Tag:Dwight Howard
Posted on: February 12, 2010 5:39 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2010 6:04 pm
 

Howard says he expected more of Shaq

DALLAS -- If Shaquille O'Neal had directed his latest tirade at someone else, we would've had a good old fashioned sniping contest Friday at All-Star media day. Dwight Howard wasn't having it.

Howard took the high road, in more ways than one. Not only did he refuse to return jabs at O'Neal -- who once again took verbal swipes at his heir apparent Thursday night in Cleveland -- but Howard took it a step farther.

He did something that nobody has been able to do on the court for 17 years. He made Shaq look small.

"I would never take a shot at anybody," Howard said. "It doesn't matter if you're trying to motivate them or anything. Shaq has been in the league for a long time. He has a very lengthy resume. I just started. I'm only 24 years old and I have a long way to go. The only thing I would want from Shaq -- or any of the older guys who’ve been in my position -- is to help me grow as a player and as a person. That’s what my job would be as I get older. It’s to help the new guys who come in grow into better players and not try to bring them down or talk about them in a bad light. I would want to be that person that younger guys could look up to and ask for advice on how to carry themselves on and off the court."

If Shaq doesn't feel like a big enough doofus for trotting out his tired "Superman impostor" routine on Howard, there's more.

"I just wouldn't expect somebody to do that," Howard said. "There’s nothing I can do about it. He said what he had to say, it didn't sit too well with me personally. I felt like Shaq being who he is and what he’s done for the NBA ... I thought it would be better for him to try to help me through things instead of trying to put me down -- especially in front of you guys. That part kind of stuck with me., I would never talk bad or say anything to put him down."

Posted on: January 28, 2010 11:22 pm
 

More Celtics-Magic drama to come

What did we learn from the Magic-Celtics game Thursday night -- a late-January game with little significance in the standings?

We learned that we want some more Magic-Celtics drama in the playoffs. Here's hoping we get some.

There was Jameer Nelson taking out his All-Star snub on Rajon Rondo early in the game, followed by Rondo proving why he's a first-time All-Star with a steal and key basket late in the fourth. There were J.J. Redick and Paul Pierce exchanging 3-pointers, followed by Rashard Lewis bursting past a limping Kevin Garnett for the go-ahead basket with 1.3 seconds left.

This game had it all, the way an Orlando-Boston playoff series would have it all once again. You had the Magic coming back from a 16-point deficit, then defending the final inbounds play so Rondo couldn't get the ball to Allen or Paul Pierce, but instead got it to Rasheed Wallace, whose buzzer-beating 3-point attempt for the win was off.

You had Garnett, clearly not himself, dragging his bum leg around to the tune of six points on 2-for-8 shooting in 33 minutes, and Vince Carter continuing to struggle in his role with 2-for-13 shooting and six points.

My instinct at this early point in the journey? The Magic can and will survive Carter's inconsistency because they're so deep and versatile. Stan Van Gundy has more lineups than Craig Sager has suits. The Celtics are a different story. They're a team built on defense first, and Garnett isn't close to being right. The Magic can get by with Carter having an off shooting night, and they can get by if they jack a few too many threes. They can get by with Jason Williams running the point and with Dwight Howard missing free throws.

The Celtics can't get by without a healthy, impactful Garnett. There would be nothing better than Garnett getting back to some semblance of himself, because the Celtics and Magic in a seven-game playoff series in May would be just about as good as it gets.

They meet again a week from Sunday in Boston, their final head-to-head matchup of the regular season. These two teams can't play each other enough, as far as I'm concerned.
Posted on: January 21, 2010 11:39 am
Edited on: January 21, 2010 7:48 pm
 

All-Star Starters (UPDATE)

Embarrassment averted.

The All-Star starters were revealed Thursday night on TNT before the nationally televised rematch of the Cavs' Christmas Day blowout of the Lakers.

Thankfully, Tracy McGrady wasn't one of them.

