Brandon Bass makes Dwight Howard’s job sound easy

Leave a comment

On some teams, the distinction between ‘power forward’ and ‘center’ is a mere formality. After all, the more versatile the players that a coach has at his disposal, the more blurry the lines between the two positions often become.

Not so for the Orlando Magic, if only because the defensive responsibilities that accompany each positional role are so drastically different. Evan Dunlap of the Orlando Pinstriped Post had a chance to talk to Brandon Bass (who, if you’ll recall, has been studying up on his defensive rotations) about the differences between playing power forward and center on the defensive end, and Bass’ positional preference is fairly clear:

“Playing the five, you just do a lot of zone. At the four, you gotta do a lot of moving. It’s a lot of work. You gotta make two efforts: You gotta close out [on shooters], [and] get back to your man. Five? You just zone, and your man is right there rolling into you. It’s a lot different. It’s a lot tougher playing the four…Like, with Dwight [Howard], if he posts me up, I know he’s going to bang, bang, bang, hook shot, or something. Versus guarding a perimeter player, you gotta show on the pick-and-roll, then you gotta close out to the three[-point line], move your feet, and stay down. Then you probably gotta move your feet because they want to drive and pull up, or whatever.”

Who knew Dwight Howard, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, had it so easy? I mean, he “just zones.” His man is “right there rolling into [him.]” That’s Dwight, living the good life, laying out in the paint with a pair of shades and a daiquiri. Meanwhile, the Brandon Basses and Rashard Lewises of the world are out there working their tails off, operating the blender that makes Dwight’s daiquiris by running on a giant hamster wheel. While solving a Rubik’s Cube. If you’re still keeping up with this metaphor, kudos.

Bass is right though, even if he’s wrong. Is defending the 5 really that much simpler than defending the 4? Perhaps, but only because when playing the 5, one’s on-man responsibilities are less emphasized, while their help-side responsibilities are paramount. The center position may not require the same defensive range, but it does necessitate having skills worthy of being every other defender’s Plan B. Dwight (or Gortat, or Bass, or whoever is playing center in Orlando) still has to cover his man, he still has to cover the screen-and-roll, and while he’s at it, act as a safety net for each of his teammates’ botched defensive sequences.

Dwight and the Magic centers may not be chasing anyone around on the perimeter and showing at the three-point line, but I think in this case, Bass’ explanation may be a tad oversimplified.

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
3 Comments

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr. planned to have J. Cole dunk in dunk-contest routine

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. seemed pretty steamed about getting eliminated in the first round of the dunk contest:

The dunk-contest scoring system – five judges ranking dunks on a scale of 6-10 – is plenty flawed. There should have been a larger difference between the Smith and Victor Oladipo dunks the Dallas point guard mentioned. But Oladipo didn’t advance, either. Personally, I thought the right two players – eventual-winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. – advanced.

Maybe Smith was more upset about the missed opportunity – dunks (plural!) involving rapper J. Cole.

Amin El-Hassan of ESPN on Black Opinions Matter:

If Dennis had made it to the finals, Cole was going to throw him the alley-oop. But then the plan was, he was going to throw him the oop, Dennis would dunk it, and then Cole would catch the ball, and then he’d dunk it too. That was going to be the ill, craziest dunk-contest use of a prop or a person ever. But we never got to saw it, because they were holding out until the final round. They didn’t want to bring it out in the first round.

This certainly would have been unprecedented and cool. But unless Smith had something amazing planned for the alley-oop, the best element would have been Cole dunking. That would have upstaged Smith, who’s presumably the one being judged.

For what it’s worth, Cole can dunk. We’ve seen it in the celebrity game:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard returns this season

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
3 Comments

When announcing last month Kawhi Leonard was out indefinitely due to a lingering quad injury, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dismissed the idea his star forward would miss the rest of the season:

Apparently, Popovich’s expectation has changed.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

The Spurs (35-24) are third in the West despite Leonard playing just nine games. Popovich has done a great job (maybe Coach of the Year-worthy). LaMarcus Aldridge is having a bounce-back season in a leading role. Pau Gasol leads a supporting cast of players good in their roles.

But San Antonio’s ceiling is so much lower without Leonard.

He’s an elite defender who shuts down opposing scorers on the perimeter and can comfortably switch inside. He can isolate offensively to score efficiently, and he spaces the floor off the ball with strong 3-point shooting. Those are all skills that translate to the playoffs.

Without him, the Spurs rely too heavily on older, slower defenders. That’s ripe to be exploited in the postseason.

Teams might even jockey to match up with San Antonio – the most vulnerable-appearing Western Conference team in line to get home-court advantage in the first round.

Of course, this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of Leonard returning. Popovich could just be trying to shut down speculation. He clearly doesn’t like discussing this issue.

But the Spurs are the most cautious team on injuries. If Leonard risks further injury, they’ll keep him sidelined.

This injury has already caused tension. This won’t help.