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Catching Up With the NBA: Opening Week

Here are some of the big stories and rumors that are floating around the NBA in the first week of the regular season.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to “Catching Up With the NBA”, my new column which I hope to run every Friday. The title is self-explanatory: this will be a (hopefully concise) weekly roundup of big news, stories, and general happenings in the NBA. The format might change a bit as I develop the column and see what’s working, so there might be a bit of trial and error at the beginning. All that said, let’s jump in.

Trades/Moves/Rumors:

Jimmy Butler situation unresolved: Jimmy Butler, somehow, incredibly, remains a Timberwolf. Despite demanding a trade nearly a month ago and causing a ruckus in practice last week, Butler has not yet been traded. He played for the Wolves in their loss to the Spurs last night, and looked fine, if a little out of shape. Of note: Karl-Anthony Towns was horrible, a possible side-effect of Butler remaining on the team. If Towns’ poor play continues, the Wolves’ hand might be forced regarding a trade. Also, news came out today (could just be spin, who knows) that the Heat are out on a Butler trade, removing his biggest suitor. In today’s Woj pod with Zach Lowe (more on this in a bit), Woj mentioned that he thinks the Clippers will come back around on Butler. We will see. There’s no way they trade Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and I think they hold firm on Tobias Harris and Jerome Robinson as well. If they do, I’m not sure the Wolves want a deal with the Clips. But who knows what developments will happen as the season goes along.

Clippers still a Kawhi Leonard destination: Woj mentioned in his aforementioned pod that he thinks the Clippers have a better chance of getting Kawhi than not. The reason I didn’t write about this on its own is because, once again, there’s no real new, tangible information here. Leonard likes Los Angeles, he doesn’t want to play with LeBron James, and people aren’t sure if he wants to create his own media brand and identity or if he’s camera-shy. Woj might be the most plugged in guy in the NBA, but this is still deep in the speculation/rumor stage, as free agency is still eight months away. It is worth keeping an eye on the Raptors: if they’re really good, it will probably be harder for Leonard to leave in free agency.

Injuries:

Fortunately, there haven’t been any serious injuries so far this season, with the last significant, long-term injury being Dejounte Murray’s torn ACL 10 days ago. Dwight Howard missed the Wizards’ game last night, but is day to day. Russell Westbrook also didn’t play in the Thunder’s regular season opener Tuesday, which is of particular importance to the Clippers since they play the Thunder tonight. He’s still working his way back from a knee injury, and it seems unlikely he will play tonight, but he shouldn’t be out too much longer.

Other:

It was announced today by the NBA that the G-League will offer a special $125,000 contract to elite high school prospects as an alternative to going to college as a one-and-done. In addition to playing in the G-League, the players would be undergoing all sorts of programs to get them ready for life as professional basketball players (and just adults) so that the jump from high school is less shocking. It’s still unclear as to which high school prospects are eligible for the contract, or how they will be assigned to G-League teams, but the overall groundwork has been laid to eliminate the one-and-done. Not only would this development be great for the popularity and success of the G-League, but it could also deal a severe blow to the NCAA. More details should come out relatively soon, as the policy is expected to start next summer. I like this idea a lot, and am excited to see how it plays out in 2019.

That’s it for this week! As NBA basketball just started a few days ago, it’s pointless to analyze standings or which teams or players are looking good just yet. Let me know in the comments section below if there’s any big news that I may have missed.