Posts Tagged ‘Stan Van Gundy’

Howard: ‘No Regrets’ … But Steamed Harris Is Wearing No. 12 In Orlando



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If Dwight Howard is really trying to put his checkered recent past behind him, he has a strange way of making it happen.

The Houston Rockets’ All-Star center has jilted fan bases in Orlando and Los Angeles (Lakers) in each of the past two seasons, bolting for what he believed to be a better situation in each instance. But he still wants to feel the love in both places. After staying silent for weeks while he was orchestrating exists from both places, Howard is finally opening up about how things went down.

The break-up in Orlando was about him not trusting the folks in charge to have his back after he and Stan Van Gundy‘s routine head-butting on certain things went public during that infamous post-shootaround scene where Van Gundy told reporters that he knew Howard had asked that the Magic fire him.

When the Magic fired Van Gundy in May 2012, Howard’s mind was already made up. He was gone. The trade to the Lakers ended in disaster as well, with Howard being unable to co-exist with Kobe Bryant and his misgivings after the franchise hired Mike D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown instead of Howard’s preferred choice, Phil Jackson.

Howard explained his thought process to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“There were some things that I missed about Orlando,” Howard said. “There’s a lot of situations that nobody really knows that I kept on the inside, but there’s some things about Orlando that I missed. I’d say that getting out in the community and doing a lot of stuff that I did, I miss doing that stuff in Orlando and the relationships that I built with a lot of people over there in Orlando. I miss that.

“But I have no regrets. I’m happy everything happened the way it happened. Even though I got hurt in the process and I had to go through a tough time, it made me a better person. I’m more mature now. I know how to handle situations different than I did back then.”

Howard views the Rockets as a championship contender.

He thinks Houston has similar talent to the 2008-09 Magic squad he led to the NBA Finals.

On Tuesday, Howard compared Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons to Hedo Turkoglu and Rockets shooting guard James Harden to Courtney Lee but also added that Harden has more scoring ability. He compared Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley to Rafer Alston and Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin to Anthony Johnson.

Howard said he was disappointed that, last February, after the Magic acquired Tobias Harris in a trade, the team granted Harris’ request to wear No. 12, Howard’s old number.

“I just think that despite whatever happened, there was a lot of things that I did and that we did as a team, and that number was special down there,” Howard said. “And I was a little bit upset about that.”

What Howard may not realize is that Harris is wearing No. 12 to pay tribute to a close friend who had died of leukemia at 17 years old.

Simply put, Howard can’t have it both ways. He can’t depart the way he did and expect anyone in Orlando to hold him in the same regard they did before the bottom fell out.

The Magic might change their tune some day, years from now when the sting of the divorce wears off a bit more. And Harris will rock that No. 12 jersey well. He was one of the biggest and most promising surprises for a Magic team that struggled mightily last season in their post-Howard existence.

Clearly, this drama is not going away, no matter how many times everyone involved tries to make it so. Howard will have to relive and rehash these things every time he sets foot in Orlando and Los Angeles. And maybe that’s the ultimate burden he’ll have to bear, the eternal venom from fan bases scorned (Magic fans will at least admit they were torn to shreds when he left).

Howard says he has no regrets … time will tell!

New Breed Of GM Ushers In New Coaches

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – At NBA.com, the eight men who will make their NBA head coaching debuts next season are being profiled. Today’s feature is Boston Celtics youngblood Brad Stevens.

Eight rookie head coaches in one season is a notable development in a league known for recycling the position (depending on Philadelphia’s hire the number could reach nine).

Consider that last season’s Coach of the Year and 25-year bench boss, George Karl, is out of work, as is Lionel Hollins, who molded a 24-win team when he took over into a Western Conference finalist last season. In Denver, Brian Shaw has been awarded his first head-coaching gig and in Memphis, Hollins’ top assistant, Dave Joerger, is being given his first shot.

So why are teams suddenly investing in new blood? Is it simply cost-cutting? Is it a belief that new ideas, concepts and techniques are needed to sustain success in today’s game?

“For me, as a first-time GM, and where we are, we need to build something in Phoenix and I wanted to give a guy a chance who maybe hadn’t  been a head coach before,” said recently hired general manager Ryan McDonough, who chose Jeff Hornacek to lead the Suns. “I considered guys who had been coaches before, but the vast majority of candidates I interviewed had assistant coaching experience, but had never been NBA coaches before.”

The words to highlight: “…as a first-time GM…” This summer’s coaching evolution is due, in no small part, to a mounting front-office revolution. More franchises are handing the keys to bright, young minds to make decisions on player evaluation and acquisition.

McDonough, 33, represents the next-generation of NBA general managers — or perhaps more accurately, the now-generation. They’re salary-cap educated, savvy, motivated and highly invested in advanced metrics and new technologies sweeping the league. They don’t have on-court pedigrees like their predecessors, but they have tirelessly worked their way up through video rooms and scouting departments of NBA franchises. Evaluating a player’s skill, versatility and potential goes hand-in-hand with assessing his dollar value under today’s salary-cap, tax-heavy collective bargaining agreement.

McDonough hired assistant GM Pat Connelly, the younger brother of Tim Connelly, the recently hired 36-year-old executive vice president of basketball operations for the Denver Nuggets. Tim Connelly hired the first-timer Shaw, a tag-team that will learn the ropes together.

