Blogtable: Assessing impact of Popovich, Kobe on their teams and NBA at large

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: On Popovich & Kobe’s careers | Clippers-Warriors rivalry | Who will shoot it the most?

VIDEOGregg Popovich takes the Spurs through a preseason practice

> Kobe Bryant begins his 20th season with the Los Angeles Lakers just as Gregg Popovich enters his 20th season as coach of the San Antonio Spurs. Both are shoo-in picks for the Hall of Fame, both have accomplished a ton, but who has made the bigger impact on their franchise? And on the league?

Steve Aschburner, Popovich is my answer to both questions. Kobe Bryant ranks as one of the top 10 players in NBA history, yet there hasn’t been anything particularly original about him. Popovich, on the other hand, has shaped NBA tactics and NBA culture, while presiding over an era in San Antonio that wouldn’t have happened without him, even if Tim Duncan had landed there to team with David Robinson. The Spurs’ all-in embrace of international players, the beauty and effectiveness of their performance in the 2014 Finals, the harsh light Popovich shined on the schedule and need for rest all influenced the league. The Lakers, meanwhile, already had traditions of winning and of employing legendary players — why do you think it was so important for Bryant to leverage his way there when he was drafted?

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comYou forgot to mention that they both have five championships on their resume. Of course, as Pop would be the first to point out, it’s the players that play the game. However, in terms of lasting impact on the franchise, the Lakers had a long history of winning championships and as NBA royalty — George Mikan, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson — long before Bryant arrived on the scene. But Pop and Tim Duncan brought championship basketball to San Antonio. Pop’s influence to the league extends from his pioneering penchant for digging up and utilizing international talent from every corner of the globe.  His management of his roster — i.e. rationing minutes played and simply giving players nights off throughout — has spread throughout the NBA and even led to an overall effort from the commissioner’s office to cut down on back-to-back games in the schedule. No slight to Kobe, but Pop gets the nod here.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThat’s nearly an impossible split. Maybe the answer comes down not to Kobe and Pop, but what to what happened before they arrived as perspective on what the following 20 years would mean. The Lakers had decades of pre-Bryant winning. He was a continuation. Popovich, though, had the largest role in defining the Spurs. He was the builder. In that regard, he has had the bigger impact on the franchise. And if there is the case as the No. 1 person in the history of an entire organization, then it follows that he had a bigger impact on the league as well. Plus, it’s just fun that it will bother him to be put on that pedestal.

Shaun Powell, Kobe, and that’s no knock on Popovich. But Kobe is a player instead of a coach, is/was far more marketable (ticket sales, sneaker sales, TV ratings) and directly impacted games whereas Popovich put players in position to win. Too bad Kobe is so emotionally attached to the Lakers, because I’d love to see him sign as a free agent with the Spurs and play for Pop.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comWhile Bryant has influenced a lot of players who watched him growing up, Popovich has influenced players, coaches and even executives around the league who have spent time in San Antonio. That will be a longer lasting legacy and a more positive one. Players may want to be like Kobe, and there are a few in this league that have clearly been influenced by him. But his shot selection and me-first approach to offense doesn’t work without his rare combination of elite talent and relentless work ethic.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comGreat question. They both will leave indelible marks on the game, for obviously different reasons. You can make the argument that Pop belongs in the conversation as the best coach in NBA history. And Kobe is going to make the list of the top 10 players in NBA history most every time. But when you talk about impacting a franchise, specifically, it’s hard to imagine one man doing more for a franchise than what Popovich has done for the Spurs (and, to a large extent, the rest of the league — considering his always-growing coaching family tree). San Antonio became a championship outfit on his watch (courtesy of Tim Duncan, of course). The Spurs’ championship legacy will live on with Pop playing the role of architect, which lasts for eternity. Kobe went to a franchise that had already gone through its golden, championship era. There was already an established standard (thanks to Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers and Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain and others before them) in place. Kobe electrified the franchise, no doubt, and still stirs a rabid fan base, but it had been done before.

