Shaquille O’Neal, ever the critic of Dwight Howard since Howard “stole” his Superman moniker, had some strong words for Howard coming to L.A.. It’s not going to be a cakewalk, indeed it’s going to be a huge challenge. From USA Today:
“The pressure that he has been feeling in Orlando has just multiplied by three now,” O’Neal said in comments released by TNT. “The first thing the great Jerry West did when I signed with the Lakers is he walked me into the Forum and told me to look up. He showed me all the great big men that played before me and how many championships they won. The Lakers have a tradition of having great big men. He has a lot of work ahead of him. If he thinks the Orlando Sentinel was on his case when he didn’t perform, guys like (Los Angeles Times columnist) Bill Plaschke, they don’t play.”
via Shaq, Barkley talk Dwight Howard – USATODAY.com.
O’Neal knows something of the pressure to win and has always been proud of the success he had in L.A. winning three titles. It certifies him, validates him. Howard stands in position to challenge that with the core he’s surrounded by. O’Neal was also a hugely popular cultural figure, far more than Howard, and was able to woo reporters with his charm and quotes. Howard faces a tougher approach in getting the public back on his side, but if you peruse the L.A. Times this morning, you’re going to find a whole lot of softball yogurt about the Lakers’ acquisition of Howard. It’s only if they struggle that things would turn.
Watching O’Neal cover this development on TNT will be interesting, if only because of how much he’s following in O’Neal’s footsteps, whether he likes it or not.
In 2016, both the Pistons (who agreed to trade for him) and the Rockets (who agreed to match his offer sheet from the Nets) failed Donatas Motiejunas on physicals. He finally signed a prorated minimum contract with the Pelicans for 2016-17. He has spent the last two seasons in China. It has been rough for him.
Now, Motiejunas is somewhat surprisingly returning to the NBA.
The San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a deal with veteran Donatas Motiejunas, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
San Antonio needed another big man after buying out Pau Gasol, who signed with the Bucks. Motiejunas provides depth behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl.
The 7-foot Motiejunas is capable inside and out. But NBA centers have gotten so good at 3-point shooting so quickly. I’m not sure Motiejunas remains ahead of the curve on the perimeter.
Whatever his current ability, he should at least fit well with the Spurs. They maximize skilled bigs.
The Lakers initially called LeBron James day-to-day with the groin injury he suffered on Christmas.
He missed more than five weeks.
Maybe he should have sat even longer.
Karen Joubert, via Complex Sports:
Maybe LeBron returned too soon. This injury allowed that, even if it put him at risk of reaggravation if not fully recovered.
Maybe LeBron just healed especially quickly. Even among world-class athletes, he is an elite athlete.
Maybe Joubert is exaggerating. People tend to do that with LeBron’s body.
There’s plenty of room for interpretation, but it sure looked like LeBron was still hobbled.
What does this mean for LeBron and the Lakers going forward?
The pessimistic spin: LeBron did lasting damage to his body by returning so soon. This (failed) attempt to get the Lakers into the playoffs this season will undermine him in the future.
The optimistic spin: LeBron has still been excellent these last few weeks. If he gets fully healthy during his longest offseason in 14 years, he should be even better next season.
Kyrie Irving spent his first six seasons with the Cavaliers. He developed into a star with them. He won a title with them, even hitting the championship-winning shot.
With Irving’s Celtics playing in Cleveland tomorrow, Irving reflected on his time there.
Jared Weiss of The Athletic:
Irving is so clearly over the Cavs.
He was probably over the Cavs even while playing for them.
The Lakers have had a rough season.
Last night went pretty well, though – especially for one fan.
The Lakers beat the Kings, and this fan swished a halfcourt shot to win $45,000.
The Lakers need more outside shooting. Maybe they could turn to some of their fans.