Tag Archives: orlando magic

The Dwight Howard Horror Show Continues

20120712-164213.jpg

Enough Dwight Howard already… Enough!!!

I’ve had it, I’m sick of it and I wish that it would go away preferably by cannon fire.

This saga has made the plights of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony seems like fairy tales. We had somewhat of a clue as to what their plans were but the saga of Howard has been one big roller coaster of uncertainty.

At this time last year all signs were pointing to Howard going to the Lakers. Then it was Chicago, then Howard wanted Dallas, then Brooklyn, then the Clippers (that’s right, someone actually wanted to play for the Clippers. Crazy right?), then Orlando, then the Knicks became an option, then Stan Van Gundy said Howard wanted him fired, then Howard denied it, then Howard scratched his opt out clause saying he wanted to stay in Orlando, then he wanted out of Orlando again, the SVG got fired, then Brooklyn had a four team deal on the table, Orlando said no, now it’s the Lakers again…

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

MAKE IT STOP!!!!

In 12 months Dwight Howard has gone from one of the games most fun and endearing players to a sissy and a chump. Countless people have complained to me about Howard and his flip flopping and how it’s upsetting them as fans.

Can you blame them? We’re in the big 3 era of the NBA like it or not with players positioning themselves like dominoes to fall into place with the right team. However, in the case of Dwight Howard this goes far beyond positioning, this is whining, crying and bullying at its worst.

Howard is like your little daughter who wants everything her way and stomps her feet, screams and throws fits to get it. At least you can tell your child no, in the case of Howard you can’t do anything right.

Orlando has tried and tried to make both team and player satisfied but to no end. They unjustly fired Van Gundy who did nothing but lead them to their second finals appearance for Howard only to have him ask to be traded again. They’ve tried to trade Howard everywhere only to have him or the team involved say no. They have upset fans, confused players and the entire league staring at them wondering what’s next.

What can they do? They have the great new problem in the NBA, a player who wants everything his way on his terms and doesn’t care who he hurts to get it.

It happened in Cleveland, Denver, New Orleans and almost in Utah before they told Deron Williams to step off.

Now it’s happening in Orlando and they really can’t do anything about it. The best deals on the table are for teams Howard doesn’t want to go to (hi Houston) and the teams he wants to go to don’t have the assets for him.

This saga could spread into the upcoming season with his free agency a torturous 365 days away.

Hopefully both sides can come to some sort of agreement to get Howard out of Orlando and out of the headlines. This thing has dragged on long enough and needs to end soon.

Who knows what Howard will ask for next. Maybe a trade to FC Barcelona?

Thanks a lot LeBron and Carmelo. Look what you guys started.


An Awkward Moment For David Stern

20111209-152451.jpg

That awkward moment when Chris Paul walks into training camp today in New Orleans when he was supposed to be a Laker yesterday.

That awkward moment when Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol walk past Mitch Kupxhak who just tried to trade them yesterday.

That awkward moment when Luis Scola and Kevin Martin walk into Houston’s locker room and try to act like everything’s normal when it’s not.

That awkward moment when Danny Ainge gets back on the phone trying to trade for Paul with Rajon Rondo walking into his office looking for apology that Ainge would trade him in the first place.

That awkward moment when Amar’e Stoudamire tries to act like he’s not getting traded when there was mention of his name in a possible trade for Paul.

That awkward moment when any free agent or trade prospect gets nervous when they hear the Cleveland Cavaliers as a destination knowing that they have to work for Dan Gilbert. You know the guy that dissed LeBron in comic sans script. He was one of the men behind the killing of Paul trade. More on that later.

That awkward moment when the Magic start getting nervous that they won’t get anything in return for Dwight Howard since they are about to lose him.

That awkward moment when reports of Dwight Howard going to the Nets surface and both the Magic and Nets wait for rejection letters from the commish…

Way to make things uncomfortable like an Egyptian heat wave David Stern.

His veto of the Chris Paul trade to the Los Angeles Lakers has turned a solution of three teams problems to a problem for thirty teams.

Here’s the scoop: the Hornets can’t keep Paul and they know it, they work out a with the Lakers to send him there and work in the Rockets as a third party. The Lakers get a point guard that they desperately need, the Rockets get an actual center in Pau Gasol, and The Hornets get Martin, Odom and Scola to make them a deep competitive team. It works out for all party’s especially the Hornets who look like the big winners…

Except it didn’t work out that way.

Reportedly several owners despised the trade and sent E-mails to Stern expressing their dissatisfaction. The ring leader was apparently Dan Gilbert who made the point that he thought the point of the lockout was so that players could bully GM’s into getting their way and so that superteams wouldn’t be formed, which would keep the competitive balance.