Ian Thomsen, Bryant made the biggest impact on his franchise, and Popovich would be the first to say so: He would tell you that players win championships more so than coaches. The same goes for their impact on the league: Kobe has created more fans around the world, sold more tickets and made more plays than any coach. For all that Popovich has accomplished — winning five championships in a small market while creating the league’s model franchise, one whose values are mimicked repeatedly — his plans have succeeded because they’ve been embraced and implemented by Tim Duncan. If we were comparing him to rival coaches, then Popovich would be the clear winner of this discussion. But it isn’t right to say that he has meant more than Kobe, in the same way that no one would argue that Phil Jackson made a greater impact than Michael Jordan.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog While they are both cantankerous and fantastic, they are apples and oranges, with at least one tremendous similarity. I would say that Gregg Popovich has had more of an impact on his franchise, as he took over a team that had existed for 31 seasons without a title and racked up four rings in the next 18 seasons. Pop also provided a blueprint for how small market teams can compete and win titles in the modern era. You can argue that Kobe’s impact on the Lakers has been as massive, although the Lakers have had a murderer’s row of legends (Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, George Mikan, Shaquille O’Neal, etc.) which makes Kobe’s road to the top of that Mt. Rushmore a much tougher road. That said, I’d argue that Kobe has had more of an impact on the League than Pop has, as Kobe has provided a blueprint for how swingmen in the NBA’s post-Jordan era can be successful.

Blogtable: What’s the best number of preseason games?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Top international newcomer? | Most entertaining team? | Too many preseason games?

VIDEORelive the top 10 plays of the preseason

> Adam Silver hinted last week that we could see a reduced preseason schedule soon. What’s the right number of preseason games for an NBA team?

David Aldridge, TNT analystI won’t be a smart aleck and say zero. Teams can get the work in they need for their squad with 2-4 games, max. 

Steve Aschburner, Four. That’s plenty. We’ve seen the league get prepped with just two tune-up games coming out of lockouts, and I don’t recall players and coaches griping about the ones that got away back then. Four preseason games would provide enough game exposures for everybody to get their work in, yet free up anywhere from a week to 10 days of time that could be sprinkled through the regular season to loosen the schedule for added rest. Way overdue change.

Fran Blinebury, Two to three, and I’m leaning toward the lower end. As the league gets younger and the 82-game schedule remains the same, there is scant time during the season for coaches to actually teach and coach philosophies and fundamentals in practices. Keep the 28-day training camp, but use it for real training and stop wasting time on traveling and playing meaningless exhibitions.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Five, maybe six. Count me among the vast majority in favor of reducing the number of exhibitions, but let’s not forget they have value. Players need some run just because and especially if they are coming back from an injury, coaches need time to make roster decisions and front offices need a body of work before a ruling that could end a player’s career. If you get down to, say, four games, that might not be enough bad basketball to reach important conclusions and get ready for the regular season.

Shaun Powell, The fewer games, the better. How about 3? Thirty and 40 years ago, NBA players needed training camp and exhibition games to whip into shape. Nowadays, players are fitter, more aware of their diets and are on the court for a good portion of the summer. They don’t need preseason as much, and exhibition games are only important for the one or two players trying to make the roster.

John Schuhmann, Four games sounds good to me. That’s one per week, allowing for less travel, more practice time, a few more days off, and fewer (or no) absences from the league’s best players.

Sekou Smith, Five is plenty and I’d be willing to see that number shrink to as few as three or four. I’m a fan of the NBA spreading the love to places where folks don’t normally see the game live and in person (I once covered a preseason game in South Dakota, it was an experience I’ll never forget). It’s always fun seeing the reaction of kids who are seeing these guys in the flesh for the first time. But I understand the grind that comes with an 82-game marathon season. It’s a beast. And anything that can be done to alleviate some of that physical stress on all involved certainly makes sense.

Ian Thomsen, Many coaches prefer a limited schedule of four exhibition games. But I’m going to add at least one more game on behalf of Mark Cuban, who sees positive returns from creating minutes for young players as well as for his management staff to work out the snags in their game presentation. In addition, think about the opportunity for teams to visit communities in their markets – the Raptors have played throughout Canada this month. So let’s go with a goal of five or six preseason games per team.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog People who are upset about the number of preseason games clearly need to get involved in a fantasy draft or find some other form of entertainment. The thing that’s really interesting to me is that complaining about too many games doesn’t really give credit to the actual NBA coaches, who (allegedly) understand how to manage minutes and not wear out their key players. Do I want the regular season to get here as soon as possible? Sure! But it’s also the appetizers that makes the entree taste so great.

Blogtable: Most entertaining team to watch in 2015-16?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Top international newcomer? | Most entertaining team? | Too many preseason games?

VIDEOWho are the must-watch teams on League Pass in 2015-16?

> The ________ will be the most entertaining team to watch this season, and here’s why.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Warriors. They already were, and they brought the band back together. Steph Curry spent the summer trying to become even more efficient, and dropped 40 on New Orleans in the opener. The second and third years in a new offense are when a truly smart and skilled team blossoms. Which means trouble for the other 29 teams.

