Dwight Howard frustrated with Rockets’ effort in recent losses

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The Houston Rockets’ offense has been one of the best in the NBA this season. James Harden on the outside, Dwight Howard inside and a good combination of role players has worked well.

But not Wednesday night. Against the Suns the Rockets shot 35.2 percent as a team and 29 percent from three. It was the reason they lost.

That is two straight losses; the Rockets played poorly against the Jazz and fell on Monday night. Howard was frustrated with the effort of him and his team and vented about it, as reported by Fran Blinebury at NBA.com.

“[Expletive] effort out there on defense and on offense,” said Howard. “The ball stuck … We didn’t move it and we can’t win that way….

“It had nothing to do with us missing shots,” Howard said. “They just played harder than us…It had nothing to do with the offensive game. They just played hard. We know what we [have to] do. It’s gotta be important for guys to come out and play the same way every night.”

Technically, it is about missing shots, but we’ll let that slide. They also miss Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons who were out injured. Yet Howard is right about the Rockets seeming somewhat disinterested the past couple games.

Also, the ball did stick Wednesday, but part of that is Howard.

The Rockets worked hard to establish him early, getting Howard post touches. The problem is on the season while Howard gets 47.6 percent of his offensive opportunities on post ups he’s shooting just 38.1 percent on them (stats via Synergy Sports).

Then midway through the first quarter they ran a Harden/Howard pick and roll and got a bucket — this season just 8.3 percent of Howard’s attempts come as the roll man but he is shooting 72.7 percent when he does.

Usually Howard shoots a higher percentage than this season in the post, but those numbers are in line with his career trends. He’s a great roll man with his quickness, yet he prefers to play in the post. It hasn’t mattered much this season, but it’s something to watch as they continue to struggle.

Howard is right about effort — the Rockets need to get back to it to keep on winning. After that they can focus on ways to be more efficient. Like getting the ball back to Howard more on the pick-and-roll.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).