When will Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose, seen here in September signing his first pair of adidas D Rose 3 signature shoes for 13-year-old Bulls fan Ahmad Harb, return to action? This is just one of the many storylines NBA fans can watch for in 2012-13. (Photo : Reuters)
In what is shaping up to be a compelling, drama-filled season for the NBA-which kicks off the 2012-13 season on Oct. 30-here are even more major storylines hoops fans will have on their minds, just in case the last list wasn't enough:
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1. Countdown to "The Return"; Derrick Rose's road to recovery
By now, we've all seen the commercials from Adidas recapping an agonized Rose clutching his left knee during the opening round of the top-seeded Chicago Bulls' playoff round against the lowly eight-seeded Philadelphia 76ers last spring.
Since then, the Bulls star and former league MVP has been undergoing grueling rehab as he works to return to top form and lead an otherwise strong Chicago team towards the playoffs.
However, as Rose himself told ESPN recently, it is more likely that the superstar point guard will return when he's good and ready to go.
Former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway, who rehabbed the same injury Rose suffered during his playing days, told ESPN in September that Rose shouldn't rush his return.
"I'd just rather have him take his time, so he can be 100 percent, because he's like me, running and jumping," Hardaway told ESPNNewYork.com.
But even with the talents of Carlos Boozer, Loul Deng and Joakim Noah, just how long can the Bulls hold up without their top scorer and playmaker? If last season's stunning first-round exit at the hands of the Sixers is any indication, then a Rose-less Bulls squad is in trouble
"I just don't know how they're going to score as long as Rose is sidelined," said Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen. " Who will create the easy shots for teammates?"
2. When will Ricky Rubio return?
The Former Spanish ACB star took the league by storm last season with a stellar year that saw Rubio- averaging 10.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals- finish second in voting only to Cleveland's Kyrie Irving for Rookie of the Year honors.
But a March 9 regular season game collision with Kobe Bryant-which ended up tearing Rubio's left ACL-prematurely ended his year.
Even with a talented core consisting of All-Star forward Kevin Love, center Nikola Pekovic and forward Derrick Williams, the Wolves struggled after Rubio went down to injury, finishing with a 5-20 win-loss record post March 9.
Now, the star point guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves is reporting that his rehab from reconstructive knee surgery is on schedule, but he is still unsure of when T-Wolves fans can mark down a return date for their beloved new star.
"I'm trying to do as much things as I can do. They have to stop me sometimes because I want to do more. Sometimes it's bad for my knee to do more," Rubio told the Associated Press in September at the team's practice facility.
3. How far can a young, talented Pacers team go?
Like the Who song says, the kids are all right.
Better than alright-they're downright scary.
A talented-and young-Indiana Pacers squad consisting of All- Star Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, Paul George and George Hill raised a lot of eyebrows during the semifinals last season when they took a 2-to-1 edge on the eventual champion Miami Heat at one point in the best-of-seven series.
And despite the loss of Larry Bird at the team president's helm, the respected Donnie Walsh takes the helm for the team as the Pacers aim to stun the league and win big in the playoffs.
But with no significant offseason acquisitions, only time will tell if they can keep up in a competitive Eastern Conference containing a champion Heat, a retooled Knicks squad and a still-dangerous Boston Celtics team.
4. How long can the Boston Celtics last?
Time is not the friend of the green gang from Beantown. And neither was free agency, as the Celtics took the stinging blow of losing once-beloved shooter Ray Allen to the Heat-the same team that bounced them in seven games from the Eastern Conference Finals.
With stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce not getting any younger, this could truly be the last hurrah for the Celtics as they currently stand, despite multi-talented point guard Rajon Rondo leading the way.
However, if Saturday's narrow loss against the Knicks is any indication, there may be hope in Boston's young crop of rookies. Jared Sullinger, Jamar Smith, Micah Downs, Kris Joseph, and Dionte Christmas held their own against a veterans Knicks team, who were taken to the limit before squeaking out an overtime win.
""When we make the big plays and we look at the bench and everybody's just sitting down, clapping, it's whatever. But when you see those guys, the leaders of our team, standing up and just rooting us on, even if we make mistakes," said Christmas to ESPN Boston after the game. "We went to the bench and Kev and all those guys came over and said, 'That's over. You five on the court, get it together.' We were down six with three minutes left, and the game wasn't over, and we end up making it go to overtime. And just from those guys having that confidence in us, that made us have super confidence. So that right there said a lot, not to just us, but the team as a unit."
If Saturday's game is an indication of things to come from this crop of young Celtics stars, there might still be some fight in the Celtics left yet.
Whether that fight can lead them to one more great postseason run is anyone's guess.
5. Will speculation of a move to Anaheim distract the Sacramento Kings?
Since 1985, the Kings have been a part of Sacramento. But that time could be drawing to a close, according to reports last year that Kings ownership-the Maloof family-wants to take the franchise to Anaheim.
Amid that speculation, Kings stars DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thorton are leading the charge on a Kings squad loaded with athleticism, but short on defense.
Despite last year's dismal 22-44 record, Cousins told the Washington Post that there is a new change in the attitude of the Kings-one geared towards winning.
"We have a different mindset, a more winning mindset," Cousins said. "Just our confidence, I believe that is there as well. I felt like, I can't really speak for everybody else, but we'd come in with the 'what if' or 'you-don't-really-know' mindset. But definitely a winning mindset this year."