NBA AM: Preseason, The Necessary Evil
Younger players are overcome with anticipation on the mere thought of participating in their first few training camps, while the majority of longer tenured NBA veterans will readily admit their lack of love for the league’s yearly preseason slate.
Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Vince Carter is entering his fifteenth season in the league. The veteran could live without the taxing that preseason puts on his aging body but he totally understands the need for his team to build cohesion during the early slate.
“Preseason is important for us,” Carter said. “As much as we may hate it as basketball players and feel that it is too long, at the same time we need it. We need it because we have to get everyone on the same page.”
The Mavericks have reached the playoffs in each of the past twelve seasons but will enter the 2012-13 campaign with a plethora of new players arriving after an offseason of transition. Gone are veterans such as Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Brendan Haywood and in are guys such as Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo.
Carter believes preseason, while draining physically, is the perfect training ground for the new look Mavericks to learn each other’s tendencies on the floor under game pressure.
“With eight new guys you haven’t seen every situation and you’re not going to see every situation in practice,” Carter said. “Through the course of games and going through the early part of the season you start seeing different situations and scenarios that you don’t cover in practice but you see in the game. Now you have something to work with and that’s what you need. Particularly with new guys. We have to learn how each other react to different situations. You won’t get that unless you have preseason, unfortunately.”
Carter has transitioned from perennial All-Star selection to the role he currently enjoys on the Mavericks as a veteran team leader. Dallas opened training camp with three rookies on the roster in Josh Akognon, Jae Crowder and Jared Cunningham and Carter has enjoyed sharing his experience with the next generation as his career winds down.
“I enjoy it,” Carter said of his veteran leadership role. “These guys were five [years old] when I started playing basketball. It was a little uneasy but at the same time they respect me and they ask questions because they’re willing to learn and that’s what I enjoy. I just want to win. The years of experience that I’ve had, I can help these guys and they trust in what I tell them.”
Resilient John Lucas III Making His Mark In Toronto
Expectations are rising for the Toronto Raptors franchise. The team has not reached the postseason since the 2008 campaign but club is generating plenty of looks as a sleeper candidate to make a playoff run this season mostly due to the arrival of Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas.
Another player expected to contribute in a consistent role is point guard John Lucas III who signed with Toronto via free agency this past summer. In three preseason contests with the Raptors, Lucas is averaging 13.7 points and 5 assists per game on 50 percent shooting from the field.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been impressed with his new guard’s mental approach to the game and his ability to be coached hard.
“He’s a scorer, that’s his thing, but I like his spirit, the way he approaches the game. He’s a leader, you can coach him, you can coach him hard and he bounces right back,” Casey said according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “He doesn’t drop his shoulders and go into a pout; he responds in a positive way and that’s the mark of a winner.”
Lucas, despite being the son of a former NBA great, says he was always coached hard and never had an easy road while rising through the ranks. So that is the reason he’s been able to handle everything Casey has thrown on his plate from the sideline during the early going.
“I played for some of the toughest coaches, (Oklahoma State’s) Eddie Sutton, my father (John Lucas, former player), Dave Bliss (another NCAA legend). . . . I never take anything as criticism,” Lucas said. “I take it because I feel like they’re helping me, it’s nothing negative, putting me down. It’s something that’s going to help me become a better individual, better team player. Whatever Coach says to me, I take it in and I respond to it. It’s usually the right response. I’m a positive person so he can yell at me, he can curse me out, he can do whatever he wants, I’m still going to go out there and bust my butt for the team and the coaching staff.”
Lucas role on the Raptors behind Lowry and veteran guard Jose Calderon may be similar to his time with the Chicago Bulls when he was nestled behind Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson on the depth chart. However, with trade rumors continuing to swirl around Calderon’s future with the team Lucas could be in for a bigger role with the team as the season progresses.
Scott Skiles Talks Andrew Bogut Trade, Bucks Defense
It wasn’t too long ago the Milwaukee Bucks were considered one of the rising team’s in the league. However, after two consecutive sub .500 seasons the Bucks are still trying to regain their momentum.
In March, the franchise traded former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for high scoring guard Monta Ellis. The move gave the Bucks more firepower offensively but also weakened the team on defensive end. To counteract this, the Bucks traded for veteran Samuel Dalembert, signed Joel Przybilla in free agency and selected big man John Henson in the draft.
Bucks head coach Scott Skiles feels the team will be able to replace Bogut’s penchant for protecting the rim by a committee approach.
“We talked many times before we did it about the implications of moving Andrew and what that would do for us on the interior,” Skiles told Truman Reed of NBA.com. “Drew (Gooden) did a heck of a job battling guys – guys much bigger than him. But we knew coming into this summer that we had to get some more size, some more length. So we did that. Hopefully we won’t see a lot of the kind of layup drills we were giving up last year.”
Skiles’ goal is for the Bucks to be amongst the top defensive teams in the league.
“We want to be up in the top 10 – maybe even the top five – as a defensive team,” Skiles said. “If you’re a 55-game winning team and have home court every year and you’re knocking on the door and your goal is to win the title, I think that’s realistic. But we want to be in a position where we can be one of those teams that’s in a position to say that going into a season. In order to do that, we have to get better defensively, and there’s no reason we can’t do that. If we do, we had a pretty potent transition game in the back half of last season, and that can play to our strengths. We’ll be able to get out in the open floor, get the ball to Monta and let Brandon (Jennings) and Mike (Dunleavy) and Tobias (Harris) and our wing players get loose a little bit.”
HOOPSWORLD Season Previews: The 2012-13 NBA season is rapidly approaching and there are plenty of early storylines emerging.
Can the Miami HEAT repeat their championship quest from last season? Is this the final championship run for the aging Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs? Will Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks finally put all of their talent together and join the league’s elite? Can the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, now boasting Dwight Howard and Steve Nash unseat the Oklahoma City Thunder as Western Conference champions? Is this the year the Minnesota Timberwolves reach the playoffs behind All-Star Kevin Love? Likewise, the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors are poised to make playoff runs of their own, but can they seal the deal? Are the Dallas Mavericks toast, or will their new group of hungry veterans surprise us all?
The HOOPSWORLD team has these questions and more all covered and you can find season previews for all 30 NBA teams by following this link.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on the schedule today. Alex Kennedy will be taking your questions starting at 3pm. Next, I will be answering your questions at 8pm EST. Anything NBA related is fair game, drop me a question.