The wait continues without any straight answers in Brooklyn, while it just got a little shorter in Oklahoma City, and everyone in Chicago hopes it is finally — finally! — over. They’ve been ready for months around Oakland and the blue-and-white sections of Los Angeles. All of which is greeted in Atlanta by sullen stare.
The storylines among point guards are everywhere with the season about to begin, from the recovering to the dangerously healthy to the rookies and many circumstances in between. So many, in fact, that some places have dual subplots.
Russell Westbrook jumped into part of Monday’s practice, his first on-court participation since arthroscopic surgery on the right knee Oct. 1. It’s an important step to eventually be followed by returning to full workouts and eventually game action. There is no timetable for him being back in uniform, but at least there is now a partial sighting.
Meanwhile, understudy Reggie Jackson is positioned to have a breakout season, whether as the OKC starter or Westbrook’s backup. He begins 2013-14 as a candidate for Most Improved Player and/or Sixth Man of the Year. He also begins it with the running start of 15.2 ppg, 6.2 apg (against 1.60 turnovers) and 52.9 percent from the field the first five exhibition games.
Derrick Rose knows all about point guards, knees and heavily scrutinized injury watches. If he is back once and for all, and if the groin injury does not put Joakim Noah on the shelf long term, the Bulls are a threat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference.
Deron Williams takes Rose’s spot under the microscope. Rose had built up good will with his MVP play, though. Williams has had too many letdown moments with the Nets, and now there is uncertainty, in the Rose role of late last season, how long Williams will be sidelined by the sprained right ankle that has so far kept him out of every exhibition game and precluded him for participating in any full practices. D-Will and rookie coach Jason Kidd are both dodging questions on when Williams will play
No such concerns, for a change, for the Warriors. Stephen Curry and his ankles are fine, coming off a breakout performance in the playoffs that turned him from being on the verge of the All-Star game to being better than an All-Star. He became the kind of player that scares defenses, a primary reason 2013-14 is being greeted with as much anticipation in Golden State as anywhere in the league.
Chris Paul is back with the Clippers. There was never much doubt he would be, but signing the new contract makes it official. With the best point guard in the league leading the way—and a former talented point guard, Doc Rivers, on board as coach — L.A. is a contender to win the West.
One for under the radar: Kemba Walker averaged 5.7 assists a game last season for Charlotte. Now he can throw the ball inside to Al Jefferson inside or long to rookie Cody Zeller outrunning most other bigs on the break. If assistant coach Mark Price, one of the great shooters of his generations, can fix the mangled jumper of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Walker will have three new offensive weapons to get the ball to in 2013-14.
Portland could have a must-watch point guard show. Damian Lillard is the reigning Rookie of the Year and lottery pick C.J. McCollum should be one of the best rookies at any position, despite not starting. The bigger question with McCollum is health. He is expected to be out six weeks with a broken foot, the same injury that prematurely ended his senior season at Lehigh. The Trail Blazers either have a growing health problem or a backcourt tandem that can play off each other for years.
Jeff Teague is running the show in Atlanta, with intriguing prospect Dennis Schroder backing him up. Schroder has a great future – physical skills, an understanding of how to run pick-and-roll for a player with limited experience in his native Germany — and also an attitude. A lot of front offices took note before the draft and now referees will too as Schroder stares in disbelief when a call doesn’t go his way. Go with Joey Crawford over Schroder, but it could be a seven-game series.