Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard are still tight. Despite all the drama in Orlando a couple years back they text regularly and both say they have a good relationship. What, you’ve never fought with a friend then made up? That’s what we guys do.
So when Dwight Howard was faced last summer with the biggest decision off his career, it should be no shock he turned to a favorite coach and friend for advice.
That advice, via Bill Reiter of Fox Sports:
If this is true, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Van Gundy is going to look at things from a basketball perspective, and as we have said before Houston was the best basketball decision.
With Howard and James Harden, plus good role players such as Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin and other s on the roster this is a team with the foundation to win and win big. They have the pieces in place. The Lakers are in transition now as Kobe Bryant winds down his career, they could have the pieces in place to win again in a couple years, if you trust management to make the smart moves and be able to woo free agents.
Howard went with the sure thing. It was the smart move.
But now the pressure is on him — nothing is being handed to him and there is no backing out to get to another city. This is the team that will ultimately define his legacy in the NBA, these next several years. Now he has to earn it.
The Celtics just had a 1-4 road trip, the lone win coming in overtime against the lowly Suns. Most Boston players (except Marcus Morris and, lately, Kyrie Irving) look out of sorts offensively.
Irving, via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:
Looking at this locker room, me being in my eighth year and being a ‘veteran’ as well as Al [Horford] and [Aron] Baynes. Right now I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet, a 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it’s a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint, when you want to play, when you want to do what you want to do.
Al Horford is in his 12th season. His team, the Hawks then Celtics, have made the playoffs every season of his career.
I’m not sure Irving intended this as a slight of Horford. Irving certainly didn’t forget about Horford, whom Irving mentioned the sentence prior.
But I’d definitely understand if Horford felt slighted. He’s experienced enough to provide that veteran leadership. So is Irving for that matter.
Ultimately, these comments might prove benign, just more weird words from Irving. Still, they’re potentially significant enough to keep an eye on Boston’s leadership situation.
Jimmy Butler made the Timberwolves his team. He willed himself into being their best player despite having teammates with more talent and physical skills. He took a leadership position by talking over everyone (for better or worse). He even asked for top-contract status with a renegotiation-and-extension that would have required gutting the rest of the roster.
With Butler traded to the 76ers, who takes up the mantle in Minnesota?
Karl-Anthony Towns is the logical candidate. He’s now the Timberwolves’ best player. He just signed a max contract extension that will hit super-max salaries if he makes an All-NBA team this season. He’s even already one of Minnesota’s longest-tenured players.
Kent Youngblood of the StarTribune:
Karl-Anthony Towns took issue with the idea that, with Butler gone, he had to become the team’s leader.
“First of all, I’m not one of the most important [players on the team],’’ he said. “I’m just a piece on this team. Everyone is just as important as the next. So if everyone’s doing their job and everyone is working hard, doing the little things, we make a great product.
Somewhere, Butler is cackling, assured his doubts about Towns were correct.
But leading isn’t for everyone. That doesn’t make non-leaders bad people. The world needs followers, too.
That said, things generally flow much more smoothly on teams where the best player is the main leader. It creates an orderly culture. If Towns doesn’t want that role, it’ll be something for the Timberwolves to overcome.
Maybe Towns, 22, will grow into it. There’s still plenty of time left for him to develop both as a player and person.
But Butler’s exit created a natural entrance for Towns into leadership. Towns could have seamlessly seized the reigns right here. That he isn’t shows how far he is as a leader.
As once-simmering issues between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant boil over, the Warriors could use a stabilizing force.
But Golden State’s best player and someone who has demonstrated his willingness to place team goals ahead of his personal agenda – Stephen Curry – continues to miss time with a groin injury.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who has missed the team’s last three (3) games after suffering a mild to moderate strained left groin on November 8 vs. Milwaukee, continues to be monitored and evaluated by the team’s training and medical staff, as indicated initially last week. He will travel on the team’s upcoming three-game road trip to Texas—but will not play—and will be re-evaluated again in 10 days.
In the next 10 days, Golden State plays:
- at Rockets
- at Mavericks
- at Spurs
- vs. Thunder
- vs. Trail Blazers
That’s not an easy stretch.
Remember, this latest Green-Durant feud started only because the Warriors were in a tight game against the Clippers. Green and Durant disliked the other’s strategy on the final play of regulation and argued about it. In a blowout win, that never would have happened.
Handling those high-pressure situations can be good for teams in the long run. But Golden State needs a break. This is already too much adversity all at once.
But the positive vibes that come with winning will be harder to attain with Curry out.
Jimmy Butler showed little patience for Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns with the Timberwolves. To Butler, Wiggins didn’t work hard enough and Towns was too soft. Butler wasn’t afraid to admonish his teammates for their shortcomings, either. I believe Butler intended good, lighting fires under Wiggins and Towns that would drive them to greatness with the same intensity he used to rise. But Butler actually just alienated them.
Now, Butler joins the 76ers, who have another former No. 1 pick not meeting expectations – Markelle Fultz. Butler already praised Fultz’s work ethic and noted how much he respects that.
But how will Butler actually treat Fultz?
If this is someone who knows how Butler treated Towns and Wiggins and is just assuming how Butler will treat Fultz, this is worthless. Anyone who knows even a little about Butler could make that guess.
But if this is someone who spoke to Butler about Fultz specifically, this would carry massive significance.
Fultz is unique. He shot well in college then had his form completely fall apart before his rookie year. He doesn’t need tough love. He needs someone to help him assess the underlying trauma beneath his problems. He needs to be built up and develop confidence.
That wasn’t at all Butler’s approach with other teammates. Maybe Butler will adjust to Fultz’s atypical circumstances. I hope he does.
But the possibility of Butler worsening Fultz’s issues can’t be overlooked.