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Archive for the tag “Al Horford”

Dwight Howard To The Boston Celtics Makes Sense

(photo courtesy of www.sbnation.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com)

Dwight Howard had a decision to make back in the summer of 2013. He was traded that previous year to the Los Angeles Lakers from Orlando that previous year and had one year to check it out. That one year was not very good for him out in Los Angeles. He was fighting through an injury the whole time he was there and when he played, it seemed like he was not himself. Mix that with the fact that he and Kobe’s styles did not mesh and it was not a good experiment bringing him in. But yet and still, the Lakers were one of the teams Dwight was looking at going into free agency. The Lakers gave their pitch to him along with other teams like Houston and Dallas. Between those teams, Dwight turned down additional money he would have made with the Lakers to join star shooting guard James Harden in Houston. The pairing was supposed to take Houston to another level with two star players leading the way. But unfortunately, it has not worked out the way Houston has wanted. The Rockets may have gone to the Conference Finals last season, but it was not due to Dwight Howard’s effect on the team. Howard was not as effective last season because he was injured for most of it and that allowed for other guys to step in and make Houston better. And in year three with Dwight in Houston, it seems like things have gotten worse. The Rockets are on the outside looking in of the playoff picture at this point and the chemistry and play of the team just seems to be off. And right in the middle of it is Dwight Howard still speaking on wanting to be more involved in regards to more touches offensively. Well, it seems like the Rockets have had enough of Howard at this point. Houston has reportedly put Howard on the trading block and are actively looking to move him. And being that he can opt out of the four-year, $87.5 million deal he signed in 2013, it will be interesting what they try to get for him. But nonetheless, it seems like one team’s name has been mentioned more than any in acquiring Howard: the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics were a surprise team to make the playoffs last year. And this season, they have made it to the third spot in the East as they are currently constructed. But even with that, Danny Ainge has his eye on Howard and what he could bring to his team. And with the assets the Celtics have, they could certainly pull this trade off. The Celtics have a glutton of big men available on their team. One player the Celtics could dangle out there to get Howard would be forward David. The Celtics traded for the veteran big man this offseason hoping that he would be able to add to their team. But unfortunately it has not worked out and he has been sitting on the bench more than actually playing. And with the pricetag he is carrying this season ($15.49 million), they can easily move him and not miss him at all. If the Celtics throw him, a first round pick and maybe another frontcourt player. By adding Howard to the Celtics, that gives them a better defender on the backline than what they currently have. And if you pair him with the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, he would not really have to worry much about the offensive end of the court. But knowing Dwight, he would want to have the basketball in his hands. Even at 30 years old, he still has not got it that he is not a go-to guy offensively. In Boston, he still would not be that guy that he envisions himself being. And if he ends up not being happy, then you essentially traded for a rental player because Howard has the option to opt out of his current deal. But the potential positives in this one outweigh the negatives in this potential trade scenario. But of course that all depends on the thinking of Dwight Howard whether it works or not.

The Celtics would be getting Howard and all that goes with him, but Houston would be getting rid of a player that was doing more harm than good for them. It seemed like the chemistry in Houston just was not ever going to work out, as Howard seemed like the odd man out a lot. The biggest piece in trading Howard is not actually David Lee, but who would be traded with him. If the Houston Rockets are lucky, they get someone that has an expired contract as well. Guys like Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko would be ideal players to add in this trade just for their expiring contracts alone. If one of these two is added like Houston would want, that would allow for them to have enough salary cap room with their current situation to go after a big-name free agent. Everyone knows that Houston has had its eyes on Kevin Durant for some time now. And even as far-fetched as it seems, the Rockets would like to make a run at pairing James Harden with Kevin Durant going into next season. But even if that does not happen, the Rockets would love to change the dynamic of this team going into next season. This all falls in line with them needing a new head coach going into next year as well. If Houston loses and does not make the playoffs while making this trade, it actually will benefit them even more. That would give them two first-round picks (if they don’t make the playoffs, they get to keep their first round pick they would have had to give to Denver because of a previous trade) provided they get one from Boston and cap space. In the NBA, that is definitely a good thing to have as the cap space expands next season. Adding a piece like Atlanta’s Al Horford potentially in free agency and putting him at power forward alongside young big man Clint Capela would be something that would also help this team as well. Horford is a better fit with Harden because he is able to space the floor with his shooting and actually has solid post game. And on the defensive end, he can rebound and actually guard power forwards. That leave Capela playing center and just worrying about blocking shots and defending, which is what he needs to be doing at this point in his career. So the trade of Howard could essentially end the Rockets’ playoff push, but it will help set them up for the future with Harden as their unquestioned leader.