Steve Aschburner, For the second straight season, the NBA’s most entertaining team probably will be its best team — the Golden State Warriors. A club like the Clippers might pack more personality and purists might find entertainment value in the care and nurturing of a young, developing crew such as Milwaukee or Orlando. Personally, I still get my kicks watching 40 percent of the Memphis Grizzlies – that is, big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol playing old-millennium ball in a 3-crazed NBA. But night in, night out, for pace and production and their undersized leader out top (Steph Curry), Golden State is sports’ DWTS.

Fran Blinebury, The defending-champion Golden State Warriors. Have we forgotten so quickly, the ball movement, the shot-making the versatility, the sheer beauty of the Warriors that practically begged for a musical score in the background?  Play it again, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the rest.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The Warriors. I considered the Thunder because it’s Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka joined by the uncertainty of a new coach, and that wonder of how Billy Donovan will work out adds to the good theater. But c’mon. Golden State is a fun watch anyway, and now the defending champs have the entire league chasing them … while hearing about how the title was luck … and firing back at doubters … with a coach who routinely dishes snark. That’s entrainment.

Shaun Powell, The Thunder. So much at play here, with Kevin Durant returning and seeking to restore his MVP glow, and how Russell Westbrook tries to top what he did the last three months of last season, and what Billy Donovan has in store for a system. Oh, and there’s also the backdrop of KD’s pending free agency. To me, entertainment means points and wins and showdown games against top competition, and OKC will hit that trifecta.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe Warriors are the easy answer, and the Thunder are a distant second. But in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards could be Warriors Light. John Wall can’t shoot anything like Stephen Curry, but he’s one of the league’s best passers who will thrive with more space to operate. If Bradley Beal and Otto Porter can build on their postseason performances, this can be a pretty potent offense led by one of the league’s five best point guards.

Sekou Smith, The Clippers have all the ingredients you need to be the No. 1 reality TV show in basketball, both on and off the court. They’ll be the most interesting team to watch, as coach Doc Rivers tries to tinker with the chemistry of a championship-caliber group that has added three ridiculously strong personalities in Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson. This is still Chris Paul‘s team, but he might have to share the leadership load with others in ways that he has not been accustomed to recently. They’ll put on a show when they are at their high-flying best.

Ian Thomsen, The Clippers are going to be the edgiest and therefore most entertaining team. Their impatience will be their strength: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are fed up with hearing about what they haven’t done, while DeAndre Jordan, Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith all want to be taken seriously. They are going to play with more attitude than any rival contender.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogHere’s the thing: Whichever team is the correct answer to this question is a team we aren’t talking about right now. Last season the Atlanta Hawks quickly evolved into a sweet passing tribute to Jogo Bonito, which transformed them into darlings of the basketball nerd set. And then there are the young teams that play entirely on spirit and fire with a style that may be unsustainable, but no less watchable. So I’ll take a guess and say a team that might be worth tuning in for, if healthy, will be the Minnesota Timberwolves. Between Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine performing nightly high-wire acts, Ricky Rubio splashing the ball around with abandon, and Kevin Garnett and Karl-Anthony Towns in the post, what’s not to like?

Blogtable: Top international newcomer?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Top international newcomer? | Most entertaining team? | Too many preseason games?

VIDEOMario Hezonja finishes the fast break with authority

> There are 100 international players on NBA opening-night rosters. But who’s the top international newcomer we should keep an eye on, the player who’s going to have a huge impact on the league this season?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Emmanuel Mudiay. He’s going to be dynamic in Denver once his head clears and he gets used to the speed of the NBA game. Mike Malone will give him the ball and push through his mistakes. A lot of talent and potential there.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comHuge impact? I’m not sure any international newcomer is going to be able to qualify by that standard. But the one I’m most intrigued to track is Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica. The 27-year-old Serbian forward was the 2015 Euroleague MVP and is said to possess an NBA-ready offensive game, not just as a shooter but as a facilitator. Then there is his nickname: Professor Big Shots. I know NBA broadcasters are pulling for Bjelica to live up to that over here, just so they can substitute it for attempts to pronounce his name. Assuming Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell gives him sufficient minutes in the rotation.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI’m not sure “huge impact” is the right description. But I’ll definitely be watching Mario Hezonja in Orlando. The 6-foot-8 forward from Croatia is quick, athletic, fearless and downright cocky. He’ll make shots. He’ll make plays. He’ll make his teammates angry at times by going off the reservation. He’ll make highlight reels. As they used to say in the old days at Disney World, he’s an “E-ticket ride.”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comAt the risk of getting into semantics, but also the actual answer, no newcomer will have a huge impact this season. But a couple names that fit into the keep-an-eye-on category: Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks and Mario Hezonja of the Magic. Porzingis has a slight edge in immediate impact because he will have more opportunities in New York, even on the same frontline as scorer Carmelo Anthony, than Hezonja will have while trying to push his way to the forefront on an Orlando roster with Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton, Tobias Harris and Aaron Gordon. But I would not be surprised if both have that huge impact you’re looking for, just un future seasons.

