NBA Notebook: Kemba Walker is headed back to the Garden
It may be the dog days of summer, but the NBA is showing no signs of slowing down with free agency in full effect and Summer League just around the corner. Let’s swing around the league and examine the top storylines.
Kemba Walker is headed Back to the Garden
It was a rumor well before it was reality, but Kemba Walker is officially returning to the venue that made him a national icon as a member of the Connecticut Huskies, and will be playing the 2021-22 season with the New York Knicks.
Walker will slot in immediately as a starting guard for the Knicks, who could have used his scoring ability to pair with forward Julius Randle in their playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The four-time All-Star is a good outside shooter when healthy, and is a well-respected competitor. This was a good pickup for a franchise that is finally heading in the right direction.
The Lakers are Reloading
The Lakers' season ended in disappointment with a first round playoff loss to the Phoenix Suns, but just one year removed from a championship and heading toward the twilight years of LeBron James’ career, L.A. isn't ready to throw in the towel.
The Lakers are clearly assembling a roster they believe can win another championship following a flurry of moves this past week. The biggest headliner is Russell Westbrook, a mercurial and polarizing player that is a workhorse no matter the laundry he is wearing. Westbrook has his doubters, but he is an upgrade at the position and at his best, a nightmare matchup.
In addition to Westbrook, the Lakers have brought in Carmelo Anthony, Kent Bazemore, Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington, and Trevor Ariza. Ariza is still an elite defender over a decade after winning a championship with the Lakers in 2009, and Bazemore has developed into an underrated athletic wing. Assuming good health out of James and Anthony Davis in 2021-22, the Lakers are undoubtedly the favorites in the Western Conference.
Western Conference Winner 2021/2022
Thu, June 2 2022, 9:59 AM
Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
New Orleans Pelicans
Portland Trail Blazers
Kyle Lowry is taking his talents to South Beach
The Miami Heat were Finals runner-ups in the 2020 bubble, and with their core still intact are looking to make an additional leap forward in the upcoming season.
By re-signing lethal sharpshooter Duncan Robinson and bringing in Kyle Lowry, the Heat now possess three perennial All-Stars in Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Lowry to play alongside one of the most effective 3-point shooters in the league. They’ve also added an ultimate glue guy in P.J. Tucker, who impacts the game in ways never fairly captured in the box score.
With Lowry, Butler, and Tucker, the Heat have already become the ultimate pound-for-pound contenders, and will be an extremely entertaining team to watch come playoff time as we look to see if their toughness, grit, and savvy translates to a title.
Team USA will play for gold
Team USA scared us all with an unimpressive exhibition slate leading up to the Olympics and a first-game loss to France. Now through pool play and the medal round, they appear to have been playing possum as they have advanced to the Gold Medal game.
Kevin Durant is the team's undisputed leader, but depth and elite talent at every position is the trademark of this roster. Now we will see if they can continue to feed supporters a steady diet of chalk and take home the gold.
Summer League is nigh
But mark your calendar for the NBA Summer League. The mini-league that often features the league’s newest stars and a few sophomores sprinkled in is set to run from Aug. 8 to Aug. 17 and is a fun and competitive crossover from the college game to professional.
Coming on the heels of NBA Playoffs and the Olympics, it goes down like a sweet dessert after a heavy entree. Fans have little invested except for their love of basketball, but unlike other exhibition-esque competitions, these players are competing for the life-changing opportunity to make an NBA roster.