Truthfully Gilbert had a point. As a fan, a Knicks fan at that, I would like a more competitive balance around the league. If there are only 6 teams worth watching then what’s the point of watching.

However, if this were Gilbert years ago and he knew LeBron James was leaving (he did though his naivety got the best of him) Gilbert would’ve done the same thing. He would’ve traded James and got as much for him as he could. So why is it a problem to him that the Hornets are trying to get the best value possible for a fleeing star?

This is going to be an issue going forward for a handful of teams that need to move players that will leave in the future. The Magic come to mind first with the Dwight Howard issue.

Reportedly they are having heated talks to send him to the Nets. Will Stern veto that trade too? What about when the T-Wolves want to move Kevin Love, or when the Clippers or Warriors are trying to get Paul again? Will he veto those deals as well?

Stern just opened up Pandora’s box by not allowing the Paul deal to go through because he has to kill those other deals. If not then the Hornets, Lakers & Rockets will be hotter than the sun and they’ll have a right to be.

There should be a more fair and balanced league, but when a trade happens and it’s fair to the teams involved it should go through. Stern should’ve realized that, now he has a mess on his hands that could and will be bigger than the three teams involved.

If you think life is awkward for the players involved in this deal just wait and watch the next few weeks. The NBA had a wild offseason but the drama of the regular season might be even bigger.

And it all started with a no from David Stern. If he doesn’t fix this problem his next few headaches will be much worse.


A Shaq For All Seasons

Shaquille O' Neal retired today after 19 seasons in the NBA.

What was Shaquille O’ Neal? Was he one of the greatest centers of all-time? A 4-time champion and 3-time MVP of the NBA Finals? A 15-time all-star, number 5 all-time scorer with 28,596 points?

 

Was he the most dominant big man that this generation had ever seen?

 

From the time that he stepped on the floor as the number one pick of the 1992 NBA Draft Shaq was a man amongst boys. He decimated foes in the paint with his size; he got to anywhere he wanted in the paint. No man on this earth could guard him (hence the Superman moniker), nor could they stop him, unless they fouled him. Once both of his size 22’s were in the paint it was senseless to try and stop him, the two points were his, just take it like a man and walk off.

 

Was he the most unbelievable big man that we ever saw?

 

As big as he was and as powerful as he was he had amazing finesse skills. He was this generation’s best passer able to suck in double teams and kick it out to any open shooter in his sightline. He had great footwork, which he learned after the greatest fleet-footed big man Hakeem Olajuwon schooled him in the 1995 Finals. He had a great spin move to get to the hole, an excellent jump hook that came from plenty of time put in his early years in L.A. however, his power dominated all especially when he brought rims down without even trying during his first few years in the league.

 

Ever since he came into the league Shaq has been the center of attention.

Was he the game’s best entertainer?

 

On and off of the court you couldn’t keep your eyes off of Shaq. When he wasn’t dunking on poor and helpless centers he was selling Pepsi without a hitch. When he wasn’t winning titles he was recording platinum rap albums and making hits with the Notorious B.I.G. a.k.a. Biggie Smalls. He starred in movies and extended his brand in a way that could’ve rivaled Michael Jordan. Shaq was never just a basketball player he was the first entertainer of the sport. When you see other athletes crossover to TV and film and music that’s because Shaq laid that blueprint down before anyone else. Shaq could do anything and he definitely did try.

 

Was he the biggest kid that the game has ever seen?

 

His playfulness was his best attribute. Shaq was a player who had no problem making a fool of himself. True, he was a hulking 7’1” and 325 pounds and an intimidating man if there ever was one. However, just look at some footage of Shaq break dancing at the all-star game, acting a fool on the bus at the Olympics, playing a living statue at Harvard or leading the Boston Pops. He had fun and made everyone laugh.

 

(Side note: the best bit of Shaq acting a fool was his short lived reality TV show “Shaq Vs.” he challenged athletes to contests in their own sport and went through it all with the same ridiculous over the top mannerisms that he has whenever there was a camera on him before or after games. It was athletic competition that he never took seriously and it was pure comedy.)

 

How great of a winner was he?

 

4 rings, 6 appearances with three teams. The funny yet sad thing about the Shaq era is that he only has one MVP in his 19 years in the league… ONE!!! Then when you look at some of the names that he lost out to (Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Michael Jordan) you go, “Damn. That’s why.” However, MVP’s don’t truly make up who Shaq was as a player. In Game 7 versus Portland he with help from Kobe Bryant led the Lakers back from 15 down to reach the Finals. He dominated each of the Lakers title series in there three-peat years and continuously punished the Sacramento Kings and prevented from reaching a plateau than where they finished.

