NBA camps open; some go abroad, Spurs plan a trip to Uvalde
Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs know they cannot erase the pain that the residents of Uvalde, Texas have felt since May 24.
They can, however, continue reminding the city of 16,000 people that they’re not forgotten.
The Spurs are planning what they’re calling a community impact event in Uvalde on Oct. 8; details are still being finalized, but it seems likely the entire team and Popovich will be making the 85-mile trip from San Antonio to the place where 21 people — 19 of them students — were killed at Robb Elementary School by a gunman four months ago.
Popovich, a five-time champion coach during his Spurs tenure and the NBA’s all-time leader in coaching wins, has spoken out often about his desire for tougher gun control laws. He also spoke at an event in Uvalde in June, and the Spurs are one of many teams who have pledged support for the community.
The NBA previously announced the formation of the “Sport for Healing Fund,” created to provide “long-term support for the Uvalde community by creating and investing in trauma and healing-centered care for youth and families.” The NBA, along with the Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and the NHL’s Dallas Stars, made the initial contributions to the fund, which will look to connect with children through sports and building safe places like community outdoor play areas.
Golden State was the best team in the postseason, as proved by the Warriors winning their fourth NBA title in the last eight years.
They were the best team in the preseason, too. That’s rare.
The Warriors went 5-0 in preseason games last season. They became just the second team in 26 years to win an NBA championship after having the best preseason record. The other team on that list was ... the Warriors, in 2016-17.
Golden State was one of five preseason unbeatens last year, with Dallas, New York, Chicago and Sacramento all going 4-0.
Most training camps around the NBA start on Tuesday. This season’s NBA preseason slate of games starts Friday in Saitama, Japan — a 6 a.m. Eastern, 3 a.m. Pacific, 7 p.m. local time start between the Warriors and the Washington Wizards. It’s the first of 70 preseason games on the schedule.
The league is going to 10 places that don’t have NBA teams -- Saitama; Seattle; Edmonton; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Las Vegas; Greensboro, North Carolina; Ontario, California (35 miles from Los Angeles, the home of the Clippers’ G League team); Montreal; Birmingham, Alabama; and for the first time, Abu Dhabi, for a pair of matchups between Atlanta and Milwaukee.
Also on the schedule — two non-NBA teams, the Adelaide 36ers of Australia (they’ll play Phoenix and Oklahoma City) and Maccabi Ra’anana of Israel (they’ll play the Clippers, Portland and Oklahoma City).
The Clippers will be the home team for the two games in Seattle, one against Portland, the other against Maccabi Ra’anana.
Seattle, of course, has NBA history, and hopes of more when the NBA gets around to expansion. It’s also near where Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has an estate.
“I haven’t been there since I played in 2008, I think it was,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Just to go back there and Mr. Ballmer, kind of see his offices and how he lives ... I’m excited to go there.”
Washington and Atlanta do not have a true home game on their preseason slates; the Wizards will be called “home” for one of the games in Saitama against the Warriors, and the Hawks are the designated home team for one of the games in Abu Dhabi against the Bucks.
And for whatever this is worth — let’s be real, it’s preseason, so not much — Chicago has the league’s longest active preseason winning streak. The Bulls have won seven consecutive exhibitions, one more than Golden State and New York.
On the other end of that spectrum: Portland, which has dropped seven consecutive preseason games, the longest such streak in the league.
HITTING THE ROAD
Most teams are holding training camps at their home facilities, but a few are already hitting the road for their first trips of the season.
Denver is headed to San Diego for camp. Houston is going to McNeese State in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Los Angeles Clippers will open practice in Las Vegas, at UNLV.
Philadelphia is holding camp at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. Portland headed south to Santa Barbara, California and workouts at UCSB.
Perhaps the two most ambitious trips, though, are the ones by Toronto and Miami.
The Raptors took a five-hour flight from Toronto to Victoria, British Columbia for their camp.
And the Heat were in the air for only 35 minutes, but passports were required. Miami is holding camp in Nassau, Bahamas, about 185 miles away from the team’s home.
The NBA celebration of Bill Russell’s life will continue all season, and beyond. And the feelings about Russell obviously stretch well past Boston, too.
Case in point: Toronto.
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet paid tribute to Russell before his team left for training camp, saying “it’s hard to find a better icon and a better ambassador for the game and just for humanity.”
“It’s hard to put into words what exactly he meant,” VanVleet said. “Just an incredible human being and a guy that definitely needs to be held up in the highest respect until the end of time. He had an incredible journey, an incredible life and meant so much to so many people.”
All camps will be open Tuesday; the Wizards, Warriors, Bucks and Hawks could start earlier because of their looming international travel for preseason games.
Preseason games go through Oct. 14. Teams can have up to 20 players on their roster during training camp, but must cut down to 17 (which includes a maximum of two two-way players for each team) by 5 p.m. Eastern on Oct. 17.
The regular season starts Oct. 18.
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