“I don’t think it will be a difficult transition,” said Tim Connelly, who replaced Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri, just 39 when the Nuggets promoted the former international scout to general manager in 2010. Ujiri now heads the Toronto Raptors’ front office. “There’s only 30 people with these jobs and we’re both [he and Shaw] fortunate to take over a team that’s had a lot of regular-season success.”

Of the eight rookie head coaches, three were hired by first-time general managers. In the case of Sacramento’s Mike Malone, he was hired by still-newbie owner Vivek Ranadive, who then hired first-time general manager Pete D’Allesandro, 45.

“When I was in Boston,” said McDonough, who worked under Celtics general manager Danny Ainge for a decade, “I kind of always had it in my mind that if I got a GM job I would give a first-time head coach a chance.”

In Memphis, CEO Jason Levien, 40, took control of personnel decisions last season. He parted ways with Hollins and promoted Joerger. Last summer, Orlando chose Rob Hennigan, 31, as GM to consummate a trade for Dwight Howard and reshape the team. Hennigan hired first-time coach Jacque Vaughn. Hennigan’s former boss is Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti, who was also 30 when he took charge of the then-Seattle SuperSonics. Presti hired first-time coach Scott Brooks to lead the Thunder.

In Dallas, owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, the longtime Mavericks decision-makers, surprisingly hired Gerrson Rosas, 35, away from Daryl Morey‘s front office with the Houston Rockets to serve as general manager.

Major League Baseball first embraced the analytics movement so prevalent in today’s NBA, and also seems to have cracked the door for the NBA’s front-office youth movement. The Boston Red Sox made then-28-year-old Theo Epstein the youngest GM in baseball history. Epstein built a powerhouse that ended the infamous “Curse of the Bambino” with two World Series titles. The Texas Rangers soon hired Jon Daniels, who was also 28 when he took control. During his tenure, the Rangers made both of the franchise’s World Series appearances.

The old-school GM played the game and then moved “upstairs.” As precision dollar allotment continues to play a larger role in overall player evaluation, the position is trending toward sharp, young minds, students of the game who never actually played in the NBA, and were only learning how to read when Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was in his prime.

Does Mike D’Antoni Help Or Hurt The Lakers’ Cause With Dwight Howard?



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Houston’s Kevin McHale got the first crack at making a lasting impression on Dwight Howard, and from all indications did exactly that. Golden State’s Mark Jackson and Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer acquitted themselves quite well, too, in their face-to-face meetings with Howard.

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, easily one of the league’s top coaches and one of the smartest and most accomplished basketball minds around, is up next when the Mavericks’ contingent makes its sales pitch to Howard this afternoon. Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has some ridiculously tough acts to follow. The fact that he’s one of the only coaches on Howard’s list of contenders who has actually worked with the prized free agent big man should be to his (and the Lakers’) benefit.

But if the rumblings about Howard and D’Antoni struggling to find common ground during their lone season together are true, D’Antoni’s seat alongside Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, stars Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash and others at Howard’s final recruiting session this evening in Los Angeles might not be the trump card it should be.

In fact, it’s not unreasonable to wonder: is D’Antoni helping or hurting the Lakers’ cause here? For all of the stars who have lined up to woo Howard, all of the owners, living legends, titans of industry and what have you, no one is more important than these respective coaches.

They have to be front and center during this process with a clear-cut plan that details exactly how they will take advantage of Howard’s skills and what they’ll do to exploit them in a way that leads to championships.

Given Howard’s recent past with coaches (see Stan Van Gundy, Orlando), it’s not hard to overstate the importance of the coach-player dynamic in whatever becomes his final choice.

The Los Angeles Clippers took care of that extremely important piece of business with their own free-agent star, Chris Paul, by dumping Vinny Del Negro after the best season in franchise history and pursuing and landing Doc Rivers to replace him and take over the role as the Clippers’ senior vice president of basketball operations. Via Twitter, Paul committed to the Clippers Monday morning and will sign a five-year, $107 million deal come July 10.

Howard is extremely sensitive about the sentiment that he’s some sort of “coach killer,” as he should be, because there are few tags more damaging to a superstar’s profile.

“That’s a tough thing to live down once you get it,” said one Western Conference executive. “That’s the knock on Dwight right now, whether he likes it or not. Everyone knows he’d had issues with his last two coaches and that’s why you know whatever is there with D’Antoni would have to be fixed before he could honestly think about staying with the Lakers. There’s no way around it.”

If Howard decides he’d rather play elsewhere, D’Antoni will get plenty of blame — deserved or not. And that’s what makes his role today so crucial. With Bryant and Nash (two of D’Antoni’s greatest allies) flanking him, he has a chance to clean up whatever mess is there and do his best to talk Howard back into the fold.

We might never get any real answers anyway. Howard has never come clean on what went down with Van Gundy, even though their disconnect led to the dissolution of a championship-caliber team in Orlando. He will have a chance to walk away from the Lakers this time without having to publicly address the D’Antoni situation. But that won’t stop any of us from speculating.

And it certainly won’t silence the Lakers fans who are already convinced that D’Antoni ruined any chance of Howard sticking around, even with the $30 million and extra contract year the Lakers can offer that no one else can.

One of D’Antoni’s colleagues came to his defense, insisting that if Howard chooses one of his other options, it won’t be because of any rift — real or perceived — between Howard and D’Antoni.

“Don’t make this about Mike, that’s not fair to him,” said an Eastern Conference coach who knows D’Antoni well and has coached against Howard for years. “This is [Dwight's] thing. He has to own it and make it right. Blaming Mike for anything that hasn’t gone his way the last couple of years is just wrong. This is Dwight’s choice, he has to make it, own it and get back on the floor and do what he does. And I know people are convinced that he’s already gone, but I’m not in that crowd. I think he’s going to stay in L.A.”

Stan Van Gundy Won’t Coach Next Season



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Go ahead and cross Stan Van Gundy off your coaching wish list, NBA general managers and decision-makers.

The former Orlando Magic and Miami Heat coach told Orlando radio station SportsTalk1080 this morning that he will not return to the sideline for the 2013-14 season. His decision quashes the dreams of fan bases from Cleveland to Atlanta and several other outposts where coaching searches are in full swing.

(Listen to the full interview here)

Van Gundy said he has not interviewed with any teams, though he had been contacted by several about their vacancies.

His announcement takes one of the prime coaching candidates off of the market before things get really cranked up during NBA free agency in July.

Six Sensible Picks For Coaching Success



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Raise your hand, you twisted souls, if you’re ready for another episode of the Dwight Howard-Stan Van Gundy show.

Even Hawks fans, a group starved for both star power on the roster and stability with the coaching staff, are wary of the potential pairing of these former Orlando Magic stalwarts in the ATL. Their deteriorating relationship marred their final season together in a situation that was anything but magic in Orlando.

But when the coaching carousel kicks up this time of year, and a half-dozen or so different teams are picking over the same small pool of elite coaching candidates, all things are possible.

Van Gundy, and his brother, Jeff Van Gundy, are going to be on short lists everywhere, along with Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown and whoever the assistant coach(es) du jour might be.

What looks good on paper and sounds sweet in theory, however, doesn’t always hold up in reality. Multiple reports of Stan Van Gundy being pursued by the Hawks, who have announced that they will explore all options in determining who replaces Larry Drew (if they replace him), make perfect sense. Hawks GM Danny Ferry is in the process of rebuilding his roster and needs a coach on board before the Draft.

“I have great appreciation and respect for Larry and how he led our team this season,” Ferry told Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. “At the same time, it is my responsibility and in the best interests of the Hawks organization to consider all of our options, and talk with other potential head coaches before making a decision about who will lead our basketball team. Larry and I have had open communication about this approach. If Larry and I continue to work together, we ultimately will be a stronger organization because of our discussions and this thorough process.”

That’s an eloquent way of stating the obvious: that the Hawks plan on moving on from the past nine years (Drew was an assistant under current Knicks Mike Woodson during his six seasons with Atlanta before Drew spent the last three season its coach). And it’s understandable. No one will blame Ferry for making a clean break from the Hawks’ recent past, provided he upgrades the coaching situation and the roster with all of that $33 million in cap space and the four Draft picks the Hawks will be armed with this summer.

The burning question remains, then, is Stan Van a legitimate upgrade?

He did take the Magic to The Finals in 2009, the Miami Heat to the Eastern Conference finals (2005) and did the same with Orlando (2010). But he was shown the door in both places after his star players grew tired of his grinding ways. Weighing the pros and cons of Stan Van being the face and voice of your franchise heading into a huge free-agent summer is a risky proposition for the Hawks, one that Ferry is surely aware of as he continues to sort through the process of finding the right coach.

There are five other current openings around the league, with another one (Los Angeles Clippers … ?) still looming. With a bevy of candidates, we take a look at who fits best where and why …

Atlanta Hawks: Mike Malone, assistant coach Golden State Warriors

In a realm where it’s often who you know as well as what you know, Malone can check those boxes with the Hawks. He’s done stellar work with the Warriors, helping guide them into a prime time position this postseason under Mark Jackson. He also worked under Mike Brown in Cleveland when Ferry ran that franchise. Malone is a nuts-and-bolts coach who won’t come with the baggage of some of the more recognizable candidates for the job. He’s universally respected and will likely be on the interview list for every opening out there.

Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Van Gundy, ABC/ESPN analyst

No available coach has a better handle on the rigors of guiding a team in the New York area. Van Gundy’s Knicks history, along with his work on ABC and ESPN broadcasts, has kept him in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. He’s got the coaching chops required to manage a complex and talented roster that clearly needs a guiding force to reach its potential. His former partner in the booth, Mark Jackson, has done wonders in his first coaching stint in Golden State. Van Gundy could work similar magic with a Nets team that underachieved this season.

Charlotte Bobcats: Larry Drew, coach Atlanta Hawks

Drew worked alongside Bobcats owner Michael Jordan when they were both in Washington, so there is plenty of familiarity there. He also impressed many around the league with the work he did in an impossible situation in Atlanta the past three seasons. Even with constant changes on the roster and in the front office, Drew coached the Hawks to three straight playoff appearances. He would walk into a situation in Charlotte that looks a lot like the one he walked into with the Hawks nine years ago. That blueprint for thriving in the face of adversity could come in handy for the Bobcats.

Detroit Pistons: Jerry Sloan, former coach Utah Jazz

The Pistons have a roster filled with talented young players in need of guidance and direction. That’s the idea fit for a disciplinarian like Sloan, who could work wonders with bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in particular. Sloan’s Jazz teams were known for being the model of consistency. He won with superstar talent (Karl Malone and John Stockton) and kept on winning after they retired. The Pistons have had their greatest success in recent years under another veteran coach, Larry Brown, and could return to relevance under Sloan.

Milwaukee Bucks: David Fizdale, assistant coach Miami Heat

With the Big 3 in Miami, most of the attention has been strictly on the players. But Erik Spoelstra‘s key hire since taking over as coach in Miami was luring Fizdale away from the Hawks. He’s considered one of the brightest up-and-coming coaching candidates in the league and has done fantastic work with the continued development of both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Luring him away from a championship situation in Miami won’t be easy for the Bucks or anyone else. But Fizdale has designs on running his own team and working with Bucks GM John Hammond would be a good place to get that first shot.

Philadelphia 76ers: Stan Van Gundy, former coach Orlando Magic

After the emotional roller coaster that was the Doug Collins experience, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the Sixers’ young core need a savvy veteran to deal with, not a first-time coach who would have to transition to a new gig in a city known for chewing up the strongest of personalities.  Stan Van gives the Sixers a bold personality to lead the way and an absolute technician of the game to help push the right buttons for a team that needs the sort of stewardship he tried to provide in Orlando.

The Coaching Crunch: On Thin Ice!



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Eye contact in a timeout huddle means little to the casual observer.

NBA players do all sorts of things in timeout huddles other than locking into their coach and hanging on every word. Sometimes it means something when they stare off into the distance. And other times it means nothing.

But for a large number of coaches heading into the great (contractual) unknown at season’s end, that connection between coach and player(s) is of immense importance.

It could mean the difference between a contract extension, a new contract or no contract, depending on how certain teams finish the regular season and postseason — provided some of these coaches make it that far.

The list of coaches looking over their shoulders as the regular season winds to a close is long and filled with notable names:

DOUG COLLINS, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

How many coaches of lottery-bound teams get to decide their own fate? Collins might be the only one in the league right now other than Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, who will make his own decision based on things other than basketball. That exhausted look on his face most nights is a reflection of a clearly exasperated coach dealing with a situation that turned a promising, young team last season upside down this season when Andrew Bynum came to town via an offseason trade.

The Sixers hit rock bottom in February and Collins couldn’t contain himself, venting his frustration for all the world to see and hear. But they’ve actually rebounded a bit lately, going 6-4 in their last 10 games and doing whatever they can to finish the season on a somewhat positive note.

His fourth year is already set. The Sixers’ front office wants him back. And they’ll need a steady, veteran coach to guide them out of the mess that the Bynum trade unleashed upon the organization and the fans. Collins is on thin ice only if he wants to be.

TY CORBIN, UTAH JAZZ

Corbin is one of several coaches whose future is tied directly to his team’s finish in the regular season. Make the playoffs, serve as the sacrificial first-round fodder for the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder and there is reason to believe that Corbin can cajole more out of this group next season.

And with just one season left on his contract, playoffs or not, the Jazz might not shake things up in the coaching ranks at a time when the roster is in such flux — Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap‘s pending free agency (among others) and the future of young bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

Corbin’s task has always been daunting in following a legend like Jerry Sloan. But Corbin has handled it about as well as you would expect from a guy who was thrust into an impossible situation.

MIKE D’ANTONI, LOS ANGELES LAKERS

The ice beneath D’Antoni’s feet won’t break this season, even if the Lakers miss the playoffs. There has already been too much turmoil, upheaval and loss for one season. But how would you like to work under the extreme pressure that D’Antoni will have to this summer and next season if the Lakers do miss out on that eighth and final spot in the West?

If the Lakers land in the lottery and the blame game kicks off in earnest, D’Antoni will be third or fourth in the firing line, behind Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and Dwight Howard (in whatever order you’d like). Having the unfettered support of the Lakers’ two most important players — Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash — certainly aids D’Antoni’s cause.

Still, if things come apart in Los Angeles this summer, D’Antoni could be one of two NBA coaches in the city walking around on cracked ice.

VINNY DEL NEGRO, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Del Negro has just as many detractors as he does supporters these days. Three different league executives have suggested that he’s done a much better job than he gets credit for, when you consider how raw the Clippers’ frontcourt remains with youngsters Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan still coming into their own.

Del Negro’s critics quickly point out that an All-Star and one of the top 10 centers in the league is a pretty good place to start your frontcourt rotation. Plus, they say, Griffin and Jordan’s rawness has as much with Del Negro (and his staff’s) inability to polish them up as it does anything else.

The Clippers have dealt with health issues and rumored locker room drama all season, but they also kicked off the NBA’s season of win streaks with a 17-gamer early in the season that cranked expectations (on the team and Del Negro) to unattainable proportions. The only thing that might solidify Del Negro’s status is a run to the Western Conference finals … and that might work.

LARRY DREW, ATLANTA HAWKS

How does a guy spend half the season as a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate and the other half on the coaching hot list? Only in Atlanta, where the Hawks coach has been on the proverbial hot seat for the past 10 years (Mike Woodson before him and now, Drew).  He’s known since last summer, when new general manager Danny Ferry arrived, that he would spend his final season under contract on a non-stop audition.

To his credit, Drew has never once made an issue of his predicament. In fact, he’s relished the opportunity to show off his coaching chops to the rest of the league. Drew knows there could be (at minimum) a half-dozen coaching openings this summer. And anyone who has presided over playoff teams every year he’s been a coach — as Drew has — has made a compelling case for making the short list of interview candidates for any openings.

Bottom line? Drew was not Ferry’s pick as coach. And if the Hawks are going to remake themselves this summer, it makes sense that Ferry will do so with his own pick as coach.

