The NBA Is Back: 5 Questions That Need Answers

Is Kevin Durant going to make the Warriors better or worse?

It’s hard to see how the Warriors can get much better in the regular season considering their sensational achievement of 73 wins. Durant isn’t going to have much impact as far as making them better than their 2015-16 record. But, to be real about it, that’s not why the Warriors signed him and that’s not why Durant left OKC. It’s about what happens in the playoffs.

Durant is feeling the pressure to win and he no longer saw a fit for himself in OKC paired with Westbrook. That he hasn’t picked up the phone to contact Westbrook says everything you need to know about how Durant viewed their relationship- professional only. But in Oakland, Durant will have an opportunity at the elusive ring as the Warriors, if everyone stays healthy, will anesthetize the league with their shot making. In the playoffs, it’s going to be hard to stop their offensive attack. But what can Durant bring defensively? That is where the Warriors suffered last season. Can he stop iso players?

If things shake out like they are supposed to, we will see version three of Cavs-Warriors in the Finals. Can Durant do anything to slow down LeBron James? If his past history against James is a guide, the answer is an emphatic no.

Is Russell Westbrook going to make everyone forget about Kevin Durant?

Not in the short term. Kevin Durant will be missed. He led the Thunder in scoring and rebounding. He was a tough matchup and he was relied on down the stretch to make plays. Replacing a talent of his caliber is near impossible but here is where the explosion and playmaking of Westbrook evens the playing field. Have we really seen everything Westbrook has to offer? Is it possible that Westbrook has more? More leadership? More scoring? More rebounding? More toughness?

In a short sample size, Westbrook showed the league he is MVP caliber. No matter how great he is, it’s going to be an uphill Sisyphus challenge to not need a second All-Star. This team looks a lot like those early LeBron teams in Cleveland or the Iverson Sixers where one player is counted on to do almost everything.

Can we stop talking LeBron until June? He’s getting to the Finals again, right?

LeBron James has no peer. It is similar to when Shaquille O’Neal was in his prime except Shaq never wanted to be the greatest of all time; he could be lazy. No such problem with LeBron. On paper, it looks like the Cavs are going to win the East again but that is presupposing there are no major injuries to the front court. The Kevin Love experiment is still a work in progress. Kyrie has a gold medal and he wants more of the offense revolving around him. In some ways, it’s harder after you win a title. Everyone has to come back hungry.

Unlike the Warriors of 2014-15, no one is second guessing the Cavs. No one is saying they got lucky, or they were down 3-1 and should have lost, or if Draymond Green wasn’t suspended the Dubs would have beaten the Cavs two years in a row. The Cavs get respect because of LeBron. Pencil him into the Finals again and ignore his whining when Steph and Durant and Westbrook get more media face time.

What kind of protests can we expect?

Right now everyone is being politically correct. The owners are saying the players have the right to protest. The players are acknowledging they are stakeholders and the problem is vast and out of hand. Players are mentioning the stress and grief of the affected families.

Patrick Beverly of the Houston Rockets played in Europe for 5 years and he is happy to be in America and wouldn’t do anything to give the impression he is disgracing the flag.

Russell Westbrook, on the other hand, says he has an obligation to stand up and speak out and be a leader because he grew up in an inner city and he’s had certain experiences that only people who know what it’s like, who’ve been there, can understand.

NBA players are very astute. It’s a long season. They’ll feed their emotions when the time comes and they’ll respect the flag too. I don’t see too many Colin Kapernick’s, players who are just going to dig in for the long haul.

Is Derrick Rose’s gang rape trial going to happen? And if it does, how will that affect his season?

The trial is set to start the first week of October. To neutral observers, it makes sense that he settle with his accuser. Why have this hanging over your head? If he goes to trial and a jury finds Rose guilty, it’s more than just paying her money in damages. Rose will be a convicted rapist in the same way O.J. is a convicted murderer. He will lose the credibility and endorsements and privileges that he takes for granted. And playing in New York will make it that much worse.

This is supposed to be an audition year for Rose. He’s in the last year of his contract. Being healthy and trying to show some level of the old Derrick Rose is what this season is about for him. But it can be derailed real quick. Although Kobe Bryant is proof you can overcome accusations, Kobe wasn’t accused of gang rape.

 

photo via llananba