All hail Steve Nash, who passed T-Mac in the final weeks of voting and will start alongside Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference backcourt in the Feb. 14 All-Star Game in Dallas. McGrady, who has played all of six games this season, won't be faced with the inglorious decision of having to decline an invitation he didn't deserve.

In another fan-voting quirk that was less controversial than a T-Mac starting nod would've been, Allen Iverson will start alongside Dwyane Wade in the Eastern Conference backcourt. The other East starters: Dwight Howard, LeBron James, and Kevin Garnett (assuming he's healthy).

Joining Kobe and Nash on the West's starting five: Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Tim Duncan, who passed Dirk Nowitzki in the final three weeks of voting.

"No Dirk as a starter?" Mavs owner Mark Cuban tweeted. "Time to change the rules for voting."

McGrady carried a 2,375-vote lead over Nash into the final three weeks of balloting, which was conducted by fans via paper, online, and wireless voting. If Nash hadn't passed McGrady, the right thing for T-Mac to do would've been politely decline.

It wouldn't have cost him a dime, either. A source with knowledge of the situation said McGrady has no All-Star bonus clauses in his contract, which pays him a league-high $23 million this season.

It's better for everyone this way. McGrady is trying to come back from microfracture surgery. More to the point, he would benefit immensely if the Rockets were somehow able to trade him before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. McGrady didn't need to risk his health or his already suffering reputation by trying to dust himself off for a few meaningless All-Star minutes.

I don't have a problem with Iverson starting; he's been a fan favorite his entire career, certainly deserves it based on his body of work, and -- this is important -- is actually suiting up for the Sixers, albeit at a remarkably reduced rate of effectiveness.

In spite of Nash's fortunate comeback, I agree with Boston's Ray Allen and would be in favor of tweaking the voting system to divide the say-so among fans, media members, and players. The players, more than anybody else, know who's deserving and who isn't. The coaches should retain their ability to select the reserves. 

On one hand, you don't want to take away the fans' investment in the game, which after all is at least partly -- or mostly -- for their entertainment. But the All-Star Game badly needs a dose of legitimacy. Gone are the days when Michael Jordan or Dominique Wilkins could dominate All-Star weekend with their exploits in the dunk contest. That exercise long ago became a farce, and once again none of the marquee stars will participate this year.

So instead of complaining, I offer a solution. Not the only solution, but a start. Instead of voting by position, the fans vote for any 10 players they want from each conference. The players do the same. Their votes are weighted equally, and the top eight in each conference make the team. All 30 coaches vote to determine the 10 starters. The East coach and West coach fill out the roster with four reserves each.

The media? I'm not sure whom to count as media anymore, so let's leave us out of it. We'll just write about what happens.

Perfect? No. Somebody will get snubbed; they always do. But it's better than people constantly texting the word McGrady until they almost succeed in making a mockery of what is supposed to be a serious honor.

If there are any better ideas out there, you know what to do.






Posted on: November 10, 2009 7:02 pm
 

Howard's blog is fine-worthy

Dwight Howard is one of the most accessible superstars in the NBA. He's on Facebook and Twitter, and has his own blog. He flew his 1 millionth Twitter follower from California to Orlando and provided two lower-level tickets for the season opener against the 76ers.

Now, Howard's social networking skills have cost him $15,000. The NBA has fined Howard for criticizing the officiating in a blog post he wrote last week. Howard vented after fouling out during the Magic's 85-80 loss to the Pistons on Nov. 3.

"I was on the floor for 16 minutes and fouled out!!!" Howard wrote. "Let me say that again: 17 minutes and six fouls!!!" (It was actually 16:49, but who's counting besides Stu Jackson?) "How can that be, ya’ll? It was crazy. They called me for a charge on a flop, a push off when the defender was on me, and two fouls on blocked shots. ... I haven’t played that little in a game since I was 10 years old in pee-wee ball."