BYRON SCOTT, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Scott had to fist-fight Brooklyn’s P.J. Carlesimo for the final spot on this list. Carlesimo’s not on thin ice, though, he’s standing in the water. As long as Phil Jackson, Sloan and the Van Gundy brothers (Jeff and Stan) remain options, the coaching seat in Brooklyn is just a temporary perch. Scott is in a much more precarious position because of the belief that the Cavaliers are just a few healthy players (namely Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao) away from turning the corner in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

Scott keeps finding himself in coaching situations where he has either overstayed his welcome (New Jersey and New Orleans) or failed to get his team to the next step in time (Cleveland). The Cavaliers showed him some love earlier this season by guaranteeing the final year of his contract next season. But even a financial vote of confidence like that might not stand up to the a coaching free-agent summer that will rival anything the players offer up.

If the aforementioned big names are floating around, you better believe the Cavaliers will be fishing around to see who is interested in helping guide Irving into the prime of his career.

ALSO ON THE RADAR: Mike Dunlap, Charlotte; Lawrence Frank, Detroit; Lionel Hollins, Memphis; Keith Smart, Sacramento; Randy Wittman, Washington.

Will Free Throws Finally Free Dwight?

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HANG TIME, Texas — It’s often been said that living well is the best revenge.

So there was Dwight Howard looking like a cross between a Kardashian and a member of the British royal family in rolling to 39 points and 16 rebounds during his boo-filled return to Orlando.

What’s more, he appeared loose, unagitated and as happy as Henry VIII at a smorgasbord when the Magic sent him to the line for an all-you-can-eat menu of 39 free throws, from which he 16 of 20 in the second half.

Which leaves us to wonder if it will now, finally, ever click to the mercurial big man that all he has to do is to shut up and play?

There is no reason for Magic coach Jacque Vaughn to apologize for the strategy, for Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni to complain or for NBA commissioner David Stern to again ponder a rule change.

Like so much else with Howard’s perpetually conflicted life and career, the problem has always been of his own creation. He is the one with the career .577 free-throw percentage and for all the talk about work in the weight room or getting one-on-one tutoring from Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, has been solidly consistent with his horrid stroke, rarely deviating far from the mean.

If you’re an opposing coach, why wouldn’t you exploit that hole in an All-Star’s game? It’s no different than giving a poor shooter open jumper after open jumper until he learns to knock it down.

If you’re Howard’s coach, why wouldn’t you practically salivate at the thought of your center getting 20 free throws in a half if he can step up and make 80 percent of them?

Howard could have stomped and fumed and moped and blamed his plight on someone else, the way he has with most events of the past two seasons. From former coach Stan Van Gundy to Magic management to Kobe Bryant’s prodding to D’Antoni’s offense to Pau Gasol to unrealistic fan expectations to the media, he’s been a self-made tempest in his own teapot. Just last week he disparaged his old Orlando teammates and then complained at everyone’s reaction to what he said.

It would have been straight in line with the persecuted image that Howard has constructed for himself to flap his arms, howl at the moon and hang his head each time the Magic committed another foul and sent him back to the line.

Instead Howard just shut up and played and enjoyed a night in the kind of career and life of which most people only dream.

He should try it more often.

Top 8 free throw attempts in a single game

Dwight Howard (Lakers): 39 FTA
Date: March 12, 2013

Dwight Howard (Magic): 39 FTA
Date: Jan. 12, 2012

Shaquille O’Neal (Lakers): 31 FTA
Date:
Nov. 19, 1999

LeBron James (Cavs): 28 FTA
Date: March 12, 2006

Shaquille O’Neal (Heat): 28 FTA
Date: Jan. 14, 2005

Shaquille O’Neal (Lakers): 28 FTA
Date: Mar. 14, 2002

Karl Malone (Jazz): 28 FTA
Date: Jan. 8, 1996

Willie Burton (Sixers): 28 FTA
Date: Dec. 13, 1994

Magic Need To Wake From Dwightmare?



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Closure.

That’s what is on tap for Orlando Magic fans tonight when Dwight Howard makes his return to the building built upon his broad shoulders, the one that was supposed to house the city’s biggest and brightest star.

A win over the Los Angeles Lakers would sweeten the deal, anything the Magic can do to damage the Lakers’ playoff chances serves that purpose. And a lousy game by Howard might also add to the feel-good nature of the evening for those Magic fans still wounded by Howard’s departure last summer via a blockbuster trade.

But after it’s all over, when the booing is finished and the Lakers are in the air and headed to Atlanta for a Wednesday night matchup against the Hawks, the Magic and the entire city of Orlando needs to close the door on this Dwightmare drama for good. It’s time to wake up from this mess and finally move on.

That’s an extremely tall order, what with Howard’s refusal to stop sticking his size 18s in his mouth at seemingly every turn. Howard, however, is someone else’s Dwightmare now. The Lakers have to sweat out this summer wondering what he’ll do, whether he’s willing to stick around or chase his fortunes elsewhere (the Brooklyn whispers remain).

Magic fans will get a fresh start after tonight, and a well-deserved one. They can thank their front office for only having to see Howard once this year anyway. The decision to trade him to the Lakers and not somewhere else in the Eastern Conference prevented us all from having to go through this exhausting exercise on more than one occasion.,

That said, tonight’s meeting between the Magic and Lakers (7 ET, League Pass) promises to offer up one of the more bizarre scenes of the season, which is saying a mouthful, given the traveling circus the Lakers have been all season long.

