Tag:Dwight Howard
Posted on: October 14, 2010 12:55 am
 

NBA's new rule causes technical difficulties

NEW YORK – Last season, the Celtics had one of the most gifted technical-foul accumulators in NBA history on their roster. With 14 techs, Rasheed Wallace was one behind teammate Kendrick Perkins and the Magic’s Dwight Howard for the league lead.

So after pushing the limits of on-court indecency on their way to the NBA Finals, the Celtics now have the equally impressive distinction of defining how quick a tech trigger is too quick under the league’s crackdown on griping about calls. On Wednesday night, Jermaine O’Neal discovered that under these rules, pillow talk can get you T’d up.

O’Neal was called for a foul while defending Knicks center Timofey Mozgov with 4:39 left in the second quarter of the Celtics’ 104-101 victory. O’Neal described the following exchange with official Zach Zarba.

“I walked up to him and he said, ‘Jermaine, walk away,’” O’Neal said. “I said, ‘I can’t talk to you now?’ Just like that. Soft, bedroom voice. And he gave me a tech. … To me, that’s too quick. Way too quick.”

Seconds later, noted loudmouth Kevin Garnett was whistled for a tech by referee Kane Fitzgerald, and then for another one, resulting in an ejection. Those two extremes, seconds apart in a preseason game played just a few city blocks from NBA headquarters, highlighted the problem David Stern has with his latest attempt to sanitize the league.

“I see what the league is trying to do with the consistent talking to the refs all the way down the court,” O’Neal said. “I can understand that aspect of it. But when guys walk up and ask, ‘What did I do?’ We should be able to do that.”

Officials from the NBA’s officiating department were on hand for the Knicks-Celtics game Wednesday night to explain the new threshold for technical fouls to the media. I got the shpiel last week in Miami, and this is my interpretation: What Garnett did certainly warranted two techs and an ejection. What O’Neal did warranted an explanation and that’s it.

This is what the NBA is wrestling with on the eve of its most anticipated season of the post-Jordan era. Stern went after the players with a dress code years ago, and he’s got the barber sheers out for all the haircuts owners have in mind for players in collective bargaining. Now, Stern is out to strip the players of more control by stopping the constant bickering about calls. If anything is more inherent to basketball than complaining about calls, I don’t know what it is. But this is where we are.

Until both players and referees adjust to Stern’s latest new world order, we have a mess – a needless controversy of the NBA’s own making, as if the league isn’t good enough at unintended controversy and conspiratorial hooey, especially when it comes to the officiating.

“It’s going to make it look like it’s about the officials,” O’Neal said.

Zarba, Fitzgerald and Kevin Fehr were on a roll Wednesday night, as if they were the Big Three everybody came to see. But it isn’t their fault. According to O’Neal, the look in the officials’ eyes after dishing out four techs to O’Neal, Garnett and Mozgov in a matter of minutes was, “I’m just doing my job.”

And they weren’t the only ones. I counted 12 techs in seven preseason games Wednesday night. I didn’t go to the videotape, but I’m willing to bet that a good number wouldn’t have been techs a year ago.

“I think they’re going to have to take a second look and see how it affects the games and especially the stars,” the Celtics’ Paul Pierce said. “You know people pay good money to come out and see the stars play. Even though we have to play by the rules, I think there has to be some kind of leniency. When a guy turns and just looks at you for a technical, that can cost you a game. That can cost you a player coming out of the game. I think that’s something they’re going to have to look at real hard. This is an emotional game and players are going to use emotion and that’s not going to stop.”

There is a middle ground to be found here, and it isn’t Pierce’s position. (It certainly isn’t Celtics Hall of Fame announcer Tommy Heinsohn’s .) But whatever it is, someone had better find it before the story of Miami’s dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is overwhelmed by the story of technical fouls.

“Our research shows that fans think NBA players complain too much,” NBA vice president Stu Jackson said on a recent conference call. Just wait until they find out what fans think after watching highlight after highlight of players getting T’d up and tossed during the first week of the regular season.

