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Ben Simmons' drama, Klay Thompson's harm and COVID-19 issues: The ten largest questions getting into NBA coaching camp

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Are you able to hear the sounds? The basketballs bouncing. The brand new sneakers squeaking towards the ground. The unusual media day questions that completely baffle the oldsters sitting in entrance of the microphone.

After a quick break, one other NBA season is almost right here with coaching camps formally starting on Tuesday. For essentially the most half, groups across the league have accomplished all of their main items of enterprise — with one notable exception that would loom giant within the coming weeks.

OFFSEASON GRADES: Jap Convention | Western Convention

Truly, let’s use that because the jumping-off level as we run via the most important NBA coaching camp questions. To Philadelphia we go!

1. What occurs with Ben Simmons and the 76ers?

Sure, that man. Simmons remains to be a member of the 76ers, however he has already declared that he won’t be reporting for the beginning of coaching camp and would not plan to play one other recreation for the franchise, in line with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Sixers coach Doc Rivers, in the meantime, is holding out hope that Simmons will rejoin the workforce after he did some (very late) injury management concerning his feedback following Philly’s Recreation 7 loss towards Atlanta within the Jap Convention semifinals.

Placing all the experiences and rumors apart, one easy truth stays: There isn’t a apparent commerce that works for each Simmons and the 76ers. Groups are heading into coaching camps feeling optimistic, not determined. That leaves each sides in the identical staring contest that has been happening for months.

If Simmons does observe via on his pledge to keep away from camp, will Philadelphia ease up on its calls for and entertain a proposal it had beforehand rejected? If the Sixers begin taking away a few of Simmons’ cash, will he change his tune? Brace yourselves. This might get ugly.

2. How lengthy till Klay Thompson returns?

As of Friday, the Warriors have the fourth-best championship odds behind solely the Nets, Lakers and Bucks, per FanDuel. They’re forward of the Jazz, the No. 1 total seed within the 2021 NBA playoffs, and the Suns, the workforce that got here two wins in need of the title.

Golden State’s legitimacy as a championship contender will largely rely on the efficiency of Thompson, who hasn’t performed in a recreation because the 2019 NBA Finals. The Warriors have indicated that Thompson’s return will doubtless are available in December, however there have been constructive indicators from his offseason exercises.

“I do know that watching him each day on the courtroom, he is actually transferring effectively. He is in fine condition. He is joyful,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr informed The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami. “He is excited to be again out on the ground with the fellows. The sunshine is lastly on the finish of the tunnel, and I hold fascinated with that second the place he steps out onto [the floor] at [Chase Center] for the primary time, it is going to be so emotional. 

“You consider every little thing Klay means to this franchise, what he means to our fan base and what he has gone via the final two years simply to get to this stage. He is lastly on the cusp, and he feels it. You’ll be able to see it in his stroll. He is excited, and he is getting shut.”

3. Will vaccination standing affect participant availability? 

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Talking of the Warriors, what are they going to do with Andrew Wiggins? The Golden State ahead, who averaged 18.6 factors in 71 video games final season, stays unvaccinated, and it would not appear as if he will probably be backing down from his stance.

The Warriors have reportedly grown involved about Wiggins’ availability as a result of native tips in San Francisco, the place the Chase Middle is positioned, will stop Golden State gamers from getting into their dwelling enviornment for video games except they’ve an permitted medical or spiritual exemption. Even when the league grants Wiggins a spiritual exemption, town of San Francisco might override that ruling.

Brooklyn and New York will probably be wrestling with the identical insurance policies. Fox Sports activities’ Yaron Weitzman reported Thursday that Kyrie Irving has not but gotten vaccinated, however the Nets guard was lately noticed sitting courtside on the Staples Middle for a WNBA recreation. The Staples Middle coverage on the time required followers sitting courtside to be vaccinated.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that 90 p.c of NBA gamers are absolutely vaccinated. The few remaining holdouts might be part of the majority when confronted with the opportunity of lacking video games and paychecks, however the conditions in these cities particularly will probably be value monitoring.

4. Will the Lakers lead the league in constructive coaching camp vibes?

LeBron James is now “The Slim King.” Anthony Davis is wanting jacked. Russell Westbrook got here dwelling. Carmelo Anthony has lastly teamed up with James. Dwight Howard was on “The Masked Singer,” for some purpose. (He is no Victor Oladipo.)

Then there’s the workforce bonding in Vegas.

Simply straight vibing out in LA, bro.

