Miami guard Mario Chalmers (bruised left shoulder) said today he expects to play in Friday’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against Indiana. Chalmers suffered the injury when he ran into Pacers forward David West in the second half.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The 15 players selected to the All-NBA team every season earn a place in NBA lore that is rarely celebrated the way fans do All-Star bids.
Weighing the two, however, is a battle that shouldn’t be a fair fight. An All-star nod is often based on reputation and how well someone is playing early in a given season. The All-NBA team measures the best of the very best the league has to offer in a season. The team consists of the 15 best players (by position) in the league.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
Thursday, the NBA released this year’s squad. But what about the future? What might that team look like in say, three seasons, when Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, stalwarts on All-NBA teams the past two decades, are no longer active?
What is the makeup of the All-NBA team in the future? What does the league look like three seasons from now?
We take a look, courtesy of the HT (Hang Time) Time Machine, at the future All-NBA Teams …
2015-16 All-NBA First Team
F LeBron James, Miami Heat: No one was sure if LeBron would stick around South Beach after the Heat won those back-to titles in 2014 and 2015. But he watched his good friend Dwyane Wade retire after the last one and vowed to finish his career in a Heat uniform as well. There are no signs of his skills diminishing either. He bounced back masterfully after the Heat were beaten soundly by the Memphis Grizzlies in The Finals in 2013. James has reinvented himself as the epitome of a point forward during the second act of his Hall-of-Fame career, leading the league in assists this season with 12.7 per game. He’s still chasing Michael Jordan‘s six championships standard, though the comparisons to Magic Johnson are much more appropriate, and at 32 he still has plenty of time left.
F Paul George, Indiana Pacers: Three straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals without a breakthrough performance would be a mental and emotional setback for most stars, but not George. He’s done nothing but build on that All-Star berth in his third NBA season. George has blossomed into the closest thing to a legitimate challenger to LeBron’s throne. He interrupted LeBron’s MVP flow in 2015, when he stunned the hoops world by averaging a triple-double (24.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 10.0 assists) while leading the Pacers to a franchise-record 63 wins and finished as the MVP runner-up this season. The only threshold left for George to cross is to lead the Pacers past LeBron and the Heat into The 2016 Finals.
C Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: Gasol served as the backbone for the Grizzlies’ 2013 championship team, though Zach Randolph walked away with Finals MVP honors, and solidified his status as the most complete big man in the game with his performance each season since. While he’s never piled up the kind of impressive numbers that would allow him to stick out historically among players at his position, Gasol does have three Kia Defensive Player of the Year awards on his mantle and a championship on his resume. If Ed Davis can replace Randolph as Gasol’s tag-team partner in the low post, the Grizzlies could have another run or two in them before it’s time to break this veteran crew up and start over.
G James Harden, Houston Rockets: The two-time (and counting) scoring champ, Harden has supplanted his former teammate and friend Kevin Durant as the league’s most prolific scorer. He’s averaged 30 or more points in three straight seasons, including this one (31.7) and has led the Rockets to the playoffs in each of his four seasons in Houston. Harden has evolved into more than just a scorer, too, leading the Rockets in assists (7.6) and steals (2.3) while adjusting to playing alongside Patrick Beverly in the starting lineup instead of sixth man Jeremy Lin. Harden’s career went to another level since he radically changed his look in training camp before the 2013-14 season by shaving off his trademark beard and mohawk in favor of a bald head and clean-shaven face. Who knew?
G Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors: With his ankle injuries behind him, the sweet-shooting Curry finally claims the first-team spot from Chris Paul and a crowded, star-studded point guard field. Curry’s work as a shooter — he’s shot 45 percent or better from beyond the 3-point line every season since 2011-12 — overshadows the fact that he’s become the consummate playmaker and leader for the league’s most exciting team. Curry put together a 20-10 season at the point (23.6 points and 10.4 assists), the only point guard to do so in the past three seasons, while leading the Warriors to a top four finish in the Western Conference playoff chase for the third straight season. With Curry and Klay Thompson (still the league’s best-shooting backcourt) as the catalysts, the Warriors are trying to crash the conference finals party.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You couldn’t ask for a better fit … or better results.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is a Hall of Famer, an icon and living legend in his profession. And yet, he’s found a way to step aside and allow the spotlight to shine exactly where it needs to when he’s coaching the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team — on the NBA stars in he leads in international competition.
