Can you hear the sounds? Basketballs bouncing. The new slippers squeaked against the ground. The strange questions of the media day that absolutely baffle the people sitting in front of the microphone.
After a short break, another NBA season is almost here with training camps officially beginning on Tuesday. For the most part, league teams have completed all of their major deals, with one notable exception that could rise to prominence in the coming weeks.
SEASONAL GRADES: Eastern Conference | Western Conference
In fact, let’s use that as a starting point as we go over the biggest questions from NBA training ground. Let’s go to Philadelphia!
1. What about Ben Simmons and the 76ers?
Yes, that guy. Simmons is still a member of the 76ers, but has already stated that he will not show up for the start of training camp and does not plan to play another game for the franchise. according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Meanwhile, Sixers coach Doc Rivers is hopeful that Simmons will rejoin the team after he did some damage control (too late) regarding his comments after Philadelphia’s Game 7 loss. against Atlanta in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Doc Rivers on Ben Simmons informing the 76ers that he wants to be traded;
“I can tell you from the start, we’d love to get Ben back. And if we can, we’re going to try and do it. pic.twitter.com/JeWoIE3W7U
– First take (@FirstTake) September 22, 2021
All reports and rumors aside, one simple fact remains: There is no obvious trade that works for both Simmons and the 76ers. Teams head to training grounds feeling optimistic, not desperate. That leaves both sides in the same staring contest that has been going on for months.
If Simmons makes good on his promise to avoid the camp, will Philadelphia ease his demands and accept an offer that he had previously rejected? If the Sixers start taking some of Simmons’ money, will he change his mind? Prepare yourselves. This could get ugly.
2. How long until Klay Thompson returns?
As of Friday, the Warriors have the fourth-best championship share behind only the Nets, Lakers and Bucks, according to FanDuel. They are ahead of the Jazz, the No. 1 overall seed in the 2021 NBA playoffs, and the Suns, the team that came within two wins of the title.
Golden State’s legitimacy as a championship contender will largely depend on the performance of Thompson, who has not played in a game since the 2019 NBA Finals. The Warriors have indicated that Thompson’s return will likely come in December, but has there have been positive signs from his offseason workouts.
“I know looking at him on the court every day, he’s moving really well. He’s in good shape. He’s happy,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami. “He’s excited to be back on the ground with the guys. The light is finally at the end of the tunnel, and I keep thinking about that moment when he comes out. [the floor] to [Chase Center] for the first time, it will be very emotional.
“You think about how much Klay means to this franchise, what he means to our fanbase, and what he’s been through the last two years just to get to this stage. He’s finally on the cusp, and he feels it. You can see it on his walk. He’s excited and he’s getting closer. “
3. Will vaccination status affect player availability?
Speaking of the Warriors, what are they going to do with Andrew Wiggins? The Golden State forward, who averaged 18.6 points in 71 games last season, remains unvaccinated and doesn’t look like he’s going to back down from his stance.
The Warriors have reportedly been concerned about Wiggins’ availability because local guidelines in San Francisco, where the Chase Center is located, will prevent Golden State players from entering their local stadium for games unless they have an exemption. approved medical or religious. Even if the league grants Wiggins a religious exemption, the city of San Francisco could overturn that decision.
Sources: Andrew Wiggins has been to the Bay Area this month, but is restricted to individual sessions at Chase Center. Under current SF protocols, if you’re not fully vaccinated for the next 20 days, those workouts will end.
– Mount Poole (@MontePooleNBCS) September 23, 2021
Brooklyn and New York will fight with the same policies. Yaron Weitzman of Fox Sports reported Thursday that Kyrie Irving has not yet been vaccinated, but that the Nets guard was seen recently sitting by the court at the Staples Center for a WNBA game. Staples Center policy at the time required that fans sitting on the court be vaccinated.
Shams Charania of Athletic reported that 90 percent of NBA players are fully vaccinated. The few remaining holdouts may join the majority when faced with the possibility of losing games and paychecks, but the situations in those cities specifically are worth monitoring.
4. Will the Lakers lead the league in positive vibes on training camp?
LeBron James is now “The Slim King”. Anthony Davis is looking jacked. Russell Westbrook came home. Carmelo Anthony has finally teamed up with James. Dwight Howard was on “The Masked Singer” for some reason. (It is not Victor Oladipo).