Shaun Powell, I’m not sure if any newcomer will have what can be defined as a huge impact, but I’ll be mostly curious about Mario Hezonja in Orlando. This kid has some swagger about him, won’t hesitate to fire away and will dunk in your grill if he gets the chance. Does Emmanuel Mudiay qualify asa n international newcomer? If so, then him as well.

John Schuhmann, The only international newcomer who could possibly have a “huge” impact on this season is Kristaps Porzingis, and that’s if he’s not making an impact at all. If Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks decide that Porzingis’ timeline doesn’t match that of Anthony, they could demand (in Anthony’s case) or explore (in the Knicks’ case) a trade by the deadline. So Porzingis would have then indirectly changed the landscape of the league. Among those that aren’t going to make much of an impact, I’ve long been a fan of Marcelo Huertas‘ pick-and-roll passing, though he might be driven crazy by the Lakers’ second-unit gunners.

Sekou Smith, Kristaps Porzingis has enough upside for 100 newcomers, but I’m going with Mario Hezonja in Orlando. He showed off skills in summer league that opened eyes around the league. The bounce and confidence definitely stood out. His willingness to challenge anybody at the rim really impressed me. Even with his deep shooting range, the trait that will serve him best this season is his fearlessness. He’ll need it playing for coach Scott Skiles, who has a history of being extremely tough on rookies. As for the huge impact, I don’t see “huge” happening for any of these guys.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comI don’t know if his impact will be huge, but the best international newcomer is going to be Kristaps Porzingis. He is a longterm project, of course, but his shooting range and length advantage will enable him to help the Knicks as a rookie – and they’re going to need him as they show improvement from last year’s 65-loss season.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog I’m not big on the Magic for this season — they are in a tough spot, trying to climb their way up through a highly competitive division — but I love their newcomer Mario Hezonja. A 20-year-old guard from Croatia, Hezonja plays as though nobody’s told him he’s not supposed to be doing the things he does on the court. Oh, you want to drive and dunk on someone? Do it, Super Mario. I know the Magic have Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton in the backcourt and that’s the future they’re building on, but I think it’s going to be tough to keep Hezonja off the floor.

Blogtable: One thing you’re watching early in 2015-16?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: One thing to watch early on? | Predicting Golden State’s season | First-time All-Stars

VIDEOOpen Court’s discusses Billy Donovan’s impact on OKC’s future

> There are a lot of great storylines heading into the season, but what is the one thing you will be watching very closely, very intently, the first two-to-three weeks of this new campaign?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Can the Bulls get off to the same kind of white-hot start that Golden State did last season with a new coach? The same dynamic is at work: excellent defense team that needs to diversify its offense. I have no doubt Fred Holberg will make it work, but how long will it take? With all the injuries the Cavs are playing through at the moment Chicago has a great chance to jump to the top of the east. But with Derrick Rose‘s status for the start of the season also uncertain, the Bulls may struggle. A lot of pressure on Jimmy Butler to be dominant from jump.

Steve Aschburner, Kobe Bryant’s latest return. Let’s face it, the NBA has been a more fascinating, competitive place because of Bryant’s game and tenacity. It’d be nice to see him finish strong, relatively healthy and providing lots of snapshots and, OK, plenty of GIFs before it’s all over. I think we’ll have a pretty good feel by Thanksgiving as to how it’s going to go for him.

Fran Blinebury, Kevin Durant’s health and how he fits in with the new offensive plans of Billy Donovan. No other team or franchise in the league is under more pressure than the Thunder this season with Durant’s happiness and his impending free agency looming over it all. If K.D. can’t return to his old form and the Thunder don’t make it to The Finals, everything about the NBA world in OKC could change.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThe first two or three weeks is a pretty small window into a season, since everyone may still be living off the positive vibes, but to pick one situation with implications for the much longer term: Tristan Thompson and the Cavaliers. He is an important part of a championship contender. Nothing has changed so far, through the summer and about a month of camp and preseason. Games starting to count for real and missed paychecks adding up, though, that has a way of shaking things up.

