— We are now less than two weeks away.
Training camps for teams playing overseas exhibitions open Sept 24. The rest of the league commences Sept. 27. So everything is settled, right?
Uh, not exactly.
Generally, the two weeks leading to camp are relatively passive. Marginal talents are added to flush out rosters, which can grow as large as 20 for camp. The final batch of second-rounders are signed. European deals are struck with prospects who need to be stashed. Front-office assignments are finalized.
But in the wake of Labor Day, there also is an increasing sense of getting back to work. Let recent history serve as a guide.
At this time last year: The 76ers signed Stromile Swift, the Bobcats signed Flip Murray and Stephen Graham, the Nuggets signed Joey Graham, the Blazers signed Ime Udoka and Juwan Howard, the Kings signed Desmond Mason, the Mavericks signed James Singleton, the 76ers signed Rodney Carney and the Clippers signed Brian Skinner.
At this time this year: There is a recurring theme, with Stephen Graham, Flip Murray, Ime Udoka, Rodney Carney, Brian Skinner and James Singleton again unsigned.
The fact that each again has remained available into September is a clear sign that the attraction continues to fade.
Then there are the likes of last season's Swift and Mason, players who at one time offered great promise but disappeared from the league amid scant payoff. And that could have teams wondering if it's really worth it with Ike Diogu, Adam Morrison, Jamaal Tinsley and Bobby Simmons.
At this time last year: Finding nowhere else to turn, restricted free agents Nate Robinson and David Lee accepted one-year deals from the Knicks, with Raymond Felton doing the same with the Bobcats. It was yet another indication that restricted free agency, isn't free agency at all.
At this time this year: This time around, the market's top restricted free agent, Rudy Gay, quickly maxed out a new deal with the Grizzlies, but a few restricted free agents remain, namely the Cavaliers' Jawad Williams, the Blazers' Patrick Mills and the Jazz's Kyle Fesenko.
Once again, the odds of an offer sheet this late in the game are minimal.
Based on the utter restrictive nature of restricted free agency, it will be interesting to see how it is cast in the next collective-bargaining agreement, if it even is retained.
At this time last year: The Pacers extended the contract of coach Jim O'Brien, and the Timberwolves promoted Fred Hoiberg to vice president of basketball operations.
At this time this year: No one is sure what will come next with the Warriors. Had the ownership shift come quicker, the sense is Don Nelson and his handpicked management staff would have been gone by now.
Instead, it is as if Golden State will go into the season as a lame-duck operation, with another Nellie soap opera about to unfold. Keith Smart yet could be head coach by the start of camp.
Then there are the Pistons, who apparently will be sold in the midst of the season. That could have some in management seeking more secure settings even at this late stage of the offseason game.
At this time last year: A pair of No. 1 overall draft picks, Blazers center Greg Oden and Clippers forward Blake Griffin, were poised for breakout seasons.
Oden was coming off an injury-limited second season, ready to take control in the middle for Portland.
Griffin was braced for a breakout, coming off a summer-league MVP performance for the Clippers.
At this time this year: Oden, once again is on the comeback trail, this time from the fractured left patella that had him out for the second half of last season. This time, though, there is plenty of caution.
This time, Griffin joins him on the comeback trail, a stress fracture in his left knee sidelining him on the eve of last season, with midseason surgery required, costing him his rookie season, just as Oden lost his entire 2007-08 rookie season.
The degree of injury optimism that Oden, Griffin, or even Bucks center Andrew Bogut, Rockets center Yao Ming, Pacers guard Darren Collison, Raptors guard Jose Calderon and Jazz center Mehmet Okur can create in these remaining days before camp could go a long way toward the optimism their respect teams take into the season.
Upcoming workouts might be considered informal by the teams, but they could be significantly informative about what is to follow with their players who are recovering from injury.
At this time last year: Griffin was standing as a favorite for Rookie of the Year, many in Sacramento were lamenting bypassing Ricky Rubio in the draft in favor of Tyreke Evans, Memphis was touting Hasheem Thabeet as its center of the future, and Brandon Jennings was being viewed as a potential experiment gone wrong, after bypassing college in favor of one season in Europe.
At this time this year: Griffin only now is about to get started, Evans is working on a jumper that could make him as complete as any young guard in the game, Rubio hardly is displaying overwhelming desire to head stateside (or at least to the Timberwolves), Jennings has been accepted as a bona fide revelation, and Thabeet as a bona fide bust.
Now the rookie questions entering camp are whether there is a definitive place for Evan Turner with the 76ers, whether DeMarcus Cousins can become the next riddle solved by the Kings, if the Grizzlies will screw it up again, with this contract hard line with Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez, and whether Tiago Splitter sends a message from San Antonio that sometimes it is worth the wait with foreign prospects who bide their time overseas.
At this time last year: There was not a single trade transacted in the league in September 2009.
At this time this year: The likelihood is teams again first take stock in camp before any moves. But the Rudy Fernandez situation in Portland is not going away. And can the Wizards truly get restarted with Gilbert Arenas in place to remind them of how it all went so sour last season? Then there is the reality that Larry Brown already has attempted to move Boris Diaw once this offseason. For that matter, the time may have come for Erick Dampier and his non-guaranteed 2010-11 contract to be sent packing, rather than creating any impression in camp that Charlotte actually cares about him as a player.
Beyond all of that is Carmelo, and what could be one of the most uncomfortable camps in the league if clarity isn't created with the Nuggets.
Rarely has September been a time for NBA trades. This year, though, could prove to be an exception.