That’s what makes his return to his post great news for USA Basketball and chairman Jerry Colangelo, who hand-picked Coach K to take over as coach in 2005, and the future of the program. The continuity this dynamic duo brings is what will propel the program for years to come. Sure, it helps having the best talent on the planet to choose from. But the pipeline was full of talent before Colangelo and Krzyzewski got together and the results looked nothing like the 62-1 mark the Men’s Senior National Team has compiled under them.
This is one of those times when the numbers do not lie. There is something special about the bond Coach K has forged with the core members of the program that was on full display at the 2012 London Olympics. He found a way to succeed with superstars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and others while also continually integrating new and different faces into the mix. Under him, the U.S. won back-to-back gold medals in Beijing in 2008 and London four years later.
He found roles for guys like Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala and even a rookie like Anthony Davis, all stars in their own right and also all guys who might have been marginalized in years past on this stage. Things haven’t always run as smoothly as they have in recent years with the NBA stars involved with the program.
The all-time low point was the 2004 Athens Olympics. During that debacle, an ill-fitted group of NBA stars attempted to rescue the program’s honor on the global stage but ended up disappointing and finishing with a bronze medal. Rock bottom actually came four years earlier at the World Championships in Indianapolis in 2002, when a team coached by reigning NBA Coach of the Year George Karl was humbled on the world stage, becoming the first team with NBA players to fall in international competition while finishing an ugly sixth in the competition on home soil.
I was there in Indy and, as a fan of the international game and the fact that it’s played differently than the NBA style, it was as brutal to watch the U.S. struggle with that adjustment as it was to see them come apart at the seams.
Those back-to-back failures led directly to Colangelo and then Krzyzewski coming on board to help rehabilitate the program, complete with the formation of a robust Men’s Senior National Team roster that included commitments from many of the game’s biggest current stars. And they had to be willing to subject themselves to a grueling tryout process that could bruise plenty of egos along the way.
It wasn’t just about piling up a bunch of stars and throwing them into the unfamiliar international mix, where national teams from Argentina and Spain were gaining major steam. It was about rounding up the right stars that would embrace the team dynamic in ways that the players on the ’02 and ’04 teams refused to or simply could not.
You know the cupboard is stacked when you have All-Stars like Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday and other young stars willing to give up their summers to try to earn a place on the teams that will compete in the 2014 World Championships in Madrid and the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
Things have changed for the better with the power structure USA Basketball employed to help them regain their stature as the best in the world. And there’s no reason to assume they’ll do anything but continue that reign and improve upon that rock-solid foundation for years to come with Colangelo and Coach K at the helm.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – When a couple small-market Western Conference teams battled for seven grueling games in the semifinals of the playoffs two years ago, who could have foreseen that they would meet again this postseason — after each was forced to deal with the inescapable repercussions of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement?
Rudy Gay was injured and out of that postseason two years ago. But at only 24 and locked into a lucrative contract, the No. 8 pick of the 2006 NBA Draft was a central figure for the fast-rising Memphis Grizzlies. Yet on Jan. 30, 2013, Gay, the team’s leading scorer, was traded to Toronto.
In Oklahoma City, the Thunder were coming off a loss to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals when, days before this season began, Thunder general manager Sam Presti dealt former No. 3 pick James Harden, just 23 and an integral part of the team’s success, to Houston.
In a postseason marked by a surprising domination of small-market teams — all four teams remaining in the playoffs are in the bottom half of the league in market size — the second-round showdown between the Grizzlies and Thunder (won by the Grizzlies in five games) demonstrated just what many teams have to do to thrive in the era of the still-new CBA.
“With the rules set up the way they are, there’s minimal room for error,” said Jason Levien, the first-year CEO of the Grizzlies under a new ownership group led by one of the world’s youngest tech billionaires, Robert Pera. “You’ve got to be very thoughtful in your approach to how you build your team, how you build a roster, and you’ve got to keep the cap and the tax in mind.”
Avoiding the taxes
Cap and tax are at the forefront of the strategy the Oklahoma City management team is using under the ownership of billionaire energy mogul Clay Bennett. Presti, who has managed to re-sign superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, plus emerging power forward Serge Ibaka, to long-term deals that fit within the team’s cap structure, chose to hold firm to a policy of not commenting on matters related to the CBA.
In Memphis, where the Grizzlies will look to start digging out of a 2-0 hole against the San Antonio Spurs in Saturday’s Game 3 of the West finals (9 p.m., ESPN), Levien has defended the trade of Gay (for veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince and youngsters Ed Davis and Austin Daye) as being made to improve the team.
