Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets

Lakers coach Brown says Howard is going to bail him out on defense, basically


The Lakers were a pretty pedestrian defensive team last year, despite coach Mike Brown’s pedigree. They were 13th in the league in points surrendered per possession, giving up 101.7 points per 100 possessions (the league average was 101.8).

And they struggled against the pick-and-roll, particularly against the roll man who shot 49 percent against the Lakers on that play last year (according to MySynergySports.com). It is an area they need to improve if they want to get Kobe Bryant another ring.

Enter Dwight Howard.

The Lakers new center can score plenty, but what he does better than any Laker big on last year’s roster is defend — he is the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Mike Brown is going to look a lot smarter next year, and he knows it. Here is what he told ESPN about Howard.

“You’re talking about a guy who is seven feet, who has the feet that he has, it’s unbelievable. His foot quickness is something, to me, that stands out right away, more than anything else. It helps him run in transition offensive transition, and get easy baskets.

“But more importantly, in a pick-and-roll situation defensively he’s going to help guys like Steve Nash, and Kobe and Metta (World Peace) and whoever else we have on the perimeter defend the pick and roll game, because that is the way the league is going. Teams are playing smaller, quicker, faster, they are spreading the floor, they are playing the pick and roll game, and to have a guy like Dwight involved in that or on the weakside coming over to help is something special.”

It will be interesting to watch the USA evolve as a defensive team, it’s going to take time. With Dwight Howard’s back keeping him limited in preseason and possibly missing the start of the season, the chemistry it takes time to develop on the defensive end will be slow for the Lakers. It will be the same on both ends.

What it means is, much like the Heat of 2011, the team playing in April and beyond will very different than the team from November. At least the Lakers are counting on that. Like Brown is counting on Howard.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”

Knicks’ Rookie Jerian Grant gets up, throws it down (VIDEO)

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The Knicks did well trading for Jerian Grant on date night — he’s going to be able to walk in this year and play quality minutes off the bench.

And, he can get up and throw it down.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points to lead the Knicks to a 94-88 win over the Sixers.