A few thoughts: 1) Social networking has made life even more perilous for players who want to stay in touch with fans and do so honestly; 2) I wonder what I would have to write in this blog to get fined by the NBA? So far, all I get are occasional cage-rattling phone calls; and 3) I wish Rasheed Wallace had a blog. 
Category: NBA
Posted on: June 12, 2009 6:03 pm
 

Van Gundy: No regrets

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Stan Van Gundy's mood had changed considerably after 12 hours to dissect the calamity that was Game 4, a meltdown so complete and devastating that he'd said Thursday night on his way out of Amway Arena: "That one will haunt me forever."

Some of it will, yes. But Van Gundy was steadfast in his defense of two aspects of the 99-91 overtime loss to the Lakers that he directly controlled: The decision not to foul on the inbounds play that led to Derek Fisher's 3-pointer that sent the game to overtime, and his love-hate relationship with point guard Rafer Alston.

For the second time in 12 hours, Van Gundy was questioned Friday about why he instructed his team not to foul when the Lakers inbounded the ball at their own end with 10.8 seconds left in regulation and Orlando leading 87-84.

The Lakers ran a brilliant inbounds play. Trevor Ariza passed to Kobe Bryant, who quickly dished it back to Ariza, who found Fisher upcourt. By the time Fisher approached the 3-point arc on the dribble, it was too late to foul.

Once the player is in attack mode within shooting range, it's always a dangerous proposition to foul. Had Jameer Nelson lunged at Fisher in an attempt to wrap him up and force him to shoot two harmless free throws instead of a dagger 3-pointer, Fisher would've had Nelson at his mercy. He's a savvy veteran, and would've found a way to get the shot off -- resulting either in three foul shots or a 4-point play.

"I've rethought it and rethought it and rethought it, and it's easy to say now, 'Do I wish we had fouled as opposed to giving that up?'" Van Gundy said. "Yeah, but I still don't think at 11 seconds to go in a game that we're going to foul in that situation. I'll put it this way: You always have regrets. Faced with the same situation again at 11 seconds, we still wouldn't be telling them to foul."

What Van Gundy is second-guessing is the approach Nelson used to defend Fisher on the play -- and by extension, he's second-guessing whether there was anything else he could've told Nelson before sending him onto the floor after the timeout. If you're Nelson, you absolutely must meet Fisher beyond the 3-point line when he catches the ball. Once Nelson was positioned inside the line, it was all over. He willingly gave Fisher the advantage.

"Basically Jameer had one responsibility on the play, and that was to not give Derek Fisher a look at a three," Van Gundy said. "It's one of those things I'm sure Jameer wishes he had back and had played differently. I question whether we made that clear enough or could have told him to play the play a different way. But I thought we were pretty clear on that."

All of this begs the question of what Nelson was doing on the floor in the first place. Van Gundy's unusual handling of his point guard rotation -- sticking with Nelson too long in Game 1 and leaving Alston on the bench so long in the fourth quarter Thursday night that he didn't feel comfortable bringing him back for overtime -- will haunt the Magic all summer. Alston was none too pleased after the game, saying he was "shocked" and offering this telling quote: "I wasn't hurt. I ran through nine Heat packs. I didn't get the call."

Van Gundy reiterated his postgame stance that he didn't want to break up the group -- including Nelson -- that had played so well in the fourth quarter after an abysmal third quarter orchestrated by Alston.

"I don't want to indicate at all that this was Rafer's fault, but we just played extremely poorly in the third quarter," Van Gundy said. "I mean, that was as bad a stretch as we have had in this series, and so we were playing very poorly. And then the unit we had in there in the fourth quarter got going and playing very well. And I did not want to disrupt that. That wasn't a change in rotation; that to me was an extreme difference between how one unit had played and another unit was playing. I wanted to stick with the unit that was playing much, much better."

As for the last item that will haunt the Magic all offseason -- free throws -- Van Gundy did everything he could to deflect the criticism that is being heaped upon Dwight Howard. The Magic missed 15 of 37 free throws in the game and six of their last nine. Howard was at the line with 11.1 seconds left in regulation, staring at an 87-84 lead, and missed both. He was 6-for-14 from the line in the game and said after the game that he wasn't going to get down about it.

