Ben Simmons’ drama, Klay Thompson’s injury and COVID-19 concerns: The 10 biggest questions entering NBA training camp

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Can you hear the sounds? The basketballs are bouncing. The new sneakers creak against the ground. The weird questions of the media day that absolutely confuse people sitting in front of the microphone.

After a brief hiatus, another NBA season is almost here with training camps officially starting on Tuesday. For the most part, teams in the league have completed all of their major activities – with one notable exception which could weigh heavily in the weeks to come.

OFF-SEASON CLASSES: Eastern Conference | Western Conference

In fact, let’s use this as a jumping off point as we take a look at some of the biggest questions in NBA training camp. In Philadelphia, we’re going!

1. What’s going on with Ben Simmons and the 76ers?

Yeah, that guy. Simmons is still a member of the 76ers, but he has previously stated that he won’t show up for the start of training camp and has no plans to play another game for the franchise, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Sixers coach Doc Rivers, meanwhile, is hopeful Simmons will join the squad after dealing (very late) with the damage over his comments following Philly’s Game 7 loss to Atlanta in the Conference semifinals. East.

Aside from all the reports and rumors, one simple fact remains: there isn’t an obvious trade-off that works for both Simmons and the 76ers. Teams head to training camps with a sense of optimism, not hopelessness. This leaves both sides in the same gaze contest that has been going on for months.

If Simmons keeps her promise to avoid the camp, will Philadelphia relax her demands and accept an offer she previously rejected? If the Sixers start taking some of Simmons’ money, will he change his tone? Hang on. It could get ugly.

2. How long before Klay Thompson returns?

On Friday, the Warriors had the fourth-best league odds behind the Nets, Lakers and Bucks, per FanDuel. They beat the Jazz, the No. 1 seed in the 2021 NBA Playoffs overall standings, and the Suns, the team that earned two wins before the title.

Golden State’s legitimacy as a championship contender will largely depend on the performance of Thompson, who hasn’t played in a game since the 2019 NBA Finals. The Warriors have indicated that Thompson’s return will likely take place in December, but there have been some positive signs from his offseason workouts.

“I know looking at him every day on the pitch he’s moving really well. He’s in good shape. He’s happy,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic. “He’s delighted to be back on the floor with the guys. The light is finally at the end of the tunnel, and I keep thinking about that moment when he comes out on [the floor] To [Chase Center] for the first time, it’s going to be so moving.

“You think about how much Klay stands for for this franchise, what he stands for to our fans and what he’s been through over the past couple of years just to get to this point. He’s finally on point. , and he feels it. You can see him in his walk. He’s excited, and he’s getting closer.

3. Will vaccination status have an impact on player availability?

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Speaking of the Warriors, what are they going to do with Andrew Wiggins? The Golden State forward, who averaged 18.6 points in 71 games last season, is still unvaccinated, and it doesn’t look like he will back down from his position.

The Warriors have reportedly been concerned about Wiggins’ availability, as local guidelines in San Francisco, where the Chase Center is located, will prevent Golden State players from entering their home arena for games unless they are. have an approved medical or religious exemption. Even if the league grants Wiggins a religious exemption, the city of San Francisco could override the decision.

Brooklyn and New York will be grappling with the same policies. Fox Sports’ Yaron Weitzman reported on Thursday Kyrie Irving hasn’t been vaccinated yet, but the Nets goalie was recently spotted sitting next to the field at Staples Center for a WNBA game. Staples Center policy at the time required that fans sitting on the field be vaccinated.

Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that 90 percent of NBA players are fully vaccinated. The few remaining holdouts may join the majority in the face of the possibility of missing out on games and paychecks, but the situation in these cities in particular will deserve to be watched.

4. Will the Lakers lead the league on the positive side of training camp?

LeBron James is now “The Slim King”. Anthony Davis is look jerked off. Russell Westbrook came home. Carmelo Anthony eventually teamed up with James. Dwight Howard was on “The Masked Singer” for some reason. (It’s not Victor Oladipo.)

Then there’s the team building in Vegas.

Just vibing in LA, bro.

