Keyon Dooling, Brandon Jennings' unlikely mentor

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Thumbnail image for Jennings_celebrate.jpgNBA mentors are typically cherished for one of two things (or sometimes both): an extended NBA shelf-life (see Ollie, Kevin) or notable refinement of their game (see Olajuwon, Hakeem). A mentor is a veteran, a pro, a hard-worker, an example for his team, or really, his teammates.

That’s probably not the lens with which you’ve viewed newly-signed Buck Keyon Dooling, but maybe it’s time to start. From Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“Keyon understands the league and what’s important,” said Bucks assistant general manager Jeff Weltman. “If
you look at any kind of task as saying you have X amount of chips to
spend, Keyon knows where to spend his chips. He understands how it
works. He’s going to help not just Brandon but a lot of our young guys,
I think.”

…”I
failed miserably as a young player and I had an opportunity with Miami
to rekindle my career,” Dooling said. “I learned so much in Miami and I
still use some of those principles today.”

…Dooling,
a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, said he was looking forward to playing
with Jennings, who started all 89 games for the Bucks last season while
being named a first-team all-rookie selection. “Sometimes
guys don’t want to be beat over the head with information and telling
your life story,” Dooling said. “I’ve had some conversations with him
last year through a mutual friend. I
think I have a unique ability to communicate with players, no matter
what the situation is. Anything I know that I can help him with, I’ll
give him. On the court, off the court, in life, whatever it is that he
needs, I will always be there to give it to him and any one of my
teammates.”

There’s no real reason why Dooling can’t be a mentor for Jennings. He’s faced career hardships. He’s rehabbed from injury. He’s never carried the burdens that Brandon eventually will as one of the faces of the franchise, but in terms of guys who have been there and back again in the NBA, Milwaukee could do far worse. Dooling carved out an NBA career for himself on the strength of his defense, and while Jennings had an impressive rookie season on the defensive end, he could still stand to learn plenty.

Dooling has never and will never be a star, and though he’s been in the league for ten seasons, he’s still 29 years young. No matter how you slice it, Dooling’s a bit unconventional by the NBA’s big brother standards. Still, he has a proven and long-lasting defensive pedigree, and gradually improved the effectiveness of his jumper over the course of his career. He’s a hard-worker and a professional, and though he isn’t a high-level NBA talent or one of its senior members, Dooling still has plenty to teach.

Carmelo Anthony on shrinking role with Knicks: ‘I see the writing on the wall… I’m at peace with that’

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Carmelo Anthony scored just nine points on 12 shots in the Knicks loss to the Heat last night — well below his season averages of 22 points on 19 shots per game.

Anthony, via Ian Begley of ESPN:

“I see the writing on the wall. I see what it is,” Anthony said late Wednesday night. “I see what they’re trying to do, and it’s just me accepting that. That’s what puts me at peace. Just knowing and understanding how things work. I’m at peace with that.”

Is Anthony talking about just the Knicks’ final dozen games of this season, when they’re clearly interesting in testing less-proven players? Or is he referring to his entire tenure in New York?

Anthony has said he’d consider waiving his no-trade clause if the Knicks want to rebuild, and they’ll reportedly try again to trade him this offseason. Perhaps, this is Anthony indicating he’s warming up to the idea of allowing a trade.

Anthony’s and Kristaps Porzingis‘ timelines are barely compatible, if at all. It’d make sense for the Knicks to go in a different direction.

Could Anthony be at peace with that?

Dwight Howard’s offensive rebounding defies convention

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Hawks president/coach Mike Budenholzer has the authority to set the Hawks’ priorities.

“Organizationally, fundamentally,” Budenholzer said, “transition D is more important than anything.”

Dwight Howard challenges that daily.

Howard has already built a Hall of Fame résumé:

  • Eight-time All-NBA center, including five-time first teamer
  • Three-time Defensive Player of the Year
  • Five-time rebounding champ

But the big man is doing something he’s never done before: Grab 15.2% of available offensive rebounds.

