NBA Training Camps 2020: Start Dates, Schedules and Top Storylines to Watch

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 1, 2020

NBA Training Camps 2020: Start Dates, Schedules and Top Storylines to Watch

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Less than two months after the NBA Finals concluded in the Orlando bubble, the league will have players on the court preparing for the 2020-21 campaign. 

    Training camps for the upcoming season begin Tuesday, and preseason games will start on December 11. 

    "Training camps open around the league Tuesday, though on-court sessions will be limited to individual workouts and only for those players who have gotten three negative coronavirus test results back in the last few days. Mandatory 'group training activities,' another way to describe what would otherwise be called practice, will begin in some cities Friday and for most clubs Sunday, league said," per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.

    The quick turnaround between the end of last season and the start of the new one puts the NBA back on a more normal schedule and builds in time after the postseason for players to participate at the Summer Olympics in July.

    The obvious difference between the new campaign and the end of the last one is the lack of a bubble environment. Teams will play in home markets, with the Toronto Raptors hosting contests in Tampa, Florida, due to border restrictions. 

    Load management should be a hot topic, as players from playoff squads try to avoid overworking their bodies. 

    On the other end of the spectrum are the handful of teams that did not make the bubble and the rookies entering the league who have not played in games since March. 

    The short preseason schedule should give players the ability to find their legs once more, with a team being able to a maximum of four preseason contests. 

    The full NBA preseason schedule can be found here on NBA.com.

How Will Lakers Manage Shortened Offseason?

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers face the shortest break between winning the NBA Finals and starting a new season in the history of the NBA.

    The Lakers secured the NBA championship on October 11 in Orlando, which means the players had six weeks to rest after playing in Florida for a few months. 

    In addition to managing the workload of players, the Lakers have to assimilate new faces into their system and officially come to an agreement with Anthony Davis on a new contract. 

    According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the 27-year-old is "widely expected" to complete his contract soon and could meet with the team's brass "as early as Tuesday." 

    Once the Lakers finalize Davis' contract, they need to get him and LeBron James on court to work with their new additions. They added Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews, Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol to reinforce the talent around James, Davis, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. 

    The newcomers are all NBA veterans and should not have trouble adjusting to their new surroundings, but they may have larger roles in the coming months. 

    The Miami Heat are facing a similar turnaround but have fewer new faces to work into their squad during training camp. 

    To prevent any long-term injuries, the Lakers could use a load-management strategy to keep Davis and James fresh. 

    In other sports with congested schedules, injuries have been blamed on the lack of rest between games. For example, in Europe, the top soccer clubs are regularly playing two games a week to fit in UEFA Champions League matches with their domestic matches to have next summer open for international competitions. 

    Any type of load management could hurt the chemistry within the squad, but as long as the Lakers stay healthy and are smart with their situation, they should remain at the top of the Western Conference.

What Level Will Rookie Players Produce At?

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    Steve Reed/Associated Press

    Association newcomers face the longest layoff between the end of their collegiate and international seasons and the start of their NBA careers. 

    Anthony Edwards, Obi Toppin and other top draft picks last played college games in March before the COVID-19 shutdown. 

    LaMelo Ball's time in the National Basketball League in Australia ended earlier than that, and James Wiseman only played three nonconference games in November with the Memphis Tigers before ending his college career. 

    In a typical year, the rookies would adjust to the next level by playing in the NBA Summer League or participating in events at team facilities before training camp. 

    In the adjusted schedule, the rookies have three weeks and a minimal amount of games to get ready for their first NBA seasons. 

    The players should be in shape from doing basketball activities between March and December, but getting back on the court is a whole different thing.

    The long gap between games could lead to some players being fresh and shining right away, or it may see them struggle to shake off rust and endure ineffective starts. 

    The same concerns could affect the teams that did not play in the bubble. The eight teams who did not feature in Orlando have not had much time to work with a full squad since March. 

    How players respond to the extended layoffs could factor into the early results in December and January, and it may lead to the some surprise teams qualifying for the playoffs. 

    If the layoff reenergizes players, we could see some new teams in the mix for the last two playoff positions in each conference.

What Will Happen with Houston's Superstars?

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    James Harden and Russell Westbrook enter training camp as members of the Houston Rockets, but there is no guarantee either player will finish the season there. 

    The pair of superstars headlined the rumor mill once the offseason began, but no trades have come to fruition yet. 

    ESPN reported that Harden's top trade destination was the Brooklyn Nets to play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving

    Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported that Westbrook "wants out of Houston" after playing there for one year alongside Harden. 

    Those reports occurred before and after the 2020 draft on November 19, and there have not been any recent updates on the status of the two players. 

    The whole situation could make life uncomfortable for first-year head coach Stephen Silas, who still has to get the best out of the duo and chase a high playoff seed. 

    With news of their potential departures hovering over the team, the relationship between the two and their new head coach will have plenty of eyes on it until the organization finds a solution to the issues. 

How Will the Warriors Bounce Back Without Klay Thompson?

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Golden State Warriors appeared to be ready to bounce back into title contention with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson healthy. 

    Now that Thompson is out for the season with an Achilles injury he suffered right before the NBA draft, the pressure is on Curry to lead the Warriors back into the Western Conference hierarchy. 

    The Warriors added No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman and Kelly Oubre Jr. through free agency to bolster the roster, but they will not be at full strength with Thompson injured. 

    Curry told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears how tough the phone call about Thompson's new injury was to receive.

    "I think Klay is universally liked around the league, and understand he’s just the greatest dude. He just loves basketball. That was a tough call to get. Obviously, the excitement for us leading up to the draft and him coming back healthy, Draymond [Green] coming back healthy, myself coming back healthy, having the second pick. And now, with James Wiseman, some of the other guys, we really felt like this was a great opportunity for him to reassert himself as the best 2-guard in the league."  

    Curry's return from a hand injury should help the Warriors get back into the playoff mix, but he will need help from Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Wiseman, Oubre and others to challenge the top teams in the West. 

    The Lakers reloaded their roster around James and Davis, the Los Angeles Clippers still have Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in place, and a handful of other teams, like Denver and Utah, are expected to get better in their attempts to dethrone the Lakers. 

    A fully healthy Curry should lead the Warriors to a playoff berth, but where they land in the West hierarchy remains to be seen.