The NBA: 10 Story Lines for Training Camp

At this time last year, the NBA training camps were postponed while NBA fans were worried that the season could be cancelled. Basketball fans did not have the joy and certainty of having the NBA resume its season and it appeared that the only way to experience NBA-type basketball was to play NBA2K12 on the PS3 or XBox360. Fortunately, the season was merely delayed and the season started on Christmas Day. The league played 66 games and in the finals, the Miami Heat beat the OKC Thunder. LeBron James got his third MVP to go along with his Finals MVP and first ever championship ring.

Unlike last year, there's no lockout this year and everything is on schedule. Teams will play 82 regular season games and no one will play back-to-back-to-back games. Some teams already had their training camps started this weekend. With each new NBA season beginning, questions and story lines provide more anticipation and excitement for the upcoming season.

The new Big 4 of the Miami Heat
(Image by Getty Images)

1. Will the Miami Heat Repeat?

The first time the Heat won it all in 2006, they did not add new pieces to the team. They started the season sluggishly and they got swept in the first round. That was a very pathetic effort to defend their title. This time around, things are much different. They added two complimentary players (Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis) who can shoot threes all day long to keep the passion and motivation alive. They also have the reigning MVP and best player in the world, LBJ who is entering his prime. Dwyane Wade is recovering from knee surgery and his return to 100% could translate to a better and more dangerous Heat team. Chris Bosh has embraced playing center which allows them to play faster and unconventional which led them to their trophy last June. This Heat team is more poised and equipped to win again this year. No guarantees of a ring in October but they will be back in the Finals for a third straight year. 

2. Can Kobe get his 6th ring?

The LA Lakers vastly improved and upgraded during the off-season. They only lost Andrew Bynum while they got Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison and Dwight Howard. On paper, the Lakers have the most talented team. They have 4 players in the top 20 according to ESPN's #nbarank. On the other hand, Dwight Howard is still recovering from back surgery and is not expected until late November or December. There will certainly be team chemistry issues and defensive lapses while the team learns to play together. A potential ball movement problem could arise between Nash and Bryant while Howard may not like being the 4th best scoring option on a team loaded with shooters and a volume scorer (Kobe). It's championship or bust for the Lakers this year since Howard may leave after this season and the Lakers will have luxury tax problems starting next season. 

3. Who is the King of New York?

There are now officially two teams playing in the state of New York. While the New York Knicks still have the most fans, can they make the claim as being the best team in NYC? The Brooklyn Nets will make their début against the Knicks on opening night and they will be playing in their new arena, the Barclays Center. The Nets upgraded over the summer by trading for Joe Johnson while the Knicks acquired Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton to replace the departed Jeremy Lin. Ultimately, wins will decide which team is better and the Nets appear to be a deeper and more balanced team with players like Reggie Evans, Andre Blatche, Josh Childress, Gerald Wallace and MarShon Brooks.

4. Battle of Los Angeles

The city of Los Angeles is fortunate to have two teams who are certainly going to be in the playoffs. The same cannot be said of teams in New York. The LA Clippers reloaded by adding Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Grant Hill to their roster but those additions pale in comparison to who the Lakers acquired. The rivalry started heating up last year with mini-skirmishes between Chris Paul and Pau Gasol and this season could provide us with battles between Griffin and Howard or Nash versus Paul or the best scenario: Artest versus Barnes. The Clippers need to be more competitive in the playoffs to sway Chris Paul into staying with them after his contract expires at the end of the season. The Pacific Division will be a race between the Lakers and the Clippers with health being the biggest factor in deciding who comes out on top. 

5. Will James Harden stay in OKC?

The OKC Thunder will have the same core this season with only the addition of rookie Perry Jones III adding depth to their lineup. This team is still the best team in the West but the Lakers are right behind them. The Thunder can compete and remain among the top IF James Harden decides to stay in OKC after this year. His contract ends after this season and talks of an extension have been put aside. The Thunder have already resigned Serge Ibaka while both Durant and Westbrook have long-term contracts. If Harden wants a maximum contract, he cannot get that in OKC since the Thunder have invested in other players already (Durant, Westbrook, Perkins, Ibaka). But if Harden settles for less money, then the Thunder will remain a top team in the NBA. There's a slight chance that Harden might be traded if the Thunder are certain that he will not resign with the team. 

