Kurt Helin

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard’s suit Tuesday night was…. interesting

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Dwight Howard likes to be noticed.

So while he sits on the sidelines for the next month recovering from a knee injury, we can expect a series of… interesting suits. Let’s go with interesting. I will admit that I couldn’t begin to pull that kind of suit off, so more power to him. But man…

Is it just me, or does that look like some corporate logo just repeated in a pattern over and over?

Five Things We Learned in NBA Tuesday: Dwight Howard who? All Houston needs is Harden.

020515117jd PNI suns main 0211
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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while applying for maybe the best job in journalism (except for having to live in Dallas)….

You don’t need Dwight Howard when you have James Harden. Well, at least in the regular season. The Rockets are 6-2 so far since Howard went down with this latest knee injury, and the reason is Harden is playing like an MVP. Tuesday night was a perfect example: Harden scored 20 points in the fourth quarter on 7-of-10 shooting to lift Houston to a win over Phoenix. Then when the Rockets needed a couple daggers to kill off the Suns, it was Harden delivering them. Harden finished with 40 points on 23 shots plus grabbed 12 boards and had nine assists as Houston got another crucial win. In the eight games since Howard went down, Harden is averaging 29.9 points and 6.9 assists a game, plus is shooting 41 percent from three and has a .627 true shooting percentage. The Beard is on fire.

The sun seems to be setting on Phoenix’s playoff chances. The Suns are now just one game ahead of both New Orleans and hard-charging Oklahoma City for the final playoff spot in the West. The Suns lost five of their last six games before the All-Star break. In those six games, the issue has been the offense, which has averaged 97 points per 100 possessions (27th in the league in that stretch). They’ve been even worse on the road of late. Maybe a couple practices and more than a week off can shake them out of this funk. If not, they once again are going to win 46 or more games and miss the playoffs. They are the poster children for changing the playoff system.

The most interesting thing happening with the Lakers: Nick Young telling dolphin attack stories. On the court, the only interesting thing left in the Lakers’ season is watching Jordan Clarkson to see if he can develop into a point guard. Off the court…. Nick Young is a constant source of entertainment.

Mike Dunleavy’s back and the Bulls look good again. After missing 19 games due to an ankle injury, their glue guy is back. The Bulls are now 24-10 with him, he is key to their offensive spacing. He only had five points on five shots and looked understandably rusty, but he did play 24 minutes. Dunleavy could be off for a night because Tony Snell spaced the floor on the way to his 24 points. The good news: the Bulls are finally healthy… er wait. Jimmy Butler had to leave the game with shoulder injury and didn’t play the second half. At least the week off for the All-Star break is coming up.

Pistons keep taking steps toward playoffs. In a game they really needed, Greg Monroe continued to thrive — 23 points and 12 boards — and the Pistons easily handled the Hornets 106-78. That moves Detroit just 1.5 games back of Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the East. Anthony Tolliver has been a sneaky good pick up by the Pistons, and he had 16 points in the win. Charlotte made the trade to get Mo Williams to fortify their backcourt while Kemba Walker is down, it will not be easy for Detroit to catch them (or seven seed Miami, who is two games ahead of Detroit), but this is the kind of win the Pistons had to have to give themselves a real chance.

Report: Nuggets have talked Arron Afflalo trade with Trail Blazers, Clippers, Bulls

Denver Nuggets v Sacramento Kings
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There is a sense around the league that once again the actual trade deadline this year — on Feb. 19 — is going to be pretty quiet. Most of the big moves — for example, Rajon Rondo to Dallas, or J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov to Cleveland — have already happened.

But there are a couple interesting names that could be moved at the deadline.

Near the top of that list is the Denver Nuggets’ Arron Afflalo. Teams have been calling, but no deal is close, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Afflalo is averaging 14.7 points a game but his efficiency has taken a huge dip this season (which may be due to Denver’s system and the players around him more than anything). He could help a contender like the Clippers.

The problem is he makes almost $7.8 million this year and the Clippers, up against a hard salary cap (because they gave Spencer Hawes the full MLE this summer) so they’d have to send that much salary back and nobody wants what is left on the Clippes’ roster.

Still, Afflalo is a name to watch for the next week

Markieff Morris drives, dunks all over Josh Smith (VIDEO)

Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns
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Josh Smith stood in there, but he had no chance. He was too far under the basket, and he simply doesn’t have the hops of Markieff Morris.

So early in the second quarter Morris drove and, well, like I said Smith had no chance.

This was a back and forth game of runs, but James Harden owned the fourth quarter with 20 points, and the Rockets picked up the win.

DeMarcus Cousins denies any involvement, push on Kings’ coaching search

DeMarcus Cousins
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DeMarcus Cousins is sticking up for himself — and from what I’ve heard out of Sacramento, he’s in the right.

Remember, right now Tyrone Corbin is coaching the Sacramento Kings after they fired Mike Malone out of the blue mid-season. When Orlando fired its coach Jacque Vaughn a couple weeks ago, suddenly the leisurely pace of talks between Sacramento and their preferred candidate George Karl picked up steam — the Kings didn’t want the Magic to poach their guy.

But when those talks stalled out a little was reported to be because Cousins and his camp pushed back. Cousins has now come out and denied that, through a statement released by his agents to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

“I wasn’t consulted when the decision was made to fire Mike Malone and I’m not being consulted now. I just hope they make a decision soon and stick with it. George Karl is an experienced, proven coach and if that is who they chose to coach this team, I will support it. I do not like all these discussions in the media while we have a coach in place. It is a distraction and not fair to Coach Corbin and this team.”

I think the second sentence is the key here — what I heard was not that Cousins didn’t trust Karl so much as he wanted to know why the style of play changed every couple years. Which is an incredibly valid question.

This hiring is fully on GM Pete D’Alessandro — and it could be a superb one. The question for D’Alessandro is whether he survives this summer and sticks around to provide the players for Karl’s system.

No doubt Karl can coach (he was Coach of the Year in Denver and won 57 games when they fired him), and Cousins could thrive in his system if the All-Star center fully buys in. He says he’s on board. How long will Vivek Ranadivé be? Because right now Cousins seems more mature than the organization.