This is the way Joe Borgia, the NBA’s vice president of referee operations, explained it in the media seminar held last week prior to the Heat’s preseason opener in Miami. Demonstrative and continuous displays of emotion will not be tolerated under the new rules. Players will be allowed to display emotion in the heat of the moment, as long as it isn’t over the top – and as long as they get under control and walk away. To drive home the point, the league has raised the fines for technicals, too.

But Borgia also said that give-and-take between players and refs would be allowed to continue in a civilized way. In other words, what O’Neal did Wednesday night should have been allowed. If a player simply is asking for an explanation of a call, he is supposed to be entitled to the explanation. Just no follow-up questions, and no aggressive displays of emotion.

Pretty simple. But to no one’s surprise, neither the players nor the refs understand where the line is yet. That’s a sign that the line needs to be moved.

“I think officials will have a better feel on it,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “J.O., I was very surprised because he never raised his voice. He didn’t walk away, but it wasn’t anything demonstrative. We’re going to figure it out; it’s just going to take some time. When you talk to the officials, they don’t get it yet. They’re trying to figure it out. It’ll get figured out by Game 1.”

There was an effort a couple of years ago to crack down on the players’ excessive complaining. It was a story for a while, and then things went back to business as usual. With the players wielding all the control in free agency this past summer, and with a potentially ugly CBA fight under way, the days of zero tolerance are here.

The players will adjust. Once they do, the refs will give them more leeway. There has to be give-and-take. Every call and non-call on an NBA court can be debated and reviewed all night. Some disagreement is OK, if done respectfully. A lot of it isn’t OK, and that’s the part Stern is trying to get his referees to eradicate.

“It’s about all of us,” Rivers said. “It’s not just the officials. It’s the players and the coaches. We’ve got to keep trying to make this a better product. And so if people smarter than me have decided that this is what we need to do, then we need to do it and we need to adhere to it. I don’t think it’s that hard.”

No, it shouldn’t be. And ultimately, it won’t be. As long as what you're seeing so far in the preseason isn't the norm.
Posted on: September 12, 2010 5:13 pm
 

Odom, Billups deserve to be rewarded

The revelation of the world championships, quite obviously, was Kevin Durant. He did everything for Team USA -- did exactly what was required of a blossoming superstar who was asked to put his imprint on the world basketball stage.

So without a doubt, Durant will be suiting up for the 2012 Olympics in London, when some of the divas who passed on Turkey will be back to defend the gold medal attained by the Redeem Team in Beijing two years ago. But what became plainly apparent Sunday, as the United States ended a 16-year drought in the FIBA worlds by beating Turkey 81-64 for the gold medal, is that not all of those '08 Olympians will be assured of getting their spots back.

Far from it.

It's widely assumed that three spots will be available: those belonging to Jason Kidd, Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd. So as I plan out Mike Krzyzewski's Olympic roster before Team USA even gets to the airport, I say those spots should go to Durant, Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups.

When the Americans left U.S. soil as underdogs to Spain in the eyes of many, I felt that however this tournament played out, Odom and Billups deserved spots on the team for London. As good as Durant was, it's impossible to dismiss the championship pedigree Odom and Billups brought to this otherwise woefully inexperienced team. If nothing else, Odom and Billups deserve a spot as a reward for taking one for the country this summer. They stepped up and gave Jerry Colangelo and Coach K their commitments at a time when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were too busy working on their Twitter accounts, and while Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony were occupied with trying to get traded.

As far as tangible contributions, Billups didn't shine during the tournament. But no one should have a problem with him getting the Jason Kidd memorial roster spot in London for his experience and for his trouble this summer. As for Odom, who was brilliant in the gold-medal game with 15 points and 11 rebounds -- including a flurry of putbacks, 3-pointers and work-ethic baskets in the fourth quarter -- he earned a spot regardless. My pal Gregg Doyel still thinks Odom is a lackadaisical yo-yo ; I've always thought he was wrong about that, and that much was proven beyond any doubt in this tournament. Odom was huge for the U.S. It was no coincidence that the Naismith Trophy was handed first to Odom and Billups Sunday in Istanbul. They earned it. American basketball is all about pecking order, and they were right at the top of it, where they belonged.

