Tag:Preseason Primers
Posted on: September 27, 2010 2:33 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 2:37 pm
 

Preseason Primer: Phoenix Suns

Posted by Matt Moore

It's a season of change, and the Suns are dealing with some pretty big ones. They lost a huge part of their bench mob in Louis Amundson. They lost a pivotal speed player who's been there for years in Leandro Barbosa. And oh, yeah, they lost some Amar'e guy. So there's a lot for them to process as camp starts with new additions. Here's what's going on as the Suns try and adjust to Year 1, Post-STAT.


Training camp site:   San Diego, CA

Training camp starts:   Sept. 28 

Key additions: Josh Childress (free agency), Hedo Turkoglu (trade), Hakim Warrick (free agency), Gani Lawal (draft)

Key subtractions: Leandro Barbosa (trade), Amar'e Stoudemire (free agency)

Likely starting lineup: Steve Nash (PG), Jason Richardson (SG), Hedo Turkoglu (SF), Hakim Warrick (PF), Robin Lopez

Player to watch:   Hakim Warrick. Warrick has never really impressed anyone with his play. He's been good, he can dunk, but he's never blown anyone away. He's also never had Steve Nash working with him in the pick and roll. That's a huge step. He needs to work on his defense and finishing like Amar'e did with his athleticism if he wants to get a starting spot, because Turkoglu will likely get a lot of time there, as weird as that is. Warrick also needs to work on his mid-range game to be more of a threat all over the floor.

Chemistry check: This team likes one another, but there are a lot of new faces in the locker room, and some come with egos. With the loss of Louis Amundson and several players looking for extensions, you have to wonder if distractions will be a problem from the get-go.

Camp battles: The entire frontcourt. Robin Lopez probably has the biggest lock on the starting gig at center, but Channing Frye may push him as he did last year. Josh Childress, Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick, Jared Dudley, and Earl Clark will battle it out for the 3 and 4 slots (with Childress likely to spend a lot of time at backup shooting guard). They've got a lot of weapons, a lot of versatilty, and no clear-cut leaders at those positions. Should be a fun competition.

Biggest strength: They're still the Suns. Even with the Amar'e bullet out of the chamber, they've got athletic guys who can run, shoot, and score. They work hard and are lead by one of the best point guards in NBA history. The formula has proven to work. The pieces aren't huge downgrades outside of the loss of Stoudemire, and they're used to overcoming adversity. They'll also still be entertaining as all get-out.

Glaring weakness: Super-punch. They lack a superstar outside of Nash. That's going to be hard to compete with in the Western Conference. Someone has to make a huge step if they want to make the playoffs again.


Posted on: September 27, 2010 1:47 pm
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Posted on: September 27, 2010 1:24 am
Edited on: September 27, 2010 1:24 am
 

Preseason Primer: Magic

Posted by Royce Young

The team holding training camp at a military base a couple hundred miles north will hog the attention in Florida this year, but still, the Orlando Magic have a roster built to compete for the Eastern title. The team returns almost entirely intact and welcomes in just a couple of role-playing faces. Dwight Howard enters his seventh year as a pro and is looking to push his team over the hump. The Magic's window might be closing with some of their player's aging, but coming in, they look primed to be in the middle of it all in the East.

Training camp site:
Orlando, FL

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Quentin Richardson (free agent), Chris Duhon (free agent), Daniel Orton (draft)

Key subtractions: Matt Barnes (free agent)

Likely starting lineup: Jameer Nelson, PG; Vince Carter, SG; Mickael Pietrus, SF; Rashard Lewis, PF; Dwight Howard, C

Player to watch: The easy answer here is Dwight Howard. Around him, all things function in Orlando. But the guy to keep an eye on is Vince Carter. He had somewhat of a down season last year, but he's coming into this camp kicking off a contract year. So the thinking would be that he'll be more focused, in better shape and as prepared as ever. J.J. Redick could potentially push him a bit for his starting spot so Carter has got to be ready to hit the ground running.

Chemistry quiz: The Magic will be answering one common question during training camp and really during the entire season - What do you think about the Heat? Stan Van Gundy isn't someone to mince words, nor is Howard. Not that it'll cause a rift among the actual team, but it's certainly possible - nay, probable - that someone says something that catches some attention and headlines. Maybe Orlando wants the focus, maybe they want to provide some bulletin board material. But there's no doubt that some off-court stuff will definitely jump into the picture during camp.

Camp battles: As mentioned, it's possible that Redick could push Carter. Van Gundy is a coach that likes defense and Redick has come a long way on that end. He can shoot, which is something the Magic like. And now he's playing hard and defending. Carter obviously still is a great athlete that can explode any night, but if there's any sign he's dogging it, Van Gundy may decide to go with the young guy.

