25 Observations about the Dwight Howard trade

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25 observations about the Dwight Howard trade to send Howard to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets, Andrew Bynum to the Sixers, and very little to the Orlando Magic.

1. Let’s start with LA, since they’re the moneymaker for media and they get the best player. Wow. Holy Wow. Holy Geez Wow. The amount of talent on one team is just absurd.

2. We know where Nash fits, in the pick and roll with Howard. We know where Nash and Pau fit. We even know where Pau and Howard fit, with what we saw from Gasol’s lobs to Bynum last season. But where does Kobe fit in this? Pick and roll with Howard? Perimeter outlet shooter? Is he the winch at the elbow? How does tis work? Can he really deal with being a perimeter-outlet/ backcut scorer? That’s going to be a fascinating dynamic to watch. Beyond, you know, the general death and destruction this team will create on a nightly basis.

3. I thought that the Lakers would land Howard at the start, because it makes sense, right? Given what we know about the NBA, the Lakers getting what they want seems like a thing that would happen. I was convinced otherwise by Dwight and his agent’s constant scheming and pushing of the narrative, with all signs headed to Brooklyn, but looks like that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, it appears the Magic passed up what would have been a bad deal for the Magic with the Nets for an equally-bad-if-not-worse deal for the Magic with the four-team trade.

4. Howard gets warm weather, star power, a championship-contending team and will eventually get the money he wants. Because, really, when you look at everything he’s pulled in the last year, that seems fair.

5. For the Magic, I do think we need to give this trade some time before we react to it, but of course, no one will. They didn’t get rid of Hedo Turkoglu’s contract, despite it being with range of being dumpable, they didn’t lose Glen Davis’ contract, despite him having a surprisingly good year last year, they didn’t land an Eric Gordon player (who didn’t exist on the market). Getting Iguodala wouldn’t have helped him, at his age, salary, and role. Getting Bynum wouldn’t have helped them with his age, salary, and expiring nature (do you want to see how Bynum reacts to being on a lottery team? Because I don’t.) doesn’t help them. Getting Pau Gasol wouldn’t have helped them. We have to wait a year to see what they do in the draft and with the rest of the contracts on roster. But the lottery protections being reported on the picks make this really tough. That is the one element that makes it worse than the proposed Nets trade. You needed to at least have the possibility of getting a good pick if everything went haywire for a team.

6. It’s not a total loss for the Magic. Getting rid of the contracts of JRich and Duhon is considerable, and it’ll get lost but both Vucevic and Harkless are quality players. It doesn’t make up for the overall stench of the deal, but there is some potential there, and most of it is on easy-to-move contracts.

7. The Sixers finally got off the pot, to to speak. After talking about trading Andre Iguodala for four years, they finally pull the trigger and land the second-best center in the league. Bynum gives them the dominant offensive force they’ve been looking for, a go-to player who can also defend, and has no equal in the Eastern Conference. With a young, athletic roster and a great defensive system, the Sixers could challenge for the Atlantic title.

8. That’s assuming Bynum’s healthy. And motivated. And doesn’t kill Doug Collins. Or Collins kills him. So yeah, question marks.

9. The Sixers go from starting Hawes and Kwame Brown to likely bringing Brown off the bench and playing Thaddeus Young a high percentage of the time at the combo-forward spot. Oh, and they have Lavoy Allen. They have an army of bigs to throw at teams.

10. Denver is prepared to meet the athletic-wing hordes from Houston on the fields of battle with their own army.

11. Gallo moves back to the two-spot, where he was in New York, Wilson Chandler and Jordan Hamilton make up the reserve core, and the Nuggets have a more versatile playmaker who can also defend at an elite level. Big win for the Nuggets.

12. If you get an extension from the Nuggets, you might as well sell your house at this point.

13. Lawson-Iguodala-McGee is a pretty great core on its own, before you throw in Kenneth Faried and Gallinari. The Nuggets have about six guys who can defend multiple positions.

14. There’s not really a player that Iguodala doesn’t make better on that team. Lawson’s off-ball abilities will thrive with Iguodala on the floor, and McGee will prosper in the pick and roll. And he provides some veteran leadership in the locker room next to his old teammate Andre Miller.

15. Seriously, Steve-Nash-to-Dwight-Howard pick-and-roll. Run for your lives.

16. The Magic should have moved either Davis or Turkoglu in this deal, even with those deals not being as toxic as perceived. They should have gotten protection-free picks. They should have gotten a better prospect out of the deal or waited till one came available.

