Dwight Howard is ‘pissed’ – at Hawks, losing or both?

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The Hawks reconfigured their whole philosophy for Dwight Howard.

But their season ended in the first round against the Wizards.

After sounding unhappy during the series, Howard expanded on his displeasure in his exit interview with the media.

How difficult was it to play just 26 minutes per game, including only four minutes per fourth quarter, against Washington?

It’s very difficult. I want to play. I want to be out on the floor. I want to make a difference, make an impact and can’t do that on the bench

Were there conversations with Hawks president/coach Mike Budenholzer?

Nah. But we’ve got to get ready for next year.

Did you think limited playing time was due to matchups?

No, I didn’t. It doesn’t matter about a matchup. I want to play. It doesn’t matter who’s out there. I want to do the best for my team and this city. It’s why I came here. So, it is upsetting. I want to get out there and play. You work hard and you watch it being from taken from you – not the coach taking it, but Washington taking the opportunity from us, moving to the next round.

Do you expect your role to change next year?

I’m just going to work on my game, get in the gym. I continue to do the stuff I do everyday, and I want to see it utilized.

Is it safe to this wasn’t the role laid out when you signed last summer?

I’ll let you say that. I just want to get ready for next year. That’s all I’m thinking about.

You appear to be biting your tongue.

Just want to get ready for next season. Have a good summer, get my body right, get ready for next year.

How do you channel your frustration going forward?

It’s my 13th season, so I’m pissed. I don’t get younger. I’m not going to be 25, 26. So, yeah, I’m pissed.

I’m upset, because we’re not playing no more. I want to play. I don’t want to watch someone else hold up the trophy.

Did you have any difficulty blending into the pick-and-roll offense?

If you watch the games, I did a million pick-and-rolls. So it can’t be me blending in with the pick-and-roll. I did that, so you can’t use that.

What reason –?

I have no idea. All I said was, I did pick-and-roll. I did everything I was asked to.

What reason did Budenholzer give when you talked to him?

I haven’t spoken with Bud, so there’s nothing.

Does losing feel worse this year than previous years?

It feels bad every year. You’ve got to watch somebody hold up a trophy, it hurts. And you know you work hard, so it pisses you off. I’m sure if you wrote the best stories in the world and nobody read your stories, and they told you to stop writing and you saw somebody else’s story who wasn’t as good as yours getting put out there, I’m pretty sure you’ll be pissed, too. So, yeah, that’s how it is in basketball. You work hard. Sometimes you don’t win, but it piss you off, because you want to win. If you don’t want to win, you shouldn’t be playing

Howard didn’t say anything directly disparaging about the Hawks, but he left the door wide open for people to believe he’s upset with the organization. As Howard said, he’s in his 13th season. If he didn’t want to give the impression he’s unhappy with the team, I think he’d know how to do that.

The Hawks are at a crossroads. Are they building around Howard and Paul Millsap? Are they rebuilding around Dennis Schroder, Taurean Prince and Tim Hardaway Jr.? Something in between?

Howard is clearly pushing for a certain direction, and that’s fair. I don’t blame him for not embracing a patient approach. He’s a 31-year-old big man. A long-term plan won’t apply to him.

But the Hawks have to do what’s best for them. It’ll depend on Millsap, who’ll likely opt out, and what the team wants – a higher floor or a higher ceiling? Millsap and Howard raise the floor but limit the ceiling. Millsap’s free agency could determine how Atlanta proceeds around Howard – or maybe even without him at all.

Kevin Porter Jr. a possible lottery pick heading into 2019 NBA draft

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Kevin Porter Jr. missed more than a quarter of his freshman season at USC due to injury. He missed another couple games due to suspension. When he played, he usually came off the bench. He’s only 18.

But Porter has already shown enough to impress NBA teams.

Porter, via Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

“I will be declaring for the 2019 NBA draft and I will be signing with Roc Nation Sports,” Porter told ESPN.

Porter has a wide possible range in the first round, because there’s a massive gap between his ceiling and floor. But it shouldn’t take too long for a team to bet on his upside.

