Archives For Dwight Howard

That the Lakers are the NBA’s most colossal, most fascinating bummer has been well-documented. In the past, they were un-lovable but majestic. You could hate Kobe’s post-dagger jawfaces, you could hate Phil Jackson’s finely tailored beard and bullying spiritualism, but you could also marvel at their success and be awed by the sight of basketball beautifully played.

Now, however, we’ve got the same sense of blithe, Californian entitlement, the same terrible fans, the same petulant Kobe (he’s the only player I can think of who could drop 14 assists as an act of contempt) only now without the beauty and without the winning. David Roth, writing at Vice, has the definitive account of their poisoned well of a season. He put it this way:

If a winning Lakers team evokes the smugness of a Magic of the Movies montage during an Oscars telecast, a losing one reflects a different and more forlorn LA—a million hideous publicist-planted upskirts and celebrity DUI mugshots and pill-powered Daniel Baldwin car chases, all narrated in the sneer-scream of a TMZ correspondent.

Not deliciously infuriating, then, just lonely and depressing. If the Lakers’ signature failing has been their caustic team culture, then a close second has been the awful, awful defense. Consider: their starting point guard is 38 years old and was, during his prime, among the league’s worst defenders; their two other veteran stars are playing the worst defense of their careers; their bench is populated by the Antawn Jamisons and Steve Blakes and Jodie Meekses of the world. Its easy to understand, then, just how badly the Lakers miss even a much-diminished Dwight Howard anchoring the middle.

Continue Reading…

I was never, to put it mildly, a natural when it came to math. I vividly remember taking the SAT during my junior year of high school. The verbal sections were fine; I was comfortable; I knew my way around. But the math sections got ugly. I would begin to sweat; my mind would fill with expanding thickets of mostly useless information; the numbers would seem to float off the page. I knew that the problems were mostly tests of insight; and so I also knew that every mark I added to the paper, every tangential path my mind wandered, were taking me farther away from that nexus of intuition and efficiency that was crucial for good performance.

Defending the Orlando Magic is a little bit like that. When their offense is really humming–when the ball is moving inside-out and side-to-side, when they time their screens precisely–it presents the defense with a series of ever more hopeless decisions, each one leading them closer to a doorstep dunk or a wide open three. And then, of course, there is the Superman himself. I will ask you, just once, to recall how disheartening it was to watch Al Jefferson or Mad Dog Madsen or, like, Ryan Hollins try to guard Dwight Howard and consider how his frighteningly athletic presence down low can disfigure a defense and inflict crippling foul trouble. But for a number of reasons–foul trouble of his own, being forced to defend the perimeter, one meaty hunk of Montenegran man–the Wolves were able to limit Howard’s effectiveness on Monday.

Continue Reading…

Love on the rebound

Benjamin Polk —  February 5, 2012 — 6 Comments

Blake Griffin sells cars, Kevin Love sells deodorant (and Tequila, and weird Chinese sneakers)

Kevin Love responded to his omission from the list of All-Star starters with perfect poise. As he told Kent Youngblood of the Strib when asked about losing out in the fan balloting to Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin, “They’re fun to watch, they’re fan favorites. If you don’t like watching those guys play, you don’t like basketball.” (He also, in that same interview, had this to say about his ever-shaggier beard: “David Kahn doesn’t like it, so I’ll keep it.” I totally love that.) And he’s right: Blake Griffin is the guy who jumps over people, cars, Subway sandwiches, who throws down on faces, who is literally changing the idea of dunking before our eyes. Kevin Love is just his weird, ragged self.

Either way, don’t you worry about it. Love is sure to be included on the roster when the coaches make their selections on Thursday. After all, the guy is sixth in the league in PER, just a notch behind Derrick Rose of all people. He’s fourth in the league in scoring and second in rebounds. The man is an All-Star.  What’s strange about all of this is that, although Love has now officially become a superstar, a max player and and a darkhorse MVP candidate, his scoring efficiency, rebounding efficiency and rebounding volume are all down from last year. Last year his true shooting percentage was .593; this year it’s at .578. His rebounding rates–he’s grabbing 11.8% of available offensive boards, 26.9% of defensive boards and 19.3% overall–are actually the lowest of his career. What’s going on here?

Continue Reading…

Photo by ajsadeh

The first half of Saturday night’s game was among the best that the Wolves have played all season. They hit open jumpers. They forced Dwight Howard to put in real work for his points.  Luke Ridnour found open space in the paint, hitting Darko Milicic with two sweet pick-and-roll passes for wide open dunks. Corey Brewer drove Hedo Turkoglu to distraction with his relentless, ball-denying defense and burned the aging Turk with two back door alley-oops. Kevin Love reeled in 11 hard-earned boards.

But if you paid attention, the bad omens were in the air. Stan van Gundy made a series of moves to match  Ryan Anderson, the three-point gunning power forward, with Love. This forced Love to chase Anderson around the perimeter, to fight his way around screens, to recover from inside help to contest Anderson’s long-range shots. And although Love himself presents this same problem to many opposing fours, perimeter defense is perhaps his weakest defensive  skill (which is certainly saying something). What’s more, all of this perimeter work pulled Love away from the basket, neutralizing some of his rebounding fervor.

Continue Reading…