Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard gestures during the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston

Dwight Howard goes on rant about fourth quarter touches, even after the Magic win


Let me tell you how bad Dwight Howard’s post-game rant in Milwaukee was.

I don’t have enough room to block all the important quotes. I’m sitting here, staring at this mass of text, and that’s usually my format. Gentle intro, segue to blockquote, blockquote, discussion of blockquote, tangential remarks, unnecessarily snarky finish, the end. But this thing is too long. So please go read the full remarks, as I try and give you some indication of Howard going off the deep end after… wait for it… the Magic won Saturday night.

“I do want the ball more in the fourth quarter,” a frustrated Howard told FOX Sports exclusively after the game.

“I want to become a closer. The only way you get there is by getting the ball and have coach have the confidence in giving me the ball.

“That’s how Kobe (Bryant) and the rest of the great fourth-quarter players got that way. It’s trial and error. When Kobe first got in the league, it took him a while to become the killer he is in the fourth quarter now. That’s because he went through that phase where he had to learn what shots to take and just get confidence in taking shots in the fourth quarter.

“That’s one thing that I want for myself, so I can become the guy who finishes games for my team. I want to be that guy whose team wants him to close games out for them. Coach just needs to have confidence in me.”

via ‘Superman’ expects to wear cape late in games.

Now, there’s a number of things that are weird about this, as noted by Sam Gardner of Fox Sports Florida. Howard is incredibly hard to get one-on-ones with, because, you know, he’s an All-Star. And he really threw his team and coach under the bus after a 16-0 run to win a game? Maybe the reporter just seized an opportunity put out the bait, and Howard landed on it. If so, good on him. But Howard hasn’t been careless with his approach to the media. This whole thing seems weird.

First off, let’s take note that while dealing with a million questions regarding his trade demands and his situation with the Lakers, he name drops Kobe Bryant. There are a million players he could have dropped there. Is Bryant the most notable? Absolutely. Is he the only one who people have reported Howard has a bad relationship with after phone calls this month? Also yes. Additionally, since he’s saying he wants to be the closer, and he’s saying Kobe Bryant is L.A.’s closer…

No, you know what? We’ll save that for another time, because I’m far enough out on the ledge as it is right now.

Howard is complaining… after a win! His team won! Jason Richardson won the game for the Magic by going nutso in the second half! Howard talks all this year about how he needs help, he just wants to win, he wants to have better teammates. Now he’s mad because he didn’t get the ball enough in the fourth quarter, when they won, and his teammates step up.

It’s always something with Howard. He’s creating an impossible situation for the Magic, and you’d think he’d just be happy for the guys he says he loves so much in Orlando.

Putting aside his free-throw issues, the fact that nearly no team goes to their big man late in games to close, Howard’s long-standing history of difficulty with quality low-post defense and the fact he just wasn’t having a great game, this just isn’t the time. I’m willing to discuss how to use Howard late in games, his effectiveness in shutting the door, all of that. But not after a win and not after everything else that’s gone on in Orlando. This is just absurd.


Report: David Lee, Tyler Zeller in line to start for Celtics; Jared Sullinger, Jonas Jerebko out of rotation

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 08: David Lee of Boston Celtics attacks during the friendlies of the NBA Global Games 2015 basketball match between Real Madrid and Boston Celtics at Barclaycard Center on October 8, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Brad Stevens has a big challenge this year – sorting the Celtics’ deep roster of similarly able players.

It seems that process is shaking out at power forward and center.

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

it appears Boston’s first four bigs will be starters David Lee and Tyler Zeller, with Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk off the bench.

That leaves Jonas Jerebko and Jared Sullinger, potentially on the outside looking in as far as the regular rotation is concerned.

Lee is the best passer of the bunch, which could partially explain why he’s starting. Boston’s most likely starting point guard, Marcus Smart, is still growing into the role of the lead ball-handler at the NBA level. Lee and presumptive starting shooting guard Avery Bradley can take some pressure off him.

Olynyk can space the floor for Isaiah Thomas-Johnson pick-and-rolls with the reserves and run pick-and-pops with Thomas himself.

I’m a little surprised Zeller is starting over Johnson, though. The Celtics just signed Johnson to a $12 million salary, and I thought they’d rely on his defense to set a tone early. Like Johnson, Zeller is a quality pick-and-roll finisher who can thrive with Thomas.

This is particularly bad news for Sullinger, who – barring a surprising contract extension – is entering a contract year. It seems those reports of offseason conditioning haven’t yet paid off. Jerebko’s deal also isn’t guaranteed beyond this season, but at least he has already gotten his mid-sized payday. Sullinger is still on his rookie-scale contract.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets 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)

I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.