But this so-called "B-Team" so far exceeded expectations from spots 1-12 that there will be precious little room for sentimentality when Colangelo and Krzyzewski assemble the Olympic roster in two years. Let's say I'm right and you start with Durant, Odom and Billups joining '08 Olympians James, Wade, Anthony, Paul, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. How do you make room for Derrick Rose (which Colangelo must)? How do you ignore the versatility and defensive intangibles offered by Russell Westbrook (which Colangelo shouldn't)? How do you snub Blake Griffin and Tyreke Evans (you probably can't)? What if John Wall is as good as we think he is (which he is)? What if Rajon Rondo wants to play (which he should)?

As the adage goes, these are some good problems for the Americans to have. A few short years after the embarrassment of bronze medals at the 2006 world championships and 2004 Olympics, USA Basketball is back. It was back in Beijing two summers ago with the Redeem Team. But really, this B-Team should be -- and will be -- remembered for driving home the point.

At a time when reputations and gold medals were on the line, the biggest American stars in the sport took a pass. Those who showed up and got the job done should be rewarded. More than a few, I predict, will be.

 
 

 

Posted on: June 30, 2010 2:01 am
 

Free-Agent Buzz

If you’re all LeBron-ed out … if you don’t care whether there was a free-agent summit or not … you’ve come to the right place. Here’s some free-agent news that has nothing to do with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh:

While those elite free agents prepare for an unmitigated frenzy set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, a certain gentle giant who’s a couple years away from any such courtship is quietly beginning to formulate a plan that he’d like management to execute. And it turns out that Dwight Howard, the most physically gifted big man in basketball, wants to team up with the most physical gifted little guy in basketball: Chris Paul.

On the eve of the most anticipated free-agent signing period since 1996, when Howard was 10 years old, the Magic center has formulated a short list of players he’d like GM Otis Smith to pursue this summer. No. 1 on the list, according to a person with close ties to Orlando management, is Hornets point guard Chris Paul.

Reports in the past week have noted that Orlando was one of several teams to inquire about Paul’s availability – mostly after CP3 was quoted as saying he’d be open to a trade if New Orleans wasn’t committed to investing in a championship-caliber roster. It turns out Smith was either prescient or had a pretty good idea of what acquisition would please Howard the most.

The idea of Paul tossing alley-oop passes to Howard is tantalizing, to say the least. But is it realistic? George Shinn, the Hornets’ lame-duck owner, issued a joint statement last week with prospective buyer Gary Chouest that reaffirmed the team’s commitment to building around Paul but didn’t rule out any avenues to improve the team. Whoever winds up owning the Hornets would prefer not to move Paul, a franchise cornerstone in every sense of the word. But financial and competitive realities – the Hornets won 37 games last season and are due to be a tax-paying team again in 2010-11 – have conspired to put all options on the table. Even trading Paul.

The Hornets have a point-guard-in-waiting, Darren Collison, who would mitigate the loss of Paul on the court, if not at the ticket office. Any team in the mix for Paul would have to agree to take back Emeka Okafor, scheduled to make $11.8 million next season and $53.2 million over the next for season. The last three seasons will come under a new collective bargaining agreement, in which owners are seeking to dramatically slash salaries. So the full magnitude of taking on such a contract is unknown at this point – but certainly not pleasant.

But one Western Conference executive called the scenario “plausible,” if nothing else because the Magic have shown themselves to have “deep, deep pockets,” the executive said.

To soften the blow from losing Paul, New Orleans would likely insist – and the Magic would agree – on the inclusion of Jameer Nelson in any such trade. Nelson was exposed as a liability in the Magic’s conference finals loss to the Celtics, but could bridge the gap to Collison with a cap-friendly contract that pays him $8.1 million in each of the next three seasons. The Magic have internally explored including Vince Carter in various trades they’re considering, sources say, but Carter’s $17.5 million salary next season might require a third team to get involved or force the Magic to explore another deal for him.

Another player on Howard’s short list, sources say, is Utah free agent Carlos Boozer, who would allow Howard to flourish as a defensive and rebounding force without having to handle the bulk of the scoring on the block, too. The capped-out Magic, of course, would have to acquire Boozer via a sign-and-trade arrangement. The Jazz might be enticed by Brandon Bass and free agent J.J. Redick, for starters.