Then there is the team that joins in Las Vegas.
Just vibrating in LA, bro.
5. Are Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis on the same page?
The Doncic-Porzingis dynamic has been, let’s say, a bit rocky at times. Porzingis has reportedly been frustrated with his role in Dallas and felt more of a role-playing player than a co-star alongside Doncic. Not ideal for the Mavericks.
However, there is some good news. During an appearance on “The Hoop Collective” podcast, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon noted that Porzingis’ feelings about the franchise have changed in part because he is completely healthy and will be working with a new coach in Jason Kidd.
“At the end of last year, he was not going to go out and ask for a trade,” MacMahon said. “He’s smart enough to understand the optics … But late last year, when he stood on the corner and checked the wind for an entire playoff series, he was hoping they’d trade him. From what I know, he’s getting optimistic. now “.
At 22 years old, Doncic is already an MVP-caliber player who can pull off an offense, but even someone as talented as Doncic needs help getting his team beyond the only thing in the NBA playoffs. The most obvious path for the Mavericks to become a serious threat in the Western Conference is for Porzingis to rediscover his old form and learn to complement Doncic.
6. What is Zion Williamson’s relationship with the Pelicans?
As SN’s Micah Adams wrote in his offseason ratings, the Pelicans are following the same plan that led to the departure of Anthony Davis. Williamson has been electric in his two seasons with the Pels, but the team has won 61 games overall in that span and failed to make the playoffs in either season.
To make matters worse, the tenure of New Orleans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin has been a disaster so far, as detailed in a lengthy report by Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Several employees aren’t big Griffin supporters – some came to “actively dislike him,” according to Clark – and he hasn’t been able to build a strong relationship with Williamson.
The most likely scenario remains that Williamson signs an extension with the Pelicans. Williamson could accept the qualifying offer, but it would leave a lot of money on the table. No one had ever made that bold move before.
Yet even if this is how the negotiations play out, it’s clear the Pels have a lot of work to do to convince Williamson that staying in New Orleans for the long haul is the best option.
7. Is Damian Lillard still happy in Portland?
Lillard will wear the Trail Blazers uniform to kick off the 2021-22 season. Beyond that, well, hmmm …
The six-time All-Star has always been sincere about his wishes. He wants to bring a championship to Portland. (He’s even talked to CJ McCollum about the parade route.) His passion for the team and the city is admirable.
But what did the Trail Blazers do this offseason to give their fans confidence that this group can go from good to elite? This is largely the same group returning for another race in … round one?
It would be a tremendous story if Lillard stayed in Portland and lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy as the Moda Center crowd cheered for joy. It’s hard to imagine how that dream becomes a reality.
8. Can Timberwolves be normal for a few minutes?
Uh, ow. The Timberwolves parted ways with the president of basketball operations, Gersson Rosas, just days before the start of training camp. Karl-Anthony Towns’ reaction said it all.
Look, Minnesota wasn’t going to suddenly emerge as a contender with Rosas as the leader in decision-making, but this continues what has been a brutal streak of dysfunction within the organization. Timberwolves seek consistency and respectability. Not yet gang!
9. Are the Heat good enough to make noise in the Eastern Conference?
After a surprising run to the 2020 NBA Finals in Florida’s “bubble,” the Heat had a checkered 2020-21 regular season. They were then set ablaze by the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. You knew Pat Riley wouldn’t be quiet during the offseason.
Miami acquired Kyle Lowry as part of a sign-and-trade deal with Toronto and drafted veteran forwards PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris in free agency. The Heat should be an all-time aching butt team because of their toughness and tenacity.
However, is the Heat more than just a blow to the Nets or the Bucks? It looks like Miami is a notch below those two in the East, but it wouldn’t be crazy if everything fell into place for Erik Spoelstra’s team.
10. Which new head coaches are under the most pressure?
Chauncey Billups (Trail Blazers) should be at the top of the list here given Lillard’s situation, but he won’t be alone in feeling a little hot almost immediately.
Wes Unseld Jr. (Wizards) will have Bradley Beal’s free agency cloud over him, and Kidd (Mavericks) and Willie Green (Pelicans) will need to build strong ties with their stars. The honeymoon phase could be short if those teams fight outside the gates.
Hey, as Monty Williams put it so eloquently, “Pressure is a privilege.”