Did you ever imagine Dwight Howard being the
4th best offensive player  on the Lakers?
6. New NBA Rule: Anti-Flopping

According to a report in ESPN, the NBA and its officials are putting the finishing touches on implementing a new rule for this season. This rule tackles the sensitive issue on flopping. The NBA defines flopping as the "art of falling down when little or no contact was made in order to trick referees into calling a foul". Too much flopping slows down the game and destroys the credibility and fun factor of a game. Notorious or perceived floppers like Battier, Ginobili, Scola, Artest, Fisher and Carter (just to name a few) will get fines and maybe even suspensions after the league has examined plays after the game. The referees wont be able to call flops during the game but a postgame analysis of calls where flopping was involved will determine if a player needs to be punished.

7. Can Linsanity Boost the Rockets?

Jeremy Lin was spectacular in his 20 plus games with the NY Knicks last season. Did that warrant the 3 years - 25 million plus contract he got from the Rockets? Probably not. But like it or not, he is their franchise player at the moment. The Rockets gutted their roster to bring him over and the current talent is sparse. Can Lin provide the same production from last season with a team filled with rookies and no superstars or all-stars? The smart bet is that his numbers will go down and his team will be a lottery team. It doesnt help the Rockets to be playing in the West where teams need to be better than .500 just to make the playoffs. The Asian media in Houston already believe that Lin is the second coming of Yao Ming. Let's see if Lin can deliver the goods.   

8. How good is Anthony Davis?

The overall first pick in the NBA draft played sparingly in the London Olympics but just being around the USA team helped Davis grow as a player and a person. This guy is the future of Hornets' basketball and he has the potential to be a franchise player like Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett. His strengths on offense revolve on his ability to make jumpers from midrange (might have three-point range) and he can shoot free throws but his post moves need more polishing. On defense, he is an excellent weak side shot blocker and defender but his coverages on screens need more practice. He also needs to bulk up to defend the bigger centers in the NBA. Big men tend to develop their games slower compared to shorter players so winning the Rookie of the Year award is not a sure thing for Davis. This year's draft had a deep pool and he even has competition from one of his teammates, Austin Rivers. 

9. Which Team is 3rd Best in the East?

The injury to Derrick Rose and the trade of Dwight Howard have resulted to the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics being consensus 1 and 2 seeds in the East. The rest of the conference will be jousting for positions 3-8. The Philadelphia Sixers and Indiana Pacers appear to be the frontrunners for the 3 and 4 seeds. The big man who plays better (Bynum or Hibbert) will determine which team ends up third. Meanwhile, the rest of the slots will be fought between the Knicks, Nets, Hawks and Bulls. Teams on the outside that might be able to sneak in could be the Raptors, Cavs or Bucks. The Wizards, Magic, Pistons and Bobcats are probably out of the playoff picture already.

10. Injuries

Which player can comeback from his injury and return to normal (or better) then help his team win and make noise in the playoffs? Derrick Rose is expected around January or even February. That might be too late for the Bulls if they go on a slow start without Rose. Although last year, the Bulls played exceptionally well without him in the lineup. Ricky Rubio is expected earlier like maybe December and his presence on the Twolves could push them into the playoffs. They were in the thick of a playoff spot last season when Rubio tore his ACL then the Twolves went into a nosedive without him. Chauncey Billups is expected to be back around December from his Achilles injury and his presence and leadership could put the Clippers over the Lakers especially with Dwight Howard missing some games also due to his back surgery. 

If you can think of other notable story lines for the upcoming NBA season, please hit the comments!
You can follow me on Twitter: @rollzter 
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1 Comment

I am from Nigeria and only started following the NBA after i discovered Tim Duncan ”THE BIG FUNDAMENTAL” making the game look so easy unlike the more aggressive scoring nature of peeps like Kobe,LBJ,KD (makin it look so difficult)…no offence…i love these guys big time….TD is just an epitome of a true professional, leadership in the dressin room and a gentle mien that is just admirable…no showboatin or braggadocio of any sort..just plain ”fundamentalism” Realistically, i av been waitin for the 5th ring since the last 3yrs wen we got so close after impressive regular season records…i hope it does happen one more time for TD b4 he gets to retire…SAN ANTONIO all d way…Popovich…a coachin great….peace out !!!