While that might be true — Memphis won a franchise-best 56 games after a strong start with Gay — the Grizzlies also got out of the $37.2 million owed to Gay over the next two seasons. Memphis will pay Prince, Davis and Daye a combined $26 million over that span ($22 million if Daye is not retained beyond next season). With Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley owed a combined $40.9 million next season, keeping Gay and a payroll under the tax line (this season it was $70.3 million) would have been a near-impossibility.
MIAMI – Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel has called Roy Hibbert “the best rim protector in the game.” That same Vogel took that same Hibbert off the floor on two critical defensive possessions late in overtime of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.
The result? Two LeBron James layups and a 103-102 Miami Heat victory in overtime. Commence the torching of Vogel.
Vogel is very good at his job, the architect of the No. 1 defense in the league. But on more than one occasion in these playoffs, he has been caught over-coaching. This isn’t the first time he’s sat Hibbert on a late-game defensive possession, but it’s the time that decision came back to really bite him in the rear end.
Indiana was in position to steal Game 1 and home-court advantage in the series. Paul George got them to overtime with a 32-foot bomb at the end of regulation and, after James’ first Hibbert-less layup, got them a one-point lead with three clutch free throws with 2.2 seconds on the clock in OT.
After the Heat called timeout, Hibbert was on the floor.
I repeat, Hibbert was on the floor. And it was just one possession earlier when James beat George Hill off the dribble and got a layup because Hibbert wasn’t on the floor.
But Vogel looked at Miami’s lineup and called his own timeout, for the sole purpose of replacing Hibbert with Tyler Hansbrough. Over-coaching 101.
“That’s the dilemma they present when they have Chris Bosh at the five spot and his ability to space the floor,” Vogel said afterward. “We put a switching lineup in with the intent to switch, keep everything in front of us, and try to go into or force a challenged jump shot.”
Vogel’s fear was that, if Hibbert stuck by the basket to protect the rim, Bosh could free up a teammate with a screen or knock down an open jump shot.
The Pacers did switch as the Heat set multiple screens on the inbounds play. But when James caught the ball at the top of the key, George closed out a little too hard. The Heat had the floor spaced well, so when James blew by George, there was no one in position to help or protect the rim. James laid the ball in with his left hand and the buzzer sounded.
Game over. Opportunity lost.
“Obviously, with the way it worked out, it would have been better to have Roy in the game,” Vogel said. “But you don’t know. If that happens, maybe Bosh is making a jump shot and we’re all talking about that.”
And maybe if Hibbert was on the floor and James just scored over him, we’re talking about the Heat’s offensive mentality. After attempting 11 mid-range shots in the first quarter (and only five from the restricted area), they attempted just 13 mid-range shots (and 31 from the restricted area) over the remaining 41 minutes.
They didn’t let Hibbert’s presence keep them away from the rim. They smartly attacked the Pacers’ defense both from the middle and from the baseline, drew Hibbert’s attention, and dumped the ball off to cutters for layups and dunks.
“We’re an attacking team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It takes a great commitment and effort to be able to do it together, to get our attack. So you play a very good defensive team like this, you might not necessarily get it on the first option of your attack. And you have to have the poise and patience to work your offense, get to the proper spacing, move bodies, and have those opportunities in the paint.”
(Someone send that quote to the New York Knicks.)
“The first quarter, it was more of taking the first available look,” Spoelstra continued. “And a lot of times, it was that pull-up or long jumper.”
After averaging just 30.7 points in the paint in three regular season meetings against the Pacers, the Heat had almost twice that (60) on Wednesday. And all of their biggest buckets of the night came at the rim, including a Dwyane Wade layup over Hibbert in the final minute of regulation and a Bosh put-back over Hibbert in the final minute of OT. So it’s not as if Hibbert was stopping everything.
But you have a much better chance of protecting the rim with Hibbert on the floor than with him on the bench. In his 12 minutes off the floor in Game 1, the Heat were 9-for-12 in the restricted area and just 1-for-9 elsewhere. And if the 7-foot-2 guy is in the game and protecting the rim on that final possession, you can certainly live with the elsewhere.
Hibbert was obviously disappointed afterward, but he had his coach’s back.
“I could see why Coach wanted to take me out,” he said. “With 2.2 seconds left on the clock, they can throw it to Bosh and I’m over-committing in the paint and he can hit a jump shot. My mentality is always to protect the rim. I wish I was in there, but I have complete faith in Coach’s decisions.”
