25 Observations about the Dwight Howard trade

44 Comments

25 observations about the Dwight Howard trade to send Howard to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets, Andrew Bynum to the Sixers, and very little to the Orlando Magic.

1. Let’s start with LA, since they’re the moneymaker for media and they get the best player. Wow. Holy Wow. Holy Geez Wow. The amount of talent on one team is just absurd.

2. We know where Nash fits, in the pick and roll with Howard. We know where Nash and Pau fit. We even know where Pau and Howard fit, with what we saw from Gasol’s lobs to Bynum last season. But where does Kobe fit in this? Pick and roll with Howard? Perimeter outlet shooter? Is he the winch at the elbow? How does tis work? Can he really deal with being a perimeter-outlet/ backcut scorer? That’s going to be a fascinating dynamic to watch. Beyond, you know, the general death and destruction this team will create on a nightly basis.

3. I thought that the Lakers would land Howard at the start, because it makes sense, right? Given what we know about the NBA, the Lakers getting what they want seems like a thing that would happen. I was convinced otherwise by Dwight and his agent’s constant scheming and pushing of the narrative, with all signs headed to Brooklyn, but looks like that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, it appears the Magic passed up what would have been a bad deal for the Magic with the Nets for an equally-bad-if-not-worse deal for the Magic with the four-team trade.

4. Howard gets warm weather, star power, a championship-contending team and will eventually get the money he wants. Because, really, when you look at everything he’s pulled in the last year, that seems fair.

5. For the Magic, I do think we need to give this trade some time before we react to it, but of course, no one will. They didn’t get rid of Hedo Turkoglu’s contract, despite it being with range of being dumpable, they didn’t lose Glen Davis’ contract, despite him having a surprisingly good year last year, they didn’t land an Eric Gordon player (who didn’t exist on the market). Getting Iguodala wouldn’t have helped him, at his age, salary, and role. Getting Bynum wouldn’t have helped them with his age, salary, and expiring nature (do you want to see how Bynum reacts to being on a lottery team? Because I don’t.) doesn’t help them. Getting Pau Gasol wouldn’t have helped them. We have to wait a year to see what they do in the draft and with the rest of the contracts on roster. But the lottery protections being reported on the picks make this really tough. That is the one element that makes it worse than the proposed Nets trade. You needed to at least have the possibility of getting a good pick if everything went haywire for a team.

6. It’s not a total loss for the Magic. Getting rid of the contracts of JRich and Duhon is considerable, and it’ll get lost but both Vucevic and Harkless are quality players. It doesn’t make up for the overall stench of the deal, but there is some potential there, and most of it is on easy-to-move contracts.

7. The Sixers finally got off the pot, to to speak. After talking about trading Andre Iguodala for four years, they finally pull the trigger and land the second-best center in the league. Bynum gives them the dominant offensive force they’ve been looking for, a go-to player who can also defend, and has no equal in the Eastern Conference. With a young, athletic roster and a great defensive system, the Sixers could challenge for the Atlantic title.

8. That’s assuming Bynum’s healthy. And motivated. And doesn’t kill Doug Collins. Or Collins kills him. So yeah, question marks.

9. The Sixers go from starting Hawes and Kwame Brown to likely bringing Brown off the bench and playing Thaddeus Young a high percentage of the time at the combo-forward spot. Oh, and they have Lavoy Allen. They have an army of bigs to throw at teams.

10. Denver is prepared to meet the athletic-wing hordes from Houston on the fields of battle with their own army.

11. Gallo moves back to the two-spot, where he was in New York, Wilson Chandler and Jordan Hamilton make up the reserve core, and the Nuggets have a more versatile playmaker who can also defend at an elite level. Big win for the Nuggets.

12. If you get an extension from the Nuggets, you might as well sell your house at this point.

13. Lawson-Iguodala-McGee is a pretty great core on its own, before you throw in Kenneth Faried and Gallinari. The Nuggets have about six guys who can defend multiple positions.

14. There’s not really a player that Iguodala doesn’t make better on that team. Lawson’s off-ball abilities will thrive with Iguodala on the floor, and McGee will prosper in the pick and roll. And he provides some veteran leadership in the locker room next to his old teammate Andre Miller.

15. Seriously, Steve-Nash-to-Dwight-Howard pick-and-roll. Run for your lives.

16. The Magic should have moved either Davis or Turkoglu in this deal, even with those deals not being as toxic as perceived. They should have gotten protection-free picks. They should have gotten a better prospect out of the deal or waited till one came available.

17. But then, they might have been able to had Howard not constantly and maliciously damaged their leverage at every turn.