John Schuhmann, The Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat are two teams that can vault from the Lottery to (near) the top of their conference if they’re healthier than they were at end of last season and if they make the most of what they got. For Miami, I want to see how well their offense is clicking with Goran Dragic and Chris Bosh playing together for the first time. And for Oklahoma City, I want to see if their defense automatically returns to a top-10 level with Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka back in the lineup, or if Enes Kanter is still a big issue on that end of the floor.

Sekou Smith, It’s hard to turn away from the drama that will unfold in Los Angeles this season with the Clippers. They had a wild and crazy summer, added what appears to be quality depth and the expectations are through the roof. But they’re admittedly still in the process of trying to figure it all out and fold the new faces into their “culture,” as coach Doc Rivers put it. They don’t have the sort of time you need to nail down championship chemistry in a training camp and preseason that some other teams have enjoyed in recent seasons. This is going to be the best reality show in the league this season.

Ian Thomsen, I’m fascinated by the Thunder, the influence of NBA rookie coach Billy Donovan and the comeback of Kevin Durant in his free-agent year. There are a lot of moving parts — and in spite of them OKC could yet win the championship. This is going to be the most interesting reality show of the new season.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogI know the Atlanta Hawks, despite winning 60 games last season, still are mostly overlooked. But I am very curious to see how the Hawks will replace the departed DeMarre Carroll. I actually think Carroll’s offensive contributions are being a bit overrated a bit in hindsight — he was a nice offensive player for the Hawks, but so much of his scoring came as a result of Carroll cutting to the basket and receiving smart passes from his teammates. Where I think the Hawks will miss him more acutely is on the defensive end, where Carroll was their best option and could stop multiple positions. Thabo Sefolosha brings a different skill set to the starting five, and the Hawks will have to figure out how to incorporate him. I don’t think the Hawks will win 60 games again this season without Carroll, but I do think fifty-plus is well within reach.

Blogtable: First-time All-Stars in 2015-16?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: One thing to watch early on? | Predicting Golden State’s season | First-time All-Stars

VIDEOCan Bradley Beal take that All-Star leap?

> Give me two players — one from the East and one from the West — who will be first-time All-Stars this season.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: East: Bradley Beal. West: Andrew Wiggins.

Steve Aschburner, East: Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s unclear which player Milwaukee is going to rally behind as a leader – Khris Middleton might lead the Bucks in scoring and Jabari Parker in time might have the game and personality to be their alpha dog – but “The Greek Freak” still packs outrageous potential in so many areas. If he takes a good-sized stride in development this season, and the Bucks stay at or above .500, I think the coaches will honor him. West: DeAndre Jordan. Jordan’s selection might be tougher in a league that goes with “Frontcourt” All-Stars rather than true centers. But I think he’ll have gaudy enough rebounding and blocked shot numbers on a Clippers team with a dazzling record by February.

Fran Blinebury, East: I’m thinking that Bradley Beal will finally catch a break avoiding injuries and build on his last two years of big-time performances in the playoffs to join backcourt partner John Wall as an All-Star. West: Kawhi Leonard. After MVP of the Finals (2014) and Kia Defensive Player of the Year (2015), it’s just a matter of him staying healthy. LaMarcus Aldridge will get the headlines, but Leonard is the all-around cream of the Spurs crop.

Scott Howard-Cooper, East: Andre Drummond. The Pistons could push into the playoff picture and Drummond could be somewhere around 15 rebounds a game while near the top of the league in shooting and blocks. West: Kawhi Leonard, as part of a season that also includes making second- or third-team All-NBA at the end of the season. But it’s also impossible to disagree with Mike Conley, DeAndre Jordan or Gordon Hayward. No argument here for nominating any of those four, although Leonard, Conley and Jordan begin the season with an edge because Hayward will need to be especially worthy if the Jazz are headed toward the lottery.

John Schuhmann, East: Bradley Beal. Beal had a strong postseason, has vowed to change some of his long 2-pointers into threes, and should have additional space to operate with the Wizards playing more small ball. West: Kawhi Leonard: Leonard is simply the league’s best player who hasn’t been an All-Star yet, and his offensive role should continue to grow. Dark horse picks: Nicolas Batum, Mike Conley, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, DeAndre Jordan and Isaiah Thomas.

Sekou Smith, East: Bradley Beal. He showed signs last season that he’s ready to take that step. He’ll join John Wall in Toronto for All-Star Weekend this season, in uniform on Sunday instead of street clothes. West: DeAndre Jordan. Both Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green will battle it out in the Western Conference to join the All-Star crew. They both appear ready to take that step, but it’s a crowded field at small forward (and really at basically every position). But I’m picking Jordan to smash his way into the mix at center.

Ian Thomsen, East: Giannis Antetokounmpo. West: Gordon Hayward. The Jazz and Bucks are rising, and Hayward and Antetokounmpo are going to celebrate breakout All-Star years.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: East: how about Jahlil Okafor. He’s going to have the chance to rack up points and boards with the Sixers, and if a Rookie is putting up 18 and 10 or something like that, it would be neat to see the coaches give him a gift. West: Kawhi Leonard. The more I think about the Spurs adding LaMarcus Aldridge, the more I think it benefits Leonard. He has been mostly overlooked in the Spurs constellation of stars, but if maintains the aggressive defense he played most of last season’s second half, and gets more open looks as a result of Aldridge, Leonard could be the key to the Spurs’ success. And get an All-Star nod along the way.

Blogtable: Predicting the Warriors’ season

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: One thing to watch early on? | Predicting Golden State’s season | First-time All-Stars

VIDEOThe Hang Time Road Trip makes a stop to chat with the defending champs

> Fill in the blank: The Golden State Warriors will be __________________ at the end of the 2015-16 season.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Watching the Clippers and Cavs in The Finals.

Steve Aschburner, Tuckered out. Because they will play all the way through the conference finals and probably go six or seven games … before falling short against the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s a long run, on top of their Finals celebration from June, so they’ll have earned a breather.

Fran Blinebury, Runner-up to the Spurs in the Western Conference finals.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Disappointed. The Warriors are obviously contenders, and I think they will have a good season with a lot of accomplishments. Just not the ultimate one.

John Schuhmann, Respected. I wouldn’t take the Warriors over the field at this point and I understand the thinking that they caught some breaks on their way to the championship last season. But this was the best team in the league, by a WIDE margin, all year, finishing No. 1 in defense and No. 2 in offense. They brought back their entire rotation and they’re relatively young. I don’t know how you can pick any other team over them.

Sekou Smith, Fighting it out until the final day. It’s strange to hear so many people, including the decision makers who barely acknowledged them in the GM survey, overlook a crew that was far and away the best team in the league in the regular season last year. All the Warriors did in the playoffs, good fortune or not, is confirm what we saw throughout the 82-game marathon that preceded their title run. They were the best team in the league from wire to wire.

Ian Thomsen, Conference finalists. The Spurs, Clippers and Thunder — along with the Rockets, Grizzlies and Pelicans — are going to emerge as season-long obstacles to the defending champs. In the East the Cavaliers look like a sure thing to return to the NBA Finals; the West is much too competitive to assure a Golden State repeat.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: The champs (again). Having just returned from Warriors camp, and having spoken to many of their players and front office folk, they have assembled in the Bay with a quiet confidence. They’ve basically brought back the same team they had a season ago, and while I’m sure they’ll miss Steve Kerr while he recuperates from back surgery, I think this season the Warriors can focus a little more on the postseason than the regular season and look more at repeating than anything else. The hunger to repeat is definitely there. And I’m of the mind that until the champs aren’t the champs any longer, they remain on top.

Blogtable: Biggest storyline or event from the offseason?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Offseason’s biggest storyline was? | Which Kobe will we get? | Assessing longer Finals

VIDEOThe Starters recount their favorite funny offseason moments

> With the offseason finally behind us, what do you think was the most significant news/transaction/event in the NBA’s Summer of 2015?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Has to be the DeAndre Jordan Follies. The entire Western Conference was impacted; if Jordan had gone through with his original intention of joining the Mavericks, I’m still not sure Dallas would have been a top four team–but the Clippers surely would have been severely harmed (I doubt very much that Josh Smith would have signed there without Jordan, for example). That would have made things much easier for San Antonio, OKC, Memphis and Houston. Now, the Clips have a 2-3 year championship contending window that’s wide open.

Steve Aschburner, LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio, breathing renewed life into the Spurs’ dynasty, was big. So was free agent Greg Monroe choosing the fly-over Bucks rather than the Lakers or the Knicks. But to me the biggest event was DeAndre Jordan’s nyah-nyah-had-my-fingers-crossed Re-Decision to stay with the Clippers. That team was on the brink of plummeting into the lottery, had the big man gone to Dallas, but now is regarded by some as a title favorite. Instead, the Mavericks are the ones facing big unknowns because the moratorium turned into a less-atorium for them.