5. Are Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis on the same wavelength?

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The Doncic-Porzingis dynamic has been, let’s say, a little rocky at times. Porzingis was reportedly frustrated with his role in Dallas and felt more like an actor than a co-star next to Doncic. Not ideal for the Mavericks.

However, there is some good news. During an appearance on the podcast “The Hoop Collective”, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon noted that Porzingis’ feelings about the franchise had changed in part because he was in perfect health and would be working under the franchise. management of a new trainer, Jason Kidd.

“At the end of last year, he wasn’t going to ask for a trade,” MacMahon said. “He’s smart enough to understand the optics.… But at the end of last year, when he was standing in the corner and checking the wind for a whole playoff series, he was hoping he would be traded. after what I understand he is coming back optimistic now. “

At 22, Doncic is already an MVP-caliber player who can carry an offense, but even someone as talented as Doncic needs help getting his team to go beyond the mere fact in the playoffs of. the NBA. The Mavericks’ most obvious path to becoming a serious threat in the Western Conference is for Porzingis to rediscover his old form and learn how to complete Doncic.

6. What is Zion Williamson’s relationship with the Pelicans?

As SN’s Micah Adams wrote in his offseason notes, the Pelicans are following the same plan that led to Anthony Davis’ exit. Williamson has been electric in his two seasons with the Pels, but the team won 61 total games in that span and failed to make the playoffs in both seasons.

To make matters worse, the tenure of New Orleans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin has been a mess so far, as detailed in a detailed report by Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Several of the staff aren’t huge Griffin supporters – some have grown up to “actively love him,” according to Clark – and he has failed to build a solid relationship with Williamson.

The most likely scenario remains that Williamson signs an overtime with the Pelicans. Williamson could accept the qualifying offer, but he would leave so much money on the table. No one has ever made this bold move before.

Even though this is how negotiations ultimately play out, it’s clear the Pels have a lot of work to do to convince Williamson that staying in New Orleans long-term is the best option.

7. Is Damian Lillard still happy in Portland?

Lillard will wear a Trail Blazers uniform to start the 2021-22 season. Beyond that, well, hmmm …

The six-time All-Star has always been outspoken about his desires. He wants to bring a championship to Portland. (He even spoke to CJ McCollum about the parade route.) His passion for the team and the city is admirable.

But what have the Trail Blazers done this offseason to give their fans the confidence that this group can go from good to elite? It’s largely the same group that returns for another round on … the first round?

It would be a great story if Lillard stayed in Portland and hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy while the crowd at the Moda Center cheered with joy. It’s just hard to imagine how this dream comes true.

8. Can Timberwolves be normal for a few minutes?

Uh, yuck. The Timberwolves parted ways with president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas just days before training camp began. Karl-Anthony Towns’ reaction said it all.

Look, Minnesota wasn’t suddenly going to emerge as a contender with Rosas as the top decision maker, but that continues what has been a brutal dysfunction within the organization. Timberwolves strive for consistency and respectability. Not there yet, gang!

9. Are the Heat really good enough to make noise in the Eastern Conference?

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After a surprising run to the 2020 NBA Finals in the Florida “bubble”, the Heat enjoyed a top-down 2020-21 regular season. They were then torched by the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. You just knew Pat Riley wouldn’t be quiet during the offseason.

Miami acquired Kyle Lowry as part of a signing-and-swap deal with Toronto and recruited veteran forwards PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris in free agency. The Heat should be an all-time team because of their tenacity and tenacity.

Is the Heat more than just a blow to the Nets or the Bucks? It looks like Miami is a lower level than those two in the East, but it wouldn’t be crazy if everything fell into place for Erik Spoelstra’s side.

10. Which new head coaches are under the most pressure?

Chauncey Billups (Trail Blazers) should be number one here given Lillard’s situation, but he won’t be the only one feeling some heat almost immediately.

Wes Unseld Jr. (Wizards) will have the cloud of Bradley Beal’s free agency hanging over him, and Kidd (Mavericks) and Willie Green (Pelicans) will need to forge strong bonds with their stars. The honeymoon phase could be short if these teams fight to get out of the gates.

Hey, as Monty Williams said so eloquently, “Pressure is a privilege.”


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