18. Dwight Howard’s last act as an Orlando Magic player was skipping his own basketball camp… for kids.

19. Who’s ready for the Jameer Nelson-Aaron Afflalo-Moe Harkless-Glen Davis- Andrew Nicholson era?

20. Pau Gasol is now the fourth-best player on his team. Metta World Peace, an elite defender, is now fifth.

21. The Sixers have to be right there for the Atlantic now. And Jonas Valanciunas for the Raptors has to face Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Andrew Bynum, and Tyson Chandler 12 times a year. Somebody buy the kid a beer.

22. And hey, the trade didn’t get vetoed! So we’ve got that going for us. And by us, I mean everyone who didn’t want to hear complaints about the owner of a team rejecting a bad deal.

23. There will be a lot of backstory blame passed around the Magic organization to try and figure out who was in charge, ownership or Rob Hennigan. Not the way you wanted to start.

24. Remember when Melo-Amar’e was a powerful team-up? Remember when Deron Williams-Joe Johnson was big news?

25. We might just get that Heat-Lakers, LeBron-Kobe finals after all.

Thunder star Russell Westbrook scores 45, leads 25-point comeback against Jazz

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
7 Comments

The Thunder lost three straight games, fell behind by 25 in the second half at home and looked as if they had no interest in returning to Utah.

Then, Russell Westbrook reminded everyone why he’s a superstar.

Westbrook is a singular force who can take over a game and rally his teammates – not a liability who makes everyone around him worse. His confidence and determination in the face of calamity were invaluable tonight. He kept attacking, and as shots started to fall, he and his teammates massively increased their defensive intensity.

The result: A 107-99 Game 5 win over the Jazz that looked highly improbable 21 game minutes before it ended. But Westbrook (who finished with 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists) singlehandedly outscored Utah in that final stretch.

The Thunder are hardly out of the woods yet. They still trail 3-2 in the series with Game 6 Friday in Utah. Teams with home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6 win it just 37% of the time. Those teams win the series just 26% of the time.

But thanks to Westbrook, Paul George (34 points) and plain all-around defensive effort, Oklahoma City still has a shot. At minimum, the Thunder won’t send George into unrestricted free agency with four straight losses.

Not that Oklahoma City erased all concerns.

Rudy Gobert devoured the Thunder’s offense in the paint – at least while he could avoid the foul trouble. Utah was +7 in Gobert’s 30 minutes and -8 in the 18 minutes he sat.

The Thunder made most of their comeback with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. They continued to play well once he returned in the fourth quarter, but by then, the Jazz had lost all rhythm.

Utah – led by Jae Crowder‘s 27 points – looks deeper. Anthony was still Oklahoma City’s third-leading scorer with just seven points.

And the Thunder haven’t won in Salt Lake City this series.

But they’ll make another trip there. Considering where this game and series looked midway through the third quarter tonight, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Another massive third quarter lifts Rockets past Timberwolves into second round

Getty Images
3 Comments

We saw this movie just a couple of nights before, but Rockets fans love the ending and would gladly pay to see it 12 more times this postseason.

Much like Game 4, the Rockets were down at the half in Game 5 Wednesday after having played disinterested defense and with cold shooting from their stars (James Harden and Chris Paul combined to go 3-of-16 from the floor). Minnesota was up 59-55 and had hope.

Then the third quarter the Rockets flipped the switch. Again.

Harden had 15 points in the third — matching the Timberwolves as a team. Minnesota started to double Harden and take the ball out of his hands (especially late in the shot clock), but he often moved the rock and it led to open threes — the Rockets were 6-of-10 from three in the quarter. Houston won the third 30-15, not as overwhelming as the 50-point quarter the game before but once again enough to comfortably pull away from Minnesota and cruise in for a 122-104 win.

With that, the Rockets win the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Utah vs. Oklahoma City series.

In that series, the Rockets will need to play with more consistent focus than they brought against the Timberwolves — they can’t just play a couple of good halves in the next series and expect that to be enough. Unlike Minnesota, those teams in the next round will make Houston pay a steep price for a lack of focus.

Houston got a massive night from Clint Capela, who led the Rockets with 26 points and 15 rebounds, running the rim hard in transition and making plays inside while the rest of the Rockets launched threes over the top.

Harden finished with 24 points and 12 assists, and Eric Gordon had 19 off the bench in the win.

Minnesota had 23 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and 17 from an energized Jeff Teague.

For the Timberwolves, a team with elite young talent, this was a glimpse of what it will take to reach the heights they envision. This was a good step — the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 2004 is not to be diminished. It matters. But there are higher levels this team can attain. Defensively they have to be better, offensively they need to feed Towns more and play to their strengths better. It’s a work in progress.

Houston just showed them where they want to be.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

Getty Images
8 Comments

This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

14 Comments

LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.