As an aside, Howard and I obviously think alike. Some of you may recall the “Perfect Team” exercise I performed over several weeks during the 2009-10 season – putting together what I deemed to be the best possible roster that adhered to the $57.7 million salary cap. My center: Howard. My point guard: Paul. It’s not clear whether those two teaming up in Orlando would be perfection. But they would be formidable and fun to watch, for sure.

Here’s some more free-agent buzz with less than 24 hours to go before LeBron-a-Geddon:

• As the Knicks put the final touches on their pitch to James, unofficially scheduled for Thursday in Ohio, team president Donnie Walsh continues to ramp up efforts to trade Eddy Curry and his $11.3 million contract. The extra cap space that would be added to the Knicks’ $34.1 million would either facilitate the pursuit of three max free agents – a new wrinkle in the Knicks’ plan – or allow them to get two max players and retain unrestricted free agent David Lee. SI.com’s Ian Thomsen wrote that the Knicks plan to allow James to play fantasy GM on Thursday and choose his own sidekicks. The Knicks will suggest, SI.com reported, that James consider Atlanta free agent Joe Johnson as a better fit than Dwyane Wade, who like James is at his best when handling the ball the majority of the time. The problem with the plan, short of an unlikely salary dump of Curry’s contract, is all three free agents (James, another wing, and a power forward such as Chris Bosh or Amar’e Stoudemire) would have to accept significantly less than the max to fit into New York’s cap space. One rival executive described New York’s attempts to peddle Curry “a tough, tough sell,” and noted that the only way a team under the cap would be willing to absorb Curry is if Danilo Gallinari were included in the trade.

• While Miami completed the anticipated buyout of James Jones to creep closer to the space needed to combine two max free agents with Dwyane Wade, the Nets are on the verge of clearing more space with a buyout of forward Kris Humphries, sources say. If the Nets could trade Humphries’ $3.2 million contract to a team that’s under the cap, they’d achieve the coveted space to import two max free agents. But with no takers for Humphries so far, a mere buyout would require further housekeeping to secure the necessary space.

• There are strong indications that a decision could be coming by the end of the week from Doc Rivers on whether he’s stepping down as the Celtics coach or returning for another championship run – assuming Boston’s core will stay together. That’s an open question, and Rivers’ future and the potential return of free agents Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are as intertwined as they could be. Former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, who would be a strong candidate to replace Rivers if he steps down, had dinner with Donald Sterling Tuesday night to discuss the Clippers’ job for which he’s a finalist with former Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey.

Lakers assistant Brian Shaw leaving Cleveland without a job offer from the Cavs – while Byron Scott’s agent, Brian McInerney, was publicly congratulating him – provided the latest strange twist in the Cavs’ offseason. A person with knowledge of the situation said Tuesday that Shaw and the Cavs were entering the negotiating phase, but it’s not clear how that’s done without a job offer.

• Amar’e Stoudemire and his agent, Happy Walters, sat down with Suns owner Robert Sarver and coach Alvin Gentry in Los Angeles Tuesday in what sources described as a productive meeting aimed at keeping Stoudemire from opting out of his contract and hitting the free-agent market. It wasn’t clear if Sarver, who has taken on the role of conducting basketball business with GMs and agents after GM Steve Kerr and assistant David Griffin left the front office, increased his contract offer to the maximum. Either way, sources with knowledge of Stoudemire’s situation believe there’s a strong possibility that not even a max offer would keep him from opting out and testing the market with teams that have cap space, such as the Knicks, Nets, Bulls and Heat.
Posted on: June 28, 2010 1:11 am
Edited on: June 28, 2010 12:39 pm
 

Howard chooses Fegan as new agent (UPDATE)

Two months after parting ways with his agent, Dwight Howard has chosen a new one – Dan Fegan, who also landed No. 1 pick John Wall this summer.

Howard, 24, is at a crossroads in his career as the Magic try to surround him with the right kind of talent to begin winning championships. He also won’t be a free agent until after a new – and likely owner-friendly – collective bargaining agreement is adopted. Fegan’s second significant score of the summer solidified him as “one of the most powerful agents out there,” one team executive said upon hearing of the Howard addition Sunday. Fegan also is a well-versed participant in the ongoing CBA negotiations that could dramatically affect Howard’s on-court earning potential. Unlike this summer’s crop of free agents, who can land one more massive pay day under the current CBA, Howard and other young stars face uncertainty as owners aim to take a substantial bite out of the salaries paid to the highest-earning players.

