The NBA began its annual unofficial breather following the Closing Ceremony at the London Olympics, but because this has been such an unpredictable and unusually active summer, league types will remain tethered to their cellphones for the duration of the offseason.
There is no shortage of conversation topics, and between now and the opening of training camps in October, they will be chewing on these and other tidbits:
The NBA is a follow-the-leader league, so when the Miami Heat captured the Finals with talent, quickness, versatility, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh but without significant size or a dominant post player, several team execs starting philosophically trending toward smaller, quicker, more athletic players. And then the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard. So now what?
Couple the Lakers' long and powerful frontcourt of Howard/Pau Gasol with the Gasol brothers' near-upset of Team USA in Sunday's gold-medal game, and just like that, size again matters.
Conspiracy theories. First, the New Orleans Hornets win the NBA lottery and land the coveted Anthony Davis. Then Steve Nash sprints to the Lakers for a couple of first-round draft choices. Then Mitch Kupchak/Jim Buss acquire Howard in a multi-team swap that costs them Andrew Bynum, Ramon Sessions, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga. Even with a new collective bargaining agreement, the rich (and the Hornets) just keep getting richer. Then again, there are always the Knicks.
Is Howard a resounding slam dunk? He should be. He might not be. The man who promotes himself as Superman can be a real knucklehead. He probably needs to ditch the cape and shoot a few more hook shots. The Lakers' massive early-season advantage diminishes if two things happen: The newly acquired center stubbornly resists the ministrations of Nash and Kobe Bryant and coach Mike Brown insists on coaching the offense.
LeBron James or Kevin Durant. If you were starting a team tomorrow, who's your pick? Clearly, James is the more imposing physical specimen and the more complete player. During the season and again in the Olympics, the league MVP dominated offensively and defensively, and finally seemed comfortable with his inheritance (from Bird, Magic, Jordan, Barkley and Kobe, etc.). But the Games were a revelation for Durant. He became a more committed rebounder, overcame his tendency to dribble (sometimes into a crowd) instead of catching and taking the open shot, and he repeatedly converted timely field goals. And, yes, he's only 23. I'll gladly take the leftover.
The proposal floated by David Stern that would restrict Olympic eligibility to players 23-and-under, reserving the superstars for an NBA-sponsored World Cup tournament, seems to have fizzled in the summer heat. Kobe and his fellow Olympians hated the idea. USA Basketball executives hated the idea. And officials with basketball's international governing body (FIBA) really hated the idea. While NBA owners have legitimate concerns about injuries incurred during international competition, along with the fatigue factor that hampers players in ensuing seasons (see Dirk Nowitzki), this debate is motivated primarily by money. Led by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is one of the league's most creative and brightest economic minds, several owners are pressing for a tournament that more generously benefits the NBA. So stay tuned. This probably isn't over.
With Mike Krzyzewski stepping down after a 62-1 run, his sole loss coming against Greece in the 2006 World Championships Doc Rivers and Doug Collins have joined Gregg Popovich among the early front-runners as a possible successor. Collins is a compelling candidate. A brilliant television analyst and exceptional coach, he was a member of the 1972 U.S. team that lost the gold medal because of a controversial clock issue. Then again, in terms of NBA titles, international knowledge and overseas contacts, and international coaching experience, Popovich is the deserving and obvious choice. The question is whether the San Antonio Spurs coach and USA Basketball czar Jerry Colangelo can repair a relationship that was fractured during the last USA coaching selection process.
I can't imagine that Team USA assistants Nate McMillan and Mike D'Antoni will be out of work for long. The same can be said for former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.
The notion that the Orlando Magic's immediate future was decided by an inexperienced general manager (Rob Hennigan) would be unfathomable, except that this is the NBA. Howard's exit, of course, was inevitable. But to agree to a multi-team deal that includes lottery-protected picks and features role players Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Al Harrington and rookie Moe Harkless, among others? On a team to be coached by rookie Jacque Vaughn?
I wonder how the spectacular Amway Center will look next season when it's empty?