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    Stephen Curry’s Golden State Is the NBA’s Newest Dynasty

    Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green won four N.B.A. championship teams in eight years.BOSTON — The N.B.A.’s dynasties share certain commonalities that have helped them tip the scales from being run-of-the-mill championship teams to those remembered for decades.Among them: Each has had a generational player in contention for Mount Rushmore at his position.The 1980s had Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics battling Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Los Angeles Lakers. Michael Jordan’s Bulls ruled the ’90s, then passed a flickering torch — a championship here and there, but never twice in a row — to the San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan.Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant sneaked in a Lakers three-peat at the start of the 2000s.And then there were … none. There were other all-time players — LeBron James, of course. And James’s Heat came close to the top tier by becoming champions in 2012 and 2013, but fell apart soon after.Dynasties require more than that.Patience. Money. Owners willing to spend. And above all, it seems, the ability to “break” basketball and change the way the game is played or perceived. That’s why there were no new dynasties until the union of Golden State and Stephen Curry.Curry said the fourth championshp “hits different.”Elsa/Getty ImagesDonning a white N.B.A. championship baseball cap late Thursday, Curry pounded a table with both hands in response to the first question of the night from the news media.“We’ve got four championships,” Curry said, adding, “This one hits different, for sure.”Curry repeated the phrase “hits different” four times during the media session — perhaps appropriately so. Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala had just won an N.B.A. championship together for the fourth time in eight years.“It’s amazing because none of us are the same,” Green said. “You usually clash with people when you’re alike. The one thing that’s constant for us is winning is the most important thing. That is always the goal.”Golden State has won with ruthless, methodical efficiency, like Duncan’s Spurs. San Antonio won five championships between 1999 and 2014. Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were All-Stars, though Duncan was in a league of his own. Their championships were spread out — Parker and Ginobili weren’t in the N.B.A. for the first one — but they posed a constant threat because of their disciplined excellence.Tim Duncan, left, Manu Ginobili, center, and Tony Parker won four championships together on the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan won a fifth, in 1999.Eric Gay/Associated PressDuncan, left, Ginobili, center, and Parker at Parker’s jersey retirement ceremony in 2019.Eric Gay/Associated Press“Steph reminds me so much of Tim Duncan,” said Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, who won two championships as Duncan’s teammate. “Totally different players. But from a humanity standpoint, talent standpoint, humility, confidence, this wonderful combination that just makes everybody want to win for him.”Unlike Golden State, the influence of Duncan’s Spurs is more subtle, which is appropriate for a team not known for its flash. Several of Coach Gregg Popovich’s assistants have carried the team-oriented culture they saw in San Antonio to other teams as successful head coaches, including Memphis’s Taylor Jenkins, Boston’s Ime Udoka and Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer. Another former Spurs assistant, Mike Brown, was Kerr’s assistant for the last six years. For San Antonio, sacrifice has mattered above all else, whether in sharing the ball with precision on offense or in Ginobili’s willingness to accept a bench role in his prime, likely costing himself individual accolades.Johnson’s Showtime Lakers embraced fast-paced, creative basketball. The Bulls and Bryant’s Lakers popularized the triangle offense favored by their coach, Phil Jackson. O’Neal was so dominant that the league changed the rules because of him. (The N.B.A. changed rules because of Jordan, too.)Even so, Golden State may have shifted the game more than all of them, having been at the forefront of the 3-point revolution in the N.B.A. Curry’s 3-point shooting has become so ubiquitous that players at all levels try to be like him, much to the frustration of coaches.“When I go back home to Milwaukee and watch my A.A.U. team play and practice, everybody wants to be Steph,” Golden State center Kevon Looney said. “Everyone wants to shoot 3s, and I’m like, ‘Man, you’ve got to work a little harder to shoot like him.’ ”Michael Jordan, right, and Scottie Pippen, left, won six championships as the Chicago Bulls dominated the N.B.A. in the 1990s.Andy Hayt/NBA, via ESPNThe defining distinction for Golden State is not just Curry, who has more career 3-pointers than anyone in N.B.A. history. The team also selected Green in the second round of the 2012 N.B.A. draft. In a previous era, he likely would have been considered too short at 6-foot-6 to play forward, and not fast enough to be a guard. Now, teams search to find their own version of Green — an exceptional passer who can defend all five positions. And they often fail.The dynasties also had coaches adept at managing egos, like Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles, and Popovich in San Antonio.Golden State has Kerr, who incidentally is also a common denominator in three dynasties: He won three championships as a player with the Bulls, the two with the Spurs, and now he has four more as Curry’s head coach.In today’s N.B.A., Kerr is a rarity. He has led Golden State for eight seasons, while in much of the rest of the league, coaches don’t last that long. The Lakers recently fired Frank Vogel just two seasons after he helped them win a championship. Tyronn Lue coached the Cavaliers to a championship in 2016 in his first season as head coach, and was gone a little over two seasons later — despite having made it at least to the conference finals three years in a row.The 2000s Lakers with Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O’Neal, right, were the last team to win three championships in a row. Jordan’s Bulls did that twice in the 1990s.MATT CAMPBELL/AFP via Getty ImagesSince Golden State hired Kerr in 2014, all but two other teams have changed coaches: San Antonio, which still has Popovich, and Miami, led by Erik Spoelstra.In a decade of rampant player movement, Golden State has been able to rely on continuity to regain its status as king of the N.B.A. But that continuity isn’t the result of a fairy-tale bond between top-level athletes who want to keep winning together. Not totally, anyway.Golden State has a structural advantage that many franchises today can’t or choose not to have: an owner in Joe Lacob who is willing to spend gobs of money on the team, including hundreds of millions of dollars in luxury tax to have the highest payroll in the N.B.A. This means that Golden State has built a dynasty in part because its top stars are getting paid to stay together, rather than relying on the fraught decisions of management about who to keep.The N.B.A.’s salary cap system is designed to not let this happen. David Stern, the former commissioner of the N.B.A., said a decade ago that to achieve parity, he wanted teams to “share in players” and not amass stars — hence the steep luxury tax penalties for Lacob. Compare Golden State’s approach to that of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who in 2012 traded a young James Harden rather than pay him for an expensive contract extension. The Thunder could’ve had a dynasty of their own with Harden, Russell Westbrook and — a key part of two Golden State championships — Kevin Durant.Either one of the leg injuries Thompson sustained in recent years could have ended his career.Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via ReutersAnd there’s another factor that every dynasty needs: luck.Golden State was able to sign Durant in 2016 because of a temporary salary cap spike. Winning a championship, or several, requires good health, which is often out of the team’s control. Thompson missed two straight years because of leg injuries, but didn’t appear to suffer setbacks this year after he returned. Of course, Golden State has also seen some bad luck, such as injuries to Thompson and Durant in the 2019 finals, which may have cost the team that series.The N.B.A.’s legacy graveyard is full of “almosts” and “could haves.” Golden State simply has — now for a fourth time. There may be more runs left for Curry, Thompson and Green, but as of Thursday night, their legacy was secure. They’re not chasing other dynasties for legitimacy. Golden State is the one being chased now.“I don’t like to put a number on things and say, ‘Oh, man, we can get five or we can get six,’” Green said. “We’re going to get them until the wheels fall off.” More

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    Oklahoma City Thunder Lose by an NBA-Record 73 Points

    In a 152-79 loss, a rebuilding Oklahoma City team took record-setting lumps from the Memphis Grizzlies.Bookmakers took a look at the Grizzlies-Thunder game in Memphis on Thursday night, weighed all the factors, and decided that the Grizzlies should be 9-point favorites.Yeah, I think they covered.The Grizzlies led by 15 after a quarter, 36 at the half, and 51 after three quarters on their way to a 152-79 win. The 73-point margin of victory was the largest in N.B.A. history.Even an arithmophobe could find some amazing numbers in the box score.The Thunder, for instance, were outscored by 56 points when Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (2 points on 0-7 shooting) was on the floor. Oklahoma City was outrebounded, 53-26, and had two steals against 19 turnovers.On the plus side, they made 82 percent of their free throws, better than the Grizzlies’ 72 percent. Good thing too, or it might have really turned into a blowout.The happier-looking Grizzlies numbers included 27 points on 9 of 11 shooting for Jaren Jackson Jr. and nine assists in 21 minutes for Tyus Jones. Santi Aldama put up a plus-52 despite coming off the bench.