Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard says he left Lakers because he had to do what was right for Dwight

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Personally, I’ve moved on from what Dwight Howard did last summer. What I want to know is if he has grown from two years of turbulence around him (turbulence largely caused by him), if he is healthy, if he can take the steps he needs to if he plans to lead Houston to a title. I will add this: It’s been just a few preseason games but he is moving well and playing with an edge we have not seen from him in a while.

Still, his past lingers.

He forced his way out of Orlando and burned bridges, only to land in Los Angeles where he didn’t get along with Kobe Bryant and was frustrated that management hired Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson (it’s the one thing Howard and Lakers fans largely agreed on).

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel asked Howard about all those moves and his public perception, and Howard said he had to do what made him happy.

“Everybody’s saying I was a ‘coward’ for leaving [the Lakers], and I knew I was going to get that,” Howard said Tuesday. “But I think with the situation I had to do what was best for Dwight.

“I know when I wanted to leave Orlando, and I decided to stay, I wasn’t happy on the inside. I wanted to please everybody else and ended up hurting a lot of people by doing it the way I did. So, this time it’s like I had a second chance.

“I said, ‘You know what? People are going to hate me for whatever reason, so I can’t allow that to stop me from making my decision.’ I thought that my decision took a lot of guts because everybody’s saying, ‘How could you leave the Lakers and six billion fans?’ But I don’t care about being an outcast or about being somebody that may look bad. All I’ve got to do is win now, and I’m in the right situation.”

Howard went on to say he had “no regrets” about how things ultimately turned out in Orlando.

As I’ve said before, winning cures a lot of ills in American society. Howard’s image was bad, but so were the images of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James at points. I’m not sure that Kobe ever cared what others thought but LeBron was able to mature and move past it, then both led their respective teams to multiple titles. With that they won over the casual fans and earned begrudging respect from their critics.

It will be the same with Howard. Win and he can really sell he made the right basketball move, he can rehab that image. But to win he’s going to have to overcome the kind of adversity that he has shied away from in the past, he’s going to have to adapt his game to fit the team and not be about himself. Do that and the Rockets can win.

Do that and Howard will have showed he matured.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.