Notes from Sunday’s NBA preseason games

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It doesn’t matter who won or lost, so while the scores are listed below just consider those just a little headline so you know who we are talking about. What we want to know in preseason is who stood out — like Eric Bledsoe and Ty Lawson did in the Clippers/Nuggets game Saturday in Las Vegas. That was a good show. Here are some notes.

Boston 105, Milan 72: My first thought after watching both Celtics game so far this preseason — if Fenerbahce Ulker plays Milan in EuroLeague this season, bet heavily on the Turkish side. As for things about Boston, Jared Sullinger has looked good so far He gets boards and has a knack for making plays around the basket. Also, Rajon Rondo is shooting well. Don’t want to read too much into that from a couple preseason games but it’s something to watch. If he found a stroke the Celtics just got better.

Warriors 110, Lakers 83: The Lakers starters — plus Robert Sacre — looked good in the first 24, but in the second half Mike Brown rolled out the end of the Lakers bench and they scored just 17 points. Total. In 24 minutes. They had a 9-minute scoring drought starting in the third quarter extending to the fourth. The Lakers bench shot 33 percent overall. Which is only a concern because the Lakers starting 5 are not spring chickens. For Los Angeles, Steve Nash looked good (he always does) and so did a more slender and more active Metta World Peace.

For Golden State, Harrison Barnes was aggressive and when he is points and plays follow. Klay Thompson looked good to and was putting the ball on the floor with confidence. Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry did not play for Golden State.

Hawks 92, Heat 79: Chris Bosh with 22 points on 14 shots (with a hot streak to start the second half). Ray Allen debuted in a Heat uniform and had 10 points, but was just 0-1 from three. Kyle Korver and DeShawn Stevenson started for the Hawks. The one note, Hawks coach Larry Drew used Lou Williams a lot at the point (when Jeff Teague) was out and it looks like that may be a trend.

Bobcats 100, Wizards 88: For Washington, A.J. Price struggled as the starter with John Wall out. Which is bad news only because he is their best point guard left on the roster by a mile. The good new Bradley Beal looked strong dropping 18 points.

As for the Bobcats, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looked good in his debut.

Hornets 85, Magic 80: Not a pretty game, with both teams shooting just 37 percent on the night. For Hornets fans, Austin Rivers looked every part the rookie with 10 points (on 2-of-6 shooting) and one assist.

Bright spot out of Mexico, Magic fans, is that Gustavo Ayon played well and finished with 12 points (on 5-of-8 shooting), six boards and three assists in 26 minutes.

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.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.