“Tonight’s not necessarily who we are,” Thunder Coach Mark Daigneault said. Not necessarily, he said. Yikes.He went on the philosophize a bit. “When you compete, you have exposure to the highs and lows of competition. And competition comes with great joy. It also comes with grief and frustration and anger.”Tre Mann had 12 points in 27 minutes for the Thunder. Oklahoma City was outscored by 47 points when he was on the floor. Brandon Dill/Associated PressIn the Thunder’s favor, they were missing their leading scorer, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered the concussion protocol on Thursday. Still, the Grizzlies were without their own star, Ja Morant, who has a knee injury.The Thunder have now lost eight straight and sit 6-16 in what was always expected to be another rebuilding year (last season they were 22-50). They still have a better record than the Pelicans, Rockets, Magic and Pistons (4-18!). But none of those teams, not even the Pistons, has lost by 73.The Thunder now have three nights off before a game on Monday at … the Pistons. Get your tickets now.The previous record blowout was set by the 1991-92 Cavaliers, who beat the Heat, an eventual playoff team, by 68, 148-80. “I don’t know what we played, but it wasn’t basketball,” Glen Rice of the Heat said afterward.That eclipsed an earlier record margin of 63, which was set in 1972 by the eventual champion Lakers, who beat the Warriors behind 30 points from Gail Goodrich.Going back still further, on Christmas Day in 1960, the Syracuse Nats of Dolph Schayes and Hal Greer beat the Knicks, 162-100.Ty Jerome, a former Virginia player who started Thursday’s game for Oklahoma City, tried to find a silver lining on Thursday night. “My sophomore year in college, we were the first seed to ever lose to a 16 seed,” he told The Oklahoman after the game. “Like, that’s way more embarrassing than this N.B.A. game.” More

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    Oscar Robertson Wants Westbrook to Break His Triple-Doubles Record

    “There’s no doubt about it,” Robertson said. “I hope he gets it.” And he hopes people will stop criticizing Russell Westbrook, the Wizards guard, for not yet winning a championship.In his first N.B.A. game, in October 1960, Oscar Robertson registered 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Cincinnati Royals against the Los Angeles Lakers. In his second N.B.A. season, Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game for Cincinnati.Such numerical assemblages — reaching double figures in those three categories — are known in basketball parlance as triple-doubles. Yet Robinson established a league record, with his 181 triple-doubles across 14 seasons, without any fanfare. The term was not coined until the early 1980s, when the Lakers’ Magic Johnson began routinely posting Oscar-esque lines in box scores.“Honestly, I was totally unaware of it,” Robertson said this week.Nearly 50 years removed from Robertson’s final season with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1973-74, there is a hyperawareness of triple-doubles, thanks largely to Russell Westbrook of the Washington Wizards. In 2016-17 with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Westbrook became the first player since Robertson to average a triple-double for a full season, prompting Robertson to travel to Oklahoma to personally congratulate Westbrook.Robertson was traded to Milwaukee from Cincinnati in 1970, and won a championship with the Bucks the next season.Manny Rubio-USA TODAY SportsWestbrook has amassed 178 triple-doubles in his career and, with seven games left on Washington’s schedule entering Wednesday’s play, has a chance to surpass Robertson this season. In a phone interview with The New York Times, Robertson, 82, said he was rooting for Westbrook to do so and discussed the criticism that he, like Westbrook, faced in his Royals days until he teamed up with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Milwaukee to lead the Bucks to their only championship, in 1971.This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.So if they didn’t call them triple-doubles, what did people say about your big statistical performances?Not very much. In those days, they focused on scoring and the blocking of shots. There wasn’t much publicity associated with it. It wasn’t thought of until they went back into the archives and saw what I had done. I was even surprised myself.Over the first five seasons of your N.B.A. career, you averaged a triple-double (30.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 10.6 assists). Did you personally look at those numbers with any added reverence?I never thought about scoring. I never thought about rebounding. I never thought about assists. I only thought about winning. And we didn’t have such a great basketball team at Cincinnati, so we struggled a little bit. They were waiting on me to, I guess, save the franchise. But you need a team to do those things.What was the secret to being a good rebounder at 6-foot-5?In high school, I played inside and outside. So when I got into the college ranks, I went to the forward position. I just had the fundamentals to be able to play in or out. I always thank my coaches from high school for helping me build those attributes. I just knew how to box out. For me, it was just playing basketball.Cincinnati’s Robertson juggling for possession of the ball against Detroit’s Gene Shue and Chuck Noble in 1961. Bettmann/Getty ImagesWestbrook gets a lot of criticism because he hasn’t been part of a championship team in the N.B.A., and I imagine you faced something similar during your time in Cincinnati. What do you remember about the years before you won a championship with Milwaukee?I think this happens with great basketball players, like Westbrook and myself. I was with Cincinnati for many years, but we never made any notable trades to get better players. If you look back through the history of basketball — and I always tell people this — every team that’s won a championship has made key trades. Boston got Bill Russell. Red Auerbach was very astute at getting older starters from other teams to play off the bench for him. A lot of the teams I played for, they didn’t want to do that.When you look back, how jarring was it to be traded from Cincinnati to Milwaukee in 1970?It was fine. I just resented the fact that the Cincinnati basketball family felt that I hadn’t done anything in 10 years, and all I had done was make All-Pro 10 straight years. But they wanted to trade Oscar Robertson. I just did not want them to try to destroy my credibility and what I had done for the city of Cincinnati. When I went to Milwaukee, I assessed my situation, and I’ll never forget, I told my wife, “I’m not going to be the scorer I was in Cincinnati.” And she said, “Why?” I told her I have to get these other players involved in the game. For us to win, we’ve got to get the other players to make a contribution offensively.Is it accurate to classify you as a Russell Westbrook fan?I totally enjoy the way Westbrook plays. He’s a dynamic individual. They’ve moved him around to different teams and I don’t know why, because I think he’s one of the star guards in basketball. I guess they thought that when he went to Washington that he would not be that effective, but, man, he’s done a tremendous job.“I think he’s one of the star guards in basketball,” Robertson said of Westbrook.Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty ImagesAnd you’re rooting for him to break your record for career triple-doubles?There’s no doubt about it. I hope he gets it. I think he’s one of the elite guards in basketball, and I think it’s ridiculous that some sportswriters criticize him because he has not won a championship. Players don’t win championships by themselves. You’ve got to have good management. You need to get with the right group of players.Look at Brooklyn: Who could have done this years ago? How things have changed. It seems now that what’s happening in basketball, and I haven’t seen it happen in football yet, is players will get together and say, “Let’s go and play for this team so we can win.” Years ago, you wouldn’t have thought of doing that.Who else do you enjoy watching in today’s N.B.A.?I like to watch a lot of players, really. LeBron [James], of course. [Stephen] Curry. I like [James] Harden. There are so many great basketball players — including the kid out of Portland: [Damian] Lillard. Curry is probably one of the finest shooters ever, but so is Lillard. He can really shoot the basketball from far out. It’s almost effortless.Long-distance shooting has taken over the modern game. You’re OK with that?It’s a different type of basketball. It’s a players’ game. And it’s a fans’ game — they love this. I’ve always said this: 3-point shots are like 7-footers used to be — they can get a coach fired. If you have 3-point shooters and they don’t make those shots, “That’s it, Coach.” The name of the game is to outscore your opponents. That’s what it’s about. If you can shoot 3-point shots and you can win the basketball game, it’s great. If you start missing those shots and you don’t make the adjustment and start doing some other things, you’re going to be in trouble. More

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    Harden Reunites With Durant, Far from the Hearts of Sonics Fans