 

Shaq always had a fun side.

Could he have been better though?

 

To say that a man that scored over 28,000 points could’ve done better sounds silly, but he could’ve easily pushed past 30,000 if he wasn’t such a poor free throw shooter… and had stayed in shape.

 

The problem with Shaq in the second half of his career was his constant refusal to stay in shape. He missed 12 or more games in 8 of the 10 seasons after his first title and missed 20 or more games in 5 of those seasons. Truth is that Shaq got lazy and only focused on the second half of the season up until the playoffs. If he would’ve stayed healthy he could’ve been even more incredible as far as stats go.

 

Did he love drama?

 

Ask Penny Hardaway. Ask Dwyane Wade. Ask Kobe Bryant. Ask the cities of Orlando, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Miami and Cleveland about the departures of Shaquille O’ Neal and they wont have nice things to say. Shaq was a stubborn man, in his mind he knew what he was worth as a person and a player and wouldn’t settle for less. He wouldn’t let Kobe or Penny take his spotlight; he wouldn’t accept his playing time in Miami (or play with Chris Quinn as he once said). It was his greatest fault as a player and it cost him more love than what he already accumulated.

 

(Back to Kobe Bryant for a second. We’ve circled this wagon more than enough times in my lifetime than I would care to discuss. But imagine if they had put their differences aside and worked together more than they did.  They could’ve been greater than Jordan and Pippen, Gretzky and Messier and any other great tandem in the history of sports. When they were on the same page the Lakers were unstoppable. It was the perfect inside-outside tandem and they screwed it up. If there is any regret that Shaq should have in his career it’s the fact that if he and Kobe stayed together they could’ve won 8 championships together and people wouldn’t put Tim Duncan ahead of him as this generations best big man.)

 

What was he overall?

 

To me? The third best center of all-time (1. Bill Russell. 2. Wilt Chamberlain), the most dominant at his position in the last 30 years. The most immoveable object in the game. The most gentle of gentle giants who, if irked enough, could take Brad Miller’s head off with one swing, but would’ve rather helped out the police force in any city he played in and helped protect the law.

 

What much greater could his legacy have been if he and Kobe put aside their differences?

To me Shaq was more than a basketball player. He was a great role model with his charitable services to the community whether it be handing out toys or making public arrests. He was an educated man that made it a point to go back to LSU and receive his bachelor’s degree years after bolting for the NBA and then following that up with a Master’s Degree from the University of Phoenix.

 

He was a hell of a quote (favorite: “we’re not afraid of the Sacramento Queens.” OOOOOOOOHHHHHH SNAP!!!), whenever there was a microphone in front of him he always had something to say.

 

He was as imaginative and as playful as he was devastating in the paint. He always had a new nickname that made you laugh and was always in a playful mood.

 

He was just as special off of the court as he was on it. However, the court was his domain. There was never a player like Shaq before his arrival and there won’t be one now that he’s gone.

 

There wont be a center like him to roam the paint ever again. No one will have a combination of his size, strength and agility. No one will take over a game like he did, carry a team to three straight titles like he did and have the game in the palm of his hands like him.

 

Today is a sad day for me because I loved Shaq. I has his Dunkman Reebok shirt when he first came into the league and followed him every step of the way from Orlando to L.A. and everywhere else. He was one of a kind in everyway possible.

 

Thanks for the memories and you will be missed Shaq, Diesel, Wilt Chamberneezy, Superman, The Big Shaqtus, The Big Aristotle or whatever the heck else you call yourself.


The Magic Move On But With One Big Problem

Orlando can beat Charlotte in four straight games the way it did all they want. You don’t need Dwight Howard to ball hard against a team with no real inside scoring presence nor defensive presence.

If the Magic want to win they need D-12 out of foul trouble.

You can chuck up all of those threes if you want, let Jameer Nelson be your go-to scorer, all five foot ten of him. The fact of the matter is that if the Magic want any shot at winning a NBA championship they need Dwight Howard on the floor and not in foul trouble. If he can get pushed around and coaxed into foul trouble by Tyson Chandler, Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace imagine the problems he will encounter with King James, Josh Smith and Al Horford.

The Magic won this series basically with hot shooting from Nelson, Rashard Lewis and others as Howard never saw 30 minutes in any game in the series. In fact Howard’s series was beyond abysmal. He averaged 9.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds and shot 13-35 from the free throw line. That’s half of his point per game total in the regular season and four boards less. What did skyrocket were his foul totals. Howard committed 22 fouls in the four game series while fouling out twice. It got so bad that teammates bestowed a new nickname on Howard, “Foul on You.” Talk about a name fitting of someone.

