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VOL. 131 | NO. 206 | Friday, October 14, 2016

24 Questions: Counting Down to the Start of the NBA Season

By Don Wade

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With the start of the NBA season drawing near, let’s get that shot clock running and put up 24 questions in need of answers:

Among the questions of the upcoming NBA season: Can Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) stay healthy? How many games will he and other key veterans play? And how many can the Grizz win if they’re mostly healthy?

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

24. Will the Philadelphia 76ers, who were at FedExForum to play the Grizzlies in a preseason game this past week, finally crack 20 victories after winning 19 games three seasons ago, then 18, and only 10 last season?

Yes. Even though No. 1 pick Ben Simmons broke a bone in his foot and will be out several months. We’re putting the Sixers down for 21 wins.

23. Will any team fail to win at least 20 games?

That would be the Brooklyn Nets, who did Lionel Hollins a favor when they freed him from their misery. The Nets win 16 games and produce many nights of complete ugliness.

22. In an interview with Sirius XM, Grizzlies coach David Fizdale said playing Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph together would be a “recipe for disaster.” What did he mean?

We’re guessing he meant playing them together most of the time while claiming to want to play a pace-and-space style. In which case, his statement would be correct.

21. Randolph said he was OK playing off the bench, but won’t he expect to be on the court at the end of games?

One would think so. So Fizdale may have a challenge ahead of him at some point.

20. Stephen Curry set an NBA record by making 402 threes. So how many does he make this season?

Well, first Curry held the previous record with 286. And before that, with 276. With Kevin Durant at Golden State now, everybody gets fewer shots. We’re putting the over/under on Curry threes at 340.

19. Do the San Antonio Spurs finally become irrelevant this season?

Not only do they remain relevant, but they are the Westgate Las Vegas Sports Book’s third choice to win the NBA title at 6-1.

18. Is it even necessary to ask who the top two favorites are?

As expected, Golden State is the overwhelming choice at 2-3. Then Cleveland at 11-4.

17. What are the Grizzlies’ odds to win it all?

They’re 100-1, but then only nine teams have odds of 60-1 or better.

16. What are the odds former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins stay on the same page all season in Sacramento?

Same as winning the NBA title, 300-1.

15. What team is likely to regress the most this season?

You can make an argument for Houston, but the Rockets do have James Harden. Dallas is older. Mavericks won’t sniff .500.

14. Who will be better, the New York Knicks with Derrick Rose or the Chicago Bulls with Dwyane Wade?

Jimmy Butler is a Bull, not a Knick. Chicago makes playoffs. Knicks don’t. But maybe Carmelo Anthony will let everybody touch his gold medal.

13. Could the Los Angeles Clippers surprise with a deep playoff run?

Not if deep means Western Conference Finals. At this point, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have established that they are very nice players with lots of endorsements who don’t win when it matters most. You’re welcome.

12. Of the Grizzlies’ Core Four of Gasol, Z-Bo, Mike Conley and Tony Allen, plus newcomer Chandler Parsons, who misses the most games because of injury?

Allen. He has to play incredibly hard to contribute, and now in his mid-30s, the knees and back are a constant concern. He misses 25 games.

11. Which of those five plays the most games?

This partly depends on how successful Fizdale is at getting Gasol and Conley to sit down for scheduled rest, ala the Spurs. Gasol seems to be both in great shape and motivated, so if the foot surgery was successful, he should be good. We’ll make him the leader with 76 games played.

10. This brings up the obvious question: If the Grizzlies are relatively healthy, how many games do they win?

The window should be 47-55, so we’ll say 51.

9. What kind of year does Russell Westbrook have in OKC without Durant?

Personally, a huge one, an MVP-type year. But the Thunder will be fighting for a playoff spot late into the season.

8. What will be stranger, the Lakers coming to FedExForum without Kobe Bryant or the Spurs without Tim Duncan?

Both will feel odd, but the guess here is many fans still wear their Kobe jerseys. A Nick Young jersey just isn’t the same.

7. Last season, the Grizzlies set an NBA record by using 28 players because of all the injuries. How many do they use this season?

Let’s be optimistic and say 19.

6. Young player you’re most eager to see play this year?

Buddy Hield, New Orleans.

5. Coach who could be in trouble early?

Doc Rivers. The Clippers have not delivered under Rivers and a really slow start could mean he meets the same fate Kevin McHale did with Houston.

4. Will the Grizzlies have an All-Star?

No, but if D.J. Stephens makes the team he wins the dunk contest.

3. Who is the league’s scoring leader?

James Harden overtakes Curry, averaging 30 points a game for a not very good team.

2. Who’s the player most people still don’t know but should?

Miami’s Hassan Whiteside. Let the league with 3.68 blocks, was third in rebounds with 11.8, and also averaged 14.8 points. 

1. Will we see a decline in LeBron James?

Not likely. His numbers last year were still right at his career averages. He doesn’t play 40 minutes a night anymore, but he does play 35. And he had a little to do with that 3-1 comeback over the Warriors in the Finals. MVP or no, he will have the Cavs in position to play for a second straight NBA championship.

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