Lakers’ Chris Kaman wasn’t a fit with Mavs, according to Mark Cuban

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The Los Angeles Lakers looked like they made a pretty good deal when they were able to add Chris Kaman for the taxpayer’s mid-level exception of just $3.1 million for the upcoming season. The Lakers needed a big that could come in, know his role and complement Pau Gasol in the frontcourt — but that’s something Kaman had trouble doing alongside Dirk Nowitzki, according to Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban.

Cuban joined Norm Hitzges on KTCK-AM in Dallas over the weekend and, when asked about how bad Dirk and Kaman were on the defensive side of the ball, Dallas’s owner said it was harder for him to watch Kaman play next Dirk when the Mavs had the basketball.

I don’t think it was so hard to put Dirk and Chris on the floor together defensively. I think where we ran into problems … we couldn’t convince Chris not to put the ball on the floor. When Chris would just pick and pop, he was a top-five shooter in the NBA. Dirk and Chris playing pick and pop, pick and roll was lethal. No team could stop it. Chris had his own way of doing things, and that created some issues. It just didn’t work. Dirk and Brandan Wright played a lot better together. That’s one of the reasons we went hard after Samuel Dalembert. Sam is much more of a rebounder and he’s also a good shot blocker and rim defender.

Cuban is known for saying pretty much whatever comes to his mind, but it’s especially humorous when the business owner takes one of his players to task regarding their basketball ineptitude. His skewering of Kaman for dribbling too much is a bit overblown, though, when looking at the raw statistics provided by Synergy Sports Technology.

47 percent of Kaman’s offensive possessions came when he was either posting up or the roll man in pick-and-roll situations, according to Synergy, compared to just 16 percent coming from spot-up shooting or isolation plays for the 7-foot, 265-pound center out of Central Michigan. That would seem to discredit Cuban’s quote, but we can go a bit further: Kaman took 159 catch-and-shoot jumpers compared to just 29 jumpers off the dribble last season — meaning, if he was putting the ball on the floor, at least he wasn’t throwing up too many ill-advised shots after he did decide he can dribble.

There are plenty of reasons why Kaman wasn’t the greatest fit next to Dirk — and yes, a decent amount of those reasons came on the defensive end — but the fact that he occasionally put the ball on the floor wasn’t the primary problem.

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.