Dwight Howard's new nickname: "foul on you"

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Thumbnail image for Howard_game.jpgDwight Howard has really stepped up his game in the playoffs. Well, one part of his game. He tends to foul a lot during the regular season (3.5 per game), but during the playoffs he has been on fire.

So much so that his teammates have nicknamed him “foul on you” Howard told the Associated Press after practice.

“That’s my new nickname. They’ve been killing me all day calling me
‘Foul on You,”‘ Howard said of his teammates after shootaround Monday
before their playoff game against Charlotte. “So I’ve accepted by new

Howard has fouled out of one playoff game and picked up five fouls in the other two (a 5.3 per game average). That has limited his playing time to 27 minutes a game. It hasn’t hurt the Magic who are up 3-0 in the series (thank you Jameer Nelson) so is it really a concern?

Well, Stan Van Gundy thinks it is, as he told the Orlando Sentinel. And if he does…

Stan Van Gundy ordered Dwight Howard to review videotape with him of some of the fouls he received on Saturday, and the Magic coach wants Howard to make adjustments…

Howard met with Van Gundy in the visitors’ dressing room (after practice Sunday), where they spent about 15 minutes poring over the tape. When asked about the meeting, Howard said, “It’s top secret — we can’t tell you guys. It’s a top-secret meeting. Coach told me not to say anything…”

“Everybody’s trying to tell me what I should do. I just can’t allow myself to get frustrated. Things are going to happen,” Howard said. “My teammates say, ‘Why you got to fight all the time?’ You’re playing basketball. You don’t want anybody to think you’re weak and soft out there, so sometimes you go to battle. I just have to try not to get into a wrestling match.”

Howard walks a fine line. First, he is stronger than everyone else he goes up against. Second, he is expected to be the power presence on the offensive block for Orlando, he had to make some moves and risk picking up an offensive foul. He is also the primary — and often only — help defender on Orlando. All of that means he is going to pick up fouls by just playing basketball his way.

But he has to avoid the silly ones, the borderline ones. Some of those calls have gone against him this series, some were just mistakes by Howard. Those are the calls he needs to eliminate.

Against the overmatched Bobcats these foul issues are no big deal. In the next round against Atlanta, things change.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told NBCSports.com. The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.