It’s that time of year where us NBA and basketball fans in general won’t be bored throughout the summer. Once the NBA season, NBA Draft concludes and NBA free agency winds down; we’re left with two or more slow months of nothing to excite us.
Like really, who wants to watch Baseball, Golf, Soccer and Nascar? Yeah, me neither! So, we thank “Sweet Baby Jesus” that this summer will be the annual Olympics.
Team U.S.A Basketball roster has dominated the competition since legendary collegiate head coach Mike Krzyzewski took over in 2006, compiling a 75-1 record and multple medal winnings in Olympic and FIBA competion. This will be the last dance for Coach K, as he will be stepping down from Olympic competition once the games are over, and legendary NBA head coach Greg Popovich will take over. Popovich has led the San Antonio Spurs to five NBA championships.
The roster will look pretty different as well. For one, LeBron James and Chris Paul won’t be playing in the games, as they’ve been apart of the games since 2004. Also, two time NBA Most Valuable Player will be sitting out due to a knee injury. More names that won’t be participating the summer is Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Anthony Davis. All of which who have been apart of the U.S Olympic program through years past.
So with some fresh new faces, here are my top three storylines going into the Olympic games.
1. 2016 NBA FINALS REUNION/GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2016-17 PREVIEW
It’s been a whirlwind summer for the two time Western Conference Champion, Golden State Warriors. Fresh off of blowing a 3-1 NBA Finals lead to the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors put themselves in position to snag the biggest free agent of 2016. Of course, the Warriors didn’t NEED this player. Hell, after winning the 2015 NBA Championship and coming off an NBA record 73 regular season wins in 2016, the Warriors were already poised to be title contenders for the near future. But, the enormous salary cap increase from $70 million in 2015 to $94 million in 2016 put many teams in position to land top stars, while already being in position to contend for a title.
So, four time scoring champion Kevin Durant shocked the entire NBA world leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder and signing with the Warriors during the July 4th weekend and proves the Warriors are now the most disliked team in the NBA
What’s even more intruiging about this scenario, is that Durant joins current Warriors players Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on Team U.S.A this summer. Throughout this weeks training camp, Durant has seemed embraced the “villian” role and continues to explain that he wasn’t looking to please anyone but himself. With the obvious concern of “chemistry” early on in the season, the Warriors can geta jump start on canceling out that out before the season even begin with the possibilty of the three not only seeing playing time together, but possibly even being apart of Team U.S.A starting unit.
ANOTHER intuiging factor into this that 2016 NBA champion point guard Kyrie Irving is on the roster, as well as the forward that the Warriors let walk during free agency to get Durant is on the roster as well. Harrison Barnes.
2. POINT GUARD PLAY
We’re used to seeing top point guards from the NBA by the main focal point for Team U.S.A, mainly because there’s not much talent from the position from the opponents in the Olympic games. But with many big named point guards from the NBA sitting out this Olympics due to injuries, age and health concerns in Rio; the ball will be in the hands of Kyle Lowry and Irving.
Irving has been waiting in the wings for his opportunity to be apart of the summer Olympics. Irving was awarded the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup MVP and selected to the five men All-Tournament Team after averaging 12 PPG, 3 APG, 2 SPG and shot 56% FG and 60% three-pointers. Irving’s hard work and consistent dedication has payed off, as he’s been apart of the U.S Olympic experience since playing in the USA Junior National Select Team in 2010.
Not to mention, he was apart of the historic 2016 NBA Finals run in which he had three straight 30 point games, as the Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit. Irving is poised and out to prove that he’s in fact one of the best point guards in the league with the recent run he’s been on.
Lowry has some nice qualities as well. Coming off his 2nd straight All-star game apperance, Lowry helped lead the Toronto Raptors to their first Conference Finals apperance in franchise history. He’s a silky shooter and can not only provide a respectable assists number, but can create for himself as well. The only knock on Lowry is that he has trouble getting out of cold spells. Also, he has absolutely no Olympic experience, so I can see Lowry getting lost with the physicality and different rules that Olympic basketball brings.
These two shouldn’t have that much trouble this summer, but these two aren’t Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and some of the other great NBA point guards from years past that had easy success during Olympic competition.
3. THE RETURN OF PAUL GEORGE
We all know the Olympic story of Paul George, and it’s on track to have a happy ending.
George was coming off an impressive 2013-14 campagin where he was becoming a no-doubt NBA superstar. He led the Pacers to the Easstern Conference Finals, in which they pushed the Miami Heat to seven games, which always earned him a new max contract and being selected to the All-NBA 3rd Team.
But George’s career came to a screetching halt when he played in the 2014 Team USA Scrimmage in Las Vegas in 2014, George suffered a horrific compound fracture in his tibia and fibula. The sight of the injury left many fans in the arena in shock, and left superstars like Durant and others in tears as they watched George scream in pain. The road to recovery led many people to wonder if George would regain his explosiveness on both ends of the floor. He turned himself into no only being a solid defender, but one of the most feared offensive players in the league.
After missing the duration of the 2014-15 season, George returned the following 2015-16 campaign has reclaimed his superstar status. George averaged 23 PPG, 7 RPG and 4 APG in the regular season, and raised his level of play in the first round of the playoffs. He led to 7th seeded Pacers to seven games against the Toronto Raptors after averaging 27 PPG.
If the U.S wins the gold, expect George to be a major part reason why, and also expect him to be apart of U.S.A Basketball in the future.