While Kawhi, Klay wait, Zion wants to be back opening night

While Kawhi, Klay wait, Zion wants to be back opening night

Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson know it will be a while before they can get back onto the court.

Zion Williamson wants to do it on opening night.

The New Orleans forward had offseason surgery to repair a broken bone in his right foot but said he has been working with the trainer every day in hopes of not missing any time.

“I expect to be back for the first game,” Williamson said.

Pelicans executive David Griffin said that timeline is possible, though there isn't one yet for some other NBA superstars.

Leonard had surgery to repair a partial tear of the ACL in his right knee on July 13. Until he returns, he plans to “try to make myself as relevant as possible” while being confined to the sideline.

Thompson has missed the last two seasons, first with a torn ACL and then a torn right Achilles tendon. The latter happened last November and the Golden State guard said it would be at least a year from then before he's able to return.

He knows he's finally getting close.

“The worst is far, far behind me,” Thompson said.

MONEY TALKS

Bradley Beal was coy about the possibility of signing a new contract with the Washington Wizards. For now, his focus is on getting off to a good start this season.

“We worry about the contract and the money and all that later,” he said. “I’ve got all year to sign it too, so I’m not in a rush.”

Another high-scoring guard, Zach LaVine, has similar thoughts in Chicago.

He would be eligible for a supermax deal if he is All-NBA in 2021-22. Either way, he is in a good spot entering the final season of his four-year, $80 million contract.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said the Bulls want to keep LaVine, but the Olympic gold medalist isn't looking that far ahead.

“My plan is, tomorrow, get ready for training camp,” LaVine said. “Get ready for the season and try to help these guys win, just like everybody else. I’m not worried about my contract right now. That will be a point in time in the future.”

TO THE POINT

Derrick Rose is a former NBA MVP who was the starter for the New York Knicks when last season ended.

Now he's a backup again.

Rose said Monday that newcomer Kemba Walker will be the point guard on the floor when the Knicks begin.

“Oh, he’s starting." Rose said.

Rose came off the bench in all but three of his 35 games after joining the Knicks last season, finishing third in voting for the NBA's Sixth Man Award.

He moved into the starting lineup for the final three games of the Knicks' playoff loss to Atlanta, then re-signed to stay with the Knicks and Tom Thibodeau, his former coach in Chicago.

Walker, a New York native who joined the Knicks in the offseason, seemed to be taken aback when told of Rose’s comments about being the starter.

’I wouldn’t know about that. I don’t know yet,” Walker said. “But that’s pretty cool. For me, I’ve always been a huge D-Rose fan. Regardless starting, not starting, whatever.”

WALL'S ROLE

As the Houston Rockets attempt to find a trade destination for John Wall, he’s focused on helping the team any way he can.

"My job here is to be a mentor,” Wall said.

The veteran isn’t expected to play for the Rockets while they search for a trade for the guard. General manager Rafael Stone said they aren’t looking to buy out Wall’s contract but want to find a suitable trade.

“We’re looking at what can we find that works for everybody … for the long term,” Stone said.

Wall said it will be “very tough” not to play while the Rockets find him a new team, but he knows that this plan is what’s best for him.

HAYWARD'S HEALTH

Gordon Hayward said he feels 100% and is ready to get back on the floor for the Charlotte Hornets after missing the final five weeks of the 2020-21 season with a sprained right foot.

Hornets coach James Borrego said the team will manage Hayward's workload to help him make it through an 82-game regular season.

“He looks great, feels great, his body is in great shape, physically he is ready to go,” Borrego said. “... Will he play 82 games? I don’t know. We will have to figure that out as we go. There is a plan in place for him, we are working on that right now and we are talking through that, and it will be a week-to-week basis of how we manage him.”

The Hornets were in fourth place in the Eastern Conference last season on April 3 before Hayward went down. They wound up finishing in 10th place in the conference and were blown out by the Indiana Pacers in the play-in game.

BEARD'S BLAME

James Harden reported late for his last preseason in Houston and it may have contributed to an injury-shortened first postseason in Brooklyn.

“I kind of blame last year on myself because I’m usually prepared physically, mentally,” Harden said. “Last year was just draining in a sense of all the stuff that was going on, so I didn’t have the right mindset and preparation for an entire season.”

The Rockets granted Harden's wish for a trade to Brooklyn on Jan. 14. He played near the level that won him an MVP award in Houston but then was limited to just three games after March because of hamstring injuries.

He was hurt again in Game 1 of the second round against Milwaukee. Harden missed the next three games and struggled when he returned as the Nets lost in seven games.

“Usually I’m very, very durable and I’m able to handle anything that comes my way for the most part,” Harden said. “So last year was kind of tricky, it was kind of weird.”

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