NBA PM: Time For Howard to Announce His Choice
Time For Howard To Announce Choice
According to various reports, free agent center Dwight Howard has made his decision about where he will play basketball for the foreseeable future, and is just waiting for the right time to announce it. Of course, the right time to announce it would have been the moment he made the decision, but that’s not how Howard rolls. Howard is all about himself, and making sure he is the complete center of attention at all times. To be honest, that’s why I expect him to announce that he’ll be staying in Los Angeles, where the bright lights burn brightest.
For a moment, however, let’s set aside the decision. Wherever Howard lands, it’s time for him to turn a page in his career if he wants to be counted amongst the truly great players. For the first time in three years, next season will be about Howard the basketball player playing basketball, and not about where he will play basketball. For the first time he will be expected to actually perform like a player who is worth all of the hype he has generated during his transition from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers to wherever he plays next.
In other words, it’s time for Howard to shut up and put up.
During his best season in the NBA, Howard averaged 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game while shooting just over 59 percent from the field and nearly 60 percent from the free throw line. That was the year before the fervor about his first chance at free agency hit a fever pitch, the year before the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season.
The next year Howard sustained the first major injury of his career after taking an elbow to the back from Dallas Mavericks center Brendan Haywood. Amongst rumors that he was tanking due to contract issues with the Magic, Howard missed 12 games at the end of the season with many Magic fans ready to run him out of town on a rail. Orlando traded him to the Lakers in a multi-team deal, preferring to rebuild rather than continue to deal with the drama associated with Howard.
Even as the Lakers appeared to build a monster team around Howard, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, the underlying story continued to be whether or not Howard would stay long-term, and those questions only got louder as the Lakers collapsed and fell well short of expectations. Howard averaged a meager 17.1 points and drew much ire for his inability to shoot even 50 percent from the foul line.
That can’t be the Howard who shows up for day one of training camp when his new team kicks off the 2013-14 preseason.
When Howard finally announces the decision he has apparently already made, he had better come out with all guns blazing, singularly focused on having the best season of his career. No more drama, no more getting coaches fired or complaining about his role; Howard had better come out and show that he means business from the very beginning.
It’s time for Howard to establish his legacy in the NBA, and if he wants to be remember as something more than a selfish sideshow clown, that legacy had better be about putting up All-Star numbers and pushing his team to the NBA Finals.
Anything short of that, and all of this drama he has created will serve as the means by which NBA fans begin the process of completely dismissing Howard as a hoax. That would be a sad epitaph for a player who so desperately wants to be a hero.
Darren Collison’s Surprising Demand
More often than not, young NBA players are more concerned about maximizing their earning potential than they are about being in certain situations. That’s completely understandable, too, as the average NBA career only lasts 6.07 years, and players need to get while the getting is good. Still, every so often a player comes along who is truly more concerned about winning than anything else, and is willing to take less money and a smaller role to be part of a winning organization.
That’s exactly where Darren Collison finds himself as he prepares for his fourth year in the NBA.
After four years at UCLA, Collison was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets, with the idea being that he would grow into a stellar backup to then-starter Chris Paul. When injuries took Paul out for most of the season, however, Collison was thrust into a larger role and flourished. He averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists as a starter that season, and finished fourth in the voting for Rookie of the Year. After showing that much promise, plenty of teams were interested in Collison as a starter, among them the Indiana Pacers, who acquired him in what wound up being a four-team trade. After two seasons with a Pacers’ squad that was steadily rising to the top of the Eastern Conference, Collison was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, where he missed the playoffs after playing inconsistent minutes on a team that lacked a cohesive identity.
Now Collison, who was released by the Mavs as they prepare for what they hope is a massive free agent push for Howard and others, wants to get back to winning.
Sources close to the situation tell HOOPSWORLD that Collison is positively preoccupied with winning, valuing it above money and above a starting role. He’s willing to take less and come off the bench if it means joining a team with a legit shot at a title. His camp has had conversations with a number of teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and even the LA Clippers, and he is not at all opposed to returning to Dallas if the Mavs land Dwight Howard and have a chance to win.
When Collison talks about his career, he is fond of referring to Chauncey Billups, who bounced around from Boston to Toronto to Denver and Minnesota before he landed in Detroit and made a name for himself. Collison is hopeful that with his fourth team he will find the right situation where he can flourish and come into his own as a pro.
Spurs Will Finish What They Started
There’s an old saying down in Texas, apparently originated by University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal, that has become one of the most popular ways to talk about loyalty.
“Dance with the one that brung ya’.”
It’s important to understand that statement if you’re going to truly evaluate the way the San Antonio Spurs approach free agency.
Fans of the Spurs have already begun to question San Antonio’s approach, and that’s before free agency has even officially begun. They had the cap space to chase a significant free agent like Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson or Josh Smith, yet their first order of business was to agree to terms with long-time Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter. A subsequent agreement with sharpshooter Marco Belinelli did little to quell the irritation on the part of Spurs fans, who wondered why their team wasn’t looking to inject some youth, and more star power, at that.
The answer, of course, is that more than any other NBA team, the Spurs understand the concept of dancing with the one that brung ya’. They are all about consistency, corporate knowledge and continuity; which is why the core group of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, which has been to the NBA Finals four times, will be back to fight another day as the curtain goes up on the 2013-14 NBA season.
As much as Spurs fans would have liked to see a little more aggressive move out of the gates, it’s hard to argue with results. For all of the talk about the Spurs being too old and the chatter about their championship window having closed, they emerged as the best team in the Western Conference this season and were one turnover away from winning the championship. They may be older, and the primary leadership responsibilities may have shirted from Duncan to Parker, but the Spurs are still an incredibly formidable opponent when healthy.
Are the Spurs finished dealing? Of course not. Once July 10th arrives and teams can actually begin signing free agents, the Spurs will add a piece or two, perhaps starting with free agent forward Andrei Kirilenko. Expect the Spurs’ approach to remain the same for the next two years. Head coach Gregg Popovich will do his best to keep his older vets fresh by limiting their minutes and sitting them with various “ailments” throughout the season. In two years, when Duncan and Ginobili come off the books for what will likely to be the last time, the Spurs will aggressively pursue a new direction.
Until then, expect the Spurs to dance with the ones that brung ‘em.
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