Overtime: NBA training camps start with major changes

By Melva N. Lloyd

smjp2_26723After a summer of free agent swaps, big name trades and top draft picks, this season’s NBA training camp is sure to have a few coaches double checking their rosters to make sure they’re getting their player’s names right.  Kobe Bryant returns to the hardwood to defend his championship title while Kevin Garnett is hoping that his injured knee doesn’t sideline him again for a bulk of the Celtics’ schedule. 

Shaquille O’Neal makes his debut as a Cleveland Cavalier during opening week of the 2009-2010 calendar season (October 27th) making this his third NBA team in three seasons.  His team up with LeBron James has not only Cavs fans but basketball fans in general keeping their fingers cross that this will be the year “The Chosen One” brings home the championship trophy to Quicken Loans Arena.  James’ season-ending series against the Orlando Magic during the Eastern Conference Finals has left many questioning what is left for this young team to do in order to win big?  Shaq might be the answer. 

In an attempt to make this a back-to-back championship season, the Los Angeles Lakers are befriending an old rival in Ron Artest as the former Houston Rocket and resident “bad boy” makes LA his new home; Trevor Ariza was traded for Artest even after averaging 11.3 points and shooting 50 percent from behind the arch, undoubtedly helping guide the Lakers to the championship.  Known for his tough defensive presence, Artest will must learn quickly that this is Kobe’s team and no one else’s. 

Veteran forward Rasheed Wallace leaves the Detroit Pistons to join the Boston Celtics, a move that excites fans but doesn’t erase the fact that their superstar in KG is not at 100 percent in terms of health.  88620135AB009_RON_ARTEST

One of the biggest trades of the summer comes in the form a young team adding veteran talent.  This years’ Eastern Conference Champs, the Orlando Magic, are doing everything in their power to hang a finals championship banner from their rafters.  Contract demands sent Hedo Turkoglu across the border to Toronto but it gave the MagicVince Carter, a shooting guard that can fit right in with Dwight Howard’s team and Stan Van Gundy’s style of play. 

Around the league, the four-time champion San Antonio Spurs are hoping to turn their big three into a big four as they add Richard Jefferson to their roster.  Jason Kidd re-signs with his Dallas Mavericks and Shawn Marion makes his way to the Mavs locker room after an off-season sign and trade deal with the Toronto Raptors.  Emeka Okafor will swap his Charlotte Bobcats jersey with Tyson Chandler’s New Orleans Hornets’ uniform and this years’ number one draft pick, Blake Griffin, will work at making a name for himself as a LA Clipper. 

The trade that seems to have baffled both fans and players is Allen Iverson’s move to the Memphis Grizzlies.  His short stint in Detroit was obviously unsuccessful as he did nothing to help the Pistons make a run for another championship.  The All-Star and former league MVP will have to bring positive energy and a veteran presence to a young team eager to win. 

New faces will take the court in the new uniforms and new coaches will try to rebuild teams from the ground up: John Kuester (Detroit), Kurt Rambis (Minnesota), Eddie Jordan (Philadelphia), Flip Saunders (Washington) and Paul Westphal (Sacramento) will find new homes around the league this year.  Not to mention, four interim head coaches will move into the full-time head coaching slot as well. 

The trades that have taken place this off-season will bring more drama than an original series on TNT, which coincidentally is the network that airs NBA action and plays “40 games in 40 nights” during the playoffs.  This season is one to watch for talent both old and new.

Images courtesy of: www.photobucket.com

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