Still the beginning for some, NBA preseason nears its end

An NBA preseason that’s just beginning for some players is already ending for others.

Gregg Popovich...“Fortunately everybody’s in the same boat, so there’s nobody ahead of anybody else.” - AP

A preseason that’s just beginning for some players is already ending for others.

James Harden suited up in Houston for only the second time, with newcomer Christian Wood getting his first - and only - action. The Rockets’ game on Thursday against San Antonio was the finale of their four-game exhibition slate, so the rest of their preparation for the regular season will have to come in practices.

That’s not ideal for a rookie coach such as Stephen Silas, but it isn’t much easier even for a veteran like the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, whose team was playing its last of three games.

“I would think any coach would say he’s said he was more ready in the past,” Popovich said.

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Before, there was more time between the opening of training camps and the start of the regular season, more opportunities to schedule games. This time, with everything shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic, four tune-up games is all anyone could get, and some opted for only half that.

Popovich said that’s prevented coaches from putting in all the schemes they want, and Silas was more concerned with keeping his players healthy than strategy, anyway. He rested newcomers DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall.

Wall’s old team, Washington Wizards, got Bradley Beal on the floor for the first time but is still waiting to see Russell Westbrook, who was swapped for Wall.

Preseason play ends on Saturday after barely a week of action. Coaches will then have just a couple days from there to finalise rosters before real games begin.

“Fortunately everybody’s in the same boat, so there’s nobody ahead of anybody else,” Popovich said.

Thursday’s games

PISTONS 97, WIZARDS 86

At Washington, Josh Jackson scored 17 points off the bench for Detroit.

Jerami Grant scored 15 points and Delon Wright added 13 as the Pistons (2-1) led by as much as 26 points.

Beal scored 10 points in 16 minutes. Troy Brown Jr. led Washington (0-2) with 14 points.

At Orlando, Florida, Terry Rozier scored 20 points and rookie LaMelo Ball came off the bench to add 18 more.

Devonte’ Graham also had 18 for the Hornets (1-2), while Miles Bridges finished with 17. Charlotte made 18 3-pointers, with Ball and Graham knocking down four apiece.

Nikola Vucevic had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic. Markelle Fultz added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.