Dwight Howard hasn’t played poorly — he’s averaging 17.2 points a game on 53.6 percent shooting, plus he’s pulling down 13.9 rebounds a game and impacting the defensive end of the floor. The Rockets are off to a good 8-4 start.
But Hakeem Olajuwon is watching from half a world away — he is in Nigeria right now working on launch of “Power Forward,” a youth program involving the NBA that will use basketball to develop health and life skills in the children there.
“Dwight has always been athletic and aggressive and he still is. But when I watch him, what I see are opportunities that he is missing. When he gets the ball, he seems to be taking his time to decide what move to make, where he should go.
“There should not be a delay for Dwight. He must be able to make a faster recognition of the situations and react immediately with a go-to move. You must move right away before the defense has a chance to set up. You must be the one making the first move so that you can force the defender to always be the one reacting.
“I thought we were doing a good job with this when we were working together over the summer and at the start of training camp. But what I see now is that when Dwight gets in competition, he has a tendency to go back to all of his old habits. He’s just doing all of the things that he did before. He needs a reminder.”
That pause has been a long running habit of Howard’s (and Blake Griffin and other bigs), when he gets the ball in the post he wants to see what the defense does then start his move. It’s easy to see that and say he is being patient in the post, which certainly is a good thing.
But moving quickly and keeping the defense off-balance is a better thing.
For now Howard is on his own, Olajuwon said he plans to return to Houston in February. And Howard will continue to put up numbers as he is clearly healthier than he was a year ago. But there are other levels for Howard to reach if he and the Rockets want to hoist up Larry O’Brien.
Three Things to Know: Aggressive Lonzo Ball is what Lakers need from him
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s what you missed while creating Arya Stark memes to mock the iPhoneX.
1) Aggressive Lonzo Ball racks up triple-double, pushes Lakers to win in wild game. This is the Lonzo Ball the Lakers need. This is the Lonzo Ball Lakers’ coach Luke Walton wants to see when he says he needs him to be aggressive.
Ball picked up his second triple double in just more than a week Sunday night against Denver, with 11 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists. He still wasn’t efficient as a shooter — 5-of-13 overall, and a decent but not great finisher going 4-of-6 at the rim and 4-of-8 total in the paint — but he pushed the pace (a very fast 106 possessions) and got teammates involved with a good mix of throw ahead passes and pushing the ball by the dribble up the court. It kept Denver on its heels all night.
Ball put his mark on this game — and that’s what the Lakers need from him. I’m not going to overreact to this positively the same way I was not going to overreact negatively to his rough start — he’s a 19-year-old NBA rookie. It’s a process, one that takes time. After Summer League the hype machine — thanks to his father and a zealous fan base — spun out of control. Summer League is a far cry from the NBA and Ball is a reminder of that, it’s still a big step up. Ball needs to work on his conditioning, his handles, his shot, and his decision making at pace will improve with practice (Sunday was a step in that direction). Just be patient and we’ll see how good a player he develops into.
Ball pushed the Lakers to a 127-109 win (thanks in part to Julius Randle‘s 24 points), but Los Angeles got a lot of help from Denver — specifically coach Mike Malone and leading scorer/playmaker Nikola Jokic getting ejected in the second quarter. Malone was hot, feeling fouls were being committed on Jokic and not being called, and after Kyle Kuzma put an arm in Jokic’s back and pushed him down on a rebound (subtlety, it was a veteran-style move) Malone stormed onto the court during play and got in the path of referee Rodney Mott and challenged him. Mott immediately ejected Malone and then Jokic when he said something.
Malone can get out the checkbook now, he’s going to get a healthy fine for that one.
The other news out of the Sixers camp Sunday was an update on Markelle Fultz — which the team had leaked the day before would be a positive one. The update: Fultz is progressing but will be out another 2-3 weeks, then he will be re-evaluated. I guess that’s what passes for positive with the Sixers and injury updates.
Also, to the people out there on Twitter throwing dirt on the career of Fultz or calling him a bust — stop it. You are close to what Dean Wormer said about Flounder. We are a month into Fultz’s NBA career, and we have 0.0 percent knowledge of how that career will go. But if you think he can’t come back from an extended layoff and succeed, please look at Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid, go talk to Blake Griffin while you’re at it, then get back to me.