Fran Blinebury, LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio. It not only vaults the Spurs right back up into the top level of contenders for 2016, keeping the Tim DuncanManu GinobiliTony Parker championship window open, but enables the organization to transition into the next phase with Aldridge-Kawhi Leonard as the foundation.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The most significant announcement was the one that received little attention: LeBron James stayed in Cleveland. The spotlight wasn’t very bright because it was the expected outcome. It falls under news/transaction/event, though, and nothing that could have happened or did happen in summer 2015 shaped the NBA more than LBJ with the Cavaliers as opposed to LBJ moving as a free agent. The implications of not taking his talents elsewhere was enormous.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comAs big as it was that one of the top free agents joined the best franchise of the last 20 years, the Spurs have never been as good, statistically, as last year’s champs. And the Warriors’ ability to re-sign Draymond Green quickly and with little fuss was huge. Green was the most important part of the No. 1 defense in the league last season. Golden State is a young team coming off a championship and top-two rankings on both ends of the floor. They’re going to have to deal with Harrison Barnes next summer and Stephen Curry in 2017, but they took a big step toward a several-year run of contention by holding onto a key piece who’s only 25 years old. Green was a restricted free agent, but the Warriors’ Finals opponents can tell you how complicated that can be.

Sekou Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge taking his talents to San Antonio was the biggest power move of the summer. For the Spurs to pull that off — with basically every other team prowling the market trying to get an audience with Aldridge — ensures that the Spurs will have at least a two-man core of Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard to bridge the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili era. Pure genius on the part of the Spurs and an opportunity to chase championships for years to come for Aldridge. DeAndre Jordan sticking around Los Angeles with the Clippers is a close second.

Ian Thomsen, The acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge was more important than DeAndre Jordan’s split-decision to ultimately remain in Los Angeles – because Aldridge is going to change the NBA’s model franchise. The Spurs’ style has been evolving over the years, bringing out the best in Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. Now they’ll be adapting even more to enhance Aldridge. He makes them the most talented team in the NBA — but how will that talent fit together? How will they play? The answers are going to impact the championship race.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogThe DeAndre Jordan saga was definitely the most hilarious thing to happen this summer, but as far as significance, I think the Spurs signing LaMarcus Aldridge could have both immediate and long-lasting effects. The Spurs become immediate contenders for this season’s title, and then they also get the guy who can take over for Tim Duncan going forward. There weren’t any emojis involved, but there will almost surely be championship contention on the way. Which is probably exactly the way Pop would want it.

Blogtable: Will new Finals schedule be a big thing or not?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Offseason’s biggest storyline was? | Which Kobe will we get? | Assessing longer Finals

VIDEONBA Finals Mini-Movie — Game 6

> There’s a new schedule for the NBA Finals this season, giving teams two full days of rest before all but one game (just one day of rest before Game 4). Is this a big thing, a little thing, or much ado about nothing?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: It’s a thing only in the sense that the extra days off will make it difficult for the series to generate momentum. The suspicion is there will be choppier, less consistent play game to game.

Steve Aschburner, Two days matters when there’s a city change involved – that is, between Games 2-3, Games 4-5 and each one after that. One day would be fine between Games 1-2, especially if there’s a gap of several days between the conference championships and the start of The Finals. I’ll rank this as a little thing that now complements the big thing of switching back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format. It sure did seem to bug the Cavaliers this year (even if it didn’t alter the outcome) that they spent more time in a hotel than the Warriors did and got fewer nights at home during the series. And allowing for travel days, separate from practice days, across two or three time zones does make sense.

Fran Blinebury, Not a big, big deal. But in a situation like the one from last season when the Cavs were running out of bodies and a guy like Matthew Dellavedova was literally worn out and had to be hospitalized from exhaustion, it should provide a little help and keep the level of play slightly higher for the league’s showcase event. You hate to see a championship decided with fatigue as a significant reason.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Pretty big thing. What matters in that situation is that the teams are in position to play their best. The calendar squeeze of one day off between games when that day could potentially include long travel did not allow that. The updated plan does. One day would be enough when both games are in the same city. But the two on travel days is the important part. Good move.

John Schuhmann, It’s definitely a good thing in that it should make for a higher level of competition, with players getting an extra day of rest after traveling across the country. A 2-2-1-1-1 series that goes the distance can be a real grind once it gets to Game 4, even when the teams are in the same conference. That’s why they should have kept the 2-3-2 format (for The Finals) in the first place.

