Monday And 1 links: New look Pierre the Pelican ready for his close up

1 Comment

Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points.

The rumors are true: We will have a new look Pierre the Pelican mascot All-Star weekend in New Orleans. The team went about this in a clever way, here are the highlights of the press release:

New Orleans Pelicans mascot, Pierre, suffered a broken beak on Saturday, Feb. 8 at the Pelicans Practice Facility during a pickup game of basketball with fellow NBA mascots Grizz (Memphis Grizzlies), Rocky (Denver Nuggets) and Slamson (Sacramento Kings), as well as NFL mascot, Gumbo (New Orleans Saints)…

Later today, Pierre will have surgery at Ochsner Medical Center to reconstruct the broken beak. Pelicans Team Physician Dr. Mathew McQueen will perform the surgery.

“This will be a rather unconventional surgery for us. I am not sure we have something to compare this to,” said McQueen. “It will be quite complicated and will require the use of some unconventional tools and instruments to reconstruct his beak.”

The press release goes on to blame Grizz, the Memphis mascot, for the injury. I guess everyone associated with Memphis plays physical ball.

• Pierre’s home — and the arena where the All-Star Game will be played this weekend — has a new corporate sponsor, this is the Smoothie King Center. This is a 10-year deal for the arena naming rights. Smoothie King was founded in 1973 (a few years before the smoothie craze took off) in New Orleans.

Great read on Jason Collins, Michael Sam and the education of sports.

• Another great read on building a strong defense in the NBA, from Zach Lowe at Grantland.

• But if you’re going to read just one long-form thing on basketball today, make it this from Grantland on the use of analytics in the game and how it has grown.

• Kevin Love took out this ad to thank Minnesota fans for voting him into the All-Star Game.

source:

• Dwight Howard’s Orlando mansion is up for sale — five bedrooms, huge kitchen, seven bedrooms, 11,025 square feet of living space, and it can all be yours for just $4.9 million (Howard bought in 2008 close to the top of the bubble, he’s taking a $3 million loss on it).

• Interesting tweet.

• Jason Richardson hopes to be back on the court come March.

• Nerlens Noel is ramping up what he is doing in practice.

• Kevin Durant has a puppy now. A cute puppy.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

Leave a comment

James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

Harry How/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.