And he’s doing it at age 31 in a league that has increasingly deemphasized offensive rebounding. The NBA will set a record this season for lowest offensive-rebounding percentage for the fourth straight year.

Teams have just figured getting back on defense trumps crashing the offensive glass, the strategy emanating most prominently from the Spurs. Budenholzer, a former San Antonio assistant coach, brought the plan straight to Atlanta. The Hawks ranked 28th, last and last in offensive-rebounding in his first three seasons — in part for philosophical reasons, in part because they’ve lacked the personnel to do better. They’ve also been a below-average defensive-rebounding team each season under Budenholzer.

Then Howard signed and forced Budenholzer to adjust.

Atlanta has become an above-average offensive-rebounding team and far better with Howard on the court – a helpful crutch with ace 3-point shooters Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague traded. The Hawks are ceding more transition opportunities, though they remain very good at defending those.

It’s an obvious tradeoff, says Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons coach who coached Howard with the Magic sees the center in the rare class of players who deserve full autonomy to chase offensive rebounds.

“You don’t limit those guys,” Van Gundy said.

Howard has made the most of his freedom to chase rebounds. His 15.2 offensive-rebounding percentage ranks second to only Kenneth Faried among qualified players.

And, again, Howard is 31. Offensive rebounding tends to be a young man’s game.

Here’s top 10 in offensive rebounding this season, plotted by age:

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Player Team Age Offensive-rebounding percentage
Kenneth Faried DEN 27 16.1
Dwight Howard ATL 31 15.4
Andre Drummond DET 23 15.2
JaVale McGee GSW 29 15
Tarik Black LAL 25 14.8
Tristan Thompson CLE 25 14
Rudy Gobert UTA 24 13.9
Enes Kanter OKC 24 13.9
Kyle O'Quinn NYK 26 13.9
Willy Hernangomez NYK 22 13.8

Howard’s previous career-high offensive-rebounding percentage was 13.8.

The only other players to set career-high offensive-rebounding rates north of 15% after their age-30 season: Dennis Rodman (20.8% at age 33 with the 1994-95 Spurs) and Alan Henderson (15.6% at age 32 with the 2004-05 Mavericks). Both Rodman (Cooke County Junior College and Southeastern Oklahoma State) and Henderson (Indiana) played four years of college basketball, giving them less wear and tear on their bodies and fewer opportunities to post career highs at a young age.

Howard jumped to the NBA straight from high school.

Yet, he’s having a resurgent year in his 13th season. How is he doing it?

“One, I’m not super old,” Howard said earlier this season. “Two, my body feels great. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff to take care of my body.”

Known for eating legendary amounts of candy earlier in his career, perhaps Howard has made a breakthrough. His defensive-rebounding percentage (31.8) is the second-best of his career and ranks fourth in the NBA. That has helped him anchor the league’s fourth-best defense.

Howard has been subject to widespread criticism, and last season with the Rockets was a low point. This year, Howard has recommitted to the basics: Rebounding, defending, scoring inside.

“He’s got a big personality, but I think we all knew that,” Budenholzer said. “But it’s all in the right place. He wants good things, and I’ve really enjoyed coaching him.”

So much so that Budenholzer has compromised a core basketball tenet for Howard.

And it has proved a worthwhile decision.

JaVale McGee misses open dunk (video)

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Shaquille O’Neal said he’d stop talking about JaVale McGee, who has featured prominently on Shaqtin A Fool.

This missed dunk, a low point in the Warriors’ otherwise-impressive win over the Spurs, will test Shaq’s sincerity.

Grizzlies’ James Ennis fouls out then hits half-court shot (video)

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Against the Pacers last night, James Ennis missed all three of his 3-point attempts… that counted. And he makes this one after fouling out?

Mike Conley more than picked up the slack to lead the Grizzlies to victory.