The Dwight Howard experiment in Houston has proven to be a failure at this point. The chemistry never was there between he and Harden and the team never really got to where Houston brass envisioned with Howard and Harden. So to rectify this one and get first round picks and create cap space would be huge for them going forward. For Dwight Howard, he has to realize that the clock is ticking and his opportunities for success are fleeting fast. But the big question will always be around Howard and his role on any team he is on. Everyone who knows anything about basketball realizes that he will not be a viable offensive threat but him. And until he realizes that and quits derailing chemistry, then he will continue to miss out on team success. Boston is taking a chance on Howard with this trade. But the good thing for them is they probably would not be trading much to get him and they also would think that he would want to opt out of his deal should it not work out. Stay tuned folks. Howard could be donning green and white soon.

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Three Reasons The Atlanta Hawks Are About To Be Eliminated From The Eastern Conference Finals

Jeff Teague is a part of an Atlanta team that is fading fast in the Eastern Conference Finals (photo courtesy of www.ajc.com)

Jeff Teague is a part of an Atlanta team that is fading fast in the Eastern Conference Finals (photo courtesy of http://www.ajc.com)

The Atlanta Hawks were the top seed heading into their series versus the Cleveland Cavaliers but it did not seem like it. The Hawks had struggled to win series against the Washington Wizards and the Brooklyn Nets before facing the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, on the other hand, had an easy matchup versus the Boston Celtics and got a little push from the Chicago Bulls. And even without the services of Love since the first series, it seems like the Cavs have taken it to another level and have blown through the playoffs. Some expected a good battle between both teams. After all, Atlanta was nicknamed “Spurs East” due to their ball movement and their head coach, Mike Budenholzer, who was a longtime assistant in the Spurs organization. But there were others that looked at this team and were waiting on the Cavs to taken them apart like they did to the Celtics and Bulls. Well, at this point we are still waiting on any semblance of a series to show up. The Cavaliers have handled the Hawks pretty easily through the first three games on their way to a 3-0 series lead. It’s hard to believe that the #1 seed in the East could be getting swept so late in the postseason and so soundly. But there are three big reasons why this is happening to them and why Tuesday will more than likely be their last game in the playoffs.

Like was mentioned before, the Hawks are a team that moves the basketball a lot. The constant cutting, movement and passing has led to the Hawks being able to find high-percentage shots created by all the action going on offensively. And as a result, the Hawks averaged 102.5 points per game and were a difficult matchup for teams due to their multitude of players that can step away from the basket and shoot a three pointer. But in the playoffs, it seems as if the movement has gotten worse and worse. They had some ball movement versus the Nets and the Wizards, but it seems as if that motion has come to a halt. Part of that is the defense of Cleveland, which has been the best in the postseason. But the Atlanta Hawks have to take most of the blame in this one. They have become a stagnant offense in the playoffs and it seems like Budenholzer cannot get them out of their tailspin. Instead of the ball movement that was attributed to their offense, the Hawks have now become a more isolation-oriented offense. And with that type of style, the Hawks will never win, as evidence by this series. The best thing for them to do would be to stop looking at the matchups and where they may have the size advantage. By doing that, maybe it will bring some of the focus back to what made the Hawks so dangerous this season. Of course it will be a little bit harder for them to attempt to dig out of this hole, but it is something that would not be deemed impossible either.

Another thing that has helped them into their 3-0 is their lack of rebounding. The Hawks have not been considered a team that has been great rebounding this season. In fact, they were ranked in the bottom half of rebounding this season (ranked 28th in the NBA). Atlanta was successful in the regular season despite the lack of rebounding on both ends of the court. But as the postseason has gone on, they have definitely been exposed in the paint. They came into this series versus Cleveland ranked as the 11th worst rebounding team out of 16 teams. A successful playoff team should never be that low and when they are, they should know that it will catch up to them. Well it took a while, but the Cavaliers have been punishing the Hawks on the boards this series. As it stands before Game 4, the Hawks are a have been beat on the boards every game and are an astonishing -41 on the boards for the series. Tristian Thompson, LeBron James and Timofey Mozgov have been tearing it up on the boards while the Hawks have been missing shots and missing blockouts on the offensive end as well. As a result, the Cavaliers seem to get more shots each game and they also seem to be the tougher team. The Hawks never adjusted to the physicality of the Cavaliers and it is evident not only in the rebounding, but the games.

