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NBA@2: Bynum Better For Lakers Than Howard?
Posted By Bill Ingram On April 19, 2012 @ 2:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Who is the best center in the NBA?
Since Yao Ming’s premature retirement, my knee-jerk reaction to that question has been Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. He’s certainly one of the most dynamic players in the NBA, both with his glowing personality and his ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. Whether he’s throwing down a highlight reel dunk or swatting a shot into the fourth row, Superman 2.0 is a force to be reckoned with in the paint.
Of course, Howard has his issues, too. As much as his winning smile and flair for the dramatic on the basketball court have made him one of the most popular players in the league, Howard’s malleable personality has been causing both his team and his fans plenty of consternation. Professionally, Howard wants to compete for a championship and play at the highest level. Personally, he is so terrified of not being popular that he allows those around him to make the tough decisions, often to his own detriment. Magic fans are mostly on the fence, with some thinking it’s time to cut ties and get rid of the distraction that is Howard, while others think the Magic should do whatever it necessary to keep their star big man, even if that means giving him control over the coaching staff and front office.
On the court, the numbers speak for themselves. Howard averages 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. What Magic fans are wondering is whether or not the increasing distraction factor off the court is sabotaging the Magic’s performance on the court.
Would the Magic be better off dealing Howard and taking their chances, as the Denver Nuggets did with Carmelo Anthony last season?
On the opposite coast, the Los Angeles Lakers are thinking exactly the opposite. Andrew Bynum might not win any slam dunk contests, and his demeanor couldn’t be much more opposite from Howard’s. The winning smile isn’t there, and there’s even a nasty side to Bynum that sometimes gets him into trouble with referees. But when it comes to intimidating opponents and punishing teams in the paint, Bynum is truly coming into his own.
This season, with the departure of Lamar Odom and injuries to Kobe Bryant forcing the Lakers to lean more heavily on their big man, Bynum has come through with flying colors. He’s averaging career-bests of 18.9 points and 12.1 rebounds to go along with 1.9 blocks per game. Unlike Howard, Bynum also shoots a respectable 70 percent from the free throw line.
To this point, the biggest drawback with Bynum has been his inability to stay healthy, but when he is healthy he’s arguably the most dominant center in the NBA. Additionally, aside from the occasional suspension for overzealous competitiveness, Bynum never allows off the court issues to become a distraction to his team on the court.
There was a raging debate in the Lakers’ front office earlier this season when it seemed as though the Magic were going to be forced to trade Howard. Should they offer up Bynum as bait to land Howard in Los Angeles as the team’s next franchise player? Ultimately, the “nay” votes won the day, and the best the Lakers were willing to do for the Magic was offer a package around Pau Gasol. Looking back on that decision, it may have been the most brilliant one yet by a Lakers franchise that has a history of making dare-to-be-great moves.
At the end of the day, Bynum might just be the best center in the NBA. Sure, he lacks the flair and charisma of Howard, but considering how much less drama there is with Bynum, that might just be the tipping point in the conversation.
It’s great to be Superman, but perhaps the Lakers are better off with their own brooding star. Batman, anyone?
The Dark Knight might just bring the kind of edginess that the Lakers need to get back to the NBA Finals.
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Each passing day brings the 2012 NBA Playoff picture into sharper focus, with more teams coming up short and more teams clinching berths and division titles. Here’s a look at the games on tonight’s schedule that will further clarify the playoff picture.
Houston Rockets @ New Orleans Hornets – The Houston Rockets drew one significant step closer to elimination with their loss in Dallas last night, their fifth loss in a row. If they lose tonight, it will clinch a playoff spot for those same Dallas Mavericks, though Houston would still mathematically be in the West’s playoff picture themselves. Fortunately for Houston, the injury-decimated Hornets offer a much lighter challenge than the previous five games, which were all against teams fighting for playoff position. Still, the Rockets have zero margin for error. They have four games left on the schedule, including two against the Hornets, one against the Golden State Warriors and a date with the Miami HEAT. Any loss probably eliminates Houston from the playoffs, but a loss tonight means the Mavericks are in for sure.
Milwaukee Bucks @ Indiana Pacers – The Pacers have been on a roll of late, having won 10 of 11 games in April, and that’s good news for the New York Knicks. If the Pacers take out the Bucks tonight it seriously damages Milwaukee’s chances of making the playoffs, while also clinching a berth for the Knicks. The Pacers and Bucks squared off in Milwaukee last weekend, where the Pacers pulled out a 105-99 win. The Bucks are currently sitting in the East’s ninth seed, 2.5 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers. If they lose tonight they are not mathematically eliminated, but it would take a small miracle for them to make the playoffs. Philly would have to lose their last four games, and with New Jersey and Detroit still on their slate, that seems an extremely unlikely possibility. If the Bucks do win tonight, they still have a head-to-head with Philly that could weigh heavily in the final playoff seedings.
Chicago Bulls @ Miami HEAT – The game everyone will be watching tonight takes place in Miami, where the 2011 Eastern Conference Finalists duke it out for one last time in regular season action. The last time they met, the Bulls pulled out an overtime win over Miami behind the brilliant play of their second unit. If the Bulls win tonight, they will clinch the East’s top seed by taking ownership of the tie-breaker between themselves and Miami. It’s likely that the Bulls will be without Derrick Rose (ankle) and Luol Deng (ribs) tonight, meaning they have their work cut out for them in trying to stop Miami on their home court. If the Bulls can pull off what would be a huge upset, however, it will make the win that much more impressive. They did beat Miami at home without Rose the last time they paid a call on South Florida.
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