3) The Orlando Summer League is no more. This is big news for basketball junkies and hoops nerds: The late June/early July Orlando Summer League that has run for 14 years is no more. The Orlando Magic, which operated the league and ran it before the big NBA Summer League in Vegas, killed it, a story broken by Josh Robbins at the Orlando Sentinel. Eight teams played there last year — Orlando, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Indiana, Miami, New York, and Oklahoma City — but the NBA League Office wants all teams playing in Las Vegas. That is now closer to reality. Also, the Magic didn’t make any money off the tournament, so that limited incentive to keep it.
Some coaches preferred Orlando — Stan Van Gundy lamented the demise of the Orlando league (in part because he lives in the city in the off-season and throws a party for the coaches at his house). The Vegas Summer League has big crowds and all the distractions of Las Vegas, while the Orlando league was not open to the public (although games were shown on NBA TV) and that led to more focused development. Some coaches and GMs preferred that. (The flip side of that argument: I’ve been told by team executives they like the distractions in Vegas, because it shows them which players are focused on the game, and which ones are easily pulled off track.)
There still is the Rocky Mountain Review that the Utah Jazz relaunched a couple of years ago, which draws a handful of teams. But the NBA is finding Summer League a money-making success and wants its teams concentrated there in July.
Wild night in L.A.: Lonzo Ball has triple-double; Nuggets coach, Nikola Jokic ejected
LOS ANGELES (AP) —Lonzo Ball had his second career triple-double and Julius Randle scored 24 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 127-109 victory over the short-handed Denver Nuggets on Sunday night.
Ball had 11 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and 11 assists in the 20-year-old rookie’s first triple-double in front of his hometown fans at Staples Center.
Brook Lopez scored 21 points and Jordan Clarkson added 18 for the Lakers, who surged to a 24-point lead in the first half and easily won for just the second time in seven games.
Denver coach Mike Malone and top scorer Nikola Jokic were ejected in the second quarter after Malone stepped onto the court during play to argue a no-call on a play by Jokic around the basket. Malone furiously confronted referee Rodney Mott, who swiftly ejected the coach and his best player when Jokic joined in the argument.
Forward Paul Millsap also left with a sprained left wrist in the second quarter of a miserable night at Staples Center for the Nuggets, who lost for just the second time in six games.
Ball and Magic Johnson are the only Lakers with multiple triple-doubles in their rookie seasons. Johnson had seven, and his new point guard has two in his first 17 games.
Randle added seven points and five assists in a stellar game off the bench.
LeBron James on Colin Kaepernick: “He’s been blackballed”
LeBron James has never been shy about speaking his mind, this season even more so it seems. That’s why it made sense that sooner or later, The King of the NBA would weigh in on an issue that has captivated the sports community: kneeling, national anthem protests, and Colin Kaepernick.
Speaking at Cass Technical High School in Detroit on Sunday, LeBron said that he though Kaepernick’s absence from an NFL roster was the result of clear action by teams to blackball the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
James, speaking not only from the perspective of the most influential current NBA player on the planet but as an NFL fan, said that he felt Kaepernick was better than most backups.
“I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing. I do know that. Just watching, he’s an NFL player. He’s an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he’s been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that.”
“The only reason I could say he’s not on a team is because the way he took a knee,” James said. “That’s the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks — first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks — that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let’s just be honest.”
The Boston Celtics are on a roll, the likes of which not even the faithful fans at the TD Garden would have predicted.
After dropping their first two games of the season — and losing Gordon Hayward for the season due to a gruesome leg injury — the Celtics have ripped off 15 straight victories. They sit at 15-2 on the year, including signature wins over the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, and defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Boston’s effort has been lauded as the combination of a quick meshing of the roster in the absence of Hayward (and Isaiah Thomas) as well as the drafting skill of Danny Ainge and the coaching prowess of Brad Stevens.
Indeed, Stevens is an early frontrunner heading into the beginning of the holiday season for Coach of the Year.
Meanwhile, Boston has a few highlights to their name. Lucky for us, the NBA has put some of the best video clips together during their fall run.