J.J. Redick opens up about “weird” season, Dwight Howard

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I’m not sure any word but “weird” does justice to the Orlando Magic season.

It started with then Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide essentially drunk-dialing Dwight Howard and asking him to stay in Orlando. It didn’t seem like things could get more odd, but that was just the start, something that culminated in the day coach Stan Van Gundy told the media Howard wanted him fired just as Howard unknowingly walked into the press conference. The season ended with Howard injured and the Magic easily ousted by the Pacers.

Orlando guard J.J. Redick was on NBC’s SportsTalk and opened up about the year to host Russ Thaler. Great interview. Below are transcripts of the highlights.

About Howard:

“Within the team I think our perception has changed a little bit. I don’t see any way it couldn’t. But I am a Dwight supporter, I played with him for six years, I’ve been through some battles with him, won a lot of games tagging along side of him. He has been great for our organization.”

“I think as anyone can attest, sometimes we get confused in life. Sometimes we get bad advice. I think Dwight at his core, at his heart is a great kid, a great person. Maybe he just got a little confused, a little sidetracked about what was important and then at the end of the year he gets hurt and can’t play. It wasn’t a great year for him. I’m sure he’ll bounce back, get healthy and have a great year next year.”

On Howard’s relationship with Stan Van Gundy:

“To be honest with you, it didn’t seem worse or better than any other year. Those two have built a relationship based on winning and before things really started to turn for us we were 32-18 and had the fifth best record in the league. So for 50 of the 66 games this year that relationship was pretty solid.

“I’m not sure what happened and what transpired with management, with Dwight’s alleged request for Stan to get fired, I’m not privy to all the inside information. Certainly at some point that relationship started to change a little bit in March, and from that point on things got weird.”

About the press conference where Van Gundy said Howard wanted him fired, then Howard unknowingly walked in on it.

“We were all a little shocked. I cold plunge right after shootaround (take an ice bath). I had got my shots up after shootaround and had sort of seen Stan talking to the media and everything seemed normal from afar. Well I went back, grabbed my phone and jumped in the cold plunge and I have like 15 text messages and my twitter account is blowing up with “What did Stan just do?” So I pulled up the video and saw it. By the time I got out of the cold plunge and back in the locker room all the guys on the team knew what was going on.

“It was a little shocking in that it’s not something you see every day, obviously. I think Stan, for whatever reason, just decided to put it all out there. He said in the interview he is not a fan of BS and I can attest to that having played with him for five years. He doesn’t like BS and decided not to BS with the media, I guess.”

On Dwight’s plans:

“I don’t know. I think there are going to be some decisions made about the future and direction of our organization. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Otis Smith, our GM, I don’t know what is going to happen with Stan. “

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.