Howard’s recent comments about his time in Orlando and his words about his former teammates (that he insists were misconstrued) will have to be addressed again … and in the flesh. There’s no Stan Van Gundy around to serve as the punching bag/foil for Howard, as he did during that infamous hallways scene after a shootaround practice last season.

One-time Howard ally Jameer Nelson will be in the other locker room. The eyes and ears of former Magic players like J.J. Redick, Rashard Lewis and even Vince Carter will no doubt be tuned into whatever is said.

Nelson swears there are no hard feelings, as he told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“What’s said is said, and what happened is over and done with,” Nelson said. “I’m just here trying to look forward and not trying to dwell on the past. The decision was made and things happen, so it’s not like anybody could take them back or anything like that. And me personally, I’m not mad at him for doing what he did. I don’t know. Could things have been done differently? Yeah. But they weren’t. So, me as a person, I just have to move on and try to continue to be successful and do the things I need to do to help the team get back in the position we used to be in.”

Last week, Howard said he had reached out to former teammates after some of them, including Nelson and Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick, took issue with a comment Howard made to a Los Angeles television station about his old Magic teams.

Howard said the statement was misconstrued and twisted by the media — that he was attempting to say that the Magic were always considered underdogs.

Nelson was asked whether he and Howard have conversed recently.

“No,” Nelson said.

There was silence before Nelson spoke again.

“Have me and Rashard conversed? Yes.”

To his credit, Howard has tried his best to apologize to everyone from his former teammates to the arena workers for how he handled himself during his season-long departure, which started with a trade request he refused to own up to during training camp. Howard was candid in a sit down interview with USA Today‘s Sam Amick, explaining his side of things as best he could:

“In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way,” he said. “If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media.

“I really just got caught up in wanting to please everybody else. I really love that city. That was the hardest thing to do was to leave that city because I basically grew up there. That was my whole life. Orlando was it. I did not want to leave all that behind — the city, just everything about it. The fans. But I wanted a change for my life. I just felt like there was something else out there for me.”

That something else, for now, is trying to rebound from the Lakers’ disastrous start to this season and assist Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in delivering his new team to the playoffs.

Howard would be wise to focus on that tonight and not the hate shower he’ll get from the crowd tonight in Orlando. Because it should get nasty.

But when it’s over, win or lose, the Magic need to wake up from their Dwightmare and just move on.

In fact, it’s time for everyone to just move on!

Morning Shootaround — March 12

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: One day after we were treated to a mostly disappointing Pacers-Heat showdown in Miami (the Heat romped in the second half to down Indiana), we had another matchup on paper that looked solid: Thunder vs. Spurs. This one actually lived up to the billing a little bit better than Pacers-Heat did, so it’s our game of the night. Nice early drama in this one as the Thunder took a 32-22 lead after the first quarter, but then things fell apart for OKC in the second quarter and just kept on going south from there. Led by the 3-point shooting of Danny Green and the all-around skills of Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs rattled off a 23-4 run in the second quarter to take control of the game. Although OKC made a series of runs each night to keep the game close, San Antonio more than dictated the game with its defense and kept hold of the No. 1 spot out West with the win.

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News of the morning

Iguodala still mulling future in Denver | Van Gundy reflects on run with Magic‘Sheed safe if Knicks bolster roster?Wall chimes in on his future | Kanter showing skils with Jazz

Iggy non-committal on future with NuggetsIn his first season with Denver, Andre Iguodala is the team’s third-leading scorer, ranks second in minutes played, is third in rebounds and leads it in steals. He’s amassed more wins already (43) than he did in any of his eight previous seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and is part of a team that seems primed for a legit playoff run that may carry deep into May or even June. So, re-signing Iguodala — a free agent this summer — seems like a lock, right? Not exactly, writes Paola Boivin for the Denver Post:

With just 17 games remaining in the season, Andre Iguodala is closer to making a decision about his future.

Iguodala’s contract gives him the opportunity to “opt out” and become a free agent after the season.

Although the issue will get his full attention then, he admits he is aware of what is happening around him.

“Obviously, you’re talking to your agent and you’re paying attention to trades, and salary caps that are being opened up through sign and trades and other guys who are in the same position as you,” he said. “It’s in the back of your mind. But as far as making a concrete decision, you really don’t size it up until the season’s over, because we have some opportunities to do some really good things here.”

Van Gundy remembers the good ol’ Orlando daysStan Van Gundy‘s farewell season and departure as coach of the Magic likely couldn’t have gone worse, with Van Gundy dealing with the almost-daily “Dwightmare” talk surrounding Dwight Howard, his awkward mid-season news conference in which Van Gundy addressed rumors of Howard wanting him fired (and Howard pretending not to know about it) to getting fired shortly after the Magic lost to the Pacers, 4-1, in the first round. Yet for Van Gundy, in an interview with USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt, the memories of playoff runs and building a winner in Orlando outweigh his final season:

Oh for sure, it got squirrely and it all went sideways last season with a compelling mix of humor, stress, bad decisions and communication disorder. It was a general malaise and dysfunction, resulting in Howard’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers in August. Howard returns to play in Orlando for the first time Tuesday, and his reception will not be warm and fuzzy.

But before all that, former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said it was, “a lot of fun. We worked hard, and I think guys had a lot of fun and enjoyed the success. It was just a good time here.

“They had been 12 years without winning a playoff series. We were able to go on a little bit of a run, and there was a lot of excitement around our team. Things were really on the upswing.”