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The NBA SeasonJames Harden Traded to the NetsThe N.B.A.’s Virus CrisisThis Is for Stephen Curry’s CriticsAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storySports of The TimesHouston, Seattle Feels Your LossWith whipsawing trades and other player movement routine in the N.B.A. these days, it’s hard to be loyal to teams and players.Kevin Durant, then of the Seattle SuperSonics, scoring off the Knicks in 2007 during his rookie season.Credit…Barton Silverman/The New York TimesJan. 15, 2021Updated 7:39 p.m. ETSEATTLE — If you’re a fan of the Seattle SuperSonics, jilted long ago despite decades of loyal love, you’re seriously happy for the last great talent from your team.That would be Kevin Durant.After a year spent rehabilitating a torn Achilles’ tendon, Durant now seems to be living his best life in Brooklyn as the leader of the Nets. His odds of winning a third N.B.A. title received a significant boost when a blockbuster trade reunited him this week with James Harden, his close friend and former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate.Durant, Harden and Kyrie Irving on the same team? Scintillating, so long as they end up on the same page.But if you’re a die-hard Sonics fan — and yes, count me in that group — the happiness felt for one of basketball’s transcendent superstars comes with a flip side.We see Durant and are forced to reckon with all the unfulfilled possibilities.Recall that the slim, do-everything forward spent his rookie season in Seattle. He was only 19, but he led the team through a dreary and uncertain 2007-08 season. He wasn’t just good, he was prodigiously good; so full of talent and joy that watching him made the doomsday talk of the Sonics’ possible relocation drift away.Then reality hit. April 13, 2008. The last game played at the old KeyArena: a win sealed by a Durant jump shot.Soon the team moved to Oklahoma City, where it began anew as the Thunder. (Pardon the crankiness, but they’ll always be the Tumbleweeds to me.)It’s been 12 years, but the stinging questions remain.What would have happened to Durant and our team if the Sonics had never left?And how much should fans expect their devotion to be mirrored by professional sports leagues, team ownership and the players we most admire?I’m typical of many in Seattle. The Sonics will always be in my blood. I’m comfortably middle-aged, but I can close my eyes and remember my first N.B.A. game: the bright colors and sharp sounds and even the smells of buttered popcorn and roasted peanuts in the old coliseum nestled near the Space Needle.I was 6, and the Sonics were playing Jerry Sloan and the Chicago Bulls. I can still feel my father’s humongous hands as he led me to our seats.A few years later, when my parents divorced, my father kept our connection close through the Sonics. We went to dozens of games, seated almost always near the rafters. We saw Julius Erving’s first appearance in Seattle — all that grace and power and coolness.We were there in 1978 when the Sonics lost to the Washington Bullets in the N.B.A. finals.In 1979, we watched Gus Williams, Jack Sikma, Dennis Johnson and my dad’s friend Downtown Freddie Brown as the team won its only league championship.Years later, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton formed a powerful, legendary duo, but our hearts were always with those 1970s teams.One more memory, this one bittersweet. When my father was dying, far too early at age 75, we rode together in an ambulance to a nearby hospice. I held his hand again as he spoke of our most cherished times. “The Sonics,” he said. Then he recalled, one last time, the glorious, arcing accuracy of Fred Brown’s jump shot.That’s love.I know I’m hardly alone. We bond over teams, over remarkable wins and searing losses and athletes who remain ever young in our mind’s eye.Fans all over the country, who root for all kinds of teams and players, know that love. It is steadfast, faithful and rooted deep into our souls.We also know the risk. There are no guarantees that devotion will be rewarded with loyalty in return. (Just ask the Houston fans who have stood behind Harden since 2012.)Two years after my father’s death, the Midwestern ownership group that had bought the Sonics moved Seattle’s first big-time professional sports team of the modern era to Oklahoma.The fact that the team had been a vital part of one of America’s greatest cities for 41 years did not matter. Nor did the fact that Seattle was known to have one of the most passionate fan bases in sports.Nothing mattered but the bottom line. The N.B.A. wanted a fancy new stadium, and taxpayer money to fund a big chunk of it. Seattle’s political leaders balked. There was no compromise.The city lost the Sonics and the one player everyone imagined as a franchise cornerstone. The one player who could have brought another title and forged more remarkable seasons, maybe for a decade or longer.We have never relinquished our passion for Durant. He matured during an era of constant player movement that seemed to be foretold by the uprooting of the Sonics. He came to personify the modern superstar. He bounced from team to team to team, winning an M.V.P. and world titles and never quite content in one place. But to us he’s still the wide-eyed teen who conjured our last flash of basketball brilliance. We can’t let go.It helped that he never forgot the city that birthed his N.B.A. career. When his Golden State Warriors came to Seattle for