“It’s been frustrating, but everything happens for a reason. That’s the only way I look at it,” said Howard after a morning shoot around. The bright side for him and the Magic has been the play of his supporting cast.

The aforementioned Nelson averaged a team high 24 points a game in the series while Vince Carter and Lewis chipped with close 16 per game a piece. While scoring and staying in games was an issue for Howard defense most certainly wasn’t. Howard averaged 5 blocks per game including 2 games with seven plus. Yet still the focus has to be on Howard’s ability to not have himself removed from a game in key stretches due to foul trouble. “We watched, I think, nine clips, maybe 10 clips, just trying to get an understanding of what’s going and what their strategy is in the whole thing,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a very smart guy, but you’re in very difficult, very physical situations out there. He’s got to take a lot of hits and a lot of grabbing and holding. Obviously, he has to handle that in the right way.”

Which is very true, Howard is stronger than most players in the league and his aggressiveness does tend to get him in trouble. One problem could be the Magic’s lack of a true power forward to help take some of the physicality away from Howard. At the same time Howard should know his surroundings and play with a little more brains than brawn.

The MVP candidate that he and coach Stan Van Gundy have both pumped up have to return to form in the next series whether it’s the Hawks or Bucks. If Howard can’t stay out on the floor for more than 29 minutes against teams with more experienced personnel than the Magic won’t get back to the finals this year or beyond. Superman has to return and hope “Foul on you” doesn’t keep interfering.


The Great NBA Playoff Unknown

The matchup everyone wants might not be the one that they get.

Don’t believe everything that you have read, heard, or even seen.  Don’t believe the little playoff simulators, the odds makers, trends, blah blah blah.

The NBA second season has officially arrived, and everyone thinks they have it all figured out. Cavs-Lakers, Cavs-Mavs, Magic-Lakers… honestly you don’t know nothing.

The reality is that the last three weeks of NBA basketball was not only boring and uneventful, but it lulled everyone to sleep and has given fans, players and writers a false sense of security. Once the top 8 clinched in the west, teams were “jockeying” for position when in reality it didn’t matter who was playing who in the first round as long as it wasn’t the Lakers. The Jazz, Nuggets, Spurs, Suns, Blazers and Thunder could’ve finished 3-8 in any order and it wouldn’t have mattered (and still doesn’t, it’s either the Lakers or Mavericks in the finals). No team is dominant; they have issues somewhere and won’t stand a chance in the Western Conference finals… see that’s what you are supposed to be thinking right?

Ok I’ll stop messing with your heads and get down to it… ANY TEAM CAN WIN THE TITLE THIS YEAR! THERE IS NO FAVORITE! No team is truly dominant, every team has a big problem, anything can happen, whether your coach and GM get into an MMA fight, or your center and alpha dog two guard are beefing (again) or you’re just counting the days until your star players bolt for greener pastures (ahem Miami, Cleveland) there are concerns on every team that could eventually kill their chances.

There are chemistry issues in Chicago and Los Angeles, concerns about lack of experience in Oklahoma City, questions of age in Boston and San Antonio, injuries in Portland, Denver, and Milwaukee, and teams that may put too much pressure on themselves knowing that things could be different next year in Cleveland and Atlanta.

Here are some logical yet crazy situations that could happen over the next two months:

Oklahoma City can beat the Lakers. Even though Phil Jackson just mind-bleeped Kevin Durant. The concern is youth for the Thunder, but what about the dysfunctional family that is L.A.? Are they focused enough to repeat with Kobe chucking up shots again, Pau Gasol spewing venom at Kobe and Ron Artest fading late in games. Couldn’t you see Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor off of the bench going hog wild into the paint and creating havoc? This isn’t a chip in for the Lakers, the Thunder are Hungry and ready to jump on whoever is in their path. Plus this is the most underrated defense team in the league, Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha will give Kobe fits.

Boston could get to the Eastern Conference finals. Everyone has them left for dead due to age and health. They won’t be together past next year as Ray Allen looks to be gone and Doc Rivers may leave. I just have a feeling that the Celtics have been playing dead for months. They got off to a hot start then hit the cruise control button and had some questionable losses to horrid teams. Yet last week when they played the Cavaliers you saw the fight come out in them, KG cursing up a storm, Allen dropping 33 and just an all-around gutsy performance. They understand that 60 of the 82 games of the season are pointless and the real season is the postseason. Maybe after game 30 they just said you know what, we’ll get a top 4 seed just let everything fall into place. Crazy, but not out of the question.

They're well rested and ready to roll.

San Antonio could win the NBA championship. See Boston. Just in reverse

The Nuggets could pull it together and make a finals run. The first 40 games of the season this was the true life scenario of the NBA: Carmelo was MVP, the Nuggets were neck and neck with the Lakers and no one team in the NBA could matchup with them. After Carmelo’s injury here’s what happened: George Karl gets cancer, Kenyon Martin gets injured (again) and goes batty on a trainer, Ty Lawson gets injured, Chauncey Billups gets injured, and the Nuggets fell apart. The Mavs, Suns and Jazz all past them in the standings and left the Nuggets for dead. Yet they have home court in round one and seem to be in good health, plus we know how iffy Utah is even with a MVP-like season from Deron Williams. It’s possible that they can regain some steam and make a run even past the Lakers.

The Jazz, Suns, Mavs, and Hawks could all get bounced in the first round. The Jazz are terrible on the road, the Blazers can keep up with the Suns even without Brandon Roy. The Hawks and Mavs are interesting and here’s why:

  1. Both teams are versatile at all five positions and off the bench.
  2. They have superstars that put up numbers, but have a reputation of fading in close games.
  3. They both had great runs from the midseason on, Dallas through the Caron Butler trade and Atlanta finally coming together after years of playing together.

Yet I don’t feel secure in trusting these guys in their first round matchups at all. Dallas draws San Antonio in the first round and Atlanta draws a scrappy Milwaukee team without Andrew Bogut, both Scott Skiles and Gregg Popovich are better coaches than Mike Woodson and Rick Carlisle and most importantly… ITS DALLAS AND ATLANTA! They’re underachievers! They may get to the second round and that’s it. I have no faith in either of these teams, especially Atlanta which is highly combustible and Joe Johnson may have a foot out of the door already.

Chicago could beat Cleveland… in 5 games. Don’t laugh. I know Vinny Del Negro and John Paxson almost beat the crap out of each other a week ago. I know you couldn’t get a lick off of that bench. I know there isn’t a being on earth, let alone on Chicago, that can guard Lebron James, but in 3 of 5 positions on the floor, Chicago is better that Cleveland. Consider this if you will, did you watch Cleveland without Lebron down the stretch? Terrible. Awful. Without James they are a 36 win team period. Mo Williams can’t guard Derrick Rose (and will go into hiding around game 3), Big Z, Shaq and Anderson Varejao will get housed by Joakim Noah, it’s almost amazing how quickly we’ve forgotten the motor on this guy. When the games get tougher, Noah steps his game up. He’s been a big game player since his days at Florida and its finally coming out in his third year in the league. The biggest piece though is Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich has almost been dealt 85 times in the last 3 years and has been shuttled in and out of the lineup the last two years. He’s now playing off guard and guarding the opponent’s best shooter and making their lives hell. If Delonte west, Boobie Gibson or Jamarrio Moon can’t shake Hinrich, then Lebron could be making plans for New York sooner than we think.

Orlando will win the title. They’re angry. Dwight Howard led the league in blocks, rebounds, and technical fouls. Stan Van Gundy is chipping away at other stars credibility. Matt Barnes is grilling Kobe Bryant and picking fights with other team’s big name players. J.J. Redick has grown an angry new do… okay so some things are more fearful than others. The Magic still made a bad deal in essentially letting Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee go and thinking that Vince Carter is a go to guy this late in his career (and that its Vince Carter, he normally mails in it around February). Yet this team of any in the league is the most complete and the most focused. There is no chatter between Howard and Stan Van Gundy, no crazy side story involving an injured point guard, no big injuries, no nothing. Their quite normal compared to everyone else in the playoffs. They beat L.A. at home in a rough and tumble game that saw the fight come out of the Magic. They’ve only lost three times since March all to three playoff teams. They’ve been the most consistent team all year long save for losing 7 of 9 early in the year. You go into Magic games knowing what to expect from minute one to forty-eight, Redick giving you points off of the bench, Mikael Pietrus shutting down the opponent’s best player, and no one getting anything inside on Dwight Howard. They’re the model of consistency that most teams crave to be and want, and it should carry them to a title…

Or Los Angeles could win, or Dallas could prove me wrong, or Cleveland will whip Chicago. Who knows, just be glad that the slow crawl to the end of the regular season has past and that the real season is about to begin. Just don’t be surprised by whatever happens until June. You think you know what’s going to happen. Keep in mind, you don’t.