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The Seven Biggest Questions as the NBA Opens for Business for the 2022-23 Season

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After a hectic two-and-a-half years of restarts, fast-paced seasons and player turnovers, the NBA finally took a much-needed break this summer. The news cycle never completely stopped, thanks in large part to Kevin Durant’s futile trade demand, but the league managed to slow down long enough for us to consider taking up a real hobby. (This proposal was respectfully declined.)

But this weekend, media coverage for teams playing warm-ups abroad marked the official opening of the 2022-23 season, followed by the rest of the league this week. While we wait for injury news and first glimpses of famous players in new situations, as well as literally any details about the past week horror story in bostonHere’s a look at the seven most important questions in the NBA:

1. The Los Angeles Lakers know they need to trade Russell Westbrook, right?

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When LeBron James signed a contract extension with the Lakers in mid-August, it seemed like the two sides had finally come to an agreement on their surly friend for $47 million. Instead of defaulting to his usual script and postponing his next decision as leverage, James opted to see the franchise go into the future, or at least the next two years. In turn, the Lakers seemed willing to accept the idea of ​​handing out their precious few future draft picks and even traded Talen Horton-Tucker, a Klatch-created man, for longtime Westbrook rival Patrick Beverley — it’s the equivalent of taking a wolverine to deal. with a boa constrictor camps in your garage.

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But more than a month later, the atmosphere emanating from Laker Land regarding the Russ experience encore is downright optimistic. Perhaps new coach Darwin Ham can get through to Russ in a way that Frank Vogel couldn’t. Perhaps the real problem was the injuries. Maybe they should finish the season and keep the 2023 hat spot, maybe for Kyrie Irving. Maybe Russ and Pat Bev can be friends! Owner Gini Bass even recently called Westbrook is the Lakers’ best player last season…only to revert back to his description of “permanent” later.

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The problem with this thinking is, of course, reality. Westbrook was a disaster last season no matter who he played with. And the prize for crawling through another season of shit with him is unlikely to be generous and ultimately still theoretical: in addition to Irving, who played about as often as Westbrook played well last season, recent Sports story mentioned Chris Middleton, Fred VanVleet and Andrew Wiggins as potential targets. Is the mere chance of signing one of these recent champions from their current high-functioning organizations worth it to thwart any opportunity you have of fighting right now for what will be James’ season at age 38?

The prevailing view of the Lakers bubble was that LeBron and Anthony Davis were the league’s most dominant force, king and queen on the chessboard. The last two seasons have undermined that notion, but this basic plan is still a better option than what most teams have to offer. Improved health is essential as Davis reduces Intestinal milk he puffed before training, but the duo also needs a support line-up that might even be adequate. That’s why the only logical way forward is to abandon all hope (or posturing?) of Westbrook’s renaissance and instead use his expiring contract as wreckage in a deal for quality role players – be it Buddy Heald and Miles Turner or some other combination of veterans. . who can shoot beyond 10 feet.

Speaking of which…

Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

2. Which contender will save the rest of the Utah Jazz veterans?

After the pillars of jazz basketball of the last five years have faded away, Danny Ainge has become an NBA maxi player, selling brand name role players at very low prices. The last deal was made last Thursday when Utah sold Bojan Bogdanovic to Detroit for… uh, a couple of million in savings? A chance for Ainge to reunite with the famous hat enthusiast Kelly Olynyk? Still trying to understand That one no, but the overall message is clear: The Jazz want to be very bad, and anyone who helps them be less bad is very accessible.

This list includes: Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay, and maybe even new players like Malik Beasley and Lauri Markkanen. None of these players will lose in a championship race, but they are all useful in the right situation – Clarkson, for example, could give the Milwaukee bench some energy on the ball (perhaps in a Serge Ibaki contract deal when he gets the right to will be sold, plus a future second or two?).

