In a season that is quickly being defined for its condensed schedule, teams are trying to figure out what is working for players. Perhaps more important, how does the player’s activity during the locked out nine months effect their current status? Players took a lot of different paths in the off-season. Some players opted to take it easy, while others were making headlines across Europe. Now all that matters is how fit and healthy the players are in this insane schedule.
The player grabbing headlines this summer was Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. First he went on a Street Ball tour over the summer where he was grabbing highlight reels and proving his basketball worth. He then outplayed everyone, including Lebron James, in an All-Star matchup to grow his young legend. After that, he became bored with basketball and played a little flag football.
Other top NBA talent took this same route and all have faired markedly well, but Durant is still on fire in the NBA season. He is third in the league in scoring and is averaging 8.3 rebounds a game. Additionally, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a league best20-6 record.
On the polar opposite side of the spectrum, Dirk Nowitzki apparently did nothing during the NBA lockout. He threatened to head overseas, but never saw action in a basketball game. The Final’s MVP deserved a rest, but the German superstar took that rest a little too far. He had to sit out four games in January because he was in such bad shape heading out of the lockout. Still struggling to get back to form, Nowitzki was honored with an All-Star nod.
There is no question who made the worst decision; the guys who are stuck in China. Did their agents really not understand that their players would miss NBA money, even reduced money, because they played overseas? J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and Aaron Brooks may become hot commodities on the open market, but only for a reduced season price. Plus, in Smith and Martin’s case, their constant struggle in China advances their image as difficult players.
Denver Nugget Ty Lawson’s recent reduced effectiveness and injuries may partially be the result of working too hard overseas. Lawson played in Lithuania for BC Žalgiris and excelled. He played only six games, but has acknowledged that the pressure, intensity, travel and culture shock were a lot to take on. While he started off strong for the Nuggets, he has not had the breakout year the club was hoping to see.
Overall, this season may not be defined by the lockout, but knowing the NBA, there will be future work stoppages and players should look at what training programs were most beneficial in the extended preseason. Individual play out of a lockout year could be very important, as anything can happen in a shortened schedule. The many teams that are hoping to turn this short season into a championship have to hope their players are conditioned for the task.