Mike D’Antoni knows the window to win in LA is small. And while D’Antoni’s intro is a win, Ken Berger says, success with the Lakers will hinge on Dwight Howard.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut will be in the Los Angeles area during part of the team’s upcoming road trip to rehabilitate his surgically repaired left ankle.
By the time the Knicks take the court for their next game, Tuesday in Orlando, and try to remain the NBA’s only unbeaten team, Phil Jackson could be back with the Lakers, teaching the finer points of the triangle offense to Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.
There are two things Lakers fans are going to learn this year: One is the all seeing sports microscope, the other is about who is the man on a team and what it can do for his game when he is, and against his game when he’s not. Both these things will play into our team this year involving our New Treasure, Dwight Howard. The guy so many assured us would solve all our problems, including our Drew problem, which as we all know, to hear so many tell, was the cause of our playoff disappointments of late.
And the sports microscope works like this: When a player is on YOUR team, you see him every night. You see the good games he has, the nice plays he makes. And you also see the other side, game after game. The rebounds he misses, when a player drives past him for a layup, when he doesn’t make the right pass or declines to run the floor hard to stop a fast break. And when Andrew Bynum manned the pivot, we put him under that large electron microscope that magnified EVERY play. While on the east coast, Dwight Howard played outside our microscope. So all we knew were the stories. He was relentless, hustled on every play, was the exact opposite of what Drew’s detractors said Drew was. In other words, he was the anti-Drew, the answer to all our problems, especially on defense. They were the stories Drew haters and Howard fans bought lock, stock and barrel in their endless cacophony to swap Drew for a New Treasure that would bring us to the Promised Land.
And now he’s here, the New Treasure. And now he’s also under the big microscope, the same one Drew played under. Because instead of just tales and legends, we get to see him, game after game, play after play.
And after three games, the one thing that sticks out is our center position, with Dwight, looks so amazingly Drew like. Last night’s game was just another example of the other two. Howard, like Drew, certainly has talent. It is obvious. He makes good plays, like Drew. But now, under the microscope, the rest of him is there to see too. And what we have seen is well….Drew like. Howard has not shut down the middle, making it a black hole, as was advertised. Players still drive to the basket. Howard has not run the floor like a tireless deer, stopping opponent’s transition game. He is not scoring 25 or more a game. And last night, against a team that is not manned by Wilt Chamberlain in the post, he had a meager 13 points and 8 rebounds and was the main culprit as to why the Clippers had a 20-5 second chance point’s edge.
Now we all know what would have happened with Drew had that been his game. The big microscope would have been fired up and the criticisms leveled en masse. And deservedly so. But with Howard, I heard this: Well he was in foul trouble, and, Well, nobody passed him the rock.
And I would say, as Drew’s critics did, whose fault was it that he was in foul trouble?
And nobody passed him the rock??? Hmmm…..that sounds vaguely familiar. Nobody passed him the rock? Where have I heard that before? Ohhh, yeah, now I remember, I heard that about a 100 times in the last three years about Drew!! That’s where it was!
And to those who said it, who used those excuses, I would say, Welcome to Drewhood. It took three games under the big microscope for Howard’s defenders to sound, well….exactly like Drew’s defenders!!
Imagine it! See how things change when the a player is no longer just a story, some tale to be told from across the country. Some Chimera, some legend that you don’t get to see and evaluate every single play? Now Howard is here, and looking very Drew like, he begins to reap Drew like excuses for failings from the very fans who attacked Drew for the same things.
And that is the function of being under the big microscope. Now Howard is not some magical thing who never has a bad game or makes bad plays, who always runs the floor and is the defensive stopper you can’t broach or puncture. Now, like Drew, he’s a real player, warts and all.
And on a night when 25 points and 17 rebounds would have done us well, he didn’t come close to giving what we needed, or what the magical Howard’s fans said he would have given, in lieu of Drew. Instead we got the real Howard, just a man, just a good center, like Drew.
