Dwight Howard developing a jumper would be best offseason move for Magic


Thumbnail image for howard_Walk.jpgThe Orlando Magic are close. They went to the NBA finals last season, the Eastern Conference finals this season. You can see a championship from where they stand.

But what is it going to take to get into the Promised Land?

It’s about getting more out of what they have, not bringing in anything new. There are already 10 guys set to be paid on the Magic roster next year and it is all the major contributors — Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson even JJ Redick will all be back (although they need to work out an extension with Redick, he can test the market but the Magic can match or extend a one-year qualifying offer).

What the Magic need more than anything is Dwight Howard to develop a jump shot. Not a Rashard Lewis bombing from three jumper, but a Kevin Garnett/Pau Gasol deadly midrange jumper. A spot along the baseline and near the free throw line where he becomes a deadly shooter that can’t be left alone.  It would change how teams have to defend him, it would open up the paint for slashers. It would make the Magic much harder to stop on offense.

This season you could count on one Dwight Howard shot outside 10 feet every other game (0.7 per game, to be specific). On those he’d shoot about 38 percent. Basically, if he lined up to take it you let him have it.

But if he had a threat from the outside he would be impossible to defend. It would add a little finesse to go with the power. He’s quick enough off the dribble that he could take centers who came out to challenge him. Help defenses would be pulled away from the basket, opening up room for Carter and Nelson to slash to the rim. The Magic would have more options.

Aside that, don’t expect huge moves from the Magic. They already have about $80 million on the books for next season, they are not going to go a lot higher. However, with the new revenue streams that will flow in when the Amway Center opens its doors, they may be able to take on a little more. Like a nice backup power forward for the midlevel exception (although they will have Brandon Bass back, they may want to give him more burn).

The Magic can get one more piece, or make some moves around the edges. But what it really comes down to is getting more out of core the pieces they have. Which is something Dwight Howard seemed to get in his post game comments.

“Next year we have got to have guys that are willing to give everything they have got to get wins,” Howard said in his televised post game press conference on NBA TV. “(Boston) played like they wanted to win the championship the whole series. That’s why they are in the position that they are in now.”

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.