Friday night, Dwight Howard picked up technical foul number 15 on the season, helping extend his league lead.
Once he gets his “frequent techicals rewards card” stamped one more time gets an automatic one-game suspension.
It’s really a matter of when — he has averaged a technical every four games this season and the Magic have 23 games left. Even on his best behavior he’s going to get another. Since he gets another one-game suspension for every second technical after 16, he may well miss a couple more games this season.
Then comes the playoffs.
Get seven technical in the playoffs and you are suspended a game (everyone’s total resets to zero). That may seem like a lot, but with emotions higher and the games more intense in the playoffs, technical fouls flow like water sometimes. Kendrick Perkins would have been suspended for a game in the Eastern Conference Finals last season if one technical assessed had not been rescinded by the league.
It will be interesting to see how much the referees relax the “respect the game” techs during the heated playoffs. If at all.
The playoffs are when Howard will really need to control himself. We’ve got questions about whether these Magic are contenders, but if they are to seriously challenge the Celtics and Heat at the top of the East, Howard has to be at the heart of the attack. Every game. He is riding and pushing his teammates right now, trying to get the team back up to the East’s elite. He is putting up monster numbers — averaging 27 and 15 while shooting 67.3 percent in his last 10 games — trying to carry his team up to the next level. He’s even hitting free throws.
He’s going to have to do all that and more come the playoffs for the Magic to really have a chance. Which means he needs to stay on the court.
Basically, starting today, he’s got to get the technical down to a minimum. Because this team needs him on the court to have any chance.
Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.
There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.
Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.
Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.
The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.
Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.
More than fine.
Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.
Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):
The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.
Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.
Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.
The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?
Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:
If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.
The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.
It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.