Brett Dawson (The Athletic) is getting burnt up with questions about Oklahoma City’s frontcourt and backcourt players: “The idea when (Nerlens) Noel signed the first time was that he could rehabilitate his image in Oklahoma City, and he seems to have done that. He never came across as discontented, and the Thunder welcomed him back for another season. But it’s unclear if he’ll play more this season… Given that he’s on a good value contract, he might yet drum up interest on the trade market, and Noel is at the very least a valuable backup. He gets out of position at times defensively as he aggressively pursues blocks and steals, but he can disrupt an offense with both, and he’s shown comfort switching onto perimeter players in defending the pick and roll.”
Jonathan Wasserman (Bleacher Report) looks at each team’s most promising rookie heading into the season, and is what you might call “skeptical” of Darius Bazley:“At this stage, he doesn’t have a core skill or strength. He’s not ready to execute his three-ball or one-on-one game. And it will take time for the 19-year-old to get a feel for the league’s physicality and athleticism. He won’t be useful this season to the Oklahoma City Thunder.”
Nick Gallo (NBA.com) has another summer feature out, this time on new addition Mike Muscala:
Keith Smith (Yahoo! Sports) with a thread on cap situations, showing how the Thunder line up against the rest of the league:
You might be sick of hearing about the small forward we thought would wear #35 forever, but here’s one more tidbit from Alex Labidou (NBA.com): “(P.J.) Dozier is hoping defense will be his calling card in the league. He sees himself as a big point guard who can also guard shooting guards and small forwards. In order to earn a roster spot, it’s the other side of the court where he’ll have to make strides. He showed some encouraging signs in the G League last season as he shot 45.6 percent from the field with the Maine Red Claws on his way to being tapped a G League All-Star. “I feel like I have a lot to bring to the table and it’s all about just having the opportunity,” Dozier said. “Whatever I need to do, that’s what I’m trying to do.” In addition, Dozier will have to prove he’s a good fit culturally on a hard-working, tight-knit Nuggets team.”
Power struggles abound. Shams Charania (The Athletic) reports that the league is trying to enforce and introduce tampering policies, and Adrian Wojnarowski (ESPN) reports that the NBA Players Association is pushing back hard on the NCAA’s new agent certification rules.
Gregg Popovich tells Tim Reynolds (Associated Press) he isn’t too upset with how the World Cup turned out: “Popovich said it’s too early to think about what USA Basketball needs to do before getting ready for the Tokyo Games. But he warned — just as two-time gold medalist Kobe Bryant did on Friday — that the days of American romps to gold are done. “There are a lot of great teams in the world,” Popovich said. “It’s not written in stone that the United States is supposed to walk to a championship.” We should’ve known Popovich was eager to coach Team USA as a mole for international basketball at large, not to maintain American excellence.