But the biggest reason the Hawks are down is they have no superstar or star guy that takes over when times get tough. Taking a look at the teams left in the playoffs, they all have a guy they can go to when the offense gets tough and stagnant. Steph Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston) and LeBron James (Cleveland) have been coming through for their respective teams and carrying them when it is evident their teams need someone to step up. All three of these guys make plays and can elevate the roles players around them to new levels of productivity. For the Hawks, they have some good players, but not one that can make other teams pay no matter what they do. It is commendable they have made it this far without one, but for the future, Atlanta will need that one guy to take over and make their offense go. Al Horford is a good post player, but he is not taking over when the going gets tough for them. All the Hawks have to do is look at their opponent to see how much a star player can help in tough times. The Cavaliers have been playing without Kevin Love since the Chicago Bulls series and have been missing Kyrie Irving the last two games. But despite those absences, the team still wins and it is all because of the LeBron James setting the table. He has not only scored when they needed it, but he has also made players like Matthew Dellavedova and veteran James Jones effective on the offensive end by setting the table for them. Having that star takeover has gotten them through the absences and the tough times and that is something a team trying to win a title needs. And unfortunately for Atlanta, they do not have that guy.

As it stands, it looks like the Hawks great season is going to go by the wayside in embarrassing fashion. They more than likely will lose the fourth game in this series and be going on vacation earlier than they though. But most of it is in their own doing. Sure, there have been some questionable calls and there may be some plays that bothered the Hawks and made tempers rise, but the Hawks cannot blame any of those on the execution of their offense and lack of rebounding. The star power search is up to the front office of their team. And even though there is one candidate in Jeff Teague that could be a star for them, he unfortunately has not reached the level they want him to just yet. The season has been a whirlwind for the Hawks, but the time has come for them to head to the offseason and the Cavs are going to take them there with a broom in hand.

Joakim Noah: The Soul Of Chicago

Joakim Noah At the beginning of the season, the Chicago Bulls were expected to challenge for the Eastern Conference crown. They returned a strong defensive team, Derrick Rose was on the mend and of course they had one of the best coaches in the NBA in Tom Thibodeau. Everything was in place for them to succeed. In the preseason and the beginning of the regular season, it looked like Rose was still shaking the rust off. He was starting to gain some steam after the team played the Denver Nuggets, but early in the season when the Bulls were playing the Trailblazer in Portland, this confident Bulls team was shook to the core by Rose going down again:

Rose was later diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his knee and was lost for the season. After the injury, the Bulls looked like a defeated team the next few games. They eventually got out of the short slump, but then management dealt them another body blow.

Chicago forward Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers after he had rejected a three-year, $30 million dollar extension from Chicago. In return, the Bulls landed Andrew Bynum, who they quickly released to save money against their salary cap. This team was left for dead after that trade. All hope anyone may have had for them to at least make the playoffs dissipated. And some thought the team was getting ready to tank. But one man had other ideas. He refused to quit and give into those thoughts. After all, he did not quit when the chips were down in his career.

Joakim Noah was selected with the 9th pick of the 2007 draft. He was the center of the two-time defending National Champion Florida Gators and had declared after his junior season. But unlike his collegiate teammates Corey Brewer and Al Horford, Noah was a mystery to people as to what he would be. He could rebound and pass, but he could not shoot and was not a smooth operator out of the post. In the first couple of years of his career, the doubts about Noah were validated by his play. He was only averaging around six points and six and he really seemed like just another player. But it was not until the 2009 Eastern Conference 1st round series that Noah then showed he had arrived. Noah played with heart, desire and fought to the bitter end as the Bulls fought the veteran Celtics. Who can forget this memorable play during Game six of the Bulls 128-127 triple overtime win that series:

The Celtics would go on to win the Game seven, but Noah definitely made his presence felt. Gone was the guy that no one knew about and present was the guy that would become the emotional barometer of the team.

Noah would continue to improve every season from that playoff battle. And over the years, his skill and his grit have become the backbone of this team. And because of that grit, he would not let this team quit when all had given up on them this season. Instead of letting his team tank, Noah has taken the reins and become the leader not only by his emotion but by his play. He is again averaging a double-double and he is making the game easy for his teammates with his excellent passing skills (leads all centers in assists per game with 4.3 a game). And after their big win versus the Brooklyn Nets Thursday, the Bulls have gone from the bottom to near the top of the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They now are hot on the Toronto Raptors trail for the third spot in the East and they are only gaining momentum. The unselfishness, emotion and grit of Noah has been permeated throughout the whole team. His effect cannot be measured by mere stats because he is now the heart and soul of the Chicago Bulls. And as long as he is there, the Bulls will always be a tough out for anyone.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or come check out my Facebook page at Mike Patton-The General .

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