A 6-foot-6 shooting guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Porter has a special combination of shiftiness and power with the ball in his hands. He can attack the rim and finish above it. He can also pull up for jumpers.

I don’t trust his 41% 3-point shooting at USC. That came on only 68 attempts, and he made just 52% of his free throws (though that was also on an unreliably small sample, just 46 attempts). But his stroke looks compact and smooth.

Porter can be an impressive passer. Right now, that’s more so making quick and correct standstill reads than distributing while driving.

If he improves his handle, that could really tie together all his skills.

Porter forces too many bad shots. He’s not attentive enough defensively. There are questions about his maturity.

But if he pans out at the next level, he could be awesome.

Report: LaMarcus Aldridge won’t face punishment for hitting Gary Harris in nuts (video)

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Late in the Nuggets’ Game 2 win over the Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge whacked Gary Harris in the nuts.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

It surely helped that Denver coach Michael Malone defended Aldridge.

Malone, via Mike Singer of The Denver Post:

“If there was a windup, if there was something that looked really deliberate, that’d be different, but from what I saw, and I didn’t spend much time looking at it, obviously who cares what I think?” Malone said. “It all comes down to what the NBA thinks. In watching it, obviously Gary was unfortunately the recipient of that accidental blow but I didn’t see it as something that was premeditated or done with the intent to hurt Gary.”

It also helps that Aldridge doesn’t have a reputation for dirty plays.

But this is what I can’t get totally past: If Aldridge intended to take a cheap shot, how would it have looked any different?

Ben Simmons on Jared Dudley’s assessment: ‘It’s coming from Jared Dudley. C’mon’ (video)

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Ben Simmons keyed the 76ers’ historic offensive turnaround from Game 1 to Game 2 against the Nets. He pushed the pace, attacked and created good shots for himself and teammates.

Brooklyn forward Jared Dudley explained Simmons’ improvement.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

Simmons:

It’s coming from Jared Dudley. C’mon.

Simmons’ dismissive tone makes this bigger than merely his words do. There’s definitely animosity brewing between these teams.

But this “beef” will get only as large as Simmons makes it.

He is great in transition and average in the halfcourt. Dudley’s remark wasn’t an insult. It was a scouting report.

Keeping Simmons out of transition is far easier than done. That’s part of what makes Simmons a star. He frequently creates up-tempo opportunities.

Players can’t be defined by a list of strengths and weaknesses. How often those strengths and weaknesses affect the game is important.

Simmons often makes his strengths count.

There are still questions about just how often he can do that against the best defenses, especially deep into the playoffs. His poor shooting is a liability in the halfcourt.

For now, he’ll create plenty of fastbreaks against the Nets. Simmons is a good enough player to set the style against that defense. He’s better than Dudley, who’s just a role player.

But Dudley is also a smart player. And he’s spot-on here.

Potential top-10 pick De’Andre Hunter, potential first-rounder Ty Jerome leaving Virginia for NBA draft

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De'Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome just led Virginia to a national championship.

Now, they’re trying to parlay that title into success at the next level.

Hunter and Jerome declared for the 2019 NBA drat with the intent to stay in it, Virginia announced.

Hunter will probably be a top-10, maybe even top-five, pick.

At 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a strong base and impressive lateral mobility, the forward has excellent defensive versatility. He’s steady on and off the ball. I question whether he’ll lock up the better athletes he’ll more regularly face in the NBA, but his defensive floor is quite high.

He’s also a good 3-point shooter, though his slow release limits the number of attempts he can get up. Otherwise, Hunter lacks the explosiveness and ball-handling to become a traditional star.

Maybe he’ll be an excellent 3-and-D role player. In this weak-looking draft, that possibility is enough to make him coveted.

Jerome also lacks the burst to possess high upside, but that’s more understandable late in the first round, where he’s projected. The 6-foot-5 guard is a good outside shooter with a knack for getting open. He has plenty of distributing ability for a secondary playmaker but isn’t enough of a threat to create for himself to run an offense through him.

He’s limited defensively, but he has a decent knack for when to gamble when there’s good help – like Hunter – behind him.