Sports Odds and Ends
The 2023-24 NBA season starts this week. Not unlike previous seasons, the 82-game campaign begins with both optimism and questions for every team.
Top of the list: Can Denver finish the season as they did last season, as league champs? “If we stay healthy,” said Nuggets GM Calvin Booth, “I think we’ll be fine. The players we have make my job easier. I just tried to get [players] that enjoy being around each other. It’s a long season.”
Denver definitely has most of the key pieces from last season that propelled them to a championship finish, including Finals MVP Nikola Jokic, most experts contend.
“I think that the Denver Nuggets, the way they play together and everybody that’s out there on the floor—they would have to be considered a favorite…to win it all,” Detroit Pistons Analyst Greg Kelser pointed out. Kelser added that he loves the Nuggets, especially the “selflessness with which they play.”
Others he sees as top contenders include Boston, Milwaukee, Miami, and the Los Angeles Clippers, who Kelsey noted, remain very interesting. “They have both [Paul] George and Kawhi Leonard healthy for 70-plus games.”
“I think it’s gonna be exciting,” predicted Kelser of this season’s NBA.
Locally, the Minnesota Timberwolves continue to be an enigma. They have an emerging superstar in Anthony Edwards. But the Karl-Anthony Towns—Rudy Gobert tandem was often frustrating to watch last season, along with the Wolves’ performances against sub-.500 clubs.
Though Gobert is still regarded as a defensive presence, overall Minnesota was not a good defensive team last season. They made the playoffs last season, but lost to Denver.
“We can’t take nights off,” Wolves President Tim Connolly complained to reporters, including the MSR, during the team’s media day last month. “Until we take these steps, we’re not going to be where we want to be.
“We’ve still got some things to figure out, “he continued. “We’ve got to find a chemistry here and find an identity. It’s all about team success. We have to win to be taken seriously.”
The Pistons, who Kelser once played for, is a young team possibly poised to make that next step. “I think the Pistons are going to be a better team this year,” he stressed. I think they are going to surprise some people. But they’re still going to be young. I think they’re gonna win more basketball games, because I believe they’re going to be healthier.”
Detroit is among four NBA teams with new coaches this season. Doug West and Bobby Jackson are assistants on Philadelphia’s first-year Nick Nurse staff.
Jackson coached the Stockton Kings to a G-League-best 25-7 in 2022-23, his second year with the club. He was formerly an assistant coach with Sacramento (2017-20), and Minnesota (2014-16).
“I love being a part of this,” Jackson, a former Gopher great and NBA player, told me.
West, a 12-year NBA veteran—most of it with Minnesota—brings two decades of coaching experience to the 76ers. “I had the opportunity to coach there 10 years ago,” said West on being in Philly. “Getting that opportunity again—great, great opportunity.”