Dwight Howard

Olajuwon says Dwight Howard needs more freedom

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Free Dwight Howard!

That is essentially what Hakeem Olajuwon seems to be saying. Last week, Dwight Howard was working out with the legendary big man, trying to “just shoot” and expand his offensive game.

When asked this week what Olajuwon said, it was less about the broad skill set Howard has developed — he has a nice midrange bank shot now and a host of moves he didn’t have a few years ago — and more about how those skills are used, Howard told the Orlando Sentinel.

Olajuwon feels Howard can be a more effective offensive player with a little more freedom and confidence in his offensive moves.

“He just said I want you to do them in the game, and tell your coach you got a lot of skills and he needs to let you use all your skills,” Howard said Tuesday….

“For me, it’s all about confidence,” Howard said. “All of the stuff that we worked on is stuff I’ve been doing my whole life.”

The Magic use Howard a lot — he had a usage rate of 27.2 last season (meaning when he was on the court 27.2 percent of the Magic’s possessions ended with a Howard shot, him being fouled or his turnover). Only 16 players in the league got a higher usage rate.

But on the question of how Howard is used in the Magic’s inside-out offense, The Dream may be on to something. Last season 59 percent of Howards shot attempts came out of post up situations and he shot 50.6 percent on those (according to Synergy Sports). That’s a high percentage but it’s efficent.  Another 13.4 percent came on offensive rebounds. Only 6.8 percent of his shots came with him as the roll man in the pick-and-roll — but he shot 81.7 percent on those chances. That is a situation you want to use him more often in. Certainly other teams focus on him when he rolls (they don’t fear the Magic ball handlers), but the Magic need to find ways to use Howard in that kind of situation more often. He has the skills.

The playoffs showed how Orlando’s offense needs more variety if the Magic are to get back to the finals. It’s more than just that, though, they need someone else who can create his own shot on the perimeter (I mean a good shot, not what Gilbert Arenas was doing). They need to have Howard moving off the ball more. There are other wrinkles they can throw in.

Stan Van Gundy knows all that. But does he have the trust in Howard and the trust in his teammates to execute those new looks? That is another question.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.

John Wall pushes down Jusuf Nurkic from behind in retaliation (video)

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John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.

An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.

But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.