NBA PM: Dwight Howard Puts on the Blinders
Dwight Howard Puts on the Blinders
The pattern of NBA players who are seeking trades is pretty familiar. Without mentioning names, we’ve all seen someone lose interest in his current team, and while he says he’s still focused, everyone in the arena can see the guy’s bags are already packed.
Dwight Howard is not that guy.
Even though he gave Orlando general manager Otis Smith his preferred destinations, Howard has not written off the Magic in any way. In fact, to anyone who has heard him speak or seen him play this year, Howard remains the biggest supporter of Magic basketball.
“We’re getting better,” Howard said after Thursday’s win over the New Jersey Nets—one of the teams he’s supposedly interested in joining. “We just have to continue to grow and continue to work on all the things that are going to make a difference late in the season. I liked the way we’re heading right now. We’re doing all the right things on defense. We’re making mistakes here and there. But we’ll get right. Just our effort has been great and we just got to continue to get better.”
Some Nets beat writers tried to get Howard off topic after the win by asking him about New Jersey.
It didn’t work.
“They don’t have (injured center) Brook (Lopez),” he said. “He’s out so that’s a big chunk of their offense. They’re trying a lot of things right now. That’s not really my focus. My focus is on what the Magic have to do to get better. We just have to continue to play together and continue to play well.”
Okay, well what about point guard Deron Williams, who Howard ate dinner with on Wednesday? He had a poor shooting night (two for 12 from the field).
“I didn’t even look at the scoreboard or the score sheet,” Howard said. “My whole focus was to continue to lead my team, play great defense and just try to get our guys moving.”
Well what about Howard’s 24-rebound effort, which is two away from his personal record?
“I didn’t even know until the fourth quarter how many rebounds I had,” Howard said. “I was just trying to get back into it, you know, third game, quick season so we’ve really just got to get into it. But I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
As much trade talk and rumors continue to pour out of Orlando, remember that Howard isn’t the one fueling the fire. Yes, he can put all of this to an end by agreeing to stay and signing an extension. But if that’s not what he ultimately wants, the next best thing is for him to shut his mouth and play hard. And that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Can the Bench Save the Celtics?
The Boston Celtics are 0-3, which is a predicament they haven’t known since 2006-2007 when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were still in the Western Conference.
While Paul Pierce’s absence is undoubtedly the root of the immediate problems, his return doesn’t exactly guarantee a championship—unless the Celtics can dramatically improve in a few specific areas.
Anyone who watches the Celtics play is immediately struck by the absence of great center. Boston was a different team with Kendrick Perkins, but nothing is going to change what’s already taken place. Perkins was dealt for Jeff Green last year and now Green is out for the season while he awaits heart surgery. Perkins’ replacements, Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox, aren’t inspiring much confidence and it’s becoming obvious that the team will play without a true center for much of the year.
So unless president Danny Ainge can magically conjure up a seven-footer who can defend the rim and finish around the basket, Boston needs production from a different area.
The best candidate for a makeover is the Celtics bench, a unit that ranked 26th in scoring and rebounding last season while making just 29% of its 3-point attempts. And Boston’s bench wasn’t just missing shots last season. It wasn’t even making the defense work, as shown by the 6.3 free throws attempts per game the unit averaged.
Before Green went down, there was some talk that Pierce could slide to a sixth-man role and a lot of the bench problems would fix themselves from there. Of course, those plans might be out the window but that doesn’t mean the Celtics’ second unit isn’t significantly improved from a season ago.
Brandon Bass was acquired in a sign-and-trade for Glen Davis and he’ll be grouped with other veterans like Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, Sasha Palvlovic, Mickael Pietrus and Wilcox. And for some added energy, second-year combo guard Avery Bradley has already cracked the rotation.
“We got a more experienced team than last year,” Pavlovic, who has started but will return to the bench when Pierce returns, told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s deeper. We got so much more energy than last year. We’re going to need it. Whenever we get our name called, we have to be ready to bring the energy.”
Boston’s need for an improved bench isn’t exactly a state secret, which is why Celtics coach Doc Rivers began the season with this precise topic at the forefront of his mind.
“I think benches are going to be really important,” Rivers said before the season-opening loss to the Knicks. “And it’s a new bench when you think about it. Every single guy is pretty much new and the more we can keep them together, the better.
“They’re coming, you can see it,” Rivers continued. “The one thing I know is that our bench is more athletic. I think it’s a veteran group for the most part, they’re going to give us more energy. The one concern is: can we get scoring from the bench. That’s what we’ll find out. That’s the one area we’re trying to replace.”
The early results have been good. Boston’s bench has averaged 36.3 PPG—over 10 PPG more than last season—through three games. While all of those have been losses, it’s not a stretch to think Pierce’s presence would change things dramatically. If Pierce pushes Pavlovic to the bench, that’s another solid shooter on the second unit, not to mention an All-Star addition to the starting five.
Perhaps the best two additions have been Bass and Dooling. The pair not only adds some veteran leadership, but they can also fill up a stat sheet as well.
Bass has averaged 14.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG to start the season and he’s also played well when teamed with starters like Rajon Rondo, Garnett and Allen.
Dooling, meanwhile, is averaging 10.7 PPG and gives Rivers plenty of flexibility with the rotation because of his ability to play both guard spots.
“He’s a great player,” Pavlovic said of Dooling. “Offensively, he (doesn’t) turn the ball over, he’s a great passer, a great scorer. And defensively he helps us a lot. Long arms. Great pressure on point guards. He’s great for us.”
The Celtics have a long way to go before they can say they’re championship contenders, but if Pierce can bring the starting five close to where it’s been, the bench stands out as a dramatic improvement over last season.
Why the Nuggets Don’t Need Kenyon Martin
A lot of NBA fans are eagerly anticipating the return of Kenyon Martin from China. Even after his once-unbelievable athleticism subsided and Martin became more known for smart team defense, many still see value in his game. He can rebound, play some help defense, finish around the basket and give a team energy in any number of ways.
But if you’re a Nuggets fan who was hoping to see the team use its mini mid-level exception to bring Martin back to Denver, you can keep on dreaming.
Rookie Kenneth Faried is not only Division I’s all-time leading rebounder, he’s also remarkably similar to Martin. And with some patience, Nuggets fans will soon forget the guy they acquired from the Nets in 2004.
“Yeah, I think that’s going to be his staple, though, and I think that’s what he needs to focus on is being great at that,” Nuggets forward Al Harrington said of Faried’s defense and rebounding. “I think, obviously, he can score the ball a little bit, he’s not terrible offensively by any means, but I think that if he just focuses on being a defensive force and rebounding I think he’s got a long career in this league and will make a lot of money. I think that’s something I would tell him to kind of hang his hat on at first and then let the offensive part develop.”
It will take awhile for Faried, who has only played nine minutes this year but still grabbed four rebounds, to find a rhythm offensively. But when you can jump, block and rebound like the young man from Morehead State, teams will be patient with other parts of your game.
Check Out: Roma Minority Owner Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett is buying into a famous soccer club. Roma, of Italy’s Serie A, has confirmed to the Associated Press that the NBA All-Star has bought a minority stake in the team. Garnett was brought into the deal by Boston businessman James Pallotta.
LeBron James previously traveled the same path as Garnett when he purchased a stake in Liverpool FC of England’s Barclays Premier League.
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