NBA PM: Dwight Howard Wants to be Kobe Bryant
It’s been a season of misunderstandings for Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic faithful, which is why the big man wants to get one thing straightened out.
When he seemed frustrated after teammate Jason Richardson led a comeback win in Milwaukee against the Bucks on Saturday, Howard wasn’t upset with anyone but himself.
“First I want to say I was never frustrated about not getting the ball or frustrated in us winning the game,” he said after Monday’s win over Minnesota (thanks to the Orlando Sentinel for providing video). “I was frustrated in myself because I missed a lot of easy shots. I’m never frustrated when we win. That’s kind of pointless. I was just frustrated in myself because those are shots I know I can make and I missed them.”
Howard was just 5 of 15 from the floor against the Bucks, who were effectively playing without a center. That sort of thing digs at Howard because he sees himself as an elite player, and elite players supposedly make baskets with the game on the line.
“My point is that I want to be the guy to carry the team, you know, and I don’t think that’s bad,” he said. “That’s something that I want to be. I want to be a guy, fourth quarter just carrying the team. That doesn’t mean just scoring the ball, but make great plays. I just want my teammates and everybody to have confidence in me. I don’t think that’s bad. That’s not me being cocky or, you know, saying, ‘Me, me, me.’ But I do want to lead this team. I want to carry them. I want to be that guy.”
Yes, there’s a lot of “me” and “I” when Howard talks about the Magic, but that’s because he’s putting the pressure on himself. Following Saturday’s win, Howard feared that too many people thought he was being “cocky” and that’s not the way he sees himself.
“I’ve never been cocky a day in my life,” Howard said. “But I want to carry this team, you know, to a championship. I want them to ride my back and I want to lead this team.
“It’s very tough,” he said about distinguishing confidence and cockiness. “It’s a fine line. I’ve been here for eight years and I think people know me. I’m not a cocky guy, I’ve never been. But when you play this game, you have to be confident in yourself… Sometimes you can mistake that for being cocky.”
In Howard’s opinion, Lakers star and fourth-quarter assassin Kobe Bryant isn’t cocky, he’s just that good; and to get to Bryant’s level, Howard is going to have to try and fail repeatedly, just as he did Saturday night.
“To be great, you have to go through situations that bring greatness out of you,” Howard said. “The only example I can really give you is look at Kobe. At the early stages in his career he airballed a lot of plays—he airballed—he missed a lot of shots, but he never stopped taking them and now everybody in the arena, everybody watching on TV, they know in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line, Kobe is going to get the ball and he’s going to make the right decision; whether it’s to shoot the ball or find somebody that’s wide open. That was my only point.”
Of course, the hack-a-Howard defensive strategy will continue to work against the Magic big man as long as he makes a higher percentage of his field goals (55% this year) than his free throws (49.4%)
Just don’t bring that up to Howard, who thinks he can suddenly turn it on from the line in late-game situations as long as he has his confidence.
“Stats don’t matter when it comes late in the game,” he said. “When you play basketball, you’re going to make shots, you’re going to miss shots. It’s all about confidence.”
Howard doesn’t lack confidence. He just isn’t perceived as a late-game hero yet, which is somewhat unfair.
There’s a reason opponents stay out of the paint against the Magic at the end of games. There’s a reason Stan Van Gundy tells his perimeter shooters to hoist crucial shots with enough time to allow for a rebound and a putback. There’s even a reason that players like Richardson and J.J. Redick have the confidence to shoot difficult shots with the game on the line. That reason is Howard’s ability to rebound and defend in the paint, which doesn’t suddenly disappear in the fourth quarter.
Howard may want to be more of a factor at the end of games, but he’s missing the bigger picture. Simply by being the player he always is, he’s helping his team down the stretch. Maybe the last-second shot isn’t coming off his fingertips, but there’s no replacing what he can do for a team with the game hanging in the balance.
Detroit’s Two-Headed Point Guard
When the Detroit Pistons drafted point guard Brandon Knight out of Kentucky, it may have signaled the end of Rodney Stuckey’s time in Motown. It seemed hard to believe that new Pistons coach Lawrence Frank would want to impede the development of Knight to have president Joe Dumars give Stuckey, who was a free agent, a brand new contract.
But Stuckey did re-sign with the Pistons for three seasons, which gave both Knight and Stuckey the opportunity to play on and off the ball on offense—something they’re both capable of.
“It’s great,” Knight told HOOPSWORLD of playing with Stuckey. “We play off of one another, we feed off of one another and we’ve been playing really well.”
Both Knight and Stuckey are scoring thus far (12.1 PPG and 13.0 PPG respectively) even though they’re combining to average just 7.5 APG. However, they’ve yet to play 30 games together and Frank is still tinkering with situations. There are times when he wants Stuckey handling the ball and times when Knight needs to initiate the offense.
“It’s fine,” Stuckey told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s our first year, but we’re only going to grow. He’s doing a good job, just coming in, running the team and being aggressive.”
The pair is averaging a combined 4.6 turnovers per game and both players are shooting around 40% from the field. But they’re both confident that with enough time together, they can really give opposing defenses something to think about.
“I’ve never had to guard us, but it would make it a little bit tougher when you’ve got guys that can play the one or the two,” Knight said. “Both can shoot it, both can do different things with the basketball. So, I think that does make it a little bit tougher on defenses.”
Let’s Overanalyze Deron Williams’ New Endorsement Deal!
Brooklyn Nets fans (yeah, you read that correctly) are looking for any subtle indicators on whether or not to expect star point guard Deron Williams at the Barclays Center next season (you may have heard he can opt out of his current deal at the end of the year). One such clue seemed to be dropped by MetroPCS Communications, one of the founding sponsors of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which announced a lucrative endorsement deal with the All-Star on Tuesday.
“Deron Williams is highly regarded as one of the top point guards in the world, and dedication on and off the court have been a source of admiration for his teammates, coaches and fans throughout his professional basketball career,” president and COO said in a press release on PRnewsire.com.
So there you have it. Some garbled PR speak from one of the top sponsors of the Nets’ new arena seems to indicate that Williams has a future in Brooklyn. It looks like we can cross Williams’ hometown Dallas Mavericks off his list of possible suitors next summer… right?
“I’m excited and honored to join forces with a brand that has grown from its beginning in my hometown of Dallas, into the fifth-largest facilities-based wireless carrier in the United States,” Williams (allegedly) said.
Forget it. MetroPCS is pretty shrewd. They’re big in both potential markets in which Williams could land, so they win if he’s on the Nets or the Mavericks next season.
In fact, Williams could spurn both Dallas and Brooklyn altogether and MetroPCS would still get its money’s worth. Remember, Williams is a finalist to be on the 2012 USA Olympic Basketball Team, which signed MetroPCS to a two-year deal recently.
Once in awhile you can get clues to a free agent’s thoughts based on what companies he endorses. This, apparently, isn’t one of those times.
(Thanks to NetsDaily.com for alerting me to this story)
Brook Lopez Returns to Practice
Nets center Brook Lopez returned to practice for the first time since having a screw inserted into his right foot back in late December.
“It was good,” Lopez told reporters, including the Star-Ledger’s Colin Stephenson. “It was nice to be back, obviously… I went pretty much the whole five-on-five.”
Lopez is out until at least Thursday, which means his status will be updated again on Friday, Stephenson wrote.
Coach Avery Johnson said he would not rule out Lopez returning before the All-Star break.
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