Another position to keep an eye on is power forward. Brandon Bass has been pretty vocal about wanting more playing time. But still, Ryan Anderson figures to be in front of him on the depth chart. Not only could that be a chemistry issue, but it'll definitely be a camp battle to watch.

Biggest strength: Everything hinges around Howard. The drive and kick is Orlando's bread and butter and it's there because of the rock anchoring the inside. The Magic don't really have a hole to fill as long as everyone is clicking and working together. The bench is solid, the starting five is quality and there's a star that can handle the spotlight.

Glaring weakness: One dimensionality. I think I just made that word up, but Orlando can become one dimensional in a hurry. And they can do it in a variety of ways. What I mean is that the issue varies from game to game. Sometimes, they commit far too much to pounding Howard down low to the point of forcing it. Other times, they shoot too many 3s too early in the shot clock. The Magic have an identity: They want to use Howard for attention and let their athletic guards drive and create open outside looks. And then defend on the other end. But sometimes, they sure don't execute it. When they do, they're as good as anyone. When they don't, they equally as beatable.
Posted on: September 26, 2010 6:30 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2010 6:30 pm
 

Preseason Primer: Hawks

Posted by Royce Young

The Hawks made news by inking Joe Johnson to a superstar contract when many thought Johnson wasn't worth it. But it was either that or let him walk to a team that would give it to him. Atlanta didn't do much else and plans on the development of its young core to keep coming along. But the East may be passing them by. The Hawks are pretty much set heading to camp but still, the young faces might be able to push some of the older ones.

Training camp site: Atlanta, GA

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Josh Powell (free agent), Jordan Crawford (draft)

Key subtractions: Mike Woodson (fired)

Likely starting lineup:   Mike Bibby, PG; Joe Johnson, SG; Marvin Williams, SF; Josh Smith, PF, Al Horford, C

Player to watch: Any time a player gets paid, they immediately become someone to watch. And Joe Johnson got paid this summer. Most questioned the deal for Johnson, wondering if he was really worth the max money he was given. And now without the incentive of working for that contract left, all he has is the motivation he's got left is proving the doubters wrong. And winning games, of course.

Chemistry quiz: Jamal Crawford caused a bit of a stir asking for a pay-me-or-trade-me type of thing this summer. And coming into camp, that'll surely be a situation that hangs over a bit. But more than anything, the biggest question for the Hawks is if this team is ready to start moving ahead. Can they hang together now that players are getting big money, some are asking for money and a guy like Al Horford is waiting for his ship to come in. The Hawks were the up-and-comers a few years ago, now they better start moving ahead before contracts and disease of more stops everything in its tracks.

Camp battles: The Hawks are pretty much set across the board. The one battle that could be interesting later on is if Jeff Teague can push Mike Bibby at some point. This camp could be a big step in Teague showing he might be ready at some point.

Biggest strength: Length, athleticism and speed. Atlanta's starting five is as physically gifted as just about any group out there. Between Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Al Horford, the team has talent out the wazoo. Johnson anchors the scoring and Horford is the steady inside presence. Atlanta may be missing something in the first five, but it's not much.

Glaring weakness: Depth. To be specific, depth on the inside. Jamal Crawford provides the scoring off the bench, Teague spells Bibby well (though Bibby may be on the way out) and Maurice Evans is a quality enough backup to Williams. But Josh Powell, Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia may not be a strong enough secondary front line to battle Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett or Chris Bosh in the East.
Posted on: September 26, 2010 4:30 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2010 4:30 pm
 

Preseason Primer: 76ers

Posted by Royce Young

This 76ers club is a young one that doesn't have any major inclination to win now. They know it's a work in progress and based upon the development of a young core, this group has future potential. But it could be a long year this season. Doug Collins is an excellent coach for young players and almost always gets a win improvement out of a new team in his first year. But he has a challenge ahead of him in Philly this season.

Training camp site: Philadelphia, PA

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Evan Turner (draft), Spencer Hawes (trade), Andres Nocioni (trade)

Key subtractions: Samuel Dalembert (trade), Willie Green (trade), Rodney Carney (free agent)

Likely starting lineup:   Jrue Holiday, PG; Evan Turner, SG; Andre Iguodala, SF; Elton Brand, PF; Marreese Speights, C

Player to watch: Andre Iguodala. After a strong performance in Turkey where Iguodala was called upon to simply play a role, many are riding high on Iggy heading into this season. But it's about mindset. Playing as a third or even fourth option and primarily as a hard-nosed defender, Iguodala looked like one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league. But when he returns to Philly as the leading man on a mediocre to bad club, how does he respond? Will he stay committed to fitting in or will he try and assume the job of dominating the ball for the Sixers?

Chemistry quiz: The Sixers took Evan Turner second overall and now are tasked with figuring out how he fits in. In college, Turner handled the ball, created, distributed and scored. But how does he play with the Sixers? Is he going to stay off the ball and straight play the 2? Will he have some ball-handling duties? With the improvement of Jrue Holiday as a point guard, figuring out how Turner fits will be a question.

