Pero Antic: Ready for his (NBA) closeup

Though the NBA’s opening night went down yesterday (North America time), the far majority of teams in the Association has yet to tip things off. What better time then, to enumerate 10 or so storylines BallinEurope will be following in 2013-14?

(That was a rhetorical question.)

Right, then. Here’s what we’re looking at in the NBA season to come.

• Tony Parker and his French Foreign Legion. The San Antonio Spurs, who first dipped into international talent when they drafted that guy from the Virgin Islands back in 1999, added yet another non-North American this offseason to go with Parker, Nando de Colo, Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter et al in Marco Belinelli. The thought here surely is for the Western Conference champs to supplement shooting off the wing and supplement they shall.

Meanwhile, pundits aplenty (all the way up to Bill and Jalen” over at Grantland.com) wonder openly about the psychological effect of heartbreaking losses in game six and seven of last year’s finals. BiE’d say that this ain’t no ordinary team and despite never having been in this position (i.e. as the previous year’s runner-up) to start a season, the Spurs’ll shrug it off. What cannot be so easily brushed aside is ol’ Father Time, who’s clearly gaining on Ginobili and surely must be sneaking up on Tim Duncan…

• Marcin Gortat’s fortunes on the Wizards. As part of an all-out – and possibly bald-faced – salary dump/preparation to tank for the draft lottery, the Phoenix Suns dumped The Polish Hammer in the eleventh hour to a suddenly impressive-looking Washington side. Gortat brings weaponry in the low post and mobility to big-man pick-and-rolls that D.C. hasn’t seen in their recent dark age. As the Pole provides, here’s to thinking John Wall is gonna like this big guy a lot before the season’s up.

• Andrea Bargnani in New York. Some maintain that the former no. 1 draft pick was simply in a bad situation in Toronto and that playing for a team loaded with shooters, e.g. the Knicks, is his best possible career move. Of course, then we may observe that Bargnani was “good” for sub-.350 shooting in five exhibition games. We’ll soon know for sure…

• The new-look Brooklyn Nets, a.k.a. CSKA USA. With all the hype on the former Celtics and former Beşiktaş PG Deron Williams, one of BiE’s main men again flies under the radar. Throughout their storied careers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have never had this kind of third option simply because *there is no third option like Andrei Kirilenko*. Here’s to thinking the AK-47 may be in competition for sixth man of the year in 2013-14. We’re also interested to see if Mirza Teletovic can stick and how Kirilenko’s secret Russia-based nickel mine, presumably part of the low-ball contract signing with compatriot Mikhail Prokhorov does profit-wise…

• Pero Antic’s NBA debut. This one’s included for editor-in-chief Emmet, who could well be Antic’s biggest fan outside of FYR Macedonia.

• The Eurowolves, of course, but especially Peks. BiE’s favorite signing in the off-season may have been the simple reinking of Nikola “General Non” Pekovic to a deal in Minnesota – though the “delay” was likely what kept the man out of Eurobasket 2013. After signing his shiny new five-year deal, we’re thinking Peks is ready to re-form the embryonic Big Three we caught in tiny glimpses last season in a race for a lower playoff spot in the Western Conference. Additionally, we suspect the Rubio-Pekovic tandem to form the cornerstone for the Timberwolves going forward; the only question is how far out the door Kevin Love is…

• The European troika in Houston. Whoa, when did these guys get so Continental? Don’t look now, but the Rockets’ rotation will likely include three European names among its top, say, seven in minutes played – and each with a different relationship to the club. Somehow keeping Omer Asik happy could prove a challenge after the Turk was rather outspoken – or as outspoken as he gets – in response to the acquisition of Dwight Howard, but light shines at the end of the tunnel (and we don’t necessarily mean the NBA trade deadline).

How so? Well, Donatas Motiejunas appears to be Houston’s main viable option as a natural PF after the yoyo treatment last season and an impressive preseason; behind him is fellow former Rio Grande Valley Viper Terrence Jones, without question this team’s biggest question mark. Figure to see a lot of permutations in the frontcourt featuring Asik, Howard, plus Omri Casspi (who also turned in some nice preseason play for the Rockets) and Chandler Parsons in stretch-four roles.

• Pau Gasol in a contract year. Not only is the onus on Pau to pick up the go-to scoring slack with Kobe Bryant out to start the season (unless of course the emergence of Xavier Henry is what Mike D’Antoni had in mind all summer), but somewhere in the back of his mind Gasol The Elder is surely aware that summer 2014 will mark his last chance for a truly lucrative payday. And plus we’re anxious to see to where he moves before the trade deadline. No, seriously, this time the Buss will certainly move him.

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