Before Dwight Howard alienated fans with the ugly way he exited the Orlando Magic, followed by a severely disappointing stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, he was one of the game’s most popular players, and his participation in All-Star weekend’s slam dunk contest was the primary reason why.
Howard pulled off the sticker dunk in 2007, won the contest in 2008 with his Superman gimmick, and entertained in 2009 by allowing Nate Robinson to dunk over him to take home the title.
With All-Star weekend being held in New Orleans this year, the same place where Howard won the contest in ’08, the league extended an invitation to see if he might want back in. But this time, Howard politely declined.
Howard, 28, said he would participate again, “If I wasn’t so old. I’m getting up there in age, man, I tell you. I got a lot of years.”
Howard, however, said he had thought about that night just because with the return to New Orleans.
“It was a night to remember,” Howard said. “It was probably one of the best memories of me being in the NBA being in the dunk contest here in New Orleans. The fans were amazing here. Every time I come in this building, I get chills thinking about it.”
Howard has done his part in making the dunk contest a special event, and after participating three straight years, it’s more than understandable that he’d want to continue to take a break from being the event’s star performer. Skipping the event also helps in continuing to rehabilitate his image as a player more focused on winning than silliness in his current role with the Houston Rockets.
Phil Jackson goes on vacation, reportedly puts Knicks’ coaching search on hold
Jackson is on vacation at the moment. The interesting thing here is that league sources say that some involved in the Knicks’ coaching search have been informed that Phil is away at the moment, meaning the search is on hold.
This matters only if Jackson isn’t just going to hire Rambis anyway. But if the Knicks are interested in exploring candidates other teams – Rockets, Pacers and Kings – might want, Jackson is missing a valuable opportunity.
Reminder: The Knicks are paying him $12 million per year – money that could have lured someone with a record of front-office success or even just the commitment to delay a vacation until after hiring a coach.
Three Things to Watch in Heat/Raptors Game 2: Will Kyle Lowry’s jump shot return?
The first game went to overtime, and we should see a desperate Raptors team in Game 2, one that knows it can’t go down 2-0 and win this series. Here are three things to watch.
1) Did Kyle Lowry’s late-night shooting work pay off? To put it bluntly (as I did in the series preview): If Lowry isn’t playing at an All-Star level the Raptors are not winning this series. He was 3-of-13 shooting in Game 1. It wasn’t just that game, and it wasn’t just the first playoff series with George Hill draped on him, Lowry was not shooting well as the campaign wound down — his 57.8 true shooting percentage for the season dropped to 51.1 (below the league average) in April. That has to change fast.
It wasn’t just Lowry, however, a lot of Raptors players were missing wide open looks — as a team they were 4-of-17 on uncontested threes. Those shots need to fall.
2) Can Toronto defenders stay in front of Goran Dragic? The Miami point guard has felt more and more comfortable in recent months — since the All-Star break when Miami was pushed to small ball — and the Raptors did nothing to make him feel uncomfortable. Well, one Heat player did, Hassan Whiteside (Dragic was 3-of-9 finishing in the paint in Game 1), but if he keeps getting into the paint at will — both in secondary transition actions and in the half court — breaking down the Raptor defense this is going to be a rough series in Toronto. I expect a lot more effort and a better performance from the Raptors defensively, with Dragic as a focal point.
3) “We need more Jonas Valanciunas” — the Raptors must attack Hassan Whiteside and draw some fouls. Whiteside intimidated a lot of Raptors shooters in Game 1 — not only did Raptors guard struggle to finish inside, but they also pulled up and didn’t take shots in the paint at times just to avoid Whiteside. However, Toronto’s Valanciunas has the size advantage inside and put it to good use with 24 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks. The Raptors need to feed him early and try to get Whiteside in foul trouble — that also means attacking guards like DeMar DeRozan can’t pull up, he has to risk some blocked shots to go into the body of Whiteside and draw fouls. If Whiteside is allowed to dominate the paint, the Heat will take the series, the Raptors need to go at him.
Cavaliers’ 3-point shooting was excellent. THEN, they made 25 in a game
That’s right, the Cavs needed just five games to set a record for 3s through six playoff games. Then, they piled on 25 3-pointers – a record for any NBA game – in their Game 2 win over Atlanta on Wednesday.
Cleveland’s 97 3-pointers through six postseason games absolutely crushes the previous record:
The difference between the Cavs and second place equals difference between second and 88th.
In fact, Cleveland has already demolished the record for 3s through EIGHT playoff games (previously 90 by the 2014-15 Hawks). Again, the Cavaliers have played just six games this postseason.
Where is all this outside output coming from? The key long-distance shot makers:
The Washington Wizards announced that guard John Wall underwent a successful procedure today to excise calcific deposits in his left patella tendon in order to eliminate pain and assist healing. He will begin the rehabilitation process immediately and is expected to be available for the start of the 2016-17 season. Wall also underwent an arthroscopic lavage on his right knee in order to remove loose bodies.
If the Wizards are just using the next date most fans care about, this might not be such a big deal. That would open the door for Wall being healthy at any point over the summer.
But if the start of next season is his targeted return, that’s more troubling. Sitting an entire offseason is a big deal, and that means potential complications are more likely to cause him to miss games. It’s also a worse indicator for his long-term health.
As the Wizards enter free agency primed to spend, the last thing they need are questions about the length of their franchise player’s prime.