NBA PM: Howard Nears Suspension No. 2
Orlando’s Dwight Howard has already been suspended once this season for receiving 16th technical foul and he may be on his way to another one-game hiatus. Howard’s 17th technical foul of the season has been upheld by the league, the Associated Press is reporting.
The call came Monday against New York when Howard was called for his sixth foul and responded by hitting the ball into the backcourt. The referees decided to forgo a delay-of-game warning and proceeded to slap him with a technical. He believed he could get it rescinded, but, having failed that, he is now one technical foul away from another suspension.
You can say what you want about Howard’s behavior, but suspending an MVP candidate for a game right before the playoffs seems like a losing proposition for the league…. Just saying.
In more interesting news, check out what Steve Kyler had to say about Howard’s future in the NBA AM.
Dragic Praised by Unlikely Source
Peace has been hard to come by in the Balkans. First Yugoslavia fractured into five states and then those political bodies experienced their own infighting. Even the two best Slovenian guards in the NBA can’t get along.
You may remember last year’s Western Conference Finals between Phoenix and Los Angeles, which was highlighted by an ongoing skirmish between then Suns guard Goran Dragic and then Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic. Both players received technicals, Vujacic was called for a Flagrant 1, and there were even a few shoving matches.
Fast-forward to the present day, and a lot of the animosity seems to have been forgotten. Vujacic, who was traded to the Nets earlier this season, is actually impressed with the progress Dragic has made since joining the Rockets last month.
“I didn’t know him for a long time.,” Vujacic told HOOPSWORLD. “We’re from the same country. I think he had great progress last year. He played a great game in the playoffs against San Antonio (editor’s note: 26 points in Game 3 win over Spurs in Western Conference Semifinals) and everyone expected him to do a lot more this year. Sometimes it’s hard in the NBA because injuries, playing time, can mess up your rhythm, but he’s doing good so far.”
Despite his strong postseason, Dragic’s numbers fell across the board in Phoenix earlier this season. He was playing slightly less and scoring 0.5 PPG under his previous season average of 7.9 PPG, but the biggest difference was with his shooting. Dragic’s field goal percentage dipped from 45.2% to 42.1% before being shipped to Houston in the Aaron Brooks deal. Worst of all, he went from hitting 39.4% of his 3-point attempts to making just 27.7% while his free throw mark fell to 60.8%.
Fortunately for Dragic, he found his stroke in Texas. Through 14 games Dragic is hitting 55.6% of his 3-pointers, 48.5% of his total field goals and 69.2% of his free throws.
“It’s good,” Dragic told HOOPSWORLD of his new team. “It’s a new thing for me, it’s a new club, new teammates, but so far so good. One month in Houston and it’s looking good.”
The Rockets are 11-4 with Dragic, and even though his playing time has been slightly limited, he has carved out a niche as Kyle Lowry’s backup.
“I don’t know if I’m playing more,” he said, “but definitely, Houston, we have a young team and we’re playing well for the last month and we’re in the playoff race, so everybody’s doing their best and hopefully I’m going to stay here and find my spot.”
Of course, Dragic is still dealing with a major change in style. Phoenix was a different situation: he was playing behind a future Hall of Famer like Steve Nash and the team used a completely different offense. But Houston’s slower pace has benefitted Dragic as he’s been able to cut his turnovers in half.
“Steve’s one of the best point guards in the league, so I felt really lucky that I could learn from him, at the same time, it was tough to back him up because he was averaging some good numbers, but they’re still the best two years that I’ve had in my basketball career,” Dragic said. “We were running all the time and every time I had the ball in my hand, we were just pushing the ball and trying to score fast. Here it’s a little bit different. If we have a basket, we’re going to take it, if not, we’re going to play half-court style.”
Defensively, Dragic was light years better than Nash, but now he’s behind Lowry, who happens to be among the better defenders in the league at the position. In any case, Dragic’s defense has been the most consistent facet of his game, and it’s something that has made him stand out from past European guards.
“You have to [play defense] because coaches in NBA, they will play you if you know how to play defense,” Vujacic said. “Every team has a different defensive mentality and, you know, we knew that coming into the league. It’s obviously different playing against shooting guards, centers, point guards, so you have to adjust for every kind of player.”
With Dragic and Lowry splitting time at the point, the Rockets are now playing dominant defense at the position for 48 minutes per night.
NBA to Investigate Jay-Z?
Rapper and Nets minority owner Jay-Z may have had some contact with some Kentucky players, writes Ken Berger of CBSsports.com. The league is supposedly set to investigate after pictures surfaced of Jay-Z with the Wildcats. Since guys like Brandon Knight and Terrance Jones are DEFINITELY intriguing pro prospects, more than a few eyebrows have been raised about his presence in the locker room.
But as big of a deal as some people may want to make this, there really isn’t any reason to fine him (Berger noted that Celtics GM Danny Ainge got a $30,000 “slap on the wrist” for fraternizing with Kevin Durant’s mom a few years back). The lottery process is in place, the NBA isn’t an unregulated jobs market and his presence in the locker room will have little to no effect on the future of these players. Since it’s the teams that choose the rookies—and not vice versa—him simply standing in a locker room seems like a (tiny) bad decision without any real consequence.
Speaking of the Bluegrass State
Kentucky recruit Enes Kanter was ruled ineligible before the season because he wasn’t really an amateur, having played for Istanbul’s Fenerbahce two seasons ago. But that didn’t stop him from battling UK big man Josh Harrellson in practice, writes Brett Dawson of the Lexington Courier-Journal.
“It’s helped us big-time, because he’s one of the best big men in the country,” point guard Brandon Knight said of Kanter.
Dawson credits Kanter with helping Harrellson blossom from a 2.7 PPG player into a 14.8 PPG and 9.0 RPG guy this season.
“Even if I’m not even going against [Kanter], just watching him do something, I’m trying to match what he does,” Harrellson said. “Just doing that makes me more confident. Being able to stop him in practice and playing against him every day—playing against the best of the best—just makes me go into every game knowing I’m not going to play somebody as good as Enes.”
Dawson points out that Harrellson has played well against collegiate heavyweights like Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller in the tournament.
FYI—My Twitter handle has changed to @alexraskinNBA.
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