NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Dwight says he never had second thoughts about Rockets — Remember all the fuss over Dwight Howard’s big decision in free agency? Oh, right, how could any of us forget? In an interview with USA Today‘s Sam Amick, Howard says he never waffled on picking the Houston Rockets and wants to clear the air about that:
“That was not the case,” Howard told USA TODAY Sports. “I was very upset about it when all that stuff started to come out because that’s not what was going on. I decided … the night before it came out, and my thinking was, ‘Let me get back to L.A. and sit in front of (Lakers general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) and give the Lakers that respect.’ I wanted to tell them in person.
“There was no (thought of), ‘Oh man, hold up, let me think about this again.’ The night before, when I had decided, I sat down with everybody – my agent, my best friend who was there, and my bodyguard, and we talked. I said this is where I want to go. I told my Dad that this is where I want to go. I said tomorrow, when I get home, we’re going to talk to the Lakers. I’m going to tell the other teams on the phone, and that’s what I did.”
Howard also explained to Amick that, essentially, a future with James Harden was more appealing than one with Kobe Bryant:
“James Harden doesn’t come by every 10 years. It doesn’t happen. It’s no knock on other players who I played with, but you’re talking about all these guys who are young and are going this way, going up, so I’m like, ‘Man, this is a great spot for me. A great town, great organization.’ They’re going this way (points up).”
Even with all the mystique that came with the Lakers and their 16 titles, Howard went with the franchise that fit him now.
“Other teams have more history, but yesterday’s scores don’t win today’s games,” he said. “You’ve got to look at the now. What’s in the now? What can we do now? Nobody cared about what I did eight years ago, they want to know what I can do now, and it’s the perfect team for me.”
No. 2: Stoudemire reportedly had knee surgery in offseason — Broaching the topic of Amar’e Stoudemire with Knicks fans can at times bring up some interesting comments. Mentioning Stoudemire and his injury history is sure to get them fired up. Stoudemire, who has been dogged by knee problems throughout his NBA career, had ‘clean-up’ surgery on one of his ailing knees, writes Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. The good news is that the surgery isn’t considered major:
According to a Knicks source, Stoudemire had an unreported surgical procedure in July to repair one of his ailing knees. The Knicks open camp on Tuesday and have yet to announce that Stoudemire has had a third knee operation in 12 months. The surgery was described as “clean up” and isn’t considered major.
However, the secrecy surrounding Stoudemire’s latest health issue could be an indication that the club is not optimistic that they can rely on the veteran power forward. Stoudemire appeared in just 29 games last season and had debridement surgeries on both of his knees, the right knee in October and the left in March.
Stoudemire’s health is what led to the Knicks to pursue power forward Andrea Bargnani from Toronto in July. Bargnani was acquired before Stoudemire’s surgery. The Knicks also re-signed Kenyon Martin as insurance. The odds of Stoudemire starting alongside Carmelo Anthony were always remote and now it appears as if the best the Knicks can get out of Stoudemire is a few minutes a night as a back-up.
Isola writes that other health issues are concerning the Knicks as camp gets ready to open (New York’s media day is today). Reigning league scoring champ Carmelo Anthony and reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith are also nursing injuries.
No. 3: ‘The Beard’ learns some ‘Dream Shake’, too — Hall of Fame center and Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon isn’t officially back on the team payroll as an assistant coach, but he may as well be. He already spent some of the offseason working with Houston’s newly added big man, Dwight Howard, on his post moves. Now it seems Olajuwon is putting in some time with Rockets star guard James Harden and is teaching him some fancy low-post footwork. Check out the video below of Olajuwon tutoring Harden, courtesy of the guys over at ClutchFans.net:
No. 4: Cavs taking long view with Bynum’s health — Cleveland took a calculated-yet-big risk in the offseason by signing free-agent center Andrew Bynum to a two-year deal, especially considering the kind of season he had — or didn’t — for Philly last season (see item No. 5). The Cavs are not stressing that Bynum suit up for them from Oct. 8-24 — also known as Cleveland’s preseason schedule. The emphasis for Bynum, writes Bob Finnal of The News-Herald, is seeing him on the court during the season as much as possible:
The Cavs’ goal appears to be getting Bynum ready for the regular season. If he misses the majority of the preseason, so be it is the feeling from the team.
Cavs media day is Monday and all eyes will be on Bynum. However, don’t expect to see Bynum on the practice court when training camp begins on Tuesday.
Cavs coach Mike Brown said recently there’s been no timetable established for Bynum’s return. He hasn’t started court work yet, but he’s running on a treadmill.
“My concern is that he’s 100 percent healthy,” Brown said. “I’m not in any rush to get him back. Obviously, it would be great if he’s ready for opening day. If he’s not, I’m more than OK with it. We have a number of guys ready to step up.”
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Cavs general manager Chris Grant said.
He’s also not concerned that Bynum could miss training camp.
“When we signed him, we knew there was some risk,” he said. “He’s done some stuff on the court, but not a lot. We’ve seen significant process.”
No. 5: Harris defends Sixers’ (ultimately failed) deal for Bynum — ICYMI, the Sixers’ 2012-13 season couldn’t have gone any worse than it did … offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum never played a game, injuries racked the team’s so-so depth, coach Doug Collins had a meltdown at midseason and the team missed the playoffs by a long shot. As Philly stands on the brink of what is a rebuilding season, Sixers managing partner Joshua Harris tells CSNPhilly.com that he still stands by the team’s decision to trade for Bynum and the rebuilding efforts:
“You have to measure decisions against outcomes. Sometimes in sports there is an element of randomness. I think going for Andrew Bynum was the right decision because it’s very tough to get a player of that caliber. We did a bunch of work and his health problems ended up being worse than anyone thought. That decision was fine. I’m a big boy — we made a decision and it didn’t work out. But I think some of the other player decisions we made weren’t as good and I noticed those and that certainly weighed on me when we chose to go in a different direction.” …
“I’m not a patient person by nature. I want immediate results and immediate upsides, but I think that the reality of professional sports is things don’t change overnight. There are 29 other owners and everyone is smart and everyone is resourced so it’s all about getting an edge. I think the edge comes from putting the right people in place in management and when we were able to get Sam Hinkie and Scott O’Neill and Brett Brown, these are A-players. I feel very, very excited about those moves.”
No. 6: Oladipo-at-the-point project to continue — Throughout the 2013 NBA Summer League in Orlando, No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo saw significant time at point guard. That was a much discussed positional change for the former Indiana University standout who made his name in Bloomington as a standout defender and scorer at shooting guard. According to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, the Magic plan to keep Oladipo at point guard as the team begins training camp:
The Magic will test rookie Victor Oladipo immediately. Oladipo, who played shooting guard in college, will be asked to play perhaps a significant amount at point guard, continuing the experiment the team began during its summer-league exhibitions.
Oladipo faces a difficult test in the weeks ahead. A rookie season is difficult for any player — even someone who played three years of college ball at Indiana, as Oladipo did — and now Oladipo will try to pick up the nuances of the most complex position on the floor.
Magic officials believe he can excel as a defender at both guard positions, but anyone would acknowledge Oladipo will have some rough moments on the offensive end of the court.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Portland is feeling good about its upgraded bench corps … Thunder brass keeping a watchful eye on tensions in Turkey … Is Russell Westbrook faster than John Wall? … Jazz, Corbin holding off on contract extension talks
ICYMI of the night: We don’t have games yet (c’mon, Saturday! Get here already!), so you’ll just have to enjoy this nice little interview of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant at media day: