76ers’ Wright says Bynum is better than Dwight Howard

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We are still in the honeymoon period with Andrew Bynum in Philadelphia. Fans love him. Teammates love him. Coaches are excited about ways they can use him in the offense.

That honeymoon will end, it always does. Ask every Philadelphia sports hero. It will be interesting to see how Bynum handles it when things turn, when the tabloids smack him around a little.

But we are not there yet. Until then, it is strawberries and champagne and the beach in Fiji. It is a honeymoon. And among those insanely happy people to be playing with Bynum in Philly is Dorell Wright.

Wright went way over the top speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, saying Bynum is better than Dwight Howard.

“He’s going to need two defenders to stop him; I would say he’s the best big man in the NBA right now, hands down,” Wright, speaking at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, said. “He’s a guy that can give you baskets with his back to the basket; a guy who makes free throws at 7-feet. You’ve just got to respect him.”

The reporter gave Wright an out and said is this because Howard is coming off back surgery?

“No way, I’d say it any day. It’s because I know he can put his back to the basket and give us a basket and request a double team and make free throws,” Wright continued. “It’s his all-around game. Hopefully he can stay healthy and we can ride, he can put us on his back and he can take us as far as we can go.”

Dorell, you are wrong. Well meaning, but flat out wrong.

No doubt Bynum opens up the Sixers offense and is going to make things better. I don’t want to demean Bynum here, I like the guy. And if you just look at the offensive stats Bynum and Howard are comparable — Bynum averaged 1.03 points per possession last season, Howard .97 but with a higher percentage of the team offense run through him. In the post they were almost identical (.88 and .89 points per possession). Howard is better as the roll man when he gets the ball back, and he draws more fouls. But it all evens out because Howard shot 49 percent from the free throw line, while Bynum was 71 percent. There is no hack-a-Bynum.

Honestly, the offensive numbers are pretty much a wash.

But there are two key areas where Howard is superior. One, consistency of effort. Until the back injury and whatever went down at the end of Howard’s time in Orlando, the guy brought it every night. You gut his best effort. Bynum… let’s just say the Lakers intentionally tried to get him touches early in the game so he wouldn’t go on mental walkabout some nights. When challenged (like facing Howard) Bynum was there and ready, but that wasn’t every night.

Second is defense — Howard is a flat out better defender. While opponents overall shooting numbers are again similar against them watch the film and you see Howard blow up pick-and-rolls and recover much faster than Bynum, who often sits back on those. Howard is faster weak side to strong. Bottom line is Howard is more fleet of foot and uses that to be a far more disruptive defensive presence than Bynum. Again, don’t get me wrong, Bynum is a good defender and the Sixers paint protection just got better. But Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year for a reason.

But Dorell, it’s a free country. Believe whatever you want.

Rumor: Grizzlies had to choose between Marc Gasol and David Fizdale

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David Fizdale has been linked to most of the NBA’s head-coaching vacancies.

He developed a legion of backers as lead a Heat assistant, and he did good things guiding the Grizzlies before they unexpectedly fired him. He deserves consideration.

But he also must explain his fractured relationship with Memphis star Marc Gasol. They weren’t speaking for a while.

And maybe the problem was even worse than that.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source close to Fizdale briefed on the Grizzlies’ decision, it was ownership having to make a choice — trade their All-Star center Marc Gasol, who has fallen in love with its small-market city, or fire the coach. Their relationship had gotten that bad.

If Grizzlies ownership felt it had to choose between Gasol and Fizdale, it’s not clear why.

Fizdale benched Gasol down the stretch during the coach’s last game, and Gasol publicly expressed his frustration.

But Gasol denied issuing a me-or-Fizdale ultimatum. Fizdale said focus on his relationship with Gasol was “overblown,” adding he cared far more about whether he could win with a player than whether they got along personally.

Memphis obviously sided with Gasol – probably too strongly.

LeBron James bought Cavs teammates matching designer suits to wear to game tonight

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I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.

The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.

If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.

The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.

Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.