Kurt Helin

Dwight Howard said he made changes around him, expects it to translate to court


The Atlanta Hawks are one of the hardest teams to predict this season. Gone is the steady Jeff Teague and in is the talented but erratic Dennis Schroder. Bigger yet, out is Al Horford at center and in is Dwight Howard.

Howard is at the heart of the Hawks’ unpredictability (along with the offensive changes they need to make for him). This is a guy that wanted the ball in the post but is far less of a threat there than five years ago. Will he play pick-and-roll with Schroder and accept that role? Will he defend and rebound like a beast? Is he ready to find his game again?

Howard told Tim McMahon of ESPN he has made changes around him as he moved to Atlanta this season, and he hopes it will translate to the court.

“Just things off the court, a lot of the stuff that was happening around me, just personal things. I tried to change that up and just really start over, get a clean slate. No offense to the people that I had around me, but I just wanted to start over, start fresh. Like I said, it’s a new beginning, so I wanted everything to be fresh. I didn’t want to bring any old baggage or anything from my past to this organization. They believe in me, this city believes in me, so I just wanted to make sure that when I’m out there on the court that I’m free, that I can give this city and this team everything that I’ve got.”

Sounds great.

But allow me to sound like a Lee’s Summit native: Show me.

Dwight has said all the right things for a while now, yet controversy and disappointing team seasons have followed him on the court. Maybe things are different, maybe Mike Budenhozer has reached him and will get him to play to his strengths. But we all need to see it. The skepticism around Howard is justified.

The Hawks will be as good as Howard is.

PBT Podcast: Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls, Central Division talk with Vincent Goodwill

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Dwyane Wade has come home to Chicago, teaming up with Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo to make one of the most interesting teams in the NBA.
But are they any good? A playoff team? Probably. But there are a lot of questions about a team that lacks shooting hand has some real chemistry questions to answer.
In the latest PBT Podcast, Kurt Helin of NBC talks Bulls and the entire Central Division with Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com. The two discuss if anybody in the East can beat Cleveland, plus just how good are Detroit and Milwaukee?

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Rockets down Pelicans 123-117 in Shanghai exhibition game

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SHANGHAI (AP) — James Harden had 26 points and 15 assists and Eric Gordon went 5 for 10 from three-point range to help lead the Houston Rockets to a 123-117 win over the New Orleans Pelicans in a preseason exhibition game in Shanghai, China on Sunday night.

E'Twaun Moore led the scoring for the Pelicans with 25 and netted all four of his three point attempts, while Anthony Davis added another 23 points.

The score was close for much of the game, with Houston leading 68-65 at halftime.

Harden, who is developing a devoted following in China, also went 11 for 12 from the free throw line and racked up seven rebounds. Gordon added another 24 points, while the Pelicans’ center Omer Asik led both teams in rebounds with 14.

Report: Celtics have interest in J.R. Smith (but they will not sign him)


J.R. Smith and the Cavaliers remain at least $4 million a year apart (and there may be disagreement about the length of the deal as well). The team reportedly offered four years, $42 million, and Smith wants $15 million a year to start. While LeBron James tries to prod the Cavaliers to sign his friend (the two also share an agent), Smith has said he’s not looking around at other teams.

Still, Smith is a free agent. He could sign anywhere, and some teams have cap space still.

Boston is not one of those teams — they are already over the cap and have to cut one guaranteed salary before the season (they have 16). That logic has not stopped reports Boston has interest in Smith, the reports will not die, the latest coming from Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

It is likely that Smith, a one-time Sixth Man of the Year with the Knicks, will re-sign with Cleveland but there are several teams that have interest in the shooting guard. One team is the Boston Celtics, whose second unit could certainly use a little scoring punch.

I can’t be clear enough here:

This. Will. Not. Happen.

I don’t know his sources (and Isola is well connected), but this feels like something someone from the Smith camp would leak to try and pressure the Cavs. Isola tries to lay out how the deal can come together but the numbers in the article are off, the cap space the Celtics had late in the summer went away with some recent signings. Boston has no glut of money to spend. Right now, the Celtics can offer only the veteran minimum, a little over $1 million a year; or the Tom exception for a couple million. That’s not going to get it done. Plus, the Celtics then would have to eat two fully guaranteed contracts just to make room (again, they already have to eat one just to get down to the league max). In theory there could be a sign-and-trade, but it makes zero sense for neither team. The Cavs want Smith (just at their price), and why would the Celtics trade away parts of their young core to bring in an older player who doesn’t make them a contender?

Smith and the Cavaliers are in a staring contest, and at some point someone will blink. But nobody is making a sideways glance at Boston.


Russell Westbrook: European offenses are “10 times better” than NBA offenses


If you put an average NBA offense — last season’s Detroit Pistons, for example — up against an elite European team’s offense, the Pistons would come out on top.

But the reason is talent not system (with all due respect to Stan Van Gundy). Those European teams don’t have anyone like Andre Drummond, a dynamic pick-and-roll point guard like Reggie Jackson, athletic wings like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tobias Harris. European teams have good players, but not the same level of depth and athleticism.

They make up for it by a commitment to a ball-and-player movement rarely seen in the NBA.

Russell Westbrook talked about that after the Thunder’s recent game overseas.

The best NBA teams in recent years do both. The best example over the past few years was the last championship Spurs team, which was loaded with talent (Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, etc.) but played beautiful system basketball. That team may have had the highest level of execution the NBA has ever seen. The title teams from the Heat and Warriors did it as well (although not as much as those Spurs, in my opinion).

But far too many NBA teams just lean on that talent.