NBA Saturday: Preseason Previews
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Rose Preps for His Triumphant Return
It has been months in the making, but later today, actual NBA players are going to start playing actual NBA preseason games. Derrick Rose will make his return to action in Indianapolis, Dwight Howard will make his Houston debut and New Orleans will get the opportunity to officially introduce their new backcourt.
The most anticipated game of the evening may be Chicago at Indiana. In this game, Rose will take the floor for the first time in 18 months, and as he told Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com at the Bulls’ Friday practice, he’s just as thrilled to play as the fans are to see him back out there.
“It’s going to be exciting, man, but at the same time, just take it as a regular game and try and go out there and win,” Rose said. “But for us, it’s our time to tune things up, get our offense going, moving the ball, and defensively I think we’re great.”
According to head coach Tom Thibodeau, Rose will play somewhere in the range of 12-24 minutes in his 2013-14 debut, which is pretty consistent with what most star players will average during these preseason games.
“I’m just going to play the same way that I normally do,” Rose said. “There’s no point in holding back. I think that we go as I go, and me being aggressive gets people open and that’s how I’m going to play.”
Rose’s backup, Kirk Hinrich, added that the team is getting anxious to go ahead and get started with the season.
“We’re all kind of excited to have a game,” Hinrich said. “After four or five days of pounding on each other, it’s always fun to have a game. At the same time, we have to focus fully on what we’re doing, try to execute. Just because there’s people in the stands, we’re playing against another team, we’ve got to kind of fight the urge to go crazy and be solid. But yeah, we’re excited to see Derrick, obviously out there for the first time, and get out there with him, so it’ll be a good test.”
That encapsulates the excitement of the preseason pretty well, even though we all understand that these games really don’t mean anything. It’s still exciting to see new players in new uniforms, and observing what kind of chemistry those new players will have with existing cores.
The Pacers – Chicago’s opponent on Saturday – have plenty of new faces themselves. C.J. Watson, Luis Scola and Chris Copeland spearhead a new group of reserves that now also features Lance Stephenson since Danny Granger is expected back in the starting lineup. This was a very good team that came one win away from the NBA Finals a year ago, so if the new additions are as good as they seem to be, Saturday’s preseason contest between the Bulls and Pacers could very well be a preview of an eventual Eastern Conference Finals.
Rose will be the big story, to be sure, but there’s plenty to keep an eye on in this game. Whatever happens, though, at least we don’t have to wait any longer for basketball to get underway. Starting Saturday, it’s back.
And The Rest of the Slate…
There’s plenty of intrigue behind the other three contests as well. Here’s a sneak peak at the rest of this preseason’s first games:
Oklahoma City at Fenerbahce Ulker (9:00 a.m. ET)
The Thunder are in Turkey right now, gearing up to face Fenerbahce Ulker, one of the country’s most respected pro basketball clubs. During the lockout, OKC guard Thabo Sefolosha actually played for the team in a handful of games, but beyond that there really isn’t much connection between the Turkish organization and the Thunder.
Right now, Kevin Durant and Co. are getting past the news that Russell Westbrook will miss at least another month after complications arose from his knee surgery that required fixing and resting. He’ll miss somewhere around 12-21 games of the regular season, which means the preseason will be spent acclimating point guard Reggie Jackson to the starting lineup. Durant, who struggled as the team’s lone star during the playoffs last spring, will also get another opportunity to show that he can lead an elite Western Conference team until his partner returns sometime in November.
Expect the Thunder to handle their Turkish exhibition partners pretty handily, but the rest of the NBA could prove challenging until Westbrook makes his return.
New Orleans at Houston (8:00 p.m. ET)
These two teams could very well be among the biggest risers in the Western Conference next season, thanks in large part to some significant additions to their rosters. Dwight Howard, obviously, will get his first floor-time as a Rocket on Saturday, and Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday will play in New Orleans uniforms for the first time as well.
Rockets fans and fantasy basketball nuts wondering what head coach Kevin McHale will do with Omer Asik should start to get a few answers, while skeptics of New Orleans’ new backcourt rotation will be given the opportunity to see if all that talent really translates to something capable of turning the corner for the franchise.
Both teams hope to make big leaps in the conference this year, and this preseason game will give us some hints as to how possible that really is. At the very least, we’ll see whether or not Howard’s free-throw shooting has really improved as much as he claims it has.
Golden State at L.A. Lakers (10:00 p.m. ET)
Rest assured that Kobe Bryant is going to do everything he can to get back on the floor as fast as humanly possible, but it’s a reasonable guess that most of the preseason is not what’s humanly possible. Without Bryant, the Lakers should struggle against a loaded Warriors team that was arguably the most entertaining playoff team of last year’s postseason.
Golden State will be introducing Andre Iguodala to their starting lineup, and between that and Mark Jackson’s claims that the Warriors will be committing themselves to defense this year. This first preseason game should give us a sense of whether or not the team really has grown by leaps and bounds on that end of the court, or if Jackson is just being optimistic about his team’s ability to dominate on both ends.
It’s going to be easy for Lakers fans to panic once they realize how frustrating this team is likely to be until Bryant returns. The preseason will give us a fair glimpse into what the Lakers’ future looks like, and the chances are good that it won’t be pretty.
On Sunday, Philadelphia will play against Bilbao, a Spanish club in the ACB, and the Lakers will go again, this time at home against the Denver Nuggets. After that, there are several preseason games per night, many of which will be featured on NBA TV. That means plenty of actual NBA action for all the fans that have waited so patiently for it.
Saturday is just the beginning, but the slate of games sure looks like it will get things started on the right foot.