Three Stars of the Night: Turn It Around

2 Comments

How about those road Warriors? They didn’t have Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, Carl Landry, or Harrison Barnes…and they still shot 53 percent in a 108-95 victory in Cleveland. A lot of that credit goes to Klay Thompson, who just missed the cut despite dropping a career-high 32 points. That’s how good our Three Stars were tonight, so let’s get right to them:

Third Star: David Lee – (20 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists)

Lee makes so much of Golden State’s offense work with his high post play and ability in the pick and roll, and tonight no was no exception. Even with the Warriors having to dig deep into their bench, Lee made the offense work by consistently making the right decisions. He’s always been a dogged offensive rebounder and good finisher, but Lee is so much more complete than he was a few years ago. It’s frightening to think how good Golden State can be with Andrew Bogut’s defense filling in the only real gaps in Lee’s game.

Second Star: Brandon Jennings – (30 points in 30 minutes, 6 assists)

Jennings and the Bucks both came out slow against the Pistons, but it didn’t take them long to turn it on. After the Bucks captured the lead with a big second quarter, Jennings sealed the deal with maybe the best short scoring burst we’ve seen this year. Halfway through the third quarter, Jennings scored on six straight possessions. For those scoring at home, it looked like this: Layup-two free throws-3-3-3-3. That’s a 16 point flurry on consecutive possessions with no misses in a little over two minutes of game time. You won’t see a scoring explosion like that again this year.

First Star: LaMarcus Aldridge – (29 points, 13 rebounds, game-tying and game-winning shots)

Never, ever count the Blazers out of a game at home. Dallas probably thought they had it in the bag up 21 in the third quarter, but they didn’t count on LaMarcus Aldridge performing miracles. After climbing all the way back, the Blazers found themselves down just three with about 11 seconds left. Aldridge set a down screen, got the ball, and then stepped back behind the 3-point line like that’s something he regularly does. Aldridge hadn’t hit a 3-pointer all season, but his huge shot from the 3-ball tied the game and sent the Rose Garden into hysteria. Thanks to a drawn charge on the other end by Ronnie Price, the Blazers incredibly got a chance to win it in overtime, and there was no doubt who they were going to. That’s the thing about Aldridge — he has two moves in the post, but because he’s so long, they’re still really tough to stop. Aldridge went to his patented turnaround with the game on the line, and it fell through to give the Blazers a dramatic home win.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

Leave a comment

Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Harry How/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.