The second thing to remember is that unlike in Orlando, Howard is no longer the main man here. Like Drew, he won’t get the rock like he did in Orlando. Now he is just a part of the Kobe machine, and like Drew, he will have to find his way in that complex device. And it’s not gonna be the same. Now Howard will have all the offensive limitations placed on him that Drew did. Because for good or bad, that’s the name of the game here In LA.
So here it is, now Drew will be under Philly’s big microscope; those fans will no doubt give Drew just as hard a look as we did, and the New Treasure, Howard will now be under ours. And if Howard continues to be so very Drew like, you can bet his adherents will join Drewhood in bringing up all the same excuses and frustrations Drew’s adherents did for years.
So far, Howard looks so very much like Drew. Just smaller and not as good on the free throw line. But then, it’s only been three games, a very small scientific sample to be sure, so we will have plenty more time to slice Howard up, game after game, play after play, put him on the glass slide, turn on the power and magnify his game under our scope that never misses a thing. Maybe we will see more eventually, than we did looking at Drew, or maybe not. That will be seen as the year goes on.
But for now, I would like to welcome the New Treasure Dwight, to the Lakers, not the Magic anymore, not to tales and stories, but now to performance we get to see, to his new situation, and to his burgeoning Drewhood. And I would be remiss not to welcome his fans, those who are already saying things like, Oh, he was in foul trouble, or, Oh they didn’t pass him the rock, or, Oh, his back hurts, Welcome friends, to Drewhood, just on the other side of the same coin. See it’s not so hard to make excuses after all, is it? When it’s your guy.
Mark Cuban questioned this summer whether all of LA’s high-profile pieces would be able to pull in the same direction. That remains a legitimate question after the Lakers’ injury-riddled, winless preseason.
When the Los Angeles Lakers traded Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard back in August, pretty much anyone with an opinion thought it was a clear win for LA. While Howard acted like a big jerk and struggled with back issues last season, he’s also one of the two or three best players in the NBA, a game-changing big man capable of dominating for long stretches at both ends. Bynum is a great player and deserving All-Star, but he’s also the sort of guy you give up to get a player of Howard’s caliber. There’s a reason that everyone’s more afraid of the Lakers now that he has replaced Bynum.
Still, the Philadelphia 76ers have every reason to be excited about their new center, because he’s not that far from Howard’s level. Although that doesn’t mean that fellow new acquisition Dorell Wright should say that Bynum is the best center in the league. From John Mitchell for Deep Sixer :
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A for-sale sign for the owner of the Staples Center arena, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy and a stake in the LA Lakers would be a major shock to the city’s sports, entertainment and business establishment at any time.
In a word, no.
Sure, they’ll be in the conversation, the type of team that’ll be included in all those “Playoff Sleepers” articles that spring up in April.
But serious contenders? Unfortunately, that’s just too good to be true.
Here’s where we stand.
This coming season’s version of the Celtics looks to be superior to its predecessor. Whereas at the end of the playoffs last year, Boston’s best option to backup the starting guards were Keyon Dooling and an out-of-position Mickael Pietrus, President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has restocked the cupboard with sharpshooters Jason Terry and Courtney Lee to fill those roles.
Forwards Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, who were on the shelf for most or all of last season, are back and chomping at the bit. Rookie Jared Sullinger was drafted to bring some youthful enthusiasm to the team and to be a bridge to the future.
The reloaded bench will bolster what was already one of the best starting lineups in the league, with Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo once again playing next to the re-signed Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass. Once he recovers from offseason surgery on both shoulders, Avery Bradley, the team’s breakout player last season, will round out the starting five.
All it cost them was Ray Allen, the all-time leader in three pointers, but someone who’s not far from being put out to pasture. His shooting touch, though still impressive, is not what it was and, effort be damned, he’d have a hard time defending a chair (not that that kind of thing hasn’t happened before, courtesy of The Boston Globe). Besides, Bradley, Terry and Lee will more than make up for his play last season.
Moreover, the Celtics took the Heat, a team that dominated the Thunder in five games en route to the championship, to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. They were so close, and now they’ve shored up their weaknesses.
Yet they’re still not good enough.