If the situation comes up again, the decision might be different.
“I would say we’ll probably have him in the next time,” Vogel said.
The Heat have now won 46 of their last 49 games. Opportunities to beat them do not come often. Vogel can only hope that there is a next time.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve got plenty of time to debate the final play of the Miami Heat’s 103-102 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Game 2 isn’t until Friday night. So let the second-guessing begin.
The question is simple, should the Pacers have had their rim protector extraordinaire Roy Hibbert on the floor for the final play of a game? There were just 2.2 seconds to play and LeBron James spun to the basket and finished with the lefty layup to win it, thanks to Paul George‘s defensive gaffe (he overplayed the pass after seeing Ray Allen fly past him to the wing on a beautifully designed play). Pacers coach Frank Vogel has already said that if he had it to do over again … kudos to him for coming clean, many of his colleagues around the league would bark at us for questioning him.
Watch the play (above) again and play coach. Would you rather go small and give up those last two layups LeBron scored (the first was a driving layup on George Hill) or do you take your chances with Hibbert, praised by Vogel recently as the best rim protector in the game, and force the Heat to beat you with a lower percentage shot from distance?
George answered the question for me when he admitted afterwards that he needed to force LeBron to take a jumper rather than give up the clear lane to the basket. Had Hibbert been on the floor, that path would have at least been a bit cluttered. Tyler Hansbrough, who was fantastic earlier in the game, was chasing Allen on that last play but did not close off the lane the way Hibbert might have if he were in there.
I know it’s hindsight now and that everything but what Vogel did looks like a better option now. Sorry. That’s the way it works when we all get to play armchair coach after the fact.
Of course the Cavaliers are going to consider trades for the No. 1 pick. That’s not news and that’s not a Cleveland thing. Nerlens Noel has serious holes in his game – mostly anything to do with offense – and is coming off a torn knee ligament, and the Cavs have lived the youth movement long enough, so the only real development would have been to not open the phone lines.
There is the Lake Erie-sized bit of flawed logic being tossed around in the wake of the lottery win Tuesday night, though: One benefit to going with Noel over Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore is that the Kentucky power forward-center does not expect to return until around Christmas, allowing the Cavaliers to build a better roster while simultaneously positioning themselves for a high pick in the loaded 2014 draft. Yes, because if there’s one thing fans should want after years of losing it’s to angle for another season of missing the playoffs.
Welcome to the Andrew Wiggins Effect. Wiggins is a Canadian who just played his senior season of high school in West Virginia, the son of former NBA veteran Mitchell Wiggins, and bound for Kansas. He would have, at the very least, challenged Anthony Davis for No. 1 in the 2011 draft as a junior, would have lapped the field this year, and is projected as the clear favorite to go first in 2014. Beyond Wiggins, several other major prospects could be in the next draft, from elite one-and-done freshman to returnees like Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart to international shooting guard Mario Hezonja.
The Bobcats, the Kings, the Pelicans, the Suns, the Magic – they are at least a year away from a playoff push. This isn’t that. The Cavaliers are in go mode. You take Noel if he is the best prospect on the board and then deal with the delay, not because missing months is a benefit.
Cleveland should absolutely be thinking postseason, as colleague John Schuhmann noted in his report from the lottery. It missed by 14 games in 2012-13, a pretty good distance, except that the team that finished eighth, Milwaukee, could lose important free agents, plural, while the Cavaliers are clearly in an upward trajectory. Anderson Varejao is expected back after being limited to 25 games, Kyrie Irving can be counted on for more than 59 games, and Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller will be off the rookie learning curve. Fourteen games in the Eastern Conference is not exactly insurmountable.
The draft options are a trade, to add experience, or McLemore because he grades out as a better two-way prospect, even after taking Waiters in the lottery last June. Orlando, picking second, would then take whoever is left between Noel and McLemore, or possibly Trey Burke to address a need at point guard.
If the Magic don’t take him, Burke, the college Player of the Year from Michigan, is in a precarious spot. The Wizards are third, and they have John Wall. The Bobcats pick fourth and are liking Kemba Walker enough that point guard is far from a pressing concern. The Suns will pick fifth one season after spending big on free agent Goran Dragic and taking Kendall Marshall in the lottery. The unknown in Phoenix is the view of new GM Ryan McDonough, without any track record in the job.