Sekou Smith, As anyone who has to go back and forth across the country during a grueling six or seven game slugfest in The Finals will attest, any extra bit of rest should not be dismissed. So it’s potentially a big thing, depending on the respective health of the teams involved in The Finals. But there’s honestly no guarantee that it’ll matter every season. If you have a sweep or a series decided in five games, I doubt anyone will concern themselves with the schedule.

Ian Thomsen, It’s a smart thing. Why not give the best players the extra day to recover, rehab injuries and respond to adjustments? No one ever remembers the time off — all that matters is the performance, and this can only help.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I don’t think it’s a thing at all. I’m sure it’s helpful from a production standpoint, as the NBA Finals are a movable feast of basketball, and it ain’t easy to ship media and cameras and players back and forth between coasts with only one day of turnaround time. While I suppose this could slow the momentum of the Finals a tad, I don’t think you’ll hear any players complaining about more time off.

Blogtable: Which Kobe will show up in 2015-16?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Offseason’s biggest storyline was? | Which Kobe will we get? | Assessing longer Finals

VIDEOKobe Bryant drops in 21 points in a preseason victory

> What will we see more often this season: The old Kobe Bryant, or just old Kobe Bryant?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Probably the latter. Aging players can occasionally summon their old form, but it’s almost impossible to maintain it night in and night out. Your body just doesn’t recover as quickly. The new, more relaxed schedule will help every player, including Kobe. But that’s the problem — everyone will be better rested, and they’ll still be younger. Old Kobe can still be an effective player; just not a dominant one.

Steve Aschburner, Both? Seems like a non-committal answer but I really think we’ll see flashes of Kobe Bryant of yore interspersed with an unprecedented amount of Kobe oldness. And I don’t think there will be any particular pattern, whether he logs some back-to-back appearances or not. Some nights we’ll get a play or two, other nights a quarter or a half and, if he really happens to be feeling it, we’ll occasionally spend the whole evening in a hot-tub time machine as he goes on a scoring jag. But do I think Bryant will match Michael Jordan‘s quality of play as an oldster (21.2 ppg on 20.1 FG attempts over his final two seasons)? No. Jordan was older but Bryant already has logged more minutes in more games, by at least two seasons’ worth. Besides the recuperative benefits Jordan gained from his two sabbaticals, he didn’t have serious injuries in late career the way Bryant has. So a lot of it won’t be pretty but it still will be worth watching.

Fran Blinebury, I’m going in hopeful and saying a little of both. An old Kobe Bryant certainly won’t be able to deliver with the consistency of the past, but assuming he can stay healthy — a big if — we’ll see occasional flashes of the old Kobe.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Somewhere in between. He will be “just old Kobe Bryant,” because even an ultimate warrior like Bryant knows he cannot take Father Time one-on-one. Age will obviously be a factor. But a healthy Kobe — and no one can accurately predict the medical — will be fine. He won’t be a superstar, but he won’t be irrelevant. The Kobe Bryant of 2015-16 will struggle with his shot and won’t log big minutes… and will still help his team.

John Schuhmann, I’d be more encouraged about seeing the old Kobe Bryant if the Lakers had a stronger supporting cast. But this roster is still going to call for him to shoot a high volume of contested jumpers (he took a remarkable 10.5 per game last season), and that’s going to hurt his efficiency and ability to stay fresh over an 82-game season.

Sekou Smith, They’ll battle each other all season, the old Kobe Bryant and just old Kobe Bryant. And I’m convinced we’ll see more of the former more than some expect. The past three seasons have obviously been a struggle for Kobe. Injuries and Father Time continue to win the fight against every professional athlete, even an all-time great like Kobe. If he can stay healthy, old Kobe will make plenty of appearances for the Lakers this season. Either way, it’s going to be an intriguing season for Kobe and the Lakers.

Ian Thomsen, If we see Kobe for more than 60 games then he will not be looking old. In fact he will be exploring new ways to score and succeed. I think he’ll be a marvel.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogIt’s fun to imagine the possibilities: Kobe Bryant, in his 20th season, beating younger players off the dribble and dunking in the paint, or hitting pull-up jumpers as the clock expires. It’s also unfair to Kobe, who shouldn’t be expected to carry an inordinate load at this stage of his career. Sure, there may be moments when we see the old Kobe Bryant we know and love, but to be frank, Kobe Bryant is old. That’s what we should expect to see, and then let Kobe blow our expectations out of the water, like he relishes doing.