We may not hear much about the Utah basketball team after the start of the season, but up to this point, it holds almost all the clues to any last-minute roster changes.

3. What stars of the Brooklyn Nets will appear – physically, spiritually, metaphorically?

No one is looking forward to this Nets season—least of all, it seems the guy who pays for it. But even after a really fun months-long rivalry between Kevin Durant and the owner, and… whatever the hell is going on with Kyrie, can the Nets still be something incredible?

It may be hard to remember, but first… [gestures broadly at everything]Brooklyn seemed unstoppable. And while the team this season may not have the same historical ceiling after the loss of James Harden, the roster still looks impressive on paper. Durant made the All-NBA Second Team last season despite missing a third of the season. Irving scored 30 or more goals in more than a third of 29 regular season games, including 50 and 60 in the same week. Ben Simmons was runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year the last time he played. Seth Curry and Joe Harris are two of the top four 3-point shooters in the world. NBA history.

The Nets could be great… but only if each can put aside his many conflicts.

On the other hand, Simmons appeared in public again last week. thinking about many of the hot topics he had avoided for over a year. On the other hand, Irving recently shared an old clip from Alex Jones, suggesting he still relies on conspiracy nonsense he found on YouTube to guide his career choice.

There is virtually no chance the Nets will run smoothly this season; for basketball alone, they still need more help in the frontcourt and are counting on a few players who had surgery in the offseason. But if all the executives show themselves involved in the product on the court, there’s a chance they could be pretty damn good too.

Atlanta Hawks - Phoenix Suns

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

4. Where will the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns go next?

While Ime Udoka and Robert Sarver have been punished for their misdeeds, the Celtics and Suns members must now deal with the consequences. That includes players and coaches, yes, but also staff members, some of whom were subjected last week to, as Brad Stevens put it, “Twitter speculation and rampant bullshit.”

The Suns may have grown accustomed to this burden, having spent the entirety of last season under NBA investigation while Sarver remained the owner of the club. But even though Sarver has not yet sold his majority stake in the franchise, his dismissal, one employee said ESPN’s Baxter Holmes brings relief: “I’m more than happy, I have the authority and the motivation,” they said, as well as pointing out the need to continue rooting out “the people in this organization, still in power, who supported this.” . culture”.

However, the Celtics seem to be far from shutting down. Friday’s press conference revealed little to no information about what led to the Boston head coach’s one-year ban, other than the fact that Udoka committed “a lot of infractions.” Five days after the first vaguely worded report, there were more hints that something troubling had happened than the basic details of what had happened.

5. Which injured stars are ready to return and when?

How nice to see how the players put on crazy headdress or listening to every coach in the league pretend that their team will run more this season, media day is most useful for keeping track of the last few months of the roster. Occasionally, one-day press conferences reveal important new passions, such as a player’s newfound love for marmosetsbut more often reveal new injuries, or new information about old injuries.

Updates began to arrive before players, coaches and executives even took the stage: Robert Williams III had a second knee operation six months after the first; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dislocated her MCL; Lonzo Ball underwent another operation on his knee; Markelle Fultz has a broken toe; and the Spurs’ Keldon Johnson has a dislocated shoulder. On a more positive note, Kawhi Leonard was cleared for the five-on-five and appeared to have taken leg workout day very seriously in your spare time.

But aside from Leonard, whose strong hips could be the key to the Western Conference, updates to some of the big names in the 2023 title are yet to come: when will we see Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr in Denver? Does Harden’s hamstring look as bouncy as a shirtless summer, suspiciously filtered? workout photo? What is Zion Williamson’s status after he missed all of last season? (More on that in a second.) And what kind of load management will each of them need when they get back?

No one wins a pre-season title, but the information we get this week will likely help shape the course of the season.

Los Angeles Lakers - New Orleans Pelicans

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

6. How does Zion fit into the Pelicans playoffs?

Last year’s media day was more like the Pelicans’ last fight for the lead. After…


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