"The guy put out one of the absolute great efforts that I've seen him make or anybody make -- 20-plus rebounds, nine blocks, played his heart out and missed two free throws," Van Gundy said. "... That's not something that I get upset about. I mean, there's nobody up there trying to miss a free throw in that situation. You might get frustrated by it and so do the players. ... I don't want Dwight getting down about it, and I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that he's not going to get down about it. I know he feels badly about missing them, but you know what? Players, even more so than coaches, they've got to have themselves in a position where they clear their heads and are ready to bounce back and play a game on Sunday. For whatever reason, Dwight is a guy with his demeanor and everything that a lot of people in the media have chosen to criticize. But if he gets criticized on that comment, personally I think that's ridiculous."

Looks like both of them will have all summer to think about it.

Posted on: May 27, 2009 12:06 am
 

Believe in Magic

All those media types Stan Van Gundy is always complaining about? I'm one of them.

Guilty.

Guilty as charged.

I didn't think the Magic had this in them. I admit it.

I watched the Magic throughout the regular season and in the playoffs, too, and I didn't believe. I wrote this column on March 8, after the Magic beat the Celtics -- without Kevin Garnett -- 86-79 in Boston. That day, Van Gundy explained what I thought was the Magic's Achilles' heel, the weakness that would undermine them in the playoffs.

"I don't think we're built to push and shove on people," Van Gundy said. "And here's the other thing: If you look around, compare us, say, to this team. Kendrick Perkins can be as physical as he wants. Him getting in foul trouble is not, from an offensive standpoint, in any way a huge deal to them. Look at a lot of the teams that are built as real physical teams. Those guys inside are not really concerned about foul trouble. Our front line is Dwight [Howard] and Rashard [Lewis]. Our scoring comes from those guys. We can't have those guys down there pushing and shoving and being in foul trouble and sitting on the bench."

And then I wrote these words: Voila. That is why the Magic won't beat Boston or Cleveland in the playoffs.

There, I saved you the trouble of Googling my words and feeding them to me. You're welcome.

Now, after beating the Cavs 116-114 in overtime Tuesday night to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals, Orlando is one victory away from beating both Boston and Cleveland in the playoffs.

Bravo, Orlando. Bravo, Dwight Howard. I didn't think you had it in you.

I was wrong.

What happened? Three things. 1) The Celtics without Garnett wound up in the same predicament the Magic were in, without enough big bodies to play physical basketball and contribute on the offensive end at the same time; 2) Cleveland, with lightweight Zydrunas Ilgauskas and shadow-of-himself Ben Wallace, didn't have enough physical big men, either; and 3) The Magic and Howard grew up.

To me, the turning point was Game 6 against Boston, when all the pressure in the world was on Howard's shoulders -- and it was self-imposed. After a Game 5 loss in Boston, Howard unleashed a rare public diatribe, calling out his coach and teammates and demanding the ball. He got the ball in Game 6 in Orlando, produced 23 points and 22 rebounds, and then the Magic had the confidence they needed to go to Boston and beat the Celtics in Game 7. Which they did.

From that point on, there were no more questions about the Magic's mental fortitude. And it showed in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night. Howard is among the most likeable superstars in the NBA, one we will enjoy watching for another decade or more. Since that Game 6 victory against the Celtics, Howard has transformed himself from a happy-go-lucky, not-serious-enough, Mr. Nice Guy into the unstoppable force that he should be.

So when I'm wrong, I admit it. When one of the game's young, formerly immature superstars grows up before our very eyes, I applaud him.

Kudos to the Magic for a job well done, and for making the naysayers eat their words.

Category: NBA
Posted on: April 30, 2009 3:46 pm
 

Lee loss huge for Magic

The Orlando Magic entered the playoffs with the most important rookie starter on any team. They'll be leaving the playoffs soon if Courtney Lee misses the rest of the postseason due to a fractured sinus.

