NBA@2: Orlando The Next NBA Super Team?
Up until last weekend there was an overwhelming feeling around the NBA that Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard was playing in his last few games as a member of the Orlando squad. He can opt out of his contract this summer, and most believe he will choose to skip town rather than wait around for the Magic to get him back to the NBA Finals.
Last weekend, as Howard was playing host to the NBA All-Star game, another story started to circulate. Sources close to the situation told HOOPSWORLD that Howard was considering staying in Orlando for one more season by simply choosing not to opt out. Ironically, that might just give the the Magic’s all-world center his best shot at winning a championship . . .in Orlando.
Right now the Magic are in a tough situation, as GM Otis Smith had made moves that make it difficult for the team to acquire better pieces to put around Howard. The Magic would happily move Hedo Turkoglu, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Jameer Nelson or Chris Duhon, but those are not exactly high-demand players around the NBA. But something down right magical happens in two seasons, when Howard’s contract would expire if he chooses to play it out.
The Magic have just under $70 million in committed salary this season, followed by roughly $67 million next season. In 2013, however, the Magic have a maximum of $32.3 million committed, and it could be as little as $15 million depending on how certain options play out. If Howard were willing to stick things out in Orlando for the next season and a half, there’s a chance that he could be at the heart of an NBA super-team that just might rival the Miami HEAT for Eastern Conference supremacy.
The free agent class of 2013, you see, has some very interesting names in it . . .names of players with whom Howard would love to play. First and foremost, Howard’s long-time friend Josh Smith will be at the end of his contract with the Atlanta Hawks, and close behind him could be Golden State Warrior and Howard buddy Monta Ellis, who has an Early Termination Option on his deal.
How about a little game of “What If?”
What if Howard, Smith and Ellis put their heads together and came up with salary numbers that would work for them under the cap, as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did in Miami? What if Ryan Anderson decided to stick around to continue benefiting from the attention Howard draws in the post? A lineup of Howard, Smith, Ellis, Anderson and Jason Richardson would be pretty formidable on both ends of the floor. Howard and Smith would send back any attempt to attack the rim, and Ellis Richardson and Anderson would enjoy plenty of open threes. Orlando could fill out the roster with exception money and minimum contracts, perhaps adding another Howard friend in Stephen Jackson.
All of a sudden the Magic start to look pretty darn tough.
A lot can happen between now and the summer of 2013, or course, and we can do little more than speculate about where certain players are likely to end up. That said, if Howard does what some around him believe he will do and stick around for another season, it’s entirely possible that Howard will find his championship-caliber team right back where he started . . .in Orlando.
Gerald Green: From Moscow To Kobe Bryant
Gerald Green has certainly been around the block when it comes to basketball. In fact, he has now literally been around the world. Green came to the NBA straight out of high school as the 18th overall pick of the 2005 NBA draft. Taken by the Boston Celtics, Green has had multiple stints in the NBA D-League, played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, and even spent time in China and Russia last season as he pursued his basketball dream.
“I’ve always been a guy who worked,” says Green, who, as a member of the LA Defenders, was named MVP of the D-League All-Star game in Orlando last week. “I watched Kobe in training camp this year for the one week that I was there and I learned how he took practice like a game. His focus was unbelievable and that’s one thing I took from that. Being overseas that’s a man’s business. You can’t go over there being a little kid because you’re out of the country in a whole ‘nother world. You’re in the middle of nowhere. I grew up a lot faster being overseas, which I think is a good thing. I’m just so happy that things are starting to look good for me. All the hard work I’ve always done is starting to pay off and I’m just excited.”
Even after so many diverse experiences in the world of professional basketball, Green understood that he had something to learn from his stint with the Defenders this season.
“I feel good. I have to give a lot of credit to the Los Angeles Defenders organization and Eric Musselman as a coach. He’s a great guy developing me. I’ve learned so much being with him. He’s just done a great job with all of our bodies. Giving us rest, making sure that we get the proper sleep and the proper treatment so that our bodies can feel right. … I have dedicated myself the last two or three years to keep working on my game. I feel like my defense has gotten stronger. I feel like my jump shot is a little more consistent. I feel like I’m a smarter player than I was a couple years ago, the last time I was in the league.”
As a result of his time in the D-League, and no doubt aided by his strong showing in Orlando, Green was called up by the New Jersey Nets earlier this week. The Nets are hoping to benefit from Green’s improved play and maturity as they look to fill some holes in their second unit.
