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Real Hoops on the Horizon

jrue_vs_rose_100812.jpgThe preseason (3 days) and regular season (23 days) openers are bearing down on us in a pleasant, cautiously optimistic kind of way. With the summer officially dead, the time has come to shift into gear for meaningful basketball games (hopefully).

On a personal note, it's been a trying, long summer. I apologize for the lack of posts here, it was embarrassing and unfortunate, but also unavoidable. I'm not 100% sure what form the blog will take this season, but it will live on. A lot is going to depend on how early I can get home from work, but if all goes to plan, coverage here shouldn't change that much. I'm planning on game threads for all games. I'm not sure about previews and post-games, I might shift the emphasis to longer, more thoughtful next-day pieces now that the season will actually have off days mixed in. I'm sure it'll evolve as the season goes on, but I'm committed to being here and I'm sure the last thing you want to hear is a sob story from me, so I'll just apologize and get back to hoops.

OK, so let's just start out with some bullets before we get back to the wholesale changes series.

  • Jrue's Extension: According to Marc Stein on Twitter, Jrue and Ty Lawson (two guys who will forever be linked) are both likely to receive extensions prior to this year's deadline (October 31, I believe). This has the potential to be good or bad news. If Jrue signs an extension in the neighborhood of what Mike Conley received from Memphis in 2010 (5 years, $40M) it's great news. Fair market value, and a bargain if Jrue taps into his potential going forward. It's really bad news if he gets anywhere near the max contract he was rumored to be seeking earlier this season. If he does in fact sign an extension prior to the season, you'd have to think his starting point is the deal Thad signed prior to last season (5 years/$42M), and it'll probably be north of there. I can just see his agent saying, "You paid young $42M and he doesn't even start." My best guess, and a number I can live with is, is 5 years, $50M. Anything more than that and Jrue is going to really have to make a giant leap to justify the contract, and I'm not sure you'd want to put that kind of pressure on him, in this city. There's a chance he could perform at a level that would price him out of that range this coming season, but it's far from a sure thing. If it takes more than $50M to get the deal done, I say roll the dice and see how he performs this season.
  • Thad's Role: Every summer it's something new with Thad. Will he be a three? Will he be a four? Did he work on his jumper? Is he a starter? This summer, the rumors have run the gamut. Thad has beefed up to be able to handle playing the four a little better. He's worked on his jumper. He wants to play the three. He wants to be a starter. Collins likes him coming off the bench. Personally, I think he should be starting at the four and playing as many minutes next to Bynum as possible. His jumper will spread the floor as much as Hawes', and he can hurt you in so many other ways on the offensive end as well. I believe Collins wants Hawes on the floor as a safety valve for the offense, now that he doesn't have Iguodala to settle things down, but Hawes takes away more than he adds, he isn't going to be able to guard any PFs, and it's time to take the training wheels off of the offense. Put the ball in Jrue's hands, let him run the offense. I don't want to see Hawes catching the ball 22 feet away from the hoop.
  • Bynum's "Injury": Until I hear differently, this three-week rest period for Bynum is just a matter of "better safe than sorry." It's going to hurt the development of the team to not have him in there for the preseason, and I expect the beginning of the year to be sloppy and disjointed because of it, but having him healthy for the 82-game haul is much more important than these few weeks to build up familiarity and chemistry. If three weeks bleeds into four or five, I'll be concerned.
  • The Starting Lineup: Barring an injury, I'd say it's about 90% the starting five will be Jrue, Richardson, Turner, Hawes and Bynum on opening night. I still think it should be Jrue, Richardson, Wright, Thad and Bynum.

I think that about sums it up. Here's a question for you guys. You know Collins isn't going to go much deeper than eight for his real rotation, maybe nine. So name your nine in the comments below.