Plus, Philly is bringing in a brand new coach in Doug Collins. Typically, Collins improves teams, especially young ones. But it'll be an uphill battle figuring out the roles and spots of some of these guys.

Camp battles: Any question as to who is starting at shooting guard was solved with last week's trade of Willie Green. The 76ers are going young and will start Turner there. Lou Williams could potentially push for Holiday's starting point guard spot, though again, it appears the Sixers are going all-in with the youth movement. At center, Marreese Speights will likely start over offseason acquisition Spencer Hawes, but it'll be a competition throughout camp.

Biggest strength: Athleticism. The Sixers can move with the best of them. Holiday is a physically gifted point man, Turner is a long, lengthy shooting guard, Iguodala is ridiculous and a bench player like Thaddeus Young is long and athletic. The 76ers have a bunch of raw talent with a bundle of ability. In one regard, it's their biggest strength, but in another, it's a weakness.

Glaring weakness: Inexperience and youth. These Sixers don't know how to win. They brought in Elton Brand last summer to try and be a mainstay on the inside and it hasn't worked out well thus far. So right now, the team is left with players trying to fulfill duties likely above them. For example, Iguodala. As showed in Turkey, Iggy is at his best when he's not relied upon to put up 20 points a night. But on this team, he has to be the man. So until someone else steps up whether that's Turner, Young, Holiday or someone else, this team will have issues.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 6:49 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 10:29 pm
 

Preseason Primer: Thunder

Posted by Royce Young

Over the summer, the Thunder quickly became an "it" team. Behind Kevin Durant's humble contract extension, the team's pushing of the Lakers in the first round, Durant and Russell Westbrook's performances in Turkey and the additions to the roster, expectations are high. But there are still questions for camp. What about Jeff Green? He didn't get an extension this summer. Could that upset the normally stellar chemistry of the Thunder? Or how about James Harden? Can he steal the starting job from Thabo Sefolosha?

Training camp site: Edmond, OK

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Cole Aldrich (draft), Morris Peterson (trade), Daequan Cook (trade)

Key subtractions: Um, Etan Thomas? (free agent), Ron Adams (assistant coach moved to Chicago), Rich Cho (now GM of Blazers)

Likely starting lineup:   Russell Westbrook, PG; Thabo Sefolosha, SG; Kevin Durant, SF; Jeff Green, PF; Nenad Krstic, C

Player to watch: All eyes will surely be on Kevin Durant who has received as much offseason hype as any player. But there are two guys to keep an eye on in Thunder camp: Serge Ibaka and James Harden. Those two player will be as key to OKC's success as anyone. Both are immensely talented and both are expected to take big steps forward this season. Training camp is a chance for both to earn extra minutes, and maybe starting spots.

Chemistry quiz: There probably isn't a team in the league with as much real chemistry as the Thunder. They hang together, play video games together, go see movies together and in general, are all friends. Any time new faces are added to it, there's a small question as to how they'll fit in, but young guys like Cole Aldrich and Daequan Cook shouldn't have any issues.

However, mainstay Jeff Green has a contract extension hanging over his head right now. While Kevin Durant got paid over the summer, buddy Green did not. Thunder management is looking for Green to prove his worth this season and while Green is a great teammate, it could potentially become an issue.

Camp battles: The Thunder are pretty set in their ways right now, having started the same five in all but six games last season. But James Harden could push Thabo Sefolosha for the starting 2-guard spot. A big camp that showcases improvements on the defensive end could earn Harden the minutes. Also, Scott Brooks prefers to play just nine and right now, the Thunder's rotation appears set. So how does Cole Aldrich earn minutes in that group?

Injury watch: Nenad Krstic is out after having surgery on a finger. This is a big chance for Aldrich, Serge Ibaka and second-year player Byron Mullens to potentially make a case for more playing time.

Biggest strength: Talent. This Thunder group is full of ability. In every sense of the word too. Athleticism, speed, skill - you name it. Still one of the youngest rosters in the league this group aged and matured a hundred years worth with its baptism by fire against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Some might think they're still inexperienced, but after Russell Westbrook and Durant's maturation in Turkey and over the summer, these guys are ready.

Glaring weakness: Interior size. The jury is still out on Jeff Green's power forwardness. Aldrich helps, but he's a raw rookie. Ibaka came a long way but he's likely not ready to start. Krstic is a finesse big man that doesn't rebound. Nick Collison is a scrapper, but undersized to play big at center. The Thunder rebounds as a team and actually led the league in blocks last year, but against the giants in the West like the Lakers, size could be a problem.

