NBA AM: Dwight Howard’s Debut Pushed Back?
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, who is still recovering from offseason back surgery, said last week that playing in the preseason was possible. He didn’t even rule out playing in Sunday’s preseason opener against the Golden State Warriors. However, as the Lakers took the floor in Fresno, California, Howard wearing his signature bow tie rather than the purple and gold.
“I’m on track, but my goal wasn’t to play in a preseason game” Howard said to ESPN Los Angeles’ David McMenamin. “My goal is to win a championship. That’s what we’re shooting for.
“I’m a hard worker. My back just has to get stronger and I have to get everything that surrounds it stronger too so I can play at a high level. That’s my goal. That’s my focus. Like I said, I want to give these guys everything and give the game of basketball everything because at the end of the year I want to to hold up the trophy, so I want to make sure I’m 100 percent.”
Without Howard the Lakers fell 110-83 to the Warriors, who were shorthanded themselves as their leaders Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut work their way back from their own injuries. The Lakers were in control in the first half, but a 35-0 Warriors’ run in the second half when Lakers head coach Mike Brown went with the reserves helped them come from behind to earn the preseason victory.
The Lakers starters played around 15-20 minutes apiece. The newly acquired Steve Nash stood out during that short stretch, knocking down 2-3 of his attempts from the field and compiling a few dazzling assists. In his Warriors debut Harrison Barnes tallied 13 points, while David Lee led the way with 19. Klay Thompson was right behind him with 18.
During the game Howard left his specially made seat that was elevated just like former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson’s used to be for health purposes to join the Lakers broadcast team. He admitted that his back does get tight at times during practice and noted that due to the physicality of play inside the paint he has to be fully healthy before getting back on the court. Few players in the league receive as much contact as Howard, who has averaged nine free throw attempts per game throughout his career.
Howard also hinted at a nickname change while on the broadcast. He’s gone by Superman for most of his career, but he revealed that he’s considering changing it to Iron Man after one of his followers on twitter suggested it to him. The Superman moniker is at the heart of the feud between Howard and former Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal. So, it seems more than coincidental that Howard is considering abandoning it less than a week after O’Neal chose Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum and Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez as the league’s best centers over him. It’s even odder that he would announce the potential switch while he’s sitting out due to injury. Howard hasn’t definitively made the move yet; he said he may take it to a vote on his official twitter account.
Unfortunately for Howard, the nickname Iron Man has not gone unused in Lakers’ history either. Former power forward A.C. Green earned it with his durability and toughness. When made aware of that Howard responded: “There’s nothing new under the Sun!”. On the bright side, Green is highly unlikely to be anywhere near as confrontational about it as O’Neal has been with the Superman nickname.
The Lakers will be back in action on Wednesday Oct. 10 against the Portland Trail Blazers, probably without Howard. The regular season opener is when they really want him to play, though, and that isn’t until Oct. 30. That gives Howard just over three weeks to get his back where it needs to be. He’s currently participating in everything in practice except fullcourt 5-on-5. He did play in halfcourt 5-on-5 with some contact.
Durant Sets The Record Straight: Oklahoma City Thunder guard Kevin Durant came under fire for a short period this offseason over his private workouts with Miami HEAT forward LeBron James, who he traveled to Ohio to work with for the second time. James and the HEAT beat Durant and the Thunder in the Finals, but the two also teamed up together this summer in the London Olympics to help lead the United States to its second consecutive gold medal.
“A lot of people blew it out of proportion,” Durant said to Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman. “It was just one day.
“I’m a competitive guy. I’m sure you guys have seen that in me. I just wanted to work out. That’s what it was all about. I’ll work out with anybody. I would have worked out with Kobe (Bryant). I would have worked out with Carmelo (Anthony). I just want to work out and get better.”
Durant’s coach Scott Brooks also didn’t have any issues with his decision.
“I think they help each other, and their friendship has nothing to do with how they compete against each other on the floor,” Brooks said. “I think that’s blown of proportion. I think it’s good.
“It’s not like he worked out with him every day throughout the summer. But, that doesn’t bother me. You want to work out with the best players that you can find and you’re not going to find a better player than LeBron.”
As Brooks alludes to, there’s a lot more positive than negative to take out of this situation. It’s not like the two were exchanging team secrets or went about the workout with some ulterior motives. They were simply just two friends looking to get some work in together. The fact that they play for rival teams was secondary at the time.
Thomas Robinson Playing Small Forward: The Sacramento Kings are reportedly trying out Thomas Robinson, who they selected fifth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, at small forward. The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones reported that Robinson has been spending a good amount of time at the position as of late in practice. This lines up with the way the Kings used him at the Las Vegas Summer League. He played on the perimeter extensively there rather than inside the paint as a power forward/center, which is what he played while helping lead Kansas to the national championship game last year.
The results were far from stellar as Robinson underwhelmed in summer league, putting up a modest 13 points and nine rebounds a game while shooting 34 percent from the field and turning it over nearly five times a contest. His three assists a game were one of the lone bright spots in his play.
Robinson is the kind of athlete and player who will be able to hold his own no matter which position he is at. That doesn’t mean playing him at small forward is the right thing to do at this point of his career, though. While Robinson may eventually be able to develop the ball handling skills and shooting ability needed to make the transition to the three, he’s undoubtedly best suited to play the four right now. That’s where he can make the most of his quickness, offensive arsenal, and explosiveness that makes him such a good rebounder.
This experiment is probably more about the Kings trying to put their five most talented players out on the floor together and that they’re deeper at the four than they are at the three. In the end, expect Robinson to play his natural position of power forward when it counts and for his ventures out on the perimeter to be limited to exhibition play until he shows that he’s better there than inside.