Author: Kurt Helin

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard admits the obvious: He returned too quickly from back injury when in Los Angeles


This part wasn’t on Mike Brown or Mike D’Antoni — if you had watched Dwight Howard when he played in Orlando it was clear that the Howard playing for the Lakers a couple seasons ago was just not the same guy.

With the off-season additions of Howard and Steve Nash that summer the 2012-13 Lakers looked like title contenders on paper, a threat to the Heat, there was a real buzz around the team. Howard wanted to be part of that from the opening tip, even though he clearly was not ready physically for the grind of the NBA four months after back surgery.

Yet out there he was and, after a slow start, he was good (he averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 boards a game that season) but he wasn’t the same. The Howard of pre-surgery Orlando was a dominating freak of nature, this Howard was nowhere near that guy.

He owned up to that and to coming back too fast — but doesn’t regret it — when speaking with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

“I probably should’ve waited longer,” Howard told Yahoo Sports, “but I don’t regret playing right away. I wish the information could’ve come across to the world about how hurt I really was, how serious the back injury was, but I never thought it really did.

“The good thing about it, I didn’t develop any other major injuries. The torn labrum eventually healed itself. But coming back early from the back, I believed it helped me out in the long run. It made me really develop a thicker skin, going through all the things that I went through because of the injury.”

That season for the Lakers was a perfect storm of things gone wrong. Howard was banged up all season, Steve Nash’s body betrayed him, the coaching change to a radically different system (one Howard didn’t like) five games into the season was foolish, Pau Gasol was injured half the season, Kobe Bryant and Howard’s personalities and styles clashed, and then in the end Kobe’s Achilles gave out.

Lakers fans scapegoated Howard for a lot of that, feeling because he approaches life and basketball with a different style than the god that is Kobe in L.A. he was wrong.

Howard seems to have moved on. He talks to Wojnarowski about how he is physically finally right and ready to lead in Houston, how he and Harden are more on the same page this season. Howard talks about being back to his Orlando-level self or better.

He’ll have to be. The Rockets had a rough off-season losing a lot of quality depth with Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin all gone (and Trevor Ariza in). Basically it has to be the Howard and Harden show — and Howard has to get back to embracing the pick-and-roll where he is far more devastating than he is in the post. Howard is going to have to play at a Defensive Player of the Year level to get the Rockets defense to improve (and Harden has to not be a drain on that end).

And in the West right now, even all that will not be enough.

Quote of the Day: Doc Rivers not impressed with Big Baby’s weight loss

Los Angeles Clippers Media Day

(Via Ben Bloch of the Los Angeles Times)

That’s funny.

It’s the kind of comment Doc Rivers can get away with as a coach because of his relationship with his guys.

Last season the Clippers picked up Glen Davis after the Magic couldn’t trade him and waived him. He gave them 13.4 minutes, 4.2 points and 3 rebounds a game (numbers that all fell during the playoffs) — and he was a legitimate upgrade. Davis had a history with Doc Rivers from Boston and had been through the playoff wars, but his 13.1 PER was such a drop off from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan that Rivers couldn’t lean on him much.

This season the Clippers are much better off, with Spencer Hawes and Ekpe Udoh likely getting rotation minutes in front of Davis. Those are huge upgrades for Los Angeles.

Of course, those reduced minutes are not going to help Davis shed any more weight.

Sacramento Kings show off new court for this season

Kings court photo


Traning camp is also new court season. The Cavaliers have one with the city’s skyline. The Pelicans have one with… a pelican.

And now the Kings are showing off theirs, which is very purple.

Among the highlights noted by

-A thirty-two foot “Sacramento Proud” declaration will be visible along the sideline.

Kings chief marketing officer Ben Gumpert: “It’s a deep-seated sentiment, and one that defines the relationship between our city and our team.”

-Purple will surround the playing surface on all sides.

-A pair of purple crowns will grace the court, inside each three-point arc.

Ricky Rubio says speculation around Kevin Love “hurt the team and hurt himself”

Minnesota Timberwolves Media Day

Last season in Minnesota there only seemed to be two questions: “Wait, who is hurt now?” and “So, Kevin Love, where do you plan to play next season?”

Frankly the first question doesn’t get mentioned enough when discussing the Timberwolves struggles last season (although there certainly were issues beyond injuries), but the second one…

Ricky Rubio brought it up again talking about the future of the Timberwolves with Jeff Caplan of

“Of course we had a lot going on last year and the media was talking, they were wondering if Kevin wanted to be here, blah, blah, blah, and that hurt the team and hurt himself,” Rubio said. “Now that he’s not here, the media’s not going to talk about that anymore. I think that’s going to be good for him and for us.”

Um, maybe the not talking about him is nice Ricky, but the team is not better off. Maybe Wiggins can develop into the kind of talent Love is…. but Love already is. Okay, but time to move on…

Except this season Rubio could be the distraction.

Rubio’s name is going to come up in a lot of trade rumors this season as he is up for a contract extension and if not done by Oct. 31 (highly unlikely outcome) he is a restricted free agent. Team coach/president Flip Saunders doesn’t want to pay Rubio what the player (and his agent) think he can get on the open market. Rubio may be in for a surprise there, but in the short term Saunders is going to listen to legitimate offers, and those will flow in.

It will be Rubio’s year to hear “So, where do you plan to play next season?”

That said, he said he wants to take a leadership role on this team.

“We have to step up, especially me as a leader, be more vocal. Our young guys, they need someone to guide them. I think we have a lot of vets here that can do that. Mo [Williams] is a great example. Me and Kevin Martin can do the same thing.

“What I’ve been doing, since I am young, is leading by example, practicing hard and doing everything on the court. I have to learn how to be more vocal. I’m not good at that and I have to improve.”

It’s something that would help his trade value, too.

Cavaliers coach Blatt wisely says he plans to give LeBron, other guys nights off

Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day

LeBron James is a physical freak of nature who can take the pounding of 82 NBA games as well as anyone.

But why should he?

If the goal for the Cavaliers are the games in late May and June — and it certainly is — why not give him some rest in January and February?

Or a practice in October? LeBron sat out practice Friday morning and we could see guys like Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao among others get rest during the season, Cavaliers coach David Blatt suggested Friday, as reported by Sam Amico of Fox Sports.

“We wanted to give him a little bit of a break. We may do more of that,” Blatt said. “These are guys with multiple years on their resume and on their legs, so we’re trying to be careful and smart with them.”

Blatt indicated James and other long-time veterans could potentially sit out games for the purpose of rest and maintenance during the regular season.

As they should. This isn’t even a debate.

The NBA season is a marathon, throw in a deep playoff run and it is an eight month grind. It’s a lot of running up and down a hardwood floor every day. If you don’t think giving guys a day off matters and works, I’d like to take a look at the San Antonio Spurs and think again. Or how Erik Spoelstra won with the Heat, or Doc Rivers with the Celtics, or even Phil Jackson a little back in the day.

Blatt’s smart. There will be good times to get veteran legs some rest this season and he should take advantage of it. It will matter come the playoffs and he knows it.