The news Thursday that Lee is expected to have surgery and could be out for the rest of the postseason is devastating for Orlando. A lot more devastating than losing Howard to a one-game suspension for Game 6 Thursday night. If Orlando stumbles, they'd still have a chance to close out the Sixers with Howard in a Game 7 Saturday in Orlando. But beyond that, they need Lee to challenge Cleveland in the East. They might even need Lee just to get past either Chicago or Boston to the conferece finals.

That's how important the rookie from Western Kentucky has become to the Magic. Not only is he their most consistent perimeter defender, but his 3-point shooting has been reliable all season. Despite falling victim to a team-wide shooting slump against the Sixers -- Lee was shooting an uncharacteristic 29 percent from beyond the arc when he went down -- Orlando needs his deep shooting threat to make a prolonged playoff run.

Fortunately for the Magic, they can plug Mickael Pietrus back into the starting lineup. Pietrus has more size and strength and can defend bigger wing players. But he didn't shoot as well from 3-point range during the regular season (.359 compared to .404 for Lee), and Lee's dribble-penetration has picked Orlando up at key points in the series.

If you missed my story on Lee before the playoffs started, here it is.
Posted on: April 29, 2009 8:19 pm
 

No roundhouse from Rondo

CHICAGO -- I think the NBA got this exactly right. I think.

I'm not going to waste valuable time debating Dwight Howard's suspension; that one was easy. "Pretty cut and dried," Stu Jackson, the NBA's vice president of operations, said on a conference call with several reporters Wednesday afternoon. Jackson also revealed a piece of information that proves that NBA's system of reviewing every call and non-call actually works. None of the three officials actually saw Howard's lightning quick but blatant elbow that hit Samuel Dalembert in the head. Had they seen it, by rule it would've called for an automatic ejection. Since they didn't, that's why no flagrant foul was called, and it's why Howard wasn't ejected. Upon review, the NBA got that one right. But even the WWE could've gotten that one right.

The interesting case is Rondo, and it provides an especially delicious opportunity for debate. Not only did it happen on the same night, but it also provided another fertile debating point. This was a little man fouling a giant man, whereas the Howard incident was a giant picking on someone his own size.

Technically, the relative size of the players involved in a potentially flagrant foul shouldn't matter. But referees are human, and humans have to make decisions based on their experience and their ability to see something happening extremely fast. The most interesting point Jackson made came when he described the criteria for determining whether a foul crossed the line between a hard foul and a flagrant foul.

"In terms of the criteria that we use to evaluate a flagrant foul, penalty one, generally we like to consider whether or not there was a windup, an appropriate level of impact, and a follow through," Jackson said. "And with this foul, we didnt see a windup, nor did he follow through. And so for that reason, we’re not going to upgrade this foul to a flagrant foul, penalty one."

Jackson described Rondo's foul on the Bulls' Brad Miller -- an open-handed blow to the head which resulted in Miller missing a game-tying layup with two seconds left in overtime Tuesday night -- as a "basketball play." He said the league determined that Rondo was "going for the ball after a blown defensive assignment by the Celtic team." That's exactly what I saw at the game. Now I'm in Chicago, and when the local newscasts show the play in frame-by-frame slow motion, it drives home the point that Rondo realized he had no play on the ball and simply hit whatever he could -- that being Miller's face.

He didn't do it maliciously, and as Jackson said, he didn't wind up as if throwing a punch, nor did he follow through on the blow. Whereas Howard's play was blatant, Rondo's was borderline. It could've gone either way. The league made a reasonable choice, and backed its on-floor officials on this one. This is an important point. Had the foul been upgraded to a flagrant, it might've opened the door for the Bulls to file a protest because they would've been entitled to possession after the flagrant. The last thing this crazy and suddenly violent series would need is a protest. But more to the point, the officiating crews for Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) are going to have to have control of the action. There cannot be any outside influence hanging over the action on the floor, or chaos will ensue.

I don't know -- and Jackson didn't say -- if that factored into the league's decision. I also don't know for sure if the league made the technically correct decision on Rondo. But it made the right one.




 
 
 
 
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