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Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

 If the upcoming season in the National Basketball Association is as eventful as the off-season, it should be quite a 76th year of professional hoops. 
 To recap some of the highlights
 *Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant requested a trade at the beginning of the free agent signing period which sent shockwaves throughout the league. Eventually, Durant and the Nets reconciled and he will be in Brooklyn this season.
 *Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver announced his intentions of selling the team after an investigation uncovered his history of racist, sexist and misogynistic behavior. 
  *Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka was suspended for the season after being embroiled in a scandal due to an improper workplace relationship within the organization. Udoka was just coming off an impressive debut season as he guided the Celtics to a berth in the NBA Finals.
 *The world champion Golden State Warriors were embroiled in their own controversy when veteran forward Draymond Green punched teammate and up and coming star Jordan Poole during a practice session.
 As the new season begins on Tuesday night, all eyes will be on the Warriors, who have set themselves up for quite a run of success for years to come after winning the championship last season. Individually, all eyes will be on Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who is poised to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA's all-time leading scorer sometime this season.
 One of the big storylines that I will be following this season are the number of playoff contending teams that are welcoming back top players from the injured list. The success of these teams hinges on the health of these star players.
 In 2020, the Lakers won the NBA championship with standout forward Anthony Davis playing a starring role. In the past two seasons, Davis has been besieged by injuries and the Lakers have suffered with a first-round playoff exit in 2021 and not making the playoffs at all last season.
 The Los Angeles Clippers were without the services of All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard for the entire 2022 season with a knee injury. Any hopes of the Clippers making a run at the NBA title hinge on a healthy return by Leonard to his All-Star form.
 The Denver Nuggets rode the talents of MVP center Nikola Jokic to the playoffs last season. However, without the services of standout guard Jamal Murray and young stud forward Michael Porter, Jr., the Nuggets were eliminated in the first round by the Warriors. Murray is coming back from a knee injury and Porter is coming back from a back injury.
 In his one healthy season in the league, Zion Williamson averaged 27 points a game in 2021. However, Willamson has been plagued by injuries and weight issues since entering the league. Zion looks healthy and in good shape entering the season. If healthy, he will join a New Orleans Pelicans team that made the playoffs and extended the No. 1 seed Phoenix Suns to six games. The Pelicans could be one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference if Zion has a season of good health.
 The hopes of a repeat championship by the Milwaukee Bucks were dashed when All-Star guard Khris Middleton went down with a knee injury in the first round of the playoffs last season. Middleton is still on the mend and his return to complete health is a must for the Bucks, if they are to win a very competitive Eastern Conference.
 The Boston Celtics made an off-season trade for excellent guard Malcom Brogdon, who comes over from the Indiana Pacers. Brogdon averaged 19 points a game last season and can provide that point guard play to possibly help the Celtics take that final step in the playoffs. The main issue is Brogdon's health as he's only played more than 60 games twice in his six-year career. A healthy Brogdon makes the Celtics even better than last year's league runner-up.
 The Chicago Bulls were having an excellent season and rolling along as a 3-4 playoff seed before they lost the services of point guard Lonzo Ball to a knee injury. Lonzo was having the best season of his career and the Bulls flourished, but without him they limped into the playoffs and were eliminated in the first round by the Bucks. He is still on the mend and his good health is needed for the Bulls to battle those heavyweights in the East.
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