That scenario gets Burke to the Hornets/Pelicans at six. That, in turn, would be trouble for Austin Rivers, but there was always a question whether New Orleans reached by drafting him to be a true point when a lot of teams saw combo guard. It’s hard to imagine Burke getting past the Hornicans. If he does, there is Sacramento with its annual point-guard decision in the draft.
The Burke picture is not unlike Damian Lillard in 2012, when he went into the draft as the top prospect at the position and lasted until No. 6 because many of the teams picking at the very top were already committed. Davis was the obvious No. 1 for New Orleans, followed soon after by the Wizards with Wall at 3, the Cavaliers with Irving at 4 and the Kings at 5 a year after they spent a lottery pick on Jimmer Fredette. Things seemed to work out for Lillard.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — NerlensNoel, all 206 pounds of him, might not be the franchise savior you had in mind with the No. 1 pick in the June NBA Draft.
But you aren’t the Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of the right to choose first in the Draft, courtesy of their lucky spin during Tuesday night’s Draft lottery. You better believe Noel, the Kentucky big man whose lone college season was cut short by a knee injury, will be the focus of some team’s Draft night plans next month. He’s been on the radar too long to get passed up in what is generally considered a lukewarm Draft class.
Noel is just one of several college stars — Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Trey Burke … just to name a few, are some of the others — being talked about as top picks in this Draft class. And who better to talk to about the lottery, these prospects and the history of the Draft itself on Episode 118 of The Hang Time Podcast than Ryan Blake, the Senior Director of NBA Scouting Operations and the son of the late and legendary Marty Blake, the father of modern-day NBA Draft process.
With a perspective that spans decades, Ryan Blake offers his analysis of not only this year’s Draft prospects, but also some of the more notable names in the history of the event, from immediate game changers like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and the high school-to-the-pros revolutionaries to legendary Draft snub victims like Paul Pierce and Danny Granger on to the alpha (LeBron James) and omega (Darko Milicic) of modern Draft day decisions.
What would have happened if the Cavaliers had listened to all of the so-called pundits who suggested that an international prospect like Milicic has more “upside” than James, who was a media superstar and Sports Illustrated cover boy before his senior year of high school?
What would have happened if high school stars like Lewis Alcindor, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Glenn Robinson and others had come up in an era where they had the option of bypassing college for the NBA?
We explore all that and so much more on Episode 118 of the Hang Time Podcast … which, of course, includes the latest installment of Rick Fox‘s season-long “Get Off My Lawn” rant!
CHICAGO – Kind of quiet these days in the Windy City, as far as the NBA playoffs go. The blood and guts spilled by the undermanned Bulls team against Brooklyn and Miami got mopped and stored away with the rest of the court, making room for United Center’s ice sheet on which the NHL Blackhawks are pursuing their Stanley Cup dreams.
The Derrick Rose Watch is over for a few months. Tom Thibodeau hasn’t been hoarse for a week.
But the NBA will rev up again, at least for a night, when Phil Jackson makes a public appearance Thursday to tout his latest book, “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success.” The celebrated coach of the Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers will participate in a conversation with Bulls beat writer K.C. Johnson as part of the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row literary series.
The Hall of Fame coach has been making the rounds lately – network interviews on the “Dan Patrick Show” and ESPN’s “Mike & Mike,” late-night chats with Jay Leno and Jon Stewart – so it’s not know if he has any news bombs to drop back where his NBA coaching career began.
Already, in thumping his book, the 67-year-old has talked about his lack of desire to coach again, the breakdown of that brief flirtation in November to return to the Lakers and various comparisons between Michael Jordan and either Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.
He said he turned down a chance to coach the Nets and, for now, has had his vision of a management role with a Seattle NBA entry blunted by the league’s decision to block a relocation of the Sacramento Kings. Jackson indicated he would have had a front-office position of his choosing, based on conversations with aspiring Seattle owner Chris Hansen.
With a career record of 1,155-485 and those 11 championships, Jackson remains a target for any team looking to make a splash with (and willing to pay a hefty price for) its coaching hire. But he talked in “Eleven Rings” of steering away from that role due to health considerations, based on his battle with prostate cancer two years ago and the rigors of the NBA’s travel and schedule.
