NBA PM: Drama Awaiting Rockets with Howard?
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Drama Awaiting Rockets with Dwight Howard?
Over the last 72 hours or so, speculation about Los Angeles Lakers free agent Dwight Howard seems to have kicked into overdrive. Though no decision can be made before free agency starts in July, speculation is absolutely rampant about where Howard will spend the foreseeable part of his NBA career.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind as we begin to approach this subject, starting with the fact that Howard has been notoriously indecisive about his future over the last two seasons. He talked about how much he wanted to stay in Orlando, even as “sources” around him couldn’t wait to talk about him wanting to play in Brooklyn or in L.A. with the Lakers. Many of those same sources are now pointing a finger at Houston as his next destination, and while it’s difficult to put much stock in rumors that surface in May about a decision that might not be made until August – or even later, in a nightmare scenario – it’s worth noting that there are likely to be some adjustment issues in Houston if they do finally land their prime free agency target.
The Rockets have been chasing Howard for several seasons, though to date they have not been able to get so much as an audience with him. They see him as the superstar around which they have been hoping to build for years. In fact, they have built the perfect team to complement him even without any sign that he would eventually land there. When Howard made his lone trip to the NBA Finals in 2009, the Magic surrounded him with an array of three-point shooters and allowed the offense to flow inside-out, for the most part. The ball didn’t exactly run entirely through Howard, but the attention he commanded from the opposing defense created plenty of open threes for his teammates. That combination wasn’t enough to win a championship, but they were three wins away from that feat before Magic management broke up the team.
Like that Orlando team, the Rockets have accumulated a roster full of three-point shooters. James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin were all great from behind the arc this season, and that was without any low-post threat to suck the defense in. Imagine how much more efficient that offense would be with Howard creating open looks. The only thing missing from Houston’s attack would be a legit power forward to play off of Howard, like Rashard Lewis did so effectively on that Finals team in Orlando.
There is still a big question remaining, however, even if the Rockets do land Howard. Since helping the Magic to the Finals, Howard has gone from being a fairly humble person to being one of the league’s biggest prima donnas. He wants all of the attention to be on him, and if he can’t manage that with his play on the court he will try to make it happen off the court. He allowed his free agency decision to become an even bigger embarrassment than LeBron James’ “Decision” debacle, and his insistence on putting himself above the team got an outstanding coach, Stan Van Gundy, fired in Orlando. As a member of the Lakers, he was disgruntled that some guy named Bryant something or other was the offense’s primary focus, and the fact that he wasn’t immediately the Lakers’ primary offensive option is possibly what has him preparing to leave the NBA’s biggest stage looking for greener pastures.
If Howard does land in Houston, how upset will he be and how many problems will he cause when he finds out that the offense will still likely run through James Harden?
It could very well be a nightmare waiting to happen.
What the Rockets will have to do, assuming they do turn out to be the team of choice for Howard, is make sure everyone understands the pecking order in terms of touches. The last thing the Rockets need is to finally land the franchise center they’ve been chasing for years and then allow internal squabbling to tear the team apart from the inside.
Curtain Call for the Memphis Grizzlies?
As the Western Conference Finals move into elimination mode, the Memphis Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs are preparing for what could and should be the most competitive game of the season out West. The Grizzlies, now down 0-3 to the Spurs, have to become the first team in the history of the NBA to come back from an 0-3 deficit to advance to the NBA Finals. That’s not to say that it’s impossible, just that it’s extremely unlikely, especially with so much at stake for the aging Spurs.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan told the AP on Sunday. “We know they’re not going to lay down. We’re going to have to beat them. We understand what we have going here, and we understand that we want to finish this as quickly as we can.”
The sense of urgency for San Antonio has been palpable throughout postseason play, with the team understanding that any extra games they’re required to play increase the possibility that they’re oldest adversary – the injury bug – might catch up with them.
“We want to finish as soon as we can for a lot of different reasons,” Spurs point guard Tony Parker said in the same report. “I think that we should give them no hope, and it’s always sweet to win on the road. I’m pretty sure the whole team understands that we have to keep taking nothing for granted and keep playing our game and try to finish [Monday].”
As for the Grizzlies, they’ve been down 0-2 twice already this postseason and came back to win, and they hope that by using the old adage of taking things one game at a time they can make history.
“My hope though is for us to not listen to you guys and say that it’s never been done before, that it’s just a matter of time before the series is over and to reach down in their soul and dig for something that they didn’t know they had because that’s what you have to do to win a championship,” Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins said.
No Grizzlies player has been as impressive this postseason as point guard Mike Conley, who went toe-to-toe with Chris Paul and came out on top in the first round, took full advantage of a Thunder team that was missing Russell Westbrook in round two, and is even averaging better than 17 points per game against Tony Parker in the Western Conference Finals. Conley says the Grizzlies will not get swept on his watch, especially not on their own home court.
“We have a lot of pride in this team, in this city,” Conley said. “It’s more than just basketball here, and we owe it to ourselves, owe it to the fans to not get swept and get embarrassed on our home court.”
The Spurs would like nothing better than to finish the Grizzlies off in four, allowing them to sit back, get treatment and watch as the Miami HEAT and Indiana Pacers battle it out in what promises to be a long series. The Grizzlies have absolutely no intention of allowing that to happen.
Sounds like must-see TV to me.
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