“A lot of people always ask me, ‘Do you regret ever coming out of high school?’ And I say no I don’t,” Green reveals. “The NBA is the best league you can go to; it’s the best league in the world. There’s no better way you can be prepared than going straight out of high school to the NBA. I was just immature. I didn’t prepare myself right. It’s like I didn’t know how to be a professional because I was straight out of high school. That’s one thing I learned going overseas. Learning how to be a pro, learning how to conduct yourself better and learning how to not take any days for granted. Every day you have to go hard.”
Green’s last stretch overseas, in particular, helped him understand the next step he needed to take as a professional player.
“I love Russia, but it was a crazy experience for me as far as trying to learn the European game. It was so hard for me. I was just playing strictly off of talent and what I knew from the NBA. Just me being there and that experience, me being there it was unbelievable man. The people there are a little different. No English, of course, but I had fun. I feel like I got better. I feel like I came there and I left there a better person. At the end of the day, that’s what matters to me.
“It’s tough,” Green continues, speaking of the learning to play European style basketball. “In the U.S. they tell you if you can beat your guy, beat your guy. If you can make a play, make a play. Over there the best play to make is to swing the ball. Another thing that messed me up was the whole half-step thing. The defense could sit in the lane forever. It wasn’t really a hard transition because basketball is still basketball, it just wasn’t the same. The game was a lot slower. It just wasn’t the same. I still enjoyed my time there but it just really wasn’t where I wanted to be. I played like that because I wasn’t having fun.”
To his credit, Green was able to have an instant impact with New Jersey, scoring 10 points in the Nets’ win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. Dallas saw a much more focus and discipline than Green ever displayed as a Maverick, and it’s something Green believes is the direct result of his time in the D-League.
“I have to give a lot of credit to coach Musselman again. Everyday he rode me about staying focused. Don’t take even a second off of any play. Don’t take any plays off. Don’t take practice for granted because you never know when it might be your last day to ever play basketball again. That’s one thing I try to just keep that mindset of staying focused and having fun.”
If Green can continue to play as well as he did in his first showing with New Jersey, the rest of this season might be a whole lot more fun for the Nets. They might just start to hang some wins on the board, helped by Green as a scoring threat off the bench.
New York Knicks Gunning For Miami?
For all of the excitement surrounding the New York Knicks in the weeks leading up to the All-Star break, they didn’t exactly close out the first half of the season on a positive note. Yes, Jeremy Lin was the talk of the league, and yes, with him at the point the Knicks put themselves squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but they seemed to lose steam heading down the stretch. They lost two out of three leading up to the break, one to the lowly New Jersey Nets and one to the defending conference champion Miami HEAT.
It was the HEAT loss that stuck in Carmelo Anthony’s mind and we asked him to look towards the second half of the season.
“Yeah, it’s in the back of my mind,” Anthony said to HOOPSWORLD following Sunday’s All-Star game in Orlando. “”The loss, the way (Miami) prepared for our team and for our game. That’s something that I would love to take and bring that back to my team, just the preparation that they put into the situation.”
What’s next for the Knicks is a mixed blessing. First, they open the second half of the season with tonight’s game against Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving will provide a great test for Lin, and the hungry Cavaliers will test the rest of the Knicks, as well. The game comes during a rare light stretch in the schedule, which the Knicks desperately need for practice time.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” says Anthony of the blip in the schedule. “We just want to get this one, prepare ourselves to go in there in the garden and win against Cleveland. We have some practice this week where we can really lock in and focus on things that we need to focus on, lace up our shoes and go.”
Now it’s time for the Knicks to show what they can do. The easy stretch they had before the break is officially over, and March holds a number of important tests for the team. They play the defending champs in Dallas next Tuesday, then head to San Antonio, host Philly in The Garden, play a back-to-back with Indiana, and also play Orlando and Atlanta before the end of the month. There are a number of much easier games in and around those tests, but we will know much more about this Knicks team by the end of March.
“I’m looking forward to the second half of the season,” says Anthony. “It’s been a rough two weeks dealing with everything, the injuries and stuff like that. I’m ready, and we are going to be ready too. … It’s crunch time now. It’s time to buckle up, prepare ourselves and get ready for the playoffs and get into the playoffs, win some games and go from there. Get everybody on the same page and let’s rock. It’s the fun time right now.”
That’s exactly what Knicks fans are hoping for.
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