Dwight Howard says he feels like a villain, relates to LeBron

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After the LeBron James “decision” process and television show, myself and a lot of others said that nobody could make a bigger public relations mess of their switching teams than LeBron.

Then along came Dwight Howard.

Two years of a roller coaster that had him out of Orlando, spending an uncomfortable year in Los Angeles, and finally landing in Houston was a mess.

Now it’s over, and Howard realizes how he is perceived, as he told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

“Last year, I felt like I was the villain,” Howard told Yahoo Sports. “Now, I feel like I’m an even bigger villain.”

Howard talked about how he related to LeBron through this — and how just like LeBron, winning is the way to repair that image.

“He got hated for a lot of reasons,” Howard told Yahoo. “I was really, really happy when LeBron finally won. I was unhappy that it wasn’t me up there, but I was glad to see him get through that whole thing.

“I knew exactly how he felt. People putting you down, saying bad things about your character, who you are as a person. It doesn’t sit well with you. When you go out on the court, you want to show them, ‘Hey, this isn’t who I am.’

I’ve said before, Houston and the next several years are where Dwight Howard’s ultimate legacy will be defined. He has come off as a guy looking to avoid adversity, to have things handed to him, these past couple years. He will not see it that way, but that’s the perception.

Now there is no moving on — he has to win in Houston. He can, they have the pieces to be a contender (with some roster tweaks and some time for this all to meld).

The question is how he will deal with the inevitable adversity, but if he answers that question and wins then he changes that legacy. As LeBron did (and Kobe before him). It’s not fair that winning whitewashes past mistakes, but welcome to America. It’s the reality.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.