17. But then, they might have been able to had Howard not constantly and maliciously damaged their leverage at every turn.

18. Dwight Howard’s last act as an Orlando Magic player was skipping his own basketball camp… for kids.

19. Who’s ready for the Jameer Nelson-Aaron Afflalo-Moe Harkless-Glen Davis- Andrew Nicholson era?

20. Pau Gasol is now the fourth-best player on his team. Metta World Peace, an elite defender, is now fifth.

21. The Sixers have to be right there for the Atlantic now. And Jonas Valanciunas for the Raptors has to face Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Andrew Bynum, and Tyson Chandler 12 times a year. Somebody buy the kid a beer.

22. And hey, the trade didn’t get vetoed! So we’ve got that going for us. And by us, I mean everyone who didn’t want to hear complaints about the owner of a team rejecting a bad deal.

23. There will be a lot of backstory blame passed around the Magic organization to try and figure out who was in charge, ownership or Rob Hennigan. Not the way you wanted to start.

24. Remember when Melo-Amar’e was a powerful team-up? Remember when Deron Williams-Joe Johnson was big news?

25. We might just get that Heat-Lakers, LeBron-Kobe finals after all.

Portland’s Damian Lillard named seeding games MVP

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The NBA restart bubble gave us surprises — from the Suns going 8-0 and almost making the playoffs, to the much-hyped Pelicans going an ugly 2-6 — but one thing we knew going in rang true:

Damian Lillard can light it up.

His dominating performances lifting the Trail Blazers to the West play-in game made him the unanimous choice for Seeding Games MVP. The NBA announced the All-Seeding Games teams on Saturday (these awards are based only on the eight seeding games). The awards were voted on by media members in the bubble for the seeding games.

Lillard led the bubble in scoring at 37.6 points per game, but what won him the MVP was his performance in the final three games when his team needed it to qualify for the play-in — 61 points, then 51, then 42 in the final seeding game. Lillard was the emotional leader who set the tone for his team and refused to let them lose. That is an MVP.

Lillard was the unanimous first choice for MVP. Phoenix’s Devin Booker finished second, followed by Indiana’s T.J. Warren, Dallas’ Luka Doncic, and Houston’s James Harden.

Here are the All-Seeding Games teams:

FIRST TEAM
SECOND TEAM
Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers) Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
Devin Booker (Suns) Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
T.J. Warren (Pacers) Kristaps Porzingis (Mavericks)
Luka Doncic (Mavericks) Caris LeVert (Nets)
James Harden (Rockets) Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets)

DeMar DeRozan of the Spurs and Paul George of the Clippers were the players who finished with the most votes just out of the running.

New Orleans Pelicans fire head coach Alvin Gentry

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No team entered the NBA restart bubble in Orlando with the buzz of the New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson was back, they had an All-Star in Brandon Ingram and solid veterans such as J.J. Redick and Jrue Holiday around them. With all that, no team was as disappointing in the bubble as the Pelicans, who went 2-6. They looked like they were going through the motions, and all season long were less than the sum of their parts.

Saturday New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry paid the price for that and was fired, the team announced. The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez of ESPN and soon after confirmed by the organization.

It was not a surprise. Gentry was considered on shaky ground before teams flew to Florida and the disappointing play of his team while there led to team VP of basketball operations David Griffin making the change. (A sitting coach is always on shaky ground when the management above him changes, as happened with Gentry.) While Zion was not in the bubble the entire time, this is still a talented roster, one that came out like it was just going through the motions, with Lonzo Ball reportedly having checked out. No one seemed focused on the opportunity to make the postseason. That attitude is why the Pelicans fired their coach.

“I want to thank Alvin for his contributions to the Pelicans and the New Orleans community,” Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “We believe that making a head coaching change is necessary at this time. I truly appreciate Alvin’s leadership, dedication and perseverance through some challenging circumstances over the past five seasons. He will always be a part of our Pelicans family, and we wish him and his family all the best in the future. Our intention moving forward is to find the right head coach that will guide this Pelicans team to compete for championships. That is what our fans deserve.”

Clippers lead assistant Tyronn Lue and Lakers lead assistant Jason Kidd — two veteran coaches who are considered player-friendly — were mentioned as potential replacements by ESPN and Marc Stein of the New York Times. Lue and Kidd have both been mentioned in connection with the open Brooklyn Nets coaching job. Both also are in the Orlando bubble with their respective teams as the playoffs are about to begin (and both likely will be there for a while). Another name to watch is current Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni, who is not expected to be brought back with the Rockets and favors the kind of up-tempo system that would suit Zion. n

The challenge with big-name replacements in New Orleans is money — this is the smallest market in the NBA and ownership has been hit hard by the economic slowdown in the wake of the coronavirus. Lue, Kidd, and D’Antoni will be expensive and demand five-year contracts. The Pelicans could look at seasoned assistant coaches who have not yet held a top spot — Sam Cassell, Ime Udoka, and there are many others — who could do the job and come at a price more within their budget.

The key for whoever gets the head coaching job is to form a strong bond with Zion, the future of the franchise, and figure out how to get the most out of him.

 

 

 

Portland, Memphis where they want to be as play-in series tips-off

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Heroics were needed to get Portland and Memphis on the doorstep of the playoffs.

For the Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard averaged more than 50 points — with a shot from a step inside midcourt in there as one of his many highlights — to lead the way in three consecutive down-to-the-wire, season-on-the-line victories.

For the Grizzlies, Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas became the first teammates in Memphis history to post triple-doubles in what turned out to be a must-win game as well.

And now, the mission isn’t done yet for either club. Portland and Memphis meet Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (Eastern) in Game 1 of the Western Conference play-in series. The Trail Blazers have the upper hand by finishing the seeding-game portion of the NBA’s restart ahead of the Grizzlies. Portland needs one win, Memphis needs two to advance to a first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We’re where we want to be,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “And so, I don’t think anybody’s over the moon right now. We know that we’ve got a tough opponent in Memphis, so there was no time to really celebrate.”

Had the Blazers lost any of their last three games, they could be home already. Lillard has scored 51, 61 and 42 points, respectively, in those three games — and had to sweat out a last-second shot by Brooklyn in a one-point Portland win on Thursday night that determined their play-in fate.

“I think mentally I’ll be fine,” Lillard said. “I think physically, it’ll obviously be some fatigue here. But I think it won’t be as hard as you might think because there’s a lot riding on these games. Every game that we’ve been playing, our last three or four games, has been like our season is on the line.”

The Grizzlies came into the restart at Walt Disney World in control of the play-in race, then sputtered before winning the game they needed to on Thursday against Milwaukee to clinch a spot.

Morant said he remembers when the Grizzlies were ranked 27th coming into the season in a 30-team league. He’s used that slight as fuel ever since.

“Now look at us,” Morant said. “Being that underdog doesn’t matter to us at all. We love being the underdog. It’s just extra motivation, fuel to the fire. It just makes our success even better, coming in and being the underdog.”

Game 2, if necessary, will be Sunday. The series for the play-in winner against the Lakers begins Tuesday.

Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell expected to play Monday against Dallas

Montrezl Harrell play
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
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When the Clippers take the court Monday for their first playoff game in the bubble, going against Luka Doncic and a dangerous Mavericks’ team, Montrezl Harrell will be suited up and ready to play.

The Clippers’ Sixth Man of the Year candidate, who excused from the bubble due to the death of his grandmother and missed all eight seeding games, will be out of quarantine and cleared to play, report Adrian Wojnarowski and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Doc Rivers said he plans to play Harrell against an active Dallas front line.

“I’m just going to throw him in there, he’s earned that right,” Rivers said. “The challenge will be just how ready he is. I don’t know if I have ever had a guy that hasn’t played in eight games or whatever and hasn’t had any practice and we’re just going to throw him out on the floor in a playoff game. We’re hoping that at this point.”

Harrell came off the bench to average 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game for the Clippers this season. Harrell was often part of the Clippers closing lineup this season because of his improved defense, but he always brought relentless energy off the bench that lifted the Clippers nightly. The Harrell/Lou Williams pick-and-roll remains one of the smoothest and most dangerous in the league.

Harrell also gives Doc Rivers a lot of versatility and options on how to close games — the Clippers can go big, go small, and do either well. They will need that against a Dallas team that rolls out a front line of Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and former Clipper Boban Marjanovic.

Not having Harrell for eight games in the bubble added to that versatility, Rivers said.

“We got to play JaMychal [Green] at the five far more than we ever thought we would. We needed to work on that because he’s such a floor spacer,” Rivers said. “We got way more work on that than we thought, but we actually liked it.”

Expect to see more of that — and some Harrell — against Dallas starting Monday.