NBA Players to Watch at Training Camp
NBA training camps officially open Oct. 2 (though teams heading abroad for the preseason are getting a three-day head start). Which players have something to prove before the real games start? SI.com breaks down the players to watch at camp. *** Like all players drafted in the first round of 2009, Curry is eligible for a contract extension until Oct. 31. The Warriors, though, are eager to see the health of Curry's right ankle before making a long-term commitment, making this a crucial camp for the 6-foot-3 guard. Curry was limited to 26 games in the lockout-shortened season last year but was given full medical clearance on Sept. 20. When healthy, Curry is a devastating shooter with a knack for playing the passing lanes. If he can prove the ankle injuries are behind him, he could have a new contract extension before camps break.
Life in New York doesn't look like it'll be easy for Felton. The point guard not only has to follow in the footsteps of Linsanity, but he also has to find a way to bring together a team Phil Jackson deemed "clumsy." Felton did average nine assists during his last go-round with the Knicks, in 2010-11, but that was under a different coach and with different players. His ability to mesh with the team during camp could go a long way in determining the Knicks' fortunes this year.
Several players will have to learn to coexist in Tinseltown this season, but none are more important than Bryant. The five-time NBA champion is used to being the focal point of the Lakers' offense, and while he's still the team's best scorer, he'll certainly yield some touches to Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. We'll get a glimpse of how he'll adjust to that new dynamic during camp, even if Howard isn't expected to be ready.
Lopez is a legit 7-footer, but his rebounding rate has declined for two straight years. When healthy, he's one of the more efficient low-post scorers in the league, but he's recovering from a broken foot that limited him to five games last season. Now in a new arena and city with a retooled team facing high expectations, the Nets need a healthy Lopez in the fold more than ever.
Like Curry, Jennings is eligible for an extension until Oct. 31., and he's expressed a desire to stay in the only NBA home he's ever known. But the Bucks have missed the playoffs the last two seasons, and they seem inclined to wait and see with their star point guard. A good camp from Jennings, one that perhaps involves less shooting and more playmaking, could force their hand.
Bynum was, at best, the third option with the Lakers. In Philadelphia, he'll have to deal with the pressure and defensive attention that come with being the No. 1. Maturity issues -- from his flagrant foul on J.J. Barea in the playoffs to the ill-timed three-pointers that got him benched last season -- plagued Bynum in L.A., and he'll need to show better leadership as the new face of the Sixers.
A surprise pick by the Cavs at No. 4 in the June draft, Waiters is expected to be a fixture alongside star point guard Kyrie Irving for years to come. But first he needs to get in shape. The 20-year-old former Syracuse sixth man said he wasn't in game shape for summer league, leading to his sluggish, ineffective play. If Cleveland is going to take a jump this season, it'll need a lot more from this rookie.
With D.J. Augustin in Indiana, it was assumed Walker, the ninth pick in the 2011 draft, would be the starting point guard for the Bobcats. But their acquisition of Ramon Sessions has muddied the waters. Walker will need to show an expanded playmaking repertoire in camp if he expects to be anything more than a scorer off the bench for Charlotte.
Collison's stats have steadily declined since his rookie season, and this year he moves to Dallas, his third team in four NBA seasons. A willing passer, Collison will have to learn a new system under Rick Carlisle, and that education will start during training camp.
The good news for Nelson: He just signed a three-year deal with the Magic. The bad news: He just signed a three-year deal with the Magic. With Dwight Howard in L.A., Orlando is officially in rebuilding mode. Nelson signed his contract before the trade, so it's possible he didn't know what he was getting into. His attitude toward a young, potentially very bad team in training camp may determine whether he's still in Orlando after the trading deadline.
The Jazz are loaded at forward. Millsap started in the frontcourt alongside Al Jefferson last season, but he'll be pushed in training camp by Derrick Favors, Marvin Williams and to a lesser extent Jeremy Evans. If any of them can outplay Millsap during camp, the Jazz may be inclined to deal the impending free agent.
Brooks spent the entire 2011-12 season in the Chinese Basketball Association, and he'll make his return to the NBA this season with the Kings. It'll be an adjustment for Brooks moving from the international game back to the NBA, and he won't have much room for error; the Kings are loaded at guard with Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette also on the roster. The battle between that group will be one to watch.
Green, who missed the entire 2011-12 season with a heart condition, will return to the court for the first time at Celtics camp. Fresh off signing a much-criticized four-year, $36 million contract, the 26-year-old Green will be looking to show the critics he's healthy and ready to contribute.
Bosh thought his days at center were over, but he was wrong. Miami asked Bosh to play down low extensively during its title run, and he said he expects to open the season as the starting 5. "When I signed in Miami, I said, 'That's it. No more 5!' Next thing I know, I'm there again," Bosh said. He added weight in the offseason in anticipation of the move, and it'll be interesting to see if the extra weight has robbed him of any quickness and explosiveness.
After spending the 2011-12 season in Russia, Kirilenko returns to the NBA with the Timberwolves. If he can resemble anything close to the player who averaged 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds at the London Olympics, the 31-year-old might be a steal for Minnesota.
The former New York sensation joins the Rockets this season after the Knicks declined to match Houston's three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet. Can he live up to the sky-high expectations he set for himself during the run affectionately known as "Linsanity"? Only time will tell, but one thing's for sure: He won't sneak up on anyone this season.