Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Training camps open later this week. Give me a player and a team who might best use training camp to their advantage.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Dwight Howard and the Brooklyn Nets. Howard needs to make October all about basketball, about his new teammates and surroundings and about a full cleansing of the past 24 months. We’re overdue for a recommitted, newly dedicated Dwight. If training camp with Houston is all slaps and tickles, many NBA fans may never take Howard seriously again … The Nets’ job in October is obvious: Turn Jason Kidd into a coach. How much those Brooklyn veterans support him early, and permit Kidd to deploy them, will go a long way toward determining the season they’ll have in 2013-14.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Team: Lakers. There were a lot of personnel changes and odds suggest Kobe Bryant will miss the start of the season. Mike D’Antoni didn’t get a training camp last season so this is huge for him to implement his scheme and set the tone, to get a team minus Kobe working together. The first month’s schedule is tough and if the Lakers aren’t careful, their playoff hopes can fly out the window before Kobe ever steps back on the floor. Player: Dwight Howard. When Oct. 30 arrives, the Rockets need to have seen the emergence of a down-to-business, fully engaged, all-for-one, two-way dominant center. Distractions are eliminated. Excuses are inexcusable.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Team: The Bobcats. And not just because they could use the extra practice no matter what. But with new key players in important roles (Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller), a new coach and the reconstruction of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot since early summer, the time will be particularly valuable for Charlotte in a season when it desperately needs forward progress. Player: Danny Granger. I would normally be hesitant to pick an established veteran because they are better at just getting through a camp, but Granger is coming off a major injury and needs to fit back into the roster. The Pacers are good and have not passed the time waiting for him.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The player is Derrick Rose, who has to get comfortable playing full-speed basketball, defending in Tom Thibodeau’s system, and finding his teammates in their spots. No matter how healthy he is, none of that can be simulated. On the team front, it’s the Nets and Clippers, the two contenders with new coaches and new starters. Those teams need time to put in a new system and, more importantly, develop trust and chemistry. For both teams, defense will determine just how good they are.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Derrick Rose has some work to do if he wants to restore the faith of Bulls fans who grew tired of his “will he or won’t he” routine from last season. Every step he takes in training camp will be scrutinized by the diehards and they’ll treat training camp like a much more important test run for Rose this time around. As far as a team goes, the Memphis Grizzlies have me wondering what they’ll be like in the aftermath of the greatest season in franchise history (one that ended with the removal of coach Lionel Hollins). I need to know in training camp if this team is going to change its stripes under Dave Joerger or if they’ll continue to grind their way up the Western Conference food chain.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: As for a team, how about the Clippers? They were good enough last season, but they’ve added some new moving parts, and most importantly they’ve got Doc Rivers roaming the sidelines, so I’m sure there will be some significant changes in terms of philosophy. I’m very curious to see how these new Clips stack up against last year’s team. As for a player, I’ve got an eye on Josh Childress in Washington, not only because I like the dude, but because the Wizards could be a really good fit for him. He can be a terrific complementary player, and he fit so perfectly with the Hawks, and then didn’t fit at all in Brooklyn or Phoenix. So I’m rooting for him to earn a place in the rotation in Washington.
Akshay Manwani, NBA India: Derrick Rose. If Rose is 100 percent fit, as he now claims to be, he will be itching to go at full throttle from the beginning to return to MVP form and make the Bulls a contender again. Team pick, however, would be the Brooklyn Nets. They are looking to contend immediately, but have a host of new faces on their roster, including a new coach, Jason Kidd. They need to click as soon as possible and training camp would be where it all starts for them.
Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: Player: Andrew Bogut. He’s been injured for a while, but is now back to 100 percent and is hoping for a huge year. He obviously needs training camp to get in the best shape possible, and if he stays healthy he can be a game-changer for the Warriors. Team: Minnesota Timberwolves. They’ve had a bunch of injured players and have brought in new guys to help them make the playoffs. To get all those guys to be a cohesive unit, they need to get a lot of practice under their belts. Same goes for the Mavs and Trail Blazers, of course.