NBA Training Camp Battles
Rockets PG: Steve Francis vs. Mike James
These two veteran QBs were brought in during the offseason in hopes of providing new coach Rick Adelman with an upgrade over Rafer Alston. Can Stevie Franchise regain his All-Star form now that he's back in Houston? Or will the job go to James, the former Piston with the championship ring?
Lakers C: Andrew Bynum vs. Kwame Brown vs. Chris Mihm
L.A.'s three-headed monster at center has been mostly a horror show so far, with Brown proving too inconsistent, Bynum too raw and Mihm too injury-prone. The Lakers need one of these three former lottery picks to step up and seize the job. Kobe Bryant will be watching closely.
Bulls PF: Tyrus Thomas vs. Joe Smith
It's youth vs. experience for the Bulls as they try to replace the aging P.J. Brown. Smith, a 12-year veteran, brings defensive moxie, rebounding and a little bit of a low-post game, while the 21-year-old Thomas provides freakish athleticism and game-changing energy.
Sonics PG: Luke Ridnour vs. Earl Watson vs. Delonte West
The retooled Sonics could have several positions up for grabs, but none is more intriguing than the three-man race at the point. Ridnour has the most potential, but Watson makes plays. West, who comes over from the Celtics, has the edge in size and defensive aptitude.
Jazz SG: Morris Almond vs. C.J. Miles vs. Gordan Giricek vs. Ronnie Brewer
Can the Jazz build on their surprising run to last year's Western Conference finals? It could depend on who emerges at this crucial position to provide the outside shooting and defense coach Jerry Sloan demands. Giricek is the incumbent, but the six-year veteran is no lock to hold onto the spot.
Hawks PG: Tyronn Lue vs. Speedy Claxton vs. Anthony Johnson vs. Acie Law
Coach Mike Woodson must decide which floor leader is the right man to lead his rising young team (Salim Stoudamire could even make this a five-player race). Claxton was a free-agent flop during an injury-plagued 2006-07. Lue and Johnson are capable veterans, but perhaps more suited as backups. Law has tremendous upside, but might not be ready yet for the NBA game.
Magic SG: Keyon Dooling vs. J.J. Redick vs. Keith Bogans vs. Trevor Ariza
It's a far cry from Dwyane Wade for new coach Stan Van Gundy, who must choose between these four mostly unproven prospects. Redick, the team's top draft pick in '06, showed little last season. Dooling and Bogans are career backups. Ariza, a swingman who also plays small forward, was solid off the bench last season.
Heat PG: Jason Williams vs. Smush Parker
The Heat made upgrading this spot a priority in the offseason. They failed to land Bucks guards Mo Williams and Charlie Bell, but did add Parker to challenge Williams, who was slowed the previous two seasons with knee problems. Teammates already are raving about how Williams looks at training camp.
Grizzlies PG: Damon Stoudamire vs. Kyle Lowry vs. Mike Conley
Conley, the No. 4 pick in the June draft, is considered a top Rookie of the Year candidate. Lowry played well early in his rookie season last year before breaking his wrist. If new coach Marc Iavaroni prefers a more experienced hand, he can turn to Stoudamire.
Bucks SF: Bobby Simmons vs. Desmond Mason
Most expect the starting spot to go to Simmons, who missed all of last season with a foot injury after signing a $47 million free-agent deal two years ago. But the Bucks signed Mason away from the Hornets as an insurance policy, and his athleticism and defense could put him in the mix.