We're aching for the 2016-17 NBA Season to tip-off. And from what we've been hearing and seeing around the Association, the players are going through the same thing. A huge factor that's charging up the league's brightest talents are the personal missions each of them has set out to accomplish this time. From a bunch of eye-catching headlines, we deciphered the soundbites shared by some of the NBA's hottest commodities to find out what (or who) is it that they're really gunning for come game-time. Continue reading below and have a clearer picture of what's in store for all of us, basketball-crazy people.
James Harden Will Play as Houston Rockets’ Full-Time Point Guard (Bleacher Report)
James Harden: "My teammates trust me to make the right decision whether it's scoring or whether it's making a play. We have a lot of guys who are more than capable to create and knock down shots and that's what is going to open our floor. A lot more guys are going to get open shots left and right."
What he's actually saying: "I've got no choice but to be this team's floor general. I've been practically doing it since I've been in Houston. It's only now that they're making it official. There's no other superstar here aside from me. I hope my old and new teammates would knock it down when I get the ball to them."
Coach Mike D'Antoni isn't really doing anything new in assigning full ball handling duties to Harden. Like in the past seasons, The Bearded One will have the ball 101 percent of the time during offensive sets as he tries to churn out a basket for H-Town. Now, what he's really wishing for is that Trevor Ariza and his new friends, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon would be efficient enough shooters to help him out more in getting buckets. The new-look Rockets, led by their new "PG" might have more firepower this season, but don't bet on them to be at par with the top teams in the West.
Warriors now focused on chasing rings, not records (Yahoo Sports!)
Stephen Curry: "Our expectations are really, really high, which they should be. And we just have to kind of just get wrapped up in it. Like I say every year on this day, you can't fast forward to April to the playoffs. You've got to stay in the moment. So for us that's even more important with the changes that we made."
What he's actually saying: "It sucks we still have to play 82 games before the playoffs. But, hey, we're going to kick ass in the regular season. We just can't wait for our Finals rematch with the Cavs. Now that we've got a monster in KD rolling with us, let's see what happens."
Don't be fooled by Steph's baby face. He's one bad man when it comes to competing. So, given that it's impossible that his and the Dubs' monumental collapse in last season's finals has ceased to haunt him, his primary objective must be to get back at the Cavaliers and finally erase the painful memory. With The Durantula backing up the Splash Brothers, a healthy Warriors team might just win the rubber match against the defending champions.
Russell Westbrook on Kevin Durant: 'I haven't talked to him' (ESPN)
This was quick response to when he was asked on Media Day to comment on a recent KD interview. When he was further pressed on the matter...
Russel Westbrook: "It's not the same. Just missing Kevin, Dion [Waiters], Serge [Ibaka], been with Serge, the same amount of time. Different guys, but I'm happy, ready to start camp with the new guys and embrace the moment."
What he's actually saying: "I was a triple-double machine last year, sharing the leadership role with Kevin. Imagine what I can do now as the sole main man of the team. Let's fast-forward to the regular season and get down to business."
We just can't believe Russell's modest words at the press conference. He's just too much of a competitor for such niceties. In is mind, he must be raring to set the league ablaze and burn KD and the Warriors along his way. With his new responsibility as the Thunder's undisputed top dog, he's a clear-cut frontrunner to win the MVP plum this coming season.
Get ready for Year 2 of Kristaps Prozingis: 'You're going to see some new stuff' (CBS Sports)
Kristaps Porzingis: "My ball handling is better now. My legs have gotten much stronger. And I'm able to, when I'm driving, I'm able to stay lower. Defensively I can be lower and quick on my feet. You're going to see some new stuff and hopefully some more put-back dunks."
What he's actually saying: "I've improved a lot from my rookie year. You'll see me with more power, better balance and I'll be a much more solid playmaker. Hopefully, Carmelo will trust me more and maybe step back a little to let me take over at times."
There's no doubt that we'll see an all-new improved Kristaps Porzingis. He's a 21-year-old, 7'3" big with the skillset of a guard. It's difficult to put a ceiling on what he could become. The Knicks' current alpha male Carmelo Anthony, however, might not be ready to pass the torch to KP just yet. With a stellar showing at the Rio Games, Melo may feel that he's still "the man" in New York.
Paul George to LeBron James: 'I'm Ready for You' (SLAMonline)
Paul George: "I'm ready for you. I'm a veteran. I know you, you know me. Let's meet here, let's get this job done. I'm prepared. I've had time to figure this out. I've had time to lick my wounds. I'm ready."
What he's actually saying: "I know it will be tough, but LeBron has to know that he also has me to worry about. I want to compete with KD and Steph, too."
Coming off a horrific injury, it's amazing to see PG 13 emerge as an MVP contender last season. It's not hard to imagine that he'll look even more impressive this year. Opening up about challenging LBJ and the other superstars of the NBA is probably his way of motivating himself to continue his climb towards becoming the best basketball player he can be. Plus, knowing that Indiana has now a beefed up squad, after landing Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson, has probably prodded George to speak with a lot of bravado.
LeBron James' 'personal goal' is to surpass Michael Jordan as the NBA's greatest (FOX Sports)
LeBron James: "It's a personal goal. I just never brought it up. It's my own personal goal to be able to be greater than great."
What he's actually saying: "I know talking about surpassing what MJ has done might sound blasphemous. But I'm in a position to do it. And I'll use my God-given talent to try and make it happen. That's been my belief since I was young and it's worked for me."
Win three more titles plus another MVP trophy, and LeBron should never be excluded in any discussion that talks about naming the NBA's greatest player ever. At 31 years old, hauling in the league's most prized hardware in bulk isn't far-fetched. King James' body of work has definitely earned him the right to be mentioned in the same breath as the greatest ballers of all-time. We're not going to get mad at him for aiming to get to the top.
Derrick Rose 'not worried' about rape allegations, LAPD investigation (USA TODAY)
Derrick Rose: "I haven't been thinking about it. I've been thinking about the team more than anything—how I gel with the team. I'm getting used to the players and just getting used to the organization."
What he's actually saying: "What in James Naismith's name is going on? The hell with this, I'll use basketball as an escape."
It's unfortunate that the 27-year-old former MVP is in a tough and pretty serious predicament right now. All he can do about the rape charges against him is to sit back and wait. He'll basically have to leave his fate to his lawyers. He's got no recourse other than to focus on basketball. Hopefully, his knees will hold up, literally and figuratively.
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