Winderman: Time for shorter NBA training camps

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The list of players who will miss the start of training camp is significant, everyone from Chris Paul to Al Harrington to possibly Dwyane Wade. Each, though, could be back for the start of the regular season.

Which either means the offseason is too short or camp is too long.

Yet here we are, on the verge of the NBA’s first full training camp in two years, left to wonder whether there might be a happy medium between the one-week camp the lockout produced last December and the four weeks we’re about to embark upon.

For as much as coaches are embracing a return to the previous normalcy, what they truly embrace is the time spent in the gym, at practice, not the nonsense masquerading as exhibition play.

Because it is the exhibitions, and all that goes with them, that get in the way.

Take the Mavericks. They will open camp Saturday in Dallas but then leave the following Wednesday for Europe, where they will play a pair of exhibitions. It hardly allows for much in the way of continuity, although it could mean a couple of home-cooked meals for Dirk.

To a degree, the NBA got it right last year with a home-and-home pair of exhibitions against a geographically close rival. For most veterans, especially those about to embark on an 82-game marathon, two is about right, although some might want one or two more.

But just as the NFL’s preseason is twice as long as it needs to be with football’s four exhibitions, the NBA’s maximum of eight also is excessive.

Remove the travel to the Dakotas, other hinterlands and those college campuses, and there would be more time for the actual work of becoming a team honed for the regular season.

Of course, that also wouldn’t generate as much preseason revenue, revenue that solely goes to the owners, with paychecks not starting for most players until the regular season.

Two weeks of camp/preseason would allow the NBA to get started on better footing, with those feet not as sore when what matters actually begins.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

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In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.