“Dwight wanted to be represented in the CBA talks,” a person close to the Magic center said.

But what Howard was really looking for was an out-of-the-box, full-service and long-term approach to on- and off-court marketing, according to a one of Howard’s close advisors. Fegan also is now backed by the international clout and deep pockets of the French media giant Lagardere, which recently bought Fegan’s powerful BEST agency and renamed it Lagardere Unlimited.

“Dwight is an iconic superstar with an authentic brand and global appeal,” Fegan told CBSSports.com. “Of course, our team is ecstatic that he chose us.”

Howard parted ways in April with agent Aaron Goodwin, who had represented the All-Star center since he was selected No. 1 overall by the Magic in 2004. While Howard has been criticized for failing to develop his offensive game and for lacking the killer instinct to lead his team to titles, there is no doubting his marketability. In fact, one person with close ties to Howard said he was swayed by Fegan’s vision for following a strategy similar to agent Lon Rosen’s long-range plan for Magic Johnson when he played for the Lakers. A significant portion of Johnson’s career earnings have come from business relationships that Rosen helped him establish in the prime of his career, and they continue to pay off to this day. Rosen, also at Lagardere, will be part of the team representing Howard.

“I just felt that the marketing and agent team at Lagardere Unlimited was a great fit for executing my overall business plan,” Howard said in a statement to CBSSports.com.


Posted on: June 5, 2010 5:23 pm
 

Source: Thibodeau accepts Bulls' offer


LOS ANGELES -- Tom Thibodeau has accepted an offer to become head coach of the Bulls, a person with close ties to the Celtics assistant confirmed to CBSSports.com Saturday.

The news, first reported by the Chicago Tribune, comes as Thibodeau is preparing for Game 2 of the NBA Finals with Boston trailing the Lakers 1-0.

Thibodeau, 50, architect of the Celtics defense that contained Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard during Boston's unexpected return to the Finals for the second time in three years, is not permitted to speak with the media due to team policy that muzzles assistant coaches. But the person with knowledge of the agreement called his decision to leave the Celtics for the opportunity to be the head coach in Chicago -- a marquee franchise with a solid roster and cap space to add a max free agent -- "a no-brainer."

No official announcement will come from either team during the Finals.


 

Posted on: May 9, 2010 12:40 pm
 

O'Connor: Jazz prepared to pay tax again


With another playoff rout at the hands of the Lakers looming on Monday, the Utah Jazz find themselves in a familiar position. No organization has enjoyed more stability or embraced the same style of play for as long as the Jazz have under Jerry Sloan. And perhaps no top-tier team has fallen short in the postseason as much, either. 

Utah has endured only one losing season in Sloan’s 21 years on the Jazz bench and has earned a spot in the draft lottery only twice. Contrary to late owner Larry Miller’s past assertions that his team would never pay the NBA luxury tax, the Jazz made that commitment last summer when they matched Portland’s offer for restricted free agent Paul Millsap. The commitment was renewed when Sloan persuaded ownership not to trade Carlos Boozer on the last year of his contract at $12.7 million this season. 

Despite another playoff disappointment, GM Kevin O’Connor told CBSSports.com recently that the Jazz are prepared to be a tax-paying team next season, too. Whether that entails keeping Boozer, an unrestricted free agent, remains to be seen. But what’s clear is that the Jazz are at a unique crossroads for any franchise – venturing into the second round of the playoffs with a team that has won 50-plus game three of the past four seasons, and owning a lottery pick in the upcoming draft. 

By virtue of a trade with Phoenix, the Jazz own the Knicks’ first-round pick, which was conveyed to the Suns as part of Isiah Thomas’ ill-fated trade for Stephon Marbury in 2004. The Marbury trade continues to be the gift that keeps on giving in two proud Western Conference cities. The Suns used the resulting cap space to sign Steve Nash, who has led Phoenix to within one win of the conference finals. By virtue of the Knicks’ 29-53 record this season, the Jazz are slotted ninth in the lottery order with a 1.7 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick. 

