What to see in the NBA, as the training grounds are ready to open

The first NBA practices of the season are here, with teams set to hit the court on Tuesday to formally begin preparing for the 2021-22 season.

A six-pack to watch as things get started:

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THE CHAMPIONS

Milwaukee is running it.

The Bucks used eight players in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the decider of the title against Phoenix, and seven of them are still on the list; the exception is PJ Tucker, now part of the Miami Heat. The Bucks also have seven of their top eight scorers, in terms of total points, from a year ago; the exception in that case is Bryn Forbes, who returned to San Antonio.

Plus, Giannis Antetokounmpo played the game of his life to finish that title run, a 50-point, 14-rebound masterpiece, and he’s not yet 27 years old. Your best facility may be yet to come.

CENTRAL CAMP

San Diego hasn’t technically had an NBA team since 1984.

This week, the city has three.

The Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Brooklyn Nets will call San Diego home this week for training camp. They are all practicing separately, using three different facilities. The Nets will play in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Sunday before returning home, while the Nuggets and Clippers will play in Los Angeles on Monday.

YOUTH IS SERVED

If they want to, the Houston Rockets could do something very weird in the preseason.

Start with a lineup of three bodyguards: Josh Christopher, Jalen Green, and Daishen Nix. Put Usman Garuba up front, put Alperen Sengun in the center.

Add up to five teenagers on the floor.

There are no fewer than 21 teens on the NBA rosters when training camps begin Tuesday, including five Rockets and a trio of 18-year-olds: Jonathan Kuminga of Golden State, Josh Giddey of Oklahoma City and Joshua Primo of San Antonio. .

Of those, Kuminga and Giddey will turn 19 before the regular season begins. Primo won’t be 19 until December 24. He will be 18 years and 300 days when the Spurs open their season on October 20 against Orlando.

That means he’s in line to become the youngest player in an NBA game in over 15 years – Andrew Bynum was 18 years, 191 days old when he appeared in a playoff contest for the Los Angeles Lakers against Phoenix on May 6. 2006.

There have been four 18-year-olds who made their NBA debuts since Bynum: Dragan Bender, Sekou Doumbouya, Devin Booker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But technically, if Primo debuts before November 17, he’ll be younger than either of them for his NBA regular-season games in a matter of days.

HOW THINGS CHANGE

It hasn’t even been a year since the 2020 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, they were played in October.

“It feels like three years ago,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

The Lakers used 12 players in that series; of them, only LeBron James and Anthony Davis have remained with the team continuously. Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard are back now, after playing elsewhere last season.

The Heat also used 12 players in that series; of them, only Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson remain in Miami.

It should be noted that in both cases, the Lakers (Talen Horton-Tucker) and the Heat (Udonis Haslem, Gabe Vincent) have had other players on the roster since those finals. They just didn’t play in that series of titles inside the reboot bubble at Walt Disney World.

PRE-SEASON OUTLOOK

The games that begin Sunday when Brooklyn visits the Los Angeles Lakers mean, and this cannot be emphasized enough, absolutely nothing in terms of wins and losses.

Milwaukee was 0-3 in the preseason last year and won the NBA title. Phoenix was 0-4 in the preseason last year and went to the NBA Finals.

The only team in the past 25 years that had the best preseason record and won the NBA crown was Golden State in 2016-17.

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FINALLY AT HOME

For Raptors fans in Toronto, the wait is almost over.

The team plays at home next week. Really at home, that is.

For the first time since February 28, 2020, the Raptors will play a game in Toronto when they open their preseason schedule against Philadelphia. With only a handful of players and staff left from that team, the Raptors have camp in Toronto rather than going elsewhere in Canada, as they have often done in recent years.

Toronto called Tampa, Florida, home last season because of the pandemic.

“We thought it was really important to reestablish our base here and get everyone familiar with the city,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said. “A lot of our players, a lot of our staff, have not been here, so we thought it was very important for us to do so.”

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