“Dwight matured into an outstanding player … the best big man in our league,” Van Gundy said. “(Then-general manager) Otis Smith did a great job of putting the roster together and surrounded him with outstanding players who really fit him very well.”

…Almost always siding with fun, Howard grew up in Orlando, Van Gundy said.

“At first, there were times when he needed to be more serious,” he said. “But as it went on, he understood, for the most part, being serious when we had work to do. There were other times when he could relax and have a good time.

“Even in practice and games, Dwight’s a guy who wants to have a good time and enjoy what he’s doing and have a smile on his face. That’s just the way he is. I don’t think that will ever change.”

Van Gundy said if Orlando decided to retire a number, “it would have to start with Dwight and Shaq (O’Neal). They are, by far, the two best players in the history of the organization. Then, in my mind, you have to start with Dwight. He was here longer and certainly had just as much success.”

Wallace’s future looking stable in New YorkThe Knicks’ depth has been tested of late with Amar’e Stoudemire out for the rest of the regular season after surgery on his right knee and Rasheed Wallace out after having surgery on his broken left foot. New York recently re-signed veteran Kenyon Martin to a second 10-day contract to provide another big body for the frontline, but depth remains an issue and signing another player isn’t out of the question. Coach Mike Woodson tells Frank Isola of the New York Daily News that any roster move the Knicks make won’t led to ‘Sheed being released:

Mike Woodson hinted that the club could make a roster to move to add another player but in a strange twist the Knicks head coach indicated that releasing injured Rasheed Wallace isn’t under consideration.

The Knicks have 13 available players with Wallace and Amar’e Stoudemire sidelined for the remainder of the regular season. In order to sign a player, the Knicks would have to create a roster spot by cutting a player. Wallace, who had foot surgery last month, is the most logical candidate since it is unlikely he will play again this season. In fact, he may be forced back into retirement.

But when Woodson was asked if he has reconsidering waiving Wallace, a player he convinced to come out of two-year retirement, the head coach said: “I don’t know where that came from. That was you guys (in the media). I never made that statement about waiving Rasheed. Rasheed still has a chance to bounce back as well but again as we go up this road we’ve just got to wait and see.

“Are these guys able to come back for us? I don’t know what the process is in terms of being able to add another roster spot. I haven’t really looked into that.”

Woodson admitted that he is approaching the remainder of the regular season as if he won’t have either Stoudemire or Wallace. He then revealed that he intends to speak with general manager Glen Grunwald next week about adding a player.

“When we come off this trip Glen and I will sit down and start accessing that very closely,” Woodson said. “Because I think we have until the latter part of March to make some decisions.”

Wall on his future, his jump shot and moreAs our man David Aldridge pointed out in his must-read Morning Tip yesterday, the Wizards have gone 15-13 after a 4-28 start and have notched wins over the Heat, Thunder, Nuggets and Hawks during that span. The biggest reason for that success has been the return of point guard John Wall, who is improving as a playmaker and shooter for the Wizards while also remaining a solid perimeter defender. Zach Lowe of Grantland.com chatted with the Wizards’ young star about his comeback, his future in D.C. and more in a solid Q&A:

That much is clear from the numbers and your record since you got back. Your jumper will obviously be a key issue going forward. What’s the state of it, mechanically? What do the coaches have you working on, in terms of form?

Nothing much. Just making sure I’m staying on balance, jumping straight up and down. Things like that.

Can you do what they are asking for with consistency? Have they basically remade your jumper since you left college?

No, not really. It’s the same form. It’s just making sure that I don’t hold onto the ball as long as I used to, that I follow through, don’t fade away. Things like that.

Yeah, that Tyreke Evans leg kick, right?

Yeah, something like that. That’s something I used to do a lot, and they don’t want me doing that.

It sounds like you feel a bit better about your shot.

For me, it was just little things, and it’s about confidence. So for me, once I got my confidence, I’m cool. I don’t mind taking them. If I miss a couple, I’m still shooting it, and I’m not scared to take that type of shot in the fourth quarter.

Speaking of those guys: It feels like your name has kind of fallen out of the “elite point guards” conversation a bit, given the time you’ve missed with injuries this season. Do you notice that? Do you care?

Nah, I can’t pay attention to that. I don’t think like that.

Have you started thinking about your contract extension talks yet?

I haven’t started thinking about that.

Really? The deadline isn’t that far away.

That’s true. Look, I’m just enjoying D.C. This hasn’t been going the way we wanted it to, in terms of winning, but I think we are building something here.

Do you feel like you deserve a max contract? That you’re a max guy?

I feel like I am. I do, definitely.

Kanter finding his rhythm in second seasonWhen Utah shockingly decided to trade Deron Williams to the Nets at the trade deadline in 2011, one of the pieces they received back from New Jersey was a first-round pick in the 2011 Draft which eventually became the No. 3 overall selection. With that pick, the Jazz took young-but-raw big man Enes Kanter. The center from Turkey struggled with the NBA game as a rookie and, although he showed some prowess on the offensive glass, looked very much like a work in progress. Since then, Kanter spent the offseason honing his body and is regularly tutored by Utah’s veteran center, Al Jefferson, on the post moves and footwork that are Jefferson’s trademark. Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune details how Kanter has stepped up his game this season thanks to that offseason and in-season work:

Now that the rest of the league has had an opportunity to catch a glimpse, it may finally be time for an honest discussion about Kanter’s potential and future with the Jazz. In the five games since his start against the Bobcats, Kanter is averaging 15.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, up from season averages of 7.2 points and 4.5 rebounds.

