That caused controversy as the outside world expressed dismay at the Wizards guards’ attitudes.
Paul Shirley – who played for the Hawks, Bulls and Suns from 2003-05 – shrugged.
What I learned, when I got to the NBA, was that my dreams of fraternity were naïve ones. I sat in locker rooms where players barely spoke to one another. I endured team plane rides where one guy stared daggers at the next because of a contract dispute.
Consequently, I barely batted an eye at the recent “revelation” that Bradley Beal and John Wall don’t much like one another.
Of course they don’t like each other, I thought. That’s just the way it is.
This is a secret of the NBA: Not all teammates get along. Some are friends, but many are just coworkers – and consider your relationship with your coworkers. Frequent travel for work and the closed-off nature of locker rooms can push players toward forging bonds – but those conditions can also magnify any rifts.
In theory, Wall (a slashing passer) and Beal (an outside shooter) should complement each other well. But it’d be hard to find a team where each of the top two scorers doesn’t believe he should get more shots.
The successful teams manage that tension productively. They can convince each player to accept a role, sacrifice and contain his displeasures.
Maybe the Wizards can get there.
But that – not a fantasy friendship between Wall and Beal – should be the goal.
Two years ago, Lance Stephenson was 23 years old and nearly an All-Star.
Now, he’s stuck trying out for a team without an open regular-season roster spot.
Brett Dawson of The Advocate:
In other words, Stephenson is trying out just to enter a competition for a roster vacancy that doesn’t even exist.
New Orleans has taken major steps to add perimeter help this summer, drafting Buddy Hield and signing E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Solomon Hill. If he somehow makes the team, Stephenson likely wouldn’t make the rotation, even with Tyreke Evans injured.
Still, Stephenson is just 25, and he showed major talent with the Pacers just two years ago. He made positive contributions to the Grizzlies last season, too.
But a disastrous stint with the Hornets and an underwhelming run with the Clippers weigh down his résumé.
Stephenson probably did enough in Memphis to prove he still has NBA-caliber ability. More than anything, he’ll have to convince the Pelicans – and other potential suitors – he has the right attitude to work in the league.
Between, he was much more cautious.
The Knicks president didn’t make any bold proclamations entering last season. But, somewhat after the fact, he revealed his goal for the team.
Jackson in a March interview with Charley Rosen of Today’s Fastbreak that was published this month:
I’m also still hopeful that we can win the 35 games I had said was our goal before the season. That would be a vast improvement. More than twice the number that we won last year. We need to go 7-5 to get there.
“I know the guys don’t care about winning 35. They’re not marking it as their own goal. They just feel better about winning.
That’s a pretty pathetic aspiration – and the Knicks still didn’t meet it. They finished 32-50.
Jackson can say the players didn’t care about 35 wins, and they probably didn’t. It’s hard to see Carmelo Anthony appreciating aiming so low (though he might not resent it enough, which is anther issue).
But part of Jackson’s job is setting a tone for the organization. If he’s shooting for merely nearing mediocrity, that trickles down.
Jackson said entering the season he changed the Knicks’ culture. I’m not nearly as convinced.
We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off). Today:
Will returning home to Atlanta rejuvenate Dwight Howard?
It’s hard to remember an NBA star whose perception has changed as much in five years as Dwight Howard’s has. He hasn’t really helped matters — his messy exits from the Magic and Lakers, as well as his rumored feud with James Harden in Houston and declining production due to injuries have clearly lowered his standing. It’s easy to forget that five years ago, he was a three-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, legitimate MVP candidate and had recently been the best player on a team that went to the Finals.
As insane as it is to think about, the three-year deal Howard signed with his hometown Atlanta Hawks this summer is something of a reclamation project for a once-perennial All-NBA player. And the Hawks may be the perfect situation for him to rehabilitate his career.
From a pure talent standpoint, Howard in 2016 is a downgrade from Al Horford, who left Atlanta for Boston in free agency. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s system is predicated on spacing, and Howard offensively is useless from outside five feet. But he does undeniably fill holes. Last season, the Hawks were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, with the third-lowest rebound rate, per NBA.com. Rebounding is one of the things that Howard can still do consistently at an elite level.
Howard also brings enormous value as a pick-and-roll finisher, when he wants to accept that role. In Los Angeles and Houston, he was still under the impression that his best use was as a post-up big, likely in large part due to Shaquille O’Neal’s nonstop criticisms of his game on Inside the NBA.
If Howard is willing to play the pick-and-roll and doesn’t demand touches, he can still be an impact player in Atlanta. The hope would be that after leaving three teams on bad terms, Howard accepts that at this point in his career, he isn’t a first option on offense anymore, and he’s willing to play a role similar to what Tyson Chandler was on the Mavericks’ 2011 title team: a rebounder and rim protector who feasts offensively on putback dunks and scores in the pick and roll.
If Howard can do that, the Hawks have enough talent to stay in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference despite losing Horford. They have other question marks on their roster — they still haven’t found a full-time replacement for DeMarre Carroll, and the transition from the just-traded Jeff Teague to Dennis Schroder is going to be rocky.
But they have the pieces, the coach and the culture for Howard to be successful in Atlanta if he wants to be.