Summer League winds down, and now, maybe, some NBA rest
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By TIM REYNOLDS
They'll hand out T-shirts to the Summer League winners following the championship game between Memphis and Minnesota in Las Vegas on Monday night, and then things will finally slow down a bit in the NBA.
And probably not for long.
It's been a hectic month since Toronto won the NBA championship and the so-called offseason commenced. Already this summer, 18 current and former All-Stars have changed franchises, and that number will rise to 19 if Vince Carter finds a new home for his final season. Recent NBA Finals MVPs Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala all were among those on the move.
And another three past finals MVPs - Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker - all retired. So when next season begins, very little will look the same.
"I think there's going to be a lot of parity," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "That's my gut."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expected this summer to be loaded with player movement, and wasn't complaining about so many big names - Durant, Leonard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jimmy Butler and many more - needing to file change-of-address cards.
"At the end of the day, it's positive for the league," Silver said. "I will say, though, I'm mindful of this notion of balance of power, and I think it applies in many different ways. An appropriate balance of power between the teams and the players ... at the end of the day, you want to make sure you have a league where every team is in a position to compete."
There were some clear winners in free agency: Brooklyn (who got Durant and Irving), the Los Angeles Clippers (who got George and Leonard) and the Los Angeles Lakers (who got Davis) were among them. It could be argued that the Oklahoma City Thunder won as well - no, they won't be as good this season as they were this past season after trading George and Westbrook, but general manager Sam Presti has enough draft picks now to enjoy flexibility for years.
The losers are clear as well: Toronto lost Leonard and Danny Green and Golden State lost Durant, so last season's finalists certainly aren't favorites to be this season's finalists. It's also easy to say that New York lost after coming up empty on the big-name free agents, but the Knicks got plenty of good players on deals that ensure the team will have money again next summer.
A lookahead at what's coming, and some notes on what's gone down:
SO NOW WHAT?
Any NBA withdrawal will really only last about three weeks, until roughly three dozen players return to Las Vegas for USA Basketball's training camp leading up to the FIBA World Cup in China that starts on Aug. 31.
San Antonio's Gregg Popovich is coaching the Americans, assisted by Golden State's Steve Kerr, Atlanta's Lloyd Pearce and Villanova's Jay Wright. Zion Williamson, knee permitting, may take part in camp as one of the young players brought in to help the more-established pros get ready. If Williamson impresses, he may get a shot at joining the varsity club.
Also, this season's NBA schedule is likely to come around the second week of August, if recent years are any indicator.
Plenty of free agents remain unsigned, and that'll still be the case even in September as training camps get ready to open.
It's still hard to see the Thunder keeping Paul, acquired in the Westbrook trade to Houston, so expect at least one more blockbuster trade before too long. Or can a player who is owed $121 million over the next three seasons be bought out? Stay tuned.
Carter wants to come back for a 22nd NBA season, which would be a league record. If he gets into a game after Jan. 1, he'll also become the first NBA player to appear in four different decades.
Jamal Crawford remains out there as well, and contenders should be calling him.
Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn, Indiana and Miami all likely got better in the East. Milwaukee kept most of its team that won an NBA-best 60 games.
The East will be good.
The West might be bloody.
The Clippers, the Lakers, Houston, Golden State, Denver, Utah, Portland and San Antonio could end up as the eight playoff teams in the Western Conference. It's plausible; they're probably the most realistic eight picks right now. But at least four of those teams - most of them with superstar duos that are all the rage now - won't be in the second round of next season's playoffs.
For now, Golden State's Stephen Curry is the longest-tenured player under contract to one team. He's entering his 11th season with the Warriors.
With Nowitzki (21 seasons with Dallas) retired, Mike Conley (12 seasons with Memphis) traded to Utah and Westbrook (11 seasons with Oklahoma City) traded to Houston, no current player has had a longer uninterrupted run with one team than Curry.
But if Udonis Haslem re-signs with Miami, it'll be his 17th season with the Heat.
Including the $196 million extension for Portland's Damian Lillard, a $170 million extension for Denver's Jamal Murray and another in-the-works $170 million extension for Philadelphia's Ben Simmons, NBA teams have committed to spend roughly $4 billion in new deals that were struck in the last three weeks alone.
And that's with 100 more signings to come, at least.
That $4 billion figure is twice what the total payroll was a decade ago for every team in the league, combined.
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Updated July 15, 2019