Is it presumptuous to assess a meaningless preseason game's overarching impact on the start of the season?
But in the NBA, preseason games can offer a team an idea of its own identity. Preseason games can tell a team whether or not they'll be as good as people think. And they provide teams with new ideas and strategies in regards to how to game plan for future matchups.
Three games stand out in particular. It doesn't matter who wins and who loses games, but they provide important insight as to how well the stars play and how the new faces adjust to their surroundings.
Plus, it's never too early to get some bad blood out of the way.
Boston Celtics at Philadelphia 76ers
This game would be plenty intriguing even if there weren't loads of new players on both sides. The fact that the Celtics and Sixers went seven games in the playoffs last year is enough to create an intense environment in this preseason game at the Wells Fargo Center.
Of more importance than the rivalry is the injection of new stars into the mix. Andrew Bynum migrated from the West Coast to join Philly, giving the Sixers a new star to build around after the departure of fan favorite Andre Iguodala. Bynum adds size to a team that is lacking beef in the middle, considering that Elton Brand is gone as well.
The Sixers might not be a contender yet, but they have the pieces in place. Guys like Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner will benefit from the double teams that Bynum will command and Philly will try to improve on its unremarkable offensive output from last season.
On the other side, the Celtics have reloaded with the likes of Jason Terry and the return of Jeff Green. This team was already pretty good, and have added fresh talent to give the aging core new life.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are still above-average players. All that matters now is that the bench steps up and gives the Celtics a chance to win a title. A dominant showing against Philly in the preseason could help their confidence.
Memphis Grizzlies at Chicago Bulls
The Grizzlies are coming off another solid year and look to continue their success in 2012-13. O.J. Mayo is gone and the Grizzlies will still have problems shooting the ball, but any team with a front court combo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will be competitive. Add Rudy Gay to the mix and you have a solid three-star set that could challenge many teams.
But the significance of this preseason game has more to do with Chicago than anything else. Since star point guard Derrick Rose is out for quite a while, recovering from his ACL injury, the Bulls will have to scrap and claw their way into playoff position without their No. 1 scorer.
This team can make the playoffs without Rose, in part to their superb defense. Guys like Joakim Noah (who is vastly underrated in terms of his actual value to the team) and Luol Deng can lead this team to 47-50 wins, but the return of Rose is a must in order to compete for a championship.
This game will allow us to see how well the Bulls can play together without their star.
Miami Heat at Los Angeles Clippers
Lob City and Titletown will convene for what promises to be as exciting a preseason game as possible. If you want to watch high-flying, fast-paced basketball, here's where you can get your fix.
But look past the slam dunks and alley-oops. There's some real importance in this matchup. For the second year in a row, pundits are crowning the Heat champions before the season has even started. This will probably bother the Clippers' a bit, and after an early postseason exit last year you can be sure the Clips' will come out ready to prove to the league that they are for real.
With guys like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers are no doubt working their way toward being considered among the NBA's elite. But against a team like the Heat, elite doesn't cut it. You have to be near perfect to beat Miami, and this game could go a long way in showing us whether or not the Clippers will consistently compete against the upper echelon teams of the association.
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