We don’t live in a vacuum, and time has a nasty tendency to move on even while we expect everything to stay the same. While the Celtics are much improved from when we saw them last walking off the court in AmericanAirlines Arena, their heads held high but still in defeat, other contenders are better, too.
Take the aforementioned Heat. After winning it all, their key players will be back. Watching LeBron’s transcendent performance in the Olympics showed that not only hasn’t he gotten complacent since becoming a champion, winning may have actually set him free, allowing him to reach a level never seen before.
Oh, and Allen? He plays for them, too. Yes, everything we just said about his shot and defending a chair and all that is true. But let’s remember, whatever he has to give to Miami, it will be much more than what they got from Mike Miller.
By the way, the Celtics weren’t the only ones dealing with injuries. They were quite fortunate to play all but four of the seven games against the Heat with Chris Bosh on the sideline, something they can’t count on happening again.
Enough about Miami. Let’s take a look at the Los Angeles Lakers.
Some will say that the Lakers’ prized acquisition Dwight Howard is overrated, that as incredible as he is on the defensive end, they’d prefer to face him than Andrew Bynum, the player LA gave up. And on some level, they’re right. Howard’s next post move will be his first.
Ah, but Howard wasn’t the Lakers’ only offseason heist. They also traded for Steve Nash, who is still making the right pass, shooting the lights out and more desperate for a title than ever.
Howard lacks an impressive offensive game—seriously, sometimes it’s downright painful to watch him take the ball in the post—and yet his career field goal percentage is an otherwordly 58 percent. That was with Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu setting Howard up. What kind of damage can he do with Nash feeding him?
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are still around, too. Older, but among the league’s best at their respective positions. That the Lakers were also able to sign Antawn Jamison, strengthening the team’s biggest failing—its depth—is something that should send shudders through Celtic Nation with LA just one championship away from matching Green 17.
There’s one thing more, though, the elephant in the room for Celtic fans: Paul Pierce just isn’t the same.
While KG at center has found a way to extend his career, last season Pierce finally showed signs of slippage.
It can be tough to tell, frankly, because Pierce, who is not particularly tall, strong or fast, has always resorted to bouncing into defenders as a means to create space or to get to the line. Athleticism has never been a part of his game so it’s never quite clear if he’s showing signs of slippage, or if it’s by design.
But it’s not. At least not anymore. As plodding as Pierce’s game can appear, there was a certain smoothness to it, a sign that his foolhardy-looking drives to the hoop that somehow ended up with made baskets were exactly what he had envisioned all along.
All the hits Pierce has taken in 14 years of dribble drives have taken a toll on The Truth. He’s lost a half of that deceptively quick first step that puts defenders on their heels and then leaves them completely helpless as he bumps against them for a step-back jumper.
His scoring has always come from veteran guile and dead-eye shooting, so while he can still get his points and have the occasional explosion, he’s past the point of being able to take over a series.
Rondo is now the leader of the team, but when the chips are down, the Celtics still need a go-to scorer. Pierce used to be the player the team could consistently ride to victory in the fourth quarter, but those days are sadly over.
Pierce’s decline, even more than the improved competition, transforms the Celtics from a team with championship aspirations to an also-ran.
Listen: It’s the end of August. Training camp doesn’t start for more than a month. A lot can change between now and June. LeBron could get hurt. Ainge could use his assets to pull off a heist in the trade market. Howard could elbow Kobe in the end. And not by accident.
However, as things stand today, if fans can take off their green-colored glasses for one minute, they should ask themselves if they can honestly envision the Celtics, with their captain on the downside, beating a Heat team with a reborn LeBron or the top-heavy-but still-stacked Lakers, or better yet, both?
Neither can I.
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Los Angeles has offered some clues by hiring Eddie Jordan, who will bring with him the Princeton Offense, and by publicly stating Steve Nash will have license to control the offense as he sees fit.
But the real question is exactly how Kobe Bryant will fit into all of this. For the last decade, Bryant has been both the primary creator and finisher in LA.
The Sparks (19-6) led wire-to-wire and got another excellent game from Toliver, who scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. Toliver, coming off a career-high tying 29-point game, made back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead to 77-58 and another to make it 82-60.