an exhibition in 2018, he wore a vintage Shawn Kemp jersey and gave the sold-out crowd all they could ever want to hear. “I know it’s been a rough 10 years,” he said. “The N.B.A. is back in Seattle for tonight, but hopefully it is back forever soon!”Will that ever happen? To pine for it is to be whipsawed between hope and despair.Whenever N.B.A. commissioner Adam Silver utters a single sentence that could be divined as giving a nod toward the Sonics’ return — as he did recently when he spoke of league expansion as “Manifest Destiny” and gave a tip of the hat toward Seattle — the local news goes into overdrive with stories about a possible return.Contractors are rebuilding the old KeyArena, soon the home of the N.H.L.’s Seattle Kraken, an expansion team. They have gutted the old structure. Close to $1 billion will go toward increasing its size and prepping it for multiple sports — pro basketball included. The whole endeavor is led by Tim and Tod Leiweke, brothers connected to the N.B.A. and Silver for decades who make no secret of their desire to have an expansion team playing in their gleaming new edifice.Does all this mean the Sonics are coming soon? Maybe. But then again, maybe not.So Sonics fans keep holding tight to the one last superstar to have played for our team.He’s doing his thing in Brooklyn now.And we’re still dreaming of the future.I can see it now, in two years or maybe five, the SuperSonics back at long last. The first big free-agent signed to herald their return? Kevin Durant.Sorry Brooklyn, there’s no such thing as loyalty in the N.B.A., but at least you would still have your team.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    N.B.A. Western Conference Preview: The Lakers Reloaded

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyN.B.A. Western Conference Preview: The Lakers ReloadedTheir championship glow still strong, the Lakers are poised to make another run, even as the Warriors bounce back and the Suns ascend.The Los Angeles Lakers could be having a double-championship parade at the end of this season behind Anthony Davis and LeBron James.Credit…Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports, via ReutersDec. 21, 2020Updated 10:00 a.m. ETLeBron James was surprised, and a little annoyed, when the N.B.A. unveiled its schedule for the 2020-21 season. He had been hoping for a mid-January start for his title defense with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was wishful thinking.“I was like, ‘Wow!’” James said at a recent news conference.The Lakers, just 72 days removed from winning the franchise’s 17th championship, will return to the grind on Tuesday when they face the Clippers, another team with big goals, at Staples Center, the Los Angeles arena that both teams share.Here is a look at how the Western Conference shapes up after the shortest off-season in league history:The ContendersSomehow, the Lakers look even better this season than they did for last season’s championship run.Credit…Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesLos Angeles Lakers2019-20 record: 52-19 (No. 1 seed, N.B.A. champions)Key additions: Dennis Schröder, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley MatthewsKey subtractions: Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Dwight HowardOutlook: The mere presence of James and Anthony Davis, both of whom recommitted to the freshly minted champions with new deals in recent weeks, would be enough for any team to contend for a title. But give the Lakers credit: They were anything but complacent over the league’s abridged off-season. In fact, the front office made upgrades by acquiring Schröder and Harrell, the league’s two top reserves last season. And Gasol and Matthews are crafty veterans who add depth. Add it all up, and the Lakers are even better positioned for a championship run than they were in the bubble.The Clippers have a new coach but the same two stars and threshold for success: winning a championship.Credit…Mark J. Terrill/Associated PressLos Angeles Clippers2019-20 record: 49-23 (No. 2 seed)Key additions: Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, Luke KennardKey subtractions: Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, JaMychal GreenOutlook: The Clippers would probably love to have a little more distance from their debacle in the bubble, a premature exit in the Western Conference semifinals that raised questions about the team’s chemistry and led to Coach Doc Rivers’s departure. (He landed on his feet with the Philadelphia 76ers.) But the bubble memories have surely lingered for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, two stars who watched from home as the Lakers claimed the ultimate prize that both teams had been chasing. Now, under the direction of Tyronn Lue, the team’s new coach, the pressure will only mount on the Clippers to deliver.Michael Porter Jr. showed a lot of potential during the bubble over the summer, raising expectations for his play this season.Credit…Mark J. Terrill/Associated PressDenver Nuggets2019-20 record: 46-27 (No. 3 seed)Key additions: Facundo Campazzo, JaMychal GreenKey subtractions: Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig, Mason PlumleeOutlook: Coming off an enthralling run in the bubble in which they reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in 11 years, the Nuggets appear primed to build on that momentum. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray have established themselves as bona fide stars, and Michael Porter Jr. is an elastic-limbed talent with enormous potential. The off-season was a mixed bag — the losses of Grant and Craig could hurt the team on defense — and Coach Mike Malone has groused about the team’s focus in the preseason. But no team put more into the league’s restart last season, or came out of the experience better for it.The MaybesLuka Doncic could end Giannis Antetokounmpo’s reign as the league’s most valuable player this season.Credit…Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports, via ReutersDallas Mavericks2019-20 record: 43-32 (No. 7 seed)Key additions: Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Wesley IwunduKey subtractions: Seth CurryOutlook: Is this the season when the Mavericks — and Luka Doncic, a fashionable pick to win his first N.B.A. Most Valuable Player Award — break free from the middle of the Western Conference pack and make a deep playoff run? The team tried to address concerns about its porous defense by acquiring the likes of Richardson and Johnson, who add toughness. But there are lingering concerns, too, and Kristaps Porzingis finds himself at the center of them. Porzingis, who has struggled to stay healthy dating to his days with the Knicks, had surgery on his right knee in October.The Jazz signed Donovan Mitchell, left, and Jordan Clarkson, right, to big deals this off-season.Credit…David Zalubowski/Associated PressUtah Jazz2019-20 record: 44-28 (No. 6 seed)Key additions: Derrick FavorsKey subtractions: NoneOutlook: Since 2016, the Jazz have doing good job being relevant. Not extraordinary. Not dominant. Just relevant. Now, after their second straight first-round playoff exit, the Jazz are hoping that they can take another step with largely the same pieces. Over the off-season, they committed millions to Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson while doing little to remedy their issues defending perimeter scorers.Stephen Curry is back, but without Klay Thompson the Warriors are unlikely to contend for a championship.Credit…Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via ReutersGolden State Warriors2019-20 record: 15-50Key additions: James Wiseman, Kelly Oubre Jr., Kent BazemoreKey subtractions: Klay Thompson (again)Outlook: After making five straight appearances in the N.B.A. finals and coming away with three championships, the Warriors were essentially on hiatus last season. Their stars were injured. Coach Steve Kerr played a bunch of young guys, and things got glum in a hurry: Golden State finished with the worst record in the league. The good news is that Stephen Curry is back this season, and the Warriors bulked up their frontcourt by selecting Wiseman with the second pick in the draft. Now, the bad news: Thompson, after missing all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, tore his right Achilles’ tendon in an off-season workout and will be sidelined for his second straight season. Without him, the Warriors cannot expect to vie for a title. But they should be back in the playoff hunt.Damian Lillard will have a little bit more help this season with Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr.Credit…Pool photo by Kevin C. CoxPortland Trail Blazers2019-20 record: 35-39 (No. 8 seed)Key additions: Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr., Enes Kanter, Harry GilesKey subtractions: Trevor Ariza, Hassan WhitesideOutlook: Credit the Blazers for addressing one of their weaknesses by acquiring Covington and Jones, versatile forwards who can defend and shoot. But all eyes are again on Damian Lillard, the All-Star point guard who is coming off his finest season for an underperforming team. He has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to Portland, and he has a long-term contract to prove it. He needs his supporting cast to come through.James Harden wants to be traded, but the Rockets don’t need to rush to oblige him.Credit…Mark J. Terrill/Associated PressHouston Rockets2019-20 record: 44-28 (No. 4 seed)Key additions: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Christian WoodKey subtractions: Russell Westbrook, Robert CovingtonOutlook: In the wake of a tumultuous off-season in which the general manager (Daryl Morey) and the coach (Mike D’Antoni) both decamped for new roles, the team’s best player wants out, too. James Harden finally showed up late to training camp after partying in Atlanta and Las Vegas, and it is clear he wants to be traded. The front office can take its time with that request as the franchise acclimates itself to a new-look roster that includes Wall and Cousins, two big-name reclamation projects who are coming off serious injuries.The NoncontendersThe Suns haven’t made the playoffs in 10 seasons, but this could be the year they return.Credit…Rick Bowmer/Associated PressPhoenix Suns2019-20 record: 34-39Key additions: Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, Abdel NaderKey subtractions: Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky RubioOutlook: The Suns, led by Devin Booker, made an impression by closing out last season with an eight-game winning streak in the bubble. Then they made an even bigger splash in the off-season by engineering a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder to acquire Paul, the veteran point guard. Don’t overlook the addition of Crowder, either. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the Suns, who could find themselves back in the playoffs after a 10-year absence.The Grizzlies may not win a championship, but they should be fun to watch.Credit…Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesMemphis Grizzlies2019-20 record: 34-39Key additions: NoneKey subtractions: NoneOutlook: Led by Ja Morant, the N.B.A.’s rookie of the year, the Grizzlies were among the league’s fun surprises last season. They are young and talented, and this figures to be another growing season — especially after they welcome back Jaren Jackson Jr., their starting center, from a knee injury he sustained in August.The Pelicans lost Jrue Holiday, but Zion Williamson should make a major leap in his second season.Credit…Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports, via ReutersNew Orleans Pelicans2019-20 record: 30-42Key additions: Eric Bledsoe, Steven AdamsKey subtractions: Jrue Holiday, Derrick Favors, E’Twaun Moore, Frank JacksonOutlook: The Pelicans are going to be preaching patience after trading Holiday to the Bucks for a gleaming collection of future first-round picks. They also re-signed Brandon Ingram to a long-term deal. And Zion Williamson should take another step in his development if he can stay on the court. But this figures to be a building year under Stan Van Gundy, who has returned to coaching after a foray as a broadcaster.Last season was rocky for the Timberwolves, but their core of D’Angelo Russell, left, and Karl-Anthony Towns, right, should be better this season.Credit…Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesMinnesota Timberwolves2019-20 record: 19-45Key additions: Anthony Edwards, Ricky RubioKey subtractions: James JohnsonOutlook: The Timberwolves are coming off a disappointing, injury-marred season. But they presumably have their core in place, after adding Edwards, a shooting guard and the top overall pick in November’s N.B.A. draft, to a roster headlined by Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. There will be growing pains, of course, and it would be surprising to see the Timberwolves in the thick of the playoffs. But they should show improvement.The Spurs had made the playoffs for 22 straight years before missing them last season. A return is not guaranteed this season, either.Credit…Soobum Im/USA Today Sports, via ReutersSan Antonio Spurs2019-20 record: 32-39Key additions: Devin VassellKey subtractions: Bryn ForbesOutlook: The Spurs had made 22 straight playoff appearances before they fell short last season. It could be another challenging season for Coach Gregg Popovich after a quiet couple of months for the front office. The Spurs still employ DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, which means they will have a fighting chance to make the playoffs. But in a power-packed conference, it will be a steep climb.The Thunder are firmly in rebuilding mode.Credit…Sue Ogrocki/Associated PressOklahoma City Thunder2019-20 record: 44-28 (No. 5 seed)Key additions: Al Horford, George Hill, Trevor ArizaKey subtractions: Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder, Steven Adams, Danilo GallinariOutlook: The Thunder have amassed an incredible collection of future first-round picks by trading players like Paul, a veteran who had been instrumental in leading the team last season. But General Manager Sam Presti has chosen to take the long view as the Thunder seek to build through the draft. In the short term, that means they could be facing a lean few months.De’Aaron Fox is a promising player for the Kings, but overall team success doesn’t appear likely in the short run.Credit…Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via ReutersSacramento Kings2019-20 record: 31-41Key additions: Tyrese Haliburton, Hassan WhitesideKey subtractions: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kent Bazemore, Harry GilesOutlook: It seems a safe bet to add another season to the league’s longest playoff drought. The Kings opted not to match the Atlanta Hawks’ contract offer to Bogdanovic, a restricted free agent, as they look toward the future with De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III and Haliburton, a first-year shooting guard.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More