The first practices of the season in the NBA are here, with teams set to hit the ground on Tuesday to officially start preparing for the 2021-22 campaign.
A six-pack of things to watch as things begin:
Milwaukee pushes him away.
The Bucks used eight players in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the title-deciding title against Phoenix, and seven of them are still on the roster; the exception is PJ Tucker, who is now part of the Miami Heat. The Bucks also have seven of their top eight scorers, in points total, in a year; the exception in this case is Bryn Forbes, who returned to San Antonio.
Plus, Giannis Antetokounmpo played the game of his life to complete that title race, a 50-point, 14-rebound masterpiece – and he’s not even 27 yet. His best may yet be yet to come.
Technically, San Diego hasn’t had an NBA team since 1984.
This week, the city has three.
The Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Brooklyn Nets are all calling San Diego home this week for training camp. They all practice separately, using three different facilities. The Nets will play in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Sunday before returning home, while the Nuggets and Clippers will play in Los Angeles on Monday.
YOUTH IS SERVED
If they wish, the Houston Rockets might be able to do something very rare during the preseason.
Start with a formation of three guards: Josh Christopher, Jalen Green, and Daishen Nix. Put Usman Garuba in front, put Alperen Sengun in the middle.
He adds up to five teenagers on the floor.
There are no less than 21 teens on NBA rosters as training camps begin Tuesday, including five Rockets and a trio of 18-year-olds – Jonathan Kuminga of Golden State, Josh Giddey of Oklahoma City and Joshua Primo from San Antonio.
Among them, Kuminga and Giddey will be 19 before the start of the regular season. Primo will not be 19 until December 24. He will be 18 years and 300 days old when the Spurs open their season on October 20 against Orlando.
This means he’s set to be the youngest player in an NBA game in over 15 years – Andrew Bynum was 18 and 191 days old when he made a Los Angeles Lakers playoff game. v Phoenix on May 6, 2006.
Four 18-year-olds made their NBA debuts from Bynum: Dragan Bender, Sekou Doumbouya, Devin Booker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But technically, if Primo debuts before November 17, he’ll be younger than any of them for their NBA regular-season games by a few days.
HOW THINGS ARE CHANGING
It’s not even a year since the 2020 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat – they were played in October.
“Looks like three years ago,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Lakers have used 12 players in this series; of these, only LeBron James and Anthony Davis remained with the team on an uninterrupted basis. Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard are back after playing elsewhere last season.
The Heat also used 12 players in this series; among them, only Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson remain in Miami.
It should be noted that in both cases the Lakers (Talen Horton-Tucker) and Heat (Udonis Haslem, Gabe Vincent) have had other players on the roster since those finals. They just didn’t star in this series of titles in the Walt Disney World reboot bubble.
The games that start on Sunday when Brooklyn visits the Los Angeles Lakers mean, and it cannot be stressed enough, absolutely nothing in terms of wins and losses.
Milwaukee went 0-3 in preseason last year and won the NBA title. Phoenix went 0-4 in preseason last year and made it to the NBA Finals.
The only team in the past 25 years that had the best preseason record and won the NBA crown was Golden State in 2016-17.
FINALLY AT HOME
For Raptors fans in Toronto, the wait is almost over.
The team play at home next week. Really at home, that is.
For the first time since February 28, 2020, the Raptors will play a game in Toronto when their pre-season opener opens against Philadelphia. There are only a handful of players and staff left on this team, so the Raptors are hosting a camp in Toronto instead of going elsewhere in Canada as they have often done in recent years.
Toronto called Tampa, Florida, home last season due to the pandemic.
“We thought it was really important to reestablish our base here and to familiarize everyone with the city,” said Raptors general manager Bobby Webster. “A lot of our players, a lot of our staff, didn’t come here, so we thought it was really important for us to do that.”
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