Utah is 1-for-2 in its two most recent forays into the lottery. Coming off a 42-win season in 2003-04,O’Connor held out hope that he’d be able to land No. 1 pick Dwight Howard. He wound up with 14th pick Kris Humphries instead. After a 26-win season in ’04-’05, Utah got the third pick and drafted franchise centerpiece Deron Williams

“I think with the fact that we’ve only had one year with a losing season and were fortunate enough to get Deron Williams has really helped,” O’Connor said. 

With a playoff-ready roster, a lottery pick, and a commitment to capitalize on both by paying luxury tax again, O’Connor hopes he’ll be able to parlay that flexibility into a series of moves that finally will push the Jazz past the second round for the only the second time since Michael Jordan put a dagger in them in back-to-back NBA Finals more than a decade ago. 

“Larry had said at one point he’d never pay [luxury tax,” O’Connor said. “He said it a couple of times. But then he said, if we know that we’re going to have a very good team and it’s not for a long period of time, he certainly would expect to do that. I think it’s a commitment going forward. I don’t think it’s a commitment that we’ve broached yet. We need to see what the numbers are going to be and everything else. But I think we’ve proven already that we’re willing to pay it and I think the results have justified us paying it.” 

Portland’s offer sheet for Millsap was heavily front-loaded with a poison pill designed to force the Jazz to choke on the luxury-tax implications. Utah matched anyway, and Millsap’s salary declines from $10.3 million to $6.2 million next season. Boozer’s $12.7 million salary comes off the books, and there has been only one publicized discussion between O’Connor and Boozer’s agent, Rob Pelinka, about re-signing with Utah. The situation gives O’Connor the flexibility to explore sign-and-trade scenarios, and sources say you can expect high-level discussions with Miami on a Boozer trade at the February deadline to be rekindled. 

The point is, as bleak as things look for the Jazz now – and as much as this resembles a seemingly endless replay of postseason heartache – the franchise is positioned better than it has been in years to finally take the next step. At a time of year when coaches are getting fired and teams are enduring front-office turmoil, the Jazz just keep sticking with the status quo because the status quo has worked. 

“I think the stability has come from the fact that we’ve consistently won,” O’Connor said. “I don’t think you have stability without that.” 

I know this is getting old, but maybe this is the year it finally pays off.
Posted on: April 11, 2010 1:40 pm
 

Stan: Pencil in LeBron as MVP of the decade

CLEVELAND -- Stan Van Gundy has been stumping for Dwight Howard as the NBA's MVP for a few weeks, as is his right. Not only is Howard Van Gundy's player, a very credible case can be made for him to win the award.

But with anticipation that LeBron James will win his second straight MVP and do it unanimously, Van Gundy said Sunday that we might as well just give him the trophy for the next decade.

"Obviously I'm biased," Van Gundy said before the Magic played the Cavs in Cleveland's regular season home finale. "I'm in a situation where I see a guy every day and know what he does. But look, I've said all along, too: We all know how the vote’s gonna go. I mean, LeBron will win the MVP every year until he retires.

"I think it is tougher for big guys, but there’s a lot of things that go into it," Van Gundy said. "For the next eight to 10 years, LeBron basically has to go into the year and lose the MVP award. I think you guys have already decided that he’s the MVP and he has to go in and lose it. That’s a pretty good position, and he ain't ever going to lose it because he’s a damn good player."

As usual, Stan the Man was on a roll, and there was no stopping him.

"I don’t even know if Jordan was as hyped as he is and then he goes out and lives up to the hype and sometimes exceeds it," Van Gundy said. "That’s not easy to do. He’s a hell of a player. I mean, I'm not going to argue when he’s the MVP, that’s for sure."

But Van Gundy did take issue with a couple of aspects of the voting. First, in basketball and all sports, Van Gundy said the MVP voting shouldn't be done until after the playoffs. To an extent, I agree. (Remember Dirk Nowitzki winning the MVP in 2006 and losing in the first round to Golden State.) But the NBA Finals MVP usually takes care of the best player in the playoffs, and it's not all bad to keep what essentially are two separate NBA seasons apart when it comes to awards.

