesn't think he'll miss any significant time during the regular season.
Williams' initial timeline had him out six months, which would have him return in early December. His progress could potentially enable him to return sooner.
The former second overall pick in 2005 had an insufficient first season with the Utah Jazz during 2012-13. The 27-year-old needs a stellar 2013-14 since his contract is up at the season's conclusion.
There is thus incentive for Williams not only to come back soon, but also to contribute in convincing fashion.