In his first seven seasons in the NBA, Dwight Howard never missed more than four games in a campaign. He’s joked about switching from DC to Marvel, changing his nickname from Superman to Iron Man. (I’m not sure Tony Starks is the guy you want to model your life after, but that’s another debate.)
Up until last year Iron Man was appropriate. And while some commentators — and some fans — wanted to tie Howard’s poorly-handed trade demands to him missing a dozen games last season, that didn’t make sense. Not if you had really watched him in previous years. Howard played through back spasms and other pains last season because he didn’t want to be seen as quitting on his team.
But things got too serious. Howard explained just how serious to the Los Angeles Times.
“What a lot of people don’t know is when I hurt my back, it affected my nerves to the point where my whole left leg just went dead basically,” the Lakers center said Thursday. “I couldn’t do a calf raise.”
After undergoing surgery in April for a herniated disk, Howard said it took about two months before he could lift his calf off the ground. He was told he would recover fully in about five months but received solid feedback in August.
Howard seems on a road back for a full recovery, reports out of Lakers training camp is that he is moving well. We will see if the grind of the season changes things.
I think has fans we tend to combine things — we hate how Howard handled getting traded out of Orlando, so we magnify his flaws and issues and make him seem a bigger risk than he really is to the Lakers. While the risk of injury hoovers over every NBA player, Howard’s history should earn him a pass on thinking his back issue is chronic already.
Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.
More than fine.
Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.
Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):
The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.
Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.
Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.
The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?
Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:
If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.
The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.
It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.
Remember when Aaron Gordon was a promising fun player?
The Magic sidetracked him by playing him at small forward most of last season. But back at power forward, Gordon showed how he could push the pace as a four in Orlando’s season-opening win over the Heat.
There’s obviously flair in passing to yourself off the backboard, but it’s a sound way to improve position. Gordon did that to fantastic effect.