NBA AM: Where Howard Helps The Lakers The Most
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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The Los Angeles Lakers are going to benefit from the addition of Dwight Howard in just about every area imaginable except for free throw shooting. He’s their next franchise player once Kobe Bryant retires, a dominating force on the boards and one of the most-intimidating defensive presences in the league. The latter is where he will help the most immediately; in an interview with ESPN Los Angeles’ Mason and Ireland, Lakers head coach Mike Brown went into detail of how so.
“He’s a great guy,” Brown said. “He’s obviously a big presence, but he’s extremely charismatic and he’s a very good guy. He’s a guy who wants to be liked and do the right thing. When you have guys like that it makes your job a lot easier. The thing that impresses me, and there are many things that impress me about him, but to have a guy like that who’s in his prime and has had the chance to get to the Finals, experience the Conference Finals and so on and so forth is invaluable.
“His athleticism combined with his power, strength, quickness and energy is phenomenal. Defensively here’s a guy in my opinion is one of the best pick-and-roll big defenders in the game, to ever play the game. He’s one of the best paint protectors to ever play the game. Just knowing that he’s down there around the basket is a deterrent. Then offensively you combine all those things I talked about and you have an explosive scorer. There’s a lot that he’s going to bring to us on both ends of the floor, but for me I’m extremely excited to watch him play pick-and-roll defense and defense coming from the weak side to help out from time to time. More than anything else I think my sons are excited about the lob dunks and all that stuff along with everyone else. But, I’m excited about those two things on that end of the floor more than anything else.”
On the opposite side of the court, for the first time since the earliest days in Howard’s career he’s going to see single coverage. In Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash he’s playing with four guys who all would have been the best player he’d ever played with if they were with him in Orlando. While on the court with all of them at the same time, he’s going to be open like never before because teams can’t afford to double off of any of them.
“We think of that often as a staff when we’re talking about what we’re going to show and/or give to our team come training camp,” Brown said. “It’s almost not (possible) to think about double teaming, you just have to have a heightened sense of awareness if or when you decide to double team us because we do feel like we have guys who can make you pay at all five positions. So, I think it’ll be different from team to team and even from situation to situation. Having the luxury of guys who are capable scorers from all over the floor is something I’m definitely looking forward to and probably 29 teams aren’t.”
Even with the significant improvements the Lakers have made from last year’s teams, Brown is quick to point out that his expectations are the same now that they were when he first took the job.
“My expectations aren’t going to be any different than what they were last year,” Brown said. “Last year I expected us to compete for a championship. Obviously we fell short. On paper we didn’t have the same team that we have now but my expectations haven’t changed. That’s for me, the beauty of being able to work for the Los Angeles Lakers is the fact that Dr. Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, starting with them their expectations are there. The fans expectations are there. That’s why they try year after year to bring in the talent they brought in this summer. For me nothing has changed. We’re going into this season with the same goal in mind, knowing we have to work extremely hard to get it done.
“It’s not just going to happen. The Lakers have done something similar to this a few years back when they brought in Gary Payton and Karl Malone. Those two guys were in the tail end of their career, but they still had two guys in Shaq (O’Neal) and Kobe, who were in their prime and big time, and they had some nice pieces around them. We have to be lucky, play the right way. If we do that and respect the process then we’ll have a great shot at it. We know it has to go through the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami HEAT because they were the Western conference and NBA champions respectively.”
Paul Preferred The Clippers: With the incredible offseason the Lakers have had, losing out on All-Star point guard Chris Paul has basically become an afterthought. For all of a couple hours, Paul was a Laker in a monster three-team deal that involved the Lakers sending out Lamar Odom and Paul Gasol.
The trade was done in principal, but David Stern, who at the time was acting as the owner for the New Orleans Hornets, vetoed it in its final stages.
Endless negotiations with other teams would follow. By the time all the dust settled, Paul still ended up in Los Angeles. Except, it was with the Clippers rather than the Lakers. Historically, most players would prefer to be with the Lakers, whose history and success seriously triumphs that of the Clippers, but it’s a new day and age. Even though the Lakers are still contenders, the Clippers are on the rise and close to being in the championship mix. That, along with Clippers’ lack of success, actually made him prefer them.
“They had better pieces,” Paul said to GQ Magazine. “And winning with the Clippers would be legendary.”
The Clippers have been on a hot streak since acquiring Paul. They locked up All-Star power forward Blake Griffin to a long-term extension earlier this summer, then they made notable acquisitions in Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill to solidify their bench and gain experience.
Paul’s belief in the Clippers will be put to the ultimate test this offseason when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. They have his bird rights and the ability to offer him more than any other team, so if he leaves it will really be because he feels his chances of winning somewhere else are better.
Williams Has Surgery: North Carolina men’s basketball head coach Roy Williams is recovering after having surgery on Wednesday to remove a tumor form his right kidney.
The Tar Heels begin practice on October 13. Williams’ doctor in a statement said that he fully expects him to coach this season and for many more to come, but that he miss some practice time.
The Tar Heels lost four starters to the first round of the NBA Draft, but are still expected to be in the hunt for the ACC crown.