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

Can you hear the sounds? The basketballs bouncing. The 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 sort of right here with training 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 might loom giant within the coming weeks.

OFFSEASON GRADES: Eastern Conference | Western Conference

Actually, let’s use that because the jumping-off level as we run by the biggest NBA training camp questions. To Philadelphia we go!

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

Yes, 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 training camp and does not plan to play one other sport for the franchise, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Sixers coach Doc Rivers, in the meantime, is holding out hope that Simmons will rejoin the group after he did some (very late) damage control relating to his feedback following Philly’s Game 7 loss towards Atlanta within the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Putting the entire reports and rumors apart, one easy reality stays: There isn’t any apparent commerce that works for each Simmons and the 76ers. Teams are heading into training camps feeling optimistic, not determined. That leaves each sides in the identical staring contest that has been occurring for months.

If Simmons does observe by 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 group that got here two wins wanting the title.

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

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

“You take into consideration every part Klay means to this franchise, what he means to our fan base and what he has gone by the final two years simply to get to this stage. He’s lastly on the cusp, and he feels it. You can see it in his stroll. He’s excited, and he is getting shut.”

3. Will vaccination status impact player availability? 

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Speaking 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 does not appear as if he can be backing down from his stance.

The Warriors have reportedly grown concerned about Wiggins’ availability as a result of native pointers in San Francisco, the place the Chase Center is situated, will stop Golden State gamers from entering their dwelling enviornment for video games until they’ve an accredited medical or non secular exemption. Even if the league grants Wiggins a spiritual exemption, town of San Francisco might override that ruling.

Brooklyn and New York can be wrestling with the identical insurance policies. Fox Sports’ Yaron Weitzman reported Thursday that Kyrie Irving has not but gotten vaccinated, however the Nets guard was not too long ago noticed sitting courtside at the Staples Center for a WNBA sport. The Staples Center coverage on the time required followers sitting courtside to be vaccinated.

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

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

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

Then there’s the group bonding in Vegas.

Just 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, as an example, a bit of rocky at instances. Porzingis has reportedly been frustrated with his role in Dallas and felt like extra of a job participant than a co-star subsequent to Doncic. Not splendid for the Mavericks.

However, there may be some excellent news. During an appearance on “The Hoop Collective” podcast, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon famous that Porzingis’ emotions in regards to the franchise have modified partly as a result of he’s totally wholesome and can be working underneath a brand new coach in Jason Kidd.

“At the end of last year, he wasn’t going to come out and ask for a trade,” MacMahon stated. “He’s smart enough to understand the optics. … But by the end of last year when he stood in the corner and checked the wind for an entire playoff series, he was hoping that he would be traded. From what I gather, he’s coming back optimistic now.”

At 22 years outdated, 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 group to transcend one-and-done within the NBA playoffs. The Mavericks’ most evident pathway to changing into a severe menace within the Western Conference is Porzingis rediscovering his outdated type and studying how you can complement Doncic.

6. What is 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 group 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 vice chairman of basketball operations David Griffin’s tenure has been a large number thus far, as detailed in an extensive report from Christian Clark of Multiple 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 provide, however he could be leaving a lot cash on the desk. No one has ever made that daring transfer earlier than.

Even if that’s how negotations ultimately play out, although, it is clear that the Pels have lots of work to do to be able to persuade Williamson that staying in New Orleans long-term is the most suitable choice.

7. Is Damian Lillard nonetheless completely satisfied in Portland?

Lillard can be in a Trail Blazers uniform to start out the 2021-22 season. Beyond that, properly, hmmm…

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

But what did the Trail Blazers do that offseason to present their followers confidence that this group can rise from good to elite? This is essentially the identical group returning for one more run at… the primary spherical?

It could be an amazing story if Lillard stayed in Portland and hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy whereas the Moda Center crowd cheered in pleasure. It’s simply exhausting to examine 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 training camp. Karl-Anthony Towns’ response stated all of it.

Look, Minnesota was not immediately 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 Heat actually ok to make noise within the Eastern Conference?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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