Posted on: September 24, 2010 11:46 am
Edited on: September 24, 2010 11:48 am
 

Preseason Primer: Pacers

Posted by Royce Young

The Pacers were part of the deal of the summer, a four-team trade that landed them Darren Collison and James Posey. They still acknowledge they're rebuilding, but now, it feels like a corner might start turning. They're still missing pieces and have questions headed to camp, but for the first time in a while, a plan looks evident.

Training camp site:
Indianapolis, IN

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Darren Collison (trade), Lance Stephenson (draft), Paul George (draft), James Posey (trade)

Key subtractions: Troy Murphy (trade), Earl Watson (free agent)

Likely starting lineup: Darren Collison, PG; Mike Dunleavy, SG; Danny Granger, SF; Josh McRoberts, PF; Roy Hibbert, C

Player to watch: To be determined power forward. Right now, the Pacers have Josh McRoberts starting at the 4. I think it's safe to assume Larry Bird has plans to make a move to have someone new there. Tyler Hansbrough is also in the mix but he's battling a condition that's hampering his ability to get on the floor.

Chemistry quiz: Any time you add a new point guard to the mix, questions come up about how the team will play together. Darren Collison isn't a complicated guard. He's pretty straightforward in the way he plays and the way he carries himself. He shouldn't have any issues fitting in to Jim O'Brien's system.

Camp battles: Two positions: The aforementioned power forward situation and also shooting guard. Is it Mike Dunleavy? Brandon Rush? Dahntay Jones? Rookie Lance Stephenson? Could lottery rookie Paul George slide down and play the 2? The Pacers have a number of rotation questions coming in and in both cases, might not have the player to fill them actually on the roster.

Handcuffed: The Pacers were a team that fought the law a bit this offseason. Brandon Rush was tagged with a five-game suspension for a drug violation and Lance Stephenson was accused of pushing his girlfriend down some stairs. So you can definitely assume there are some distractions and questions to be asked on media day.

Camp invites:
A couple of interest include Magnum Rolle, a second-round pick and Lance Allred, the first deaf player to play in the NBA.

Biggest strength: 3-point shooting. One of O'Brien's staples is to create the 3-point shot. Now with Collison creating space for shooters, guys like Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy, Brandon Rush and James Posey will have the ability to crank up a number of 3s.

Glaring weakness: Roster holes. Again, who plays power forward? Who plays shooting guard? The Pacers took a big step in correcting a roster issue by acquiring Collison, but the trade sent power forward Troy Murphy elsewhere. Indiana isn't done making moves and it plans on improving the lineup, at this point, those guys aren't on the team.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 9:41 am
 

Preseason Primer: Chicago Bulls

Posted by Matt Moore
 
The Bulls needed upgrades, they've got upgrades. Carlos Boozer is the low-post presence they've been dreaming of. Kyle Korver is the perimeter shooter they've been amiming for. Ronnie Brewer is the shutdown perimeter man they've been needing. The Bulls upgraded at all the spots they needed to. Now it's just a matter of making things work together. And that's where we begin our Preseason Primer on the Bulls.

Training camp site: Chicago, IL

Training camp starts: September 28th

Key additions: Carlos Boozer (free agency), Kyle Korver (free agency), Ronnie Brewer (free agency)

Key subtractions: Brad Miller (free agency), Kirk Hinrich (trade), Hakim Warrick (free agency)

Likely starting lineup:
Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah

Player to watch: Taj Gibson. Gibson played well last season with extremely limited expectations. The questions in camp will surround his ability to develop under what is considered to be a very low ceiling. Gibson needs to expand his offensive repertoire and improve on the glass.


Chemistry quiz: Derrick Rose lead by example last season; he'll have to be vocal in that leadership this season. Seeing if Carlos Boozer can defer to a player as young as Rose is also a question. Then there's the looming question of the impact of the prospective trade for Carmelo Anthony. The last time the Bulls were discussing trading for a superstar, that player went on to win two (and possibly more) titles and the Bulls imploded. Should be fun to watch.


Camp battles: Backup shooting guard is going to be one to sort out, with Ronnie Brewer the defensive stopper and C.J. Watson the scoring type. Seeing who's going to be the primary rebounder between Noah and Boozer should be a good one to watch as well.

Injury issues:
The Bulls seem awfully healthy going into camp.

Biggest strength: Defense. They have a defensive whiz in Tom Thibodeau taking over. Boozer can defend, in certain situations. Rose is improving. Brewer is a lockdown guy. Noah is a stopper. They have all the ability in the world to get stops, if they can communicate with one another.

Glaring weakness: Elitism. Derrick Rose is a divisive figure in terms of where he ranks among the top point guards. Carlos Boozer is a divisive figure in terms of where he ranks among the top power forwards. Joakim Noah is a divisive figure in terms of where he ranks among the top centers. If they want to compete with the Celtics and Heat, they have to be at the top of those lists.
 
 
 
 
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