Dwight Howard returned to Orlando as a member of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and as part of the Magic’s 25th anniversary season, they played a video tribute to Howard between the first and second periods.
Plenty of fans let their disapproval be heard, and boos rained down on Howard as the video began. Howard said afterward that he was appreciative of the team’s gesture, and that he understands the fans’ level of frustration with the way things ended for him in the city.
From Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
“I think people remember all the bad things that happen,” Howard said. “They forget all the good things that happen. There’s a lot of great moments that happened here in Orlando.
“Last year, it was fresh for a lot of the Magic fans. They were upset with how things went down. At the end of the day, I think time heals all wounds. Even though it’s only been a year, I’ve forgiven the people I needed to forgive and hopefully the fans will forgive me for how the situation ended. My love for this city will never change.
“I played here. People are upset I left so they’re going to boo. They’re going to let their frustrations out. That’s totally understandable. I appreciate all the fans that did cheer. The reason I left had nothing to do with the fans. I’ll always been grateful to the people that supported me from day one.”
The fans may eventually forgive Howard for the way he forced his way out, along with the very public way he essentially lied about throwing his head coach under the bus in the process.
But honestly, it was too soon to pay tribute to Howard in this way, despite the fact that the team has done it for every past player that’s returned to Orlando during this anniversary season. Howard was bigger than all of them, and the fans are going to need much more than a season or two to get over the unprofessional and petulant way he abandoned the Magic franchise.
The second round was supposed to be when things got exciting. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic at home, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 124-92 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Just about everything went in for San Antonio, particularly for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 63 points. How dominant were they?
Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.
It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.
ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.
Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.
Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.
The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.
Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.