"The year’s not over this week," Van Gundy said. "To disregard the playoffs, I don’t care what sport you’re in, when you’re picking an MVP doesn’t make any sense to me. Then again, I’m not running the league."

Secondly, Van Gundy believes scoring is given too much weight in the media's calculation of MVP worthiness. I can see both sides of this argument. On one hand, Howard will most likely be named the unanimous defensive player of the year, a well-deserved honor for his defensive and rebounding dominance. But shouldn't his impact on those areas of the game be given equal consideration with scoring average? There is a scoring title for that, after all.

"His scoring would have to go way up," Van Gundy said. "We’re a team that offensively is not going to help him right now win an MVP award. We’re built on much more balanced scoring than most of the other teams. It’s tough. [Steve] Nash did it as a point guard, but it’s tough to do it without averaging 25 right now."


Posted on: February 25, 2010 1:05 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2010 1:35 pm
 

Dwight Howard = Wilt Chamberlain?

When Dwight Howard isn't ignoring immature taunts from Shaquille O'Neal, how does he stay busy?

On Wednesday night, he put his name in the same sentence with Wilt Chamberlain.

I'd like to be able to say, "Dwight, I knew Wilt Chamberlain. And you're no Wilt Chamberlain." Sadly, I didn't meet the late, great Wilt until he joined the rest of the NBA's 50 Greatest at the 1997 All-Star Game in Cleveland. I have spent considerable time around Dwight Howard -- watching him perform with boyish enthusiasm and astounding athletic talent, and listening to him thoughtfully, respectfully, and sometimes playfully answer questions from inquiring types like me.

At 24, Howard's resume has a long way to go before he can hold it up against Wilt's, or even Shaq's. Those are facts. So is this: Dwight Howard did something Wednesday night that nobody had accomplished since Chamberlain in 1969, a year before I was born.

In Orlando's 110-92 victory in Houston, Howard had 31 points and 16 rebounds and was 11-for-11 from the field. He also had three assists, one block and was 8-for-12 from the foul line, but that's not the point. The point is, Howard became the first player since Chamberlain to record at least 30 points and 15 rebounds while not missing a shot in at least 10 field-goal attempts. He also recorded his 19th consecutive double-double, a franchise record that broke a tie with -- you guessed it -- O'Neal.

Nobody is saying that Howard = Chamberlain, or even that Howard = Shaq. But it's time to stop dismissing the most physically overwhelming talent in the NBA as a mere freak. Howard is a freak who has his team playing the best basketball in the league.

When it comes to doubting Howard's killer instinct, offensive fundamentals and meanness, I'm guilty as charged. I've questioned Howard's desire to be the alpha male from time to time. But I'm ready to put that aside and just enjoy him for what he is and what he will be -- the most dominant big man in the NBA for the next decade or so.

Last season, Howard became only the fifth player in NBA history to lead the league in blocks and rebounds in the same season. Neither Chamberlain nor Shaq is on that list, which includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Ben Wallace. (In fairness, the NBA didn't count blocks as an official statistic until the 1973-74 season.) Howard currently leads the league in both categories again, and if he repeats the feat, he'll stand alone as the only player ever to do it twice.

More importantly, Howard's team is winning. The Magic are 13-4 since Jan. 20, and no other team has as many wins during that stretch.

The Cavs got Shaq for one reason, and one reason only: To contend with Howard in the playoffs. They just added Antawn Jamison in the hopes that they'll have an answer for Rashard Lewis, who destroyed Cleveland in the conference finals last season. Jamison is too much of a pro to belittle Lewis or anybody else. That hasn't stopped O'Neal from incessantly taunting Howard, calling him an impostor, and generally dismissing him as little more than a wart on his ample behind.

All of this will come home to roost in the playoffs, when the Cavs will have to get past Howard and the Magic if LeBron James is going to deliver the championship that he and the city of Cleveland so desperately need. Take a look at these numbers, crunched by NBA.com's John Schuhmann, showing the dramatic difference in LeBron's production against Orlando with Howard on the floor vs. off the floor since 2007-08. The translation: Howard is so good that he makes the best player in the NBA significantly worse.

Whatever happens in May and June, we know this: Howard will be there with a smile on his face. And he will let his play do the talking.


 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com