“I got experience,” Kanter said. “I just help my teammates however I can. We lost the last couple of games; it was pretty sad.”

While the Charlotte game was the one for which Kanter received the most attention, coach Tyrone Corbin said his subsequent performances in games against Milwaukee and the Cavs may have been more impressive.

From setting hard screens to rolling the right way, Kanter has grown, Corbin says. He was in the game at the end against Milwaukee, and had a chance to win the game after rebounding Gordon Hayward’s blocked layup, but his shot missed at the buzzer.

“He was at the right spot, he caught it and just finished, he didn’t bring it down,” Corbin said. “That kind of thing is invaluable to get guys on the floor to get the experience and grow through it, especially while they’re young.”

Corbin and Jefferson agreed that the key for Kanter in the recent stretch was the confidence that he would play big minutes. That he could be patient, and didn’t have to force anything to try to make an impression.

“I think coming off the bench, sometimes young guys figure if they don’t do things right, they can get snatched out the game,” Jefferson said. “I just think that he knew he wasn’t coming out of the game and he had a swag about himself and it worked out for him.”

Kanter’s role will only increase beyond this year. During Kanter’s struggles earlier this season, it was common to hear chatter that power forward Derrick Favors had developed more rapidly, that he was more ready than Kanter to step into an enhanced role.

All the while, Kanter continued to work. He famously shed 51 pounds in the offseason and arrived at training camp with abdominal muscles that could be played in a zydeco band.

ICYMI(s) of the night: We love “The Manimal” around these parts, so here are a pair of must-see plays from the Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried:

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Stan Van Gundy Unchained!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Months removed from his most recent coaching stint in the NBA, Stan Van Gundy‘s words still resonate.

The colorful former coach of both the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat didn’t hold anything back when discussing his life, the NBA, politics, Lance Armstrong, his future and plenty more with Jon Saraceno of USA Today. And because he’s no longer bound by his employer to watch his tongue, you better believe he let it all out.

Van Gundy answered questions the same way he coached his teams, without a hint of reservation and as brutally honest as possible. Best players he’s ever coached? Dwyane Wade followed by Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal (with the qualifier that O’Neal was in the latter stages of his stellar career).

Is politics in his future? He’s never going to run at the top of a ticket for anything. And who is to blame for him not joining his brother Jeff Van Gundy on ABC/ESPN broadcasts in some capacity? NBA Commissioner David Stern.

The most overrated player in the NBA? Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (“He’s not a guy who should be third in the [All-Star] voting.”) followed closely by Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams (“I never thought Deron Williams was overrated but right now people still look at him as one of the top two or three point guards in the league. He hasn’t been that in recent seasons.”) And the most underrated? Nets guard Joe Johnson is Van Gundy’s most “underappreciated.”

If Van Gundy has designs on rejoining the NBA coaching fraternty, he’ll have to be ready to answer a few more questions about some of his answers with at least several teams. He didn’t hold back on a number of topics, and that includes the league’s topic du jour (the train wreck that the Los Angeles Lakers have become):

Q: Biggest surprise this season?

A: Like everybody, probably the way the Lakers have struggled. There are probably pretty easy explanations for it. I’m not totally (surprised), but if you had asked me early in the year, I thought they would win the West.

I never could have predicted they would have screwed up the coaching situation — fire a guy (Mike Brown) five games into the season and be on three coaches 11 games into the year. Or have predicted their injuries. That’s as screwed-up a team as I’ve seen in a long time.

Q: What about team chemistry?

A: I still think that would’ve worked out. Training camp now is a total waste. Bill Walsh in his book (Finding the Winning Edge) said that you have to stay true to your process. You don’t circumvent the process. The Lakers screwed up the process. They haven’t given it a chance to work.

Gregg Popovich says you can’t skip steps. They skipped. (Coach) Mike D’Antoni is coming in on the fly and doesn’t have time to build chemistry and respect in the locker room. I feel badly for Mike because he’s a great guy and a great coach. The situation is impossible.

At the end of the day, there are a lot of guys who are qualified to coach. But the key thing is you all have to be on the same page. I sometimes marvel how organizations sometimes shoot themselves in the foot.

Q: Was Phil Jackson the solution?

A: I think Phil would have run into the same problems. Kobe (Bryant) and Pau (Gasol) are really the only guys left (from his tenure). It all would have been new — he would’ve gone through the same chemistry problems. I mean, I think they should have stuck with (Brown).

There are some firings where, even if you (personally) disagree with them, you see where (management) is coming from. (But) five games in? If you weren’t committed to Mike Brown, you shouldn’t have brought him back. With two new high-profile players, he needed time to put this together.

Q: But was Brown the right guy for the Lakers?

A: I think he was . . . he could have been. They really didn’t have the people to play that way. The hired Mike D’Antoni and they’re (supposedly) going to bring back Showtime. Showtime? Are you kidding me? Those (older players) aren’t going to be Showtime. They weren’t really Showtime when Phil was there, quite honestly. They executed in the half-court and used their size.

D’Antoni is a great coach but they have to have the right pieces. It all has to fit — what management wants, the type of players and the coach. It’s not an easy thing. For all the success they’ve had, I just think this year that they’ve looked pretty foolish as an organization.

The truth according to Stan Van Gundy is a lot of things, but it’s never boring.