5. Are Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis on the identical web page?

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The Doncic-Porzingis dynamic has been, for example, a bit rocky at instances. Porzingis has reportedly been annoyed together with his position in Dallas and felt like extra of a task participant than a co-star subsequent to Doncic. Not best for the Mavericks.

Nevertheless, there’s some excellent news. Throughout an look on “The Hoop Collective” podcast, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon famous that Porzingis’ emotions concerning the franchise have modified partly as a result of he’s absolutely wholesome and will probably be working below a brand new coach in Jason Kidd.

“On the finish of final 12 months, he wasn’t going to come back out and ask for a commerce,” MacMahon mentioned. “He is good sufficient to grasp the optics. … However by the top of final 12 months when he stood within the nook and checked the wind for a complete playoff sequence, he hoped that he would be traded. From what I collect, he is coming again optimistic now.”

At 22 years previous, Doncic is already an MVP-caliber participant who can carry an offense, however even somebody as gifted as Doncic wants assist to ensure that his workforce to transcend one-and-done within the NBA playoffs. The Mavericks’ most blatant pathway to changing into a severe menace within the Western Convention is Porzingis rediscovering his previous kind and studying how you can complement Doncic.

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

As SN’s Micah Adams wrote in his offseason grades, the Pelicans are following the identical blueprint that led to Anthony Davis’ exit. Williamson has been electrical in his two seasons with the Pels, however the workforce has gained 61 complete video games in that span and failed to achieve the playoffs in both season.

To make issues worse, New Orleans govt vp of basketball operations David Griffin’s tenure has been a multitude up to now, as detailed in an intensive report from Christian Clark of NOLA.com. A number of staffers usually are not large Griffin supporters — some grew to “actively dislike” him, per Clark — and he has did not construct a strong relationship with Williamson.

The most certainly situation stays Williamson signing an extension with the Pelicans. Williamson might take the qualifying supply, however he can be leaving a lot cash on the desk. No one has ever made that daring transfer earlier than.

Even when that’s how negotations finally play out, although, it is clear that the Pels have a whole lot of work to do with a view to persuade Williamson that staying in New Orleans long-term is the best choice.

7. Is Damian Lillard nonetheless joyful in Portland?

Lillard will probably be in a Path Blazers uniform to begin the 2021-22 season. Past that, effectively, hmmm…

The six-time All-Star has at all times been simple about his wishes. He desires to deliver a championship to Portland. (He has even talked to CJ McCollum concerning the parade route.) His ardour for the workforce and metropolis is admirable.

However what did the Path Blazers do that offseason to present their followers confidence that this group can rise from good to elite? That is largely the identical group returning for one more run at… the primary spherical?

It might be an incredible story if Lillard stayed in Portland and hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy whereas the Moda Middle crowd cheered in pleasure. It is simply laborious to ascertain how that dream turns into a actuality.

8. Can the Timberwolves be regular for a couple of minutes?

Uh, yikes. The Timberwolves parted methods with president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas solely days earlier than the beginning of coaching camp. Karl-Anthony Cities’ response mentioned all of it.

Look, Minnesota was not abruptly going to emerge as a contender with Rosas because the lead decision-maker, however this continues what has been a brutal stretch of dysfunction throughout the group. The Timberwolves are aiming for consistency and respectability. Not there but, gang!

9. Are the Warmth actually ok to make noise within the Jap Convention?

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After a stunning run to the 2020 NBA Finals within the Florida “bubble,” the Warmth had an up-and-down 2020-21 common season. They then bought torched by the Bucks within the first spherical of the playoffs. You simply knew Pat Riley would not be quiet in the course of the offseason.

Miami acquired Kyle Lowry as a part of a sign-and-trade cope with Toronto and picked up veteran forwards P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris in free company. The Warmth must be an all-time pain-in-the-butt workforce due to their toughness and tenacity.

Are the Warmth greater than only a robust out for the Nets or Bucks, although? It appears Miami is a tier under these two within the East, but it surely would not be loopy if every little thing clicks into place for Erik Spoelstra’s squad.

10. Which new head coaches are below essentially the most stress?

Chauncey Billups (Path Blazers) must be on the prime of the checklist right here given the Lillard scenario, however he will not be alone in feeling a bit warmth nearly instantly.

Wes Unseld Jr. (Wizards) can have the cloud of Bradley Beal’s free company hanging over him, and Kidd (Mavericks) and Willie Inexperienced (Pelicans) might want to construct sturdy bonds with their stars. The honeymoon part might be brief if these groups wrestle out of the gates.

Hey, as Monty Williams so eloquently put it, “Strain is a privilege.”

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