HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Kia Countdown to Tip Off clock says we have 35 days until the start of the NBA regular season. But for those of us that cannot wait until then, the start of training camp provides the ultimate fix.
And we’re just days away from the first official day of camp for some teams. You’ll get what you need by the weekend in places like Houston, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Denver and Los Angeles.
With several teams set for international play, not everyone will wait until October to kick things off. Still, many of the lingering questions about the 2013-14 season will begin to be answered as the camps open around the league. Our man David Aldridge detailed many of those storylines in his Morning Tip yesterday (if you missed it), but this passage rings most true:
We’re going to find out if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat are fully prepared for the challenge that is trying to three-peat.
We’ll see if Dwight Howard and the young group of stars in Houston are the perfect fit the big fella (and the Rockets’ brass) believed them to be in free agency.
We’ll see exactly where stars like Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and others are in their respective rehabilitation processes from injuries that wiped out some, and in Rose’s case the entire, 2012-13 season.
We’ll find out just how good the fit is for new coaches — Doc Rivers gets his fresh start in Los Angeles with the Clippers, Brian Shaw in Denver with the Nuggets, Brad Stevens in Boston with the Celtics and Jason Kidd takes the reigns in Brooklyn with the Nets, just to name a few — around the league.
The answers to all of those questions and plenty more is all just days away …
Oct. 1 — University of Georgia (Athens) and Philips Arena (Atlanta)
Keep an eye on: The Hawks completely overhauled the roster, leaving Al Horford as the center of attention on and off the court.
Oct. 1 — Salve Regina University (Newport, R.I.) and Celtics Practice Facility (Waltham, Mass.)
Keep an eye on: Danny Ainge‘s rebuilding project will have to take shape quickly with Rondo as the unquestioned leader of this bunch and Brad Stevens as the new bench maestro.
Oct. 1 — Duke University (Durham, N.C.)
Keep an eye on: Having camp on a college campus is fitting for the experiment that will be Jason Kidd coaching veteran stars Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Deron Williams.
Oct. 1 — Kimmel Arena (Ashville, N.C.)
Keep an eye on: For the sake of youngsters Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller, the Steve Clifford era has to be better than the brief Mike Dunlap experience.
Sept. 28 — the Berto Center (Deerfield, Ill.)
Keep an eye on: All eyes will be on Rose, as they should be. The Bulls’ fate this season rests on his triumphant return from the knee injury that cost him the entire 2012-13 season.
Oct. 1 — the Cleveland Clinic Courts (Independence, Ohio)
Keep an eye on: No one has seen free-agent big man Andrew Bynum or No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett in live action all summer, so camp will give us our first glimpse of the Cavaliers’ two biggest offseason additions. You better believe All-Star Kyrie Irving will be watching them both closely.
Oct. 1 — the Pistons Practice Facility (Auburn Hills, Mich.)
Keep an eye on: Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings give the Pistons an edge they’ve lacked in recent seasons, an edge that veteran Chauncey Billups will help smooth out over the course of the season.
Sept. 28 — Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
Keep an eye on: Paul George‘s contract extension should be finalized by the start of camp, but it’s Danny Granger who will draw the attention. If he’s healthy and in the right frame of mind, the Pacers will challenge the Heat for the top spot in the East.
Oct. 1 — In the Bahamas
Keep an eye on: The Heat have hit repeatedly on offseason acquisitions and Greg Oden could be the latest on that hit list. He has the luxury of coming along at his own pace with the two-time defending champs, who would have begun this season at the top of the heap with or without him on the roster.
Oct. 1 — Bucks Training Facility (St. Francis, Wisc.)
Keep an eye on: All of the new faces, from coach Larry Drew to the new backcourt of O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight. The Bucks were aggressive in an effort to revamp the roster for the long-term good of the franchise. How that works this season, though, remains to be seen.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Oct. 1 — MSG Training Center (Greenburgh, N.Y.)
Keep an eye on: The pressure is on both Carmelo Anthony and Knicks coach Mike Woodson to get this team back to where they were last season, before that playoff fizzle, which is among the elite in the Eastern Conference. The rest of the pack is closing in, too, making that task even more difficult.
Oct. 1 — Amway Center Magic Practice Court (Orlando)
Keep an eye on: Rookie Victor Oladipo will not be eased into his starting role for a franchise in need of a new face (you might remember the old one … he’s in Houston now). He starred during Orlando Summer League play and enters the season as a Rookie of the Year favorite.
Sept. 28 — St. Joseph’s University (Philadelphia)
Keep an eye on: The last team to fill its coaching vacancy, the Sixers kept everyone wondering about the direction of the franchise after Doug Collins stepped aside and they traded their best player (Jrue Holiday) to the New Orleans Pelicans. New coach Brett Brown has his work cut out for him.
Oct. 1 — Air Canada Centre (Toronto) and Halifax Metro Centre (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Keep an eye on: Jonas Valanciunas had an impressive summer, starting with his work in the Las Vegas Summer League (where he earned MVP honors) and then helping lead Lithuania to the gold medal game at EuroBasket 2013, where they fell to France. if the Raptors are indeed ready to make that leap into the playoff mix, they’ll need Valanciunas to step up in a major way.
