Orlando did not look very impressive in their first preseason game, a 118-85 drubbing at the hands of the Heat. To which the normal — and correct — response is: so what? It’s their first preseason game, it’s meaningless. Dwight Howard was off for a night and we should not care. Nobody expects playoff execution levels and focus here.
But over at ESPN, Brian Windhorst raised an interesting question — can Dwight Howard motivate and lead this team to overcome these kind of situations in the future?
The Magic starters got run over by the Heat’s bench (which is not a terribly impressive collection) with very little fight. Even in the preseason that should lead to a little fire from the Magic going forward.
Howard said he wanted to rally the troops.
“I told the guys we’re in this together … we’re going to stay on the path to win a championship,” Howard said. “Like I told the guys, at the present time we’re all on the same team and we’re all in this together. Until that changes, we should go out and play hard every night….
“[I’m] keeping the guys in line and not letting them lose focus of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Howard said. “I’m not really focused on [the trade] right now.”
But are his teammates listening? Howard has a trade request out there, do his teammates really feel like he wants to be there and be one of them playing hard every night? It’s easy to imagine a scenario where they do not.
One preseason game offers no real indication, but that doesn’t make the question any less valid. Every team faces adversity over the course of a season and one of the things that defines the best teams is how they respond to it.
Howard and Jameer Nelson are not going to combine to go 2-for-19 most nights like they did in this first game of the preseason. The Magic are better than that. But how this team deals with the swirling trade rumors that will go on all season — until Howard is traded or agrees to an extension — are going to be a challenge to play through. The team needs a leader.
Can that be Howard?
With so much focus in recent weeks being on NBA players speaking out on social issues, it’s worth remembering that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been one of the most vocal athletes in America on these things for decades. The Hall of Fame and all-time leading scorer in NBA history addressed the Democratic National Convention on Thursday evening, urging voters to vote for Hillary Clinton in November, and opened his remarks by introducing himself as Michael Jordan, because “Donald Trump couldn’t tell the difference.”
You can watch the video of his speech below:
In the weeks since Kevin Durant announced he was signing with the Golden State Warriors, we have yet to hear Russell Westbrook speak on his former teammate’s decision. This week, ESPN.com’s Royce Young indicated in a podcast interview that Durant was telling Westbrook and others in the days leading up to his decision that he was coming back to Oklahoma City. He later walked back his report, saying he misspoke. On Thursday, Durant himself told The Vertical‘s Shams Charania that he never said any such thing, or misled Westbrook or anyone else about his intentions.
“It’s false,” Durant told The Vertical on Thursday. “I didn’t say that – words about me telling Russell or Nick that I would stay or leave never came out of my mouth. We met as teammates, but no promises came out of it. In this day and age, I can’t control anything people claim out there. Someone can go out and say something random right now, and people will believe it.
“I never told Russell or Nick [Collison], ‘All right, guys, I’m coming back to the Thunder’ – and then a week later, I decide not to. Never happened. I don’t operate like that. I heard people say that story, but it’s not the truth.”
So that settles that.
CHICAGO (AP) The Chicago Bulls have signed guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
The Bulls acquired Dinwiddie in a trade with Detroit last month and waived him three weeks ago. He spent two years with the Pistons and appeared in 12 games last season, averaging 4.8 points and 13.3 minutes.
The Bulls announced the move Thursday.