It’s not clear where the public conversation will head Thursday – the event is being held at the Palmer House Hilton at 7 p.m. CDT, with tickets available for $45 (including a copy of Jackson’s book), $20 individually or $100 for a table of 10. Any talk of Jordan and his rivals probably will tilt in the Bulls legend’s direction, given the home-crowd advantage. And it’s likely folks will get a glimpse into how Jackson feels, rings-wise, about his Chicago six compared to his Los Angeles five.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Maybe those two can co-exist temporarily if Pau Gasol ends up elsewhere and Howard continues as a lone post presence. But long term and big picture, no, I don’t see it. I’m not sure Mike D’Antoni is the championship-caliber coach the Lakers’ legacy ultimately demands and I’m pretty sure Dwight Howard is not up to the job as tent-pole guy for that franchise, either. I still think he’s best suited to a smaller stage — Houston or maybe Atlanta — even if money, ego and preferred distractions have him sticking in L.A. At which point, my guess is, he’s not done burning through head coaches.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The bigger question is can Dwight Howard and any coach co-exist? Until the 27-year-old-going-on-18 big man grows up and takes responsibility for all of the shortcomings in his game and attitude, he and his team(s) will be unfulfilled.
Dwight Howard (Noah Graham/NBAE)
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Yes they can. All it takes is for Mike D’Antoni to coach basketball and do so to his players’ strengths, and not force feed an inflexible style. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak might have to move Pau Gasol (which won’t make Kobe Bryant happy) to give Dwight full control of the paint, as well as add a knockdown shooter or two to help free him up down low. If the Lakers want Dwight to be “The Man” for years to come, then it’s time to start making him the center of attention. Just not sure D’Antoni is capable of making such a commitment. And if he’s not then why’s he still the coach of this team?
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I give it a resounding “Probably.” Because they have to. It is based on the premise that Howard re-signs, of course, at which point they’ll have no other choice. Howard will want to fulfill his contract until he starts to angle for a trade and D’Antoni will want to keep his job. The coach, now with the benefit of time and a training camp that did not exist when he first arrived, will make tweaks to place the player more at the forefront. Howard will like that.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com:They should be able to, because Howard really is a great fit for D’Antoni’s offense if he’s willing to run a lot more pick-and-rolls than post-ups, if Steve Nash is healthy (because he’s the guy who’s going to get Howard the ball), and if the Lakers acquire some more shooting to spread the floor. Of course, I wonder more about D’Antoni’s ability to get his team to defend consistently more than I wonder about his relationship with Howard.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Sure they can. And it’s called sucking it up and doing your damn job. I can think of $30 million reasons why Dwight Howard should be willing to give it a try. The reality is people go to work every day and work their tails off with co-workers and bosses they don’t like because it’s the professional thing to do. Howard needs to get with the program and put whatever issues he might have with D’Antoni and anyone else and do the job he’s being paid to do. It’s not like D’Antoni treated him the way he treated Pau Gasol this season. If D’Antoni is his excuse for not sticking around with the Lakers, then Dwight is every bit of the Dwightmare his critics make him out to be. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt for the next six weeks. But we’ll see what happens July 1.
Hanson Guan, NBA.com/china: There’sno room for a traditional center under Mike D’Antoni’s system. Even if the Lakers had made their way into the playoffs, it wouldn’t have helped solve the problem between D’Antoni and Dwight Howard. It’s inevitable that they’ve had trouble working together, while the relationship between Dwight and Kobe Bryant hasn’t been what it was thought to be. Dwight’s personality and playing style mean he shouldn’t play under D’Antoni.
Eduardo Schell, NBA.com/spain: Two ways of building a team: you sign the appropriate players according to the coach’s playing style or you sign the appropriate coach according to the already existing players. So it was quite astonishing when the Lakers signed D’Antoni, having two big dominant guys like Pau and Dwight on the roster. At the end, D’Antoni changed his style somewhat with the Lakers’ backs to the wall, and for sure DH can play with MD with a healthy Nash as point guard. But I doubt the Lakers can really take advantage of PG+DH if MD stays true to his original basketball playing style.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com/greece: We have to be fair with Dwight Howard. It was a tough season for him, as he struggled after his back surgery. I think that he was never at the level he was playing in his years in Orlando. So, we must not rush to conclusion. After all, it’s not his fault that the Lakers lacked good chemistry and offensive balance. Now it’s the time to figure out if they want to support their guy in the middle, by adding the right pieces around him: slashers than can feed him in the lane or forwards capable of stretching the floor. As to whether he can work with coach D’ Antoni? When it comes to winning, everybody has to make a step back for the team’s good. So if the Lakers want to return to the league’s elite they have to have a healthy Kobe, less talking and more playing. Coaches coach and players play. D’ Antoni and Howard have proven than they can do their job right.