Sept. 28 — George Mason University (Fairfax, Va.)
Keep an eye on: John Wall remains the Wizards’ main attraction, the max-extension he signed this summer only intensifies the spotlight on the player and point guard expected to lead the franchise out of the lottery woods and back into the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference. The talent, drive and work ethic are in place. The supporting cast, though, is still a work in progress.
Sept. 29 — American Airlines Center (Dallas)
Keep an eye on: Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t have the superstar help that was supposed to arrive via free agency over the summer, which could mean another postseason miss for the Mavericks.
Sept. 30 — Pepsi Center Practice Court (Denver)
Keep an eye on: After years of fuss about what he might do as a head coach, we’ll finally get a chance to see Brian Shaw in action with a Nuggets team reeling from offseason departures in the front office, coaching and player ranks.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Sept. 28 — Warriors Practice Facility (Oakland)
Keep an eye on: Andre Iguodala, who has to find his way quickly on a team with young talent and plenty of skill in every direction. The Warriors improve tremendously on defense with his presence in the rotation.
Sept. 28 — Toyota Center (Houston)
Keep an eye on: The Rockets’ trip to the Philippines for the NBA’s Global Games should provide lots of bonding time for Dwight Howard, James Harden, Jeremy Lin and the crew. They won’t have the luxury of time get things together … you never do playing the role of an instant contender.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Sept. 29 — UC San Diego’s RIMAC Arena (La Jolla, Calif.)
Keep an eye on: Doc Rivers is the new center of attention for the Clippers, who had arguably the best offseason of any team in the league. The personnel (headlined by All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin) is in place for the Clippers to be a serious contender for years to come.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Sept. 28 — Toyota Sports Center (El Segundo, Calif.)
Keep an eye on: All eyes will be on Kobe Bryant, as they should be. No one knows for sure when he will return to full action off of the Achilles injury and surgery that ended his 2012-13 season prematurely. But the Lakers’ fortunes this season rest solely on Kobe’s comeback.
Oct. 1 — Vanderbilt University (Nashville)
Keep an eye on: With Lionel Hollins gone and replaced by Dave Joerger, the Grizzlies will have to sort out an identity crisis internally. The grit and grind mantra remains but the man who implemented that mindset is no longer around to tend to it.
Oct. 1 — Minnesota State University-Mankato’s Taylor Center (Mankato, Minn.)
Keep an eye on: You remember Kevin Love, don’t you? He would be the All-Star big man whose 2013-13 season was curtailed by injury. He leads an ambitious group that has designs on a playoff berth, provided they stay healthy enough to chase the postseason crowd in an extremely deep Western Conference.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Oct. 1 — Pelicans Training Facility (Metairie, La.)
Keep an eye on: Jrue Holiday blossomed into an All-Star in Philadelphia and should continue his rise up the ranks in New Orleans with a young and talented Pelicans squad that includes a surplus of backcourt talent. That should allow Holiday to play both point and shooting guard for the Pelicans depending on the situation.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Sept. 28 — Integris Health Thunder Development Center (Oklahoma City)
Keep an eye on: Russell Westbrook’s return from injury is critical to the Thunder’s cause. Reggie Jackson filled in admirably during the playoffs last season, but the drop off from an All-Star like Westbrook to developing prospect like Jackson was simply too much for the Thunder (Kevin Durant specifically) to manage.
Oct. 1 — Northern Arizona University’s Rolle Activity Center (Flagstaff, Ariz.)
Keep an eye on: This is another team with a new coach in the crosshairs. Jeff Hornacek has plenty of experience as a player and coach that will come in handy as the Suns continue to try to rebuild their program. Figuring out the Eric Bledsoe-Goran Dragic point guard dynamic should prove to be Hornacek’s biggest training camp challenge.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Oct. 1 — Trail Blazers Practice Facility (Portland)
Keep an eye on: LaMarcus Aldridge wants to be a part of a playoff contender and it’s clear that he’d love for that to happen in Portland. But the Trail Blazers still have work to do to make that happen. Rest assured point guard and reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard will do his part.
Oct. 1 — the University of California Santa Barbara’s Pavillion Gym (Santa Barbara, Calif.)
Keep an eye on: The Kings are set to make DeMarcus Cousins a wealthy man with a near-max contract extension. It’ll be up to Cousins to make the Kings (and new part owner Shaquille O’Neal) look good for doing so by shedding the foolishness that has accompanied his game and become the consistent and dominant force his talent indicates he could and should be.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Sept. 30 — the United States Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Keep an eye on: Tony Parker had a busy and fruitful summer, leading France to the EuroBasket title. But the downside of that work is that he has just days to rest up and recover before training camp with the Spurs. Parker will need rest early on and throughout the season if the Spurs plan on duplicating their run to The Finals.
Oct. 1 — Zions Bank Basketball Center (Salt Lake City)
Keep an eye on: Rookie point guard Trey Burke struggled with the transition from college superstar to NBA starter during summer league play in Orlando. The Jazz need him to shave some time off of that learning curve in training camp. Without a ton of veteran assistance available, there is no wiggle room either. Burke has to get up to speed in a hurry.