1. Have the Spurs changed the NBA?
Basketball is a beautiful game, but until the Spurs thrashed the Miami Heat in the championship series with their passing, shooting, movement and unselfishness, that old-school approach seemed to have been forgotten. Will this be the beginning of the end of the one-on-one, dribblitis era?
2. Can LeBron James win one for the home team?
Probably not this season, though this time around Cavaliers management has provided the game’s best player with a quality sidekick, luring Kevin Love in a major coup. Now, along with Jordan-Pippen, James-Wade, Durant-Westbrook, Kobe-Shaq and Bird-McHale, there’s James-Love. A few more pieces and James and the Cavaliers should win a title.
3. Can the Clippers survive their new owner?
Similar to most neophyte owners, new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer’s ego will be bruised and he will make rookie mistakes. Running an NBA franchise isn’t the same as heading Microsoft. He probably won’t be quiet about it, either. But he’ll learn. Or he won’t. But anything is preferable to another year of Donald Sterling.
4. Would shorter games lead to healthier players?
A shorter season – say, from 82 to 60 games – is the obvious and easiest fix. But until players and owners are willing to cut into their shared financial pie, that won’t happen. Putting an end to back-to-back games wold be a good place to start.
5. What about other suggestions for the league’s injury conundrum?
Players should start by lightening up on the weights. With few exceptions, the elite players fixate on strength and conditioning, not the size of their biceps.
6. Will the Warriors warm to Steve Kerr?
Think of Kerr, the Warriors’ first-year coach, as Bruce Bochy without the dome and with a little more verbal polish. He fits the Bay Area. The former Bulls/Spurs spot-up shooter also has the pedigree and the smarts, an affinity for passing and movement, and tremendous people skills. Stardom awaits.
7. Which free agents will have the biggest impact?
LeBron James was the top prize, of course, but Luol Deng adds much-needed depth to Miami, Isaiah Thomas gives Phoenix an explosive three-guard back, Darren Collison offers the Kings what they need most, and don’t sleep on Spencer Hawes, whose passing and perimeter shooting should give the Clippers a nice complement to DeAndre Jordan.
8. Can Oklahoma City hang on while Durant mends?
It is hard to imagine the Thunder without Kevin Durant, the league’s premier scorer, in the lineup. Oklahoma City should still make the playoffs, but Durant’s injury absence ensures a rough start to the season.
9. Will Phil Jackson’s stewardship translate into victories?
Derek Fisher was offered the Knicks’ coaching position only because the Warriors gave Steve Kerr a better offer and the chance to direct a contender. Jackson’s influence will be more apparent at trade deadlines and during upcoming offseasons as he pursues players whose skills work within the triangle. Meantime, watching Fisher try to coax more passing and movement from Carmelo Anthony will be must-see NBA TV.
10. Which team is the best in Texas?
The San Antonio Spurs are the defending champs. The Dallas Mavericks swiped Chandler Parsons (from Houston) and re-acquired Tyson Chandler. The Houston Rockets feature All-Stars Dwight Howard and James Harden. How nasty. How fun. But until the Spurs stumble, Texas is their state.