A lot of people think Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy hate each other, but that’s not the case. They got over their little spat in Orlando pretty quickly and now text each other regularly.
Van Gundy probably knows Howard’s game as well as anyone and told the Los Angeles Times the back surgery has robbed Howard of some of his athleticism right now.
“I don’t think he looks quite as explosive or as quick as he has in the past,” said Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando for five seasons before being fired in May. “Now, he’s still above almost everyone in the league at that size athletically, but he has not totally looked like himself to me.”
Even the 80 percent of Howard is good — he is averaging 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds a game. But he’s not the same physically and is searching mentally. Van Gundy also talked about the adjustment to playing with Kobe Bryant and what Howard has told him in their texts.
“It’s a big adjustment for him going from being the guy to not only being the No. 2 guy but really a No. 2 guy that really doesn’t get the ball very much at all,” Van Gundy said. “It’s a different deal and an adjustment he has to make. Those kind of things take time….”
“The only thing he’s really gotten into was,” Van Gundy said Friday in a phone interview, “he wants their defense to be better.”
I’m not sure we needed Van Gundy to tell us all this.
Watch Howard play and you can tell he’s not the same explosive player. Watch him on offense — especially since Mike D’Antoni took over and Steve Nash returned — and you can see him searching for his place and his touches in the offense. Watch him on defense and you can tell he’s frustrated.
A lot of that needs to be frustration with himself. He is not making the defensive plays (although to be fair, when he does help nobody helps the helper and picks up his guy). Howard isn’t running the floor or playing like the pick-and-roll beast that he can be. Maybe he needed to not rush back for the start of the season and let his back heal more. Maybe a lot of things.
But Howard finding his old self is a large part of the Lakers finding themselves.
There was a scary moment during the matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. During a change of possession, Houston’s Trevor Ariza and and Golden State’s James Michael McAdoo got tangled up and fell together on the floor.
McAdoo was under Ariza and wound up getting his head slammed into the hardwood. He was immediately taken off the floor and sent to the locker room.
The NBATV broadcast said McAdoo received stitches but did not test positive for a concussion. He is averaging 8.7 minutes, 2.9 points, and 1.7 rebounds per-game for the Warriors.
Jusuf Nurkic did not enjoy his time as a member of the Denver Nuggets. His trade to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Mason Plumlee was a welcome change of scenery.
On Tuesday night, Nurkic got to take on his old team with huge playoff implications at stake. Portland beat the Nuggets, 122-113, moving a game ahead of their rivals in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and giving them the best tiebreaker between the two.
Nurkic was impressive, blasting his old squad with 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting, adding 16 rebounds, three blocks, and two assists.
Nurkic was interviewed in the arena after the game, and he was obviously happy he helped his team while also sticking it to Denver. Speaking with Portland reporter Brooke Olzendam, Nurkic took one last shot at the Nuggets, telling them to enjoy their summer.
Nurkic quite possibly sent the Nuggets packing for the year with the game at the Moda Center on Tuesday, so he might have been the guy who helped start their summer.
Still, that is ice cold.
Miami Heat forward James Johnson is one of the NBA’s best in-game dunkers. On Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons, he yammed down a huge one-handed slam that embarrassed Marcus Morris and drew gasps from the crowd at the Palace.
The play came midway through the fourth quarter with Johnson at the top of the key. After a quick pass over to him, Johnson gave a quick hesitation before driving to his left and past his defender.
With the quick step, Johnson’s only remaining opponent at the basket was Morris, who was unfortunate enough to find himself between the high-flying Heat and the rim.
This is what happened next:
Morris was whistled for a foul on the play.
The Miami Heat took until the final moments on Tuesday night to beat the Detroit Pistons, but it was worth it. With just a handful of games left to play, the Heat need to stave off the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Thanks to a tip at the buzzer by Hassan Whiteside, they’re one step closer to achieving that goal.
The play came with just seconds left in the fourth quarter. James Johnson missed a shot with six seconds to go, and the Heat grabbed the rebound. Goran Dragic then tried his hand, but he couldn’t get it to go, either.
That’s when Whiteside came back with a tip at the buzzer that ended the game.
Miami now sits at 36-38, a game above the Bulls for the No. 8 seed.
Whiteside, meanwhile, is never going to wash that hand again: