"It's amazing at his age to think that he's got another 12-13-14 years,'' Magic coach
As Howard matures, he may find fewer and fewer rivals at his position.
"It seems to me that in our league they've continued to change the rules and they've really tried as much as they could to legislate against post play,'' Van Gundy said. "They've tried to make it more of a perimeter game. I also think it's hard work down there, so a lot of young kids growing up -- even at the size of 6-11 or 7 feet -- want to be perimeter players. So we're just not getting as many true low-post guys.
"I think there's going to be fewer and fewer centers, and if you look at the league now among centers that teams really try to go to on the offensive end -- because I think there are some very good defensive centers -- we're going to Dwight, [the Rockets] go to
Howard isn't interested in becoming the dominant center in the NBA eventually.
"Not in a year or two,'' he said. "I'm trying to be there right now, I'm trying to be there forever. I want to be one of the most dominant players -- not just [among] centers, but one of the most dominant players.''
"For me, it was about him getting to understand the roles of other guys,'' Orlando general manager
Said Van Gundy: "It very well may be part of it from the Olympic experience, but he has had a better defensive mentality -- particularly as a help defender in terms of blocking shots. In the Olympics, they didn't throw him the ball as much and his main role was to block shots and to defend, so I think he got into that mentality.''
One of Howard's ultimate goals is to overtake
"I'm the youngest guy on the team,'' Howard said. "I may have been here the longest, but I'm the youngest. Which is weird. Even though I am the youngest, I've got a lot of responsibilities. My teammates look to me to be serious on the court or when we need a job to get done.''
Because of Howard's presence in the low post, Smith is taking an old-school approach to building the team around him, as if constructing a roster in the center-dominated 1970s.
"The key for us is to make sure you always have shooters,'' the GM said. "You've got to keep shooters around him to make his life a lot easier. It's difficult when you're not making shots, but if you're making shots, then the team has to pick their poison.''
"He's playing with more patience and poise in the low post when people are coming at him,'' Van Gundy said. "That's still a process, and there are times when he may still go too quick, make mistakes and force issues, but for the most part he's gotten a lot better.
"His footwork is very, very good. I think it is a matter of getting more deception, more shot fakes, not doing everything in the same rhythm and not trying to just go over the top of everybody, which he can do most of the time. But against the better centers, [he needs] the shot fake, the step-through to reverse -- and he's got the footwork to do it.''
But Howard remains only a 57.5 percent free throw shooter. His own assessment is blunt: "I think I'm 25 percent of where I can be,'' he said of his offensive game.
He does, however, rank 12th in scoring and second in shooting (59.3 percent).
"But I can be a lot better. I've got a long way to go,'' he said, and he breaks into a smile. "You know what I'm saying? Get better every day, baby.''
Howard routinely tries to crack jokes with reporters during interviews.
"I'm getting old man, look at me,'' he said during a recent pregame interview. "I've got a moustache now, facial hair.''
What about your teeth, someone wanted to know.
"When you get old, you might see that your teeth will fall out,'' Howard told a reporter who happens to be twice his age. "Unfortunately, my teeth fell out a year ago.''
Of course this is not true.
"It's hard when you're playing at 57 and trying to play with these young cats,'' Howard went on, affecting tears in his eyes. "I remember seeing Kevin Garnett grow up. I watched him as a little boy.''
He complained about his performance among friends later that night.
"They understand,'' he said. "I've told them all the time, I don't want to see no newspapers and no magazines with me in it unless it's off the court. But if it's basketball-wise, I don't want to see it. I just want to keep myself level-headed.
"I'm very serious about what I want to accomplish in my life. I've talked to a couple of the great players --
If Howard is playing at 25 percent of his potential, the rest of the league isn't looking forward to the day he crosses the 50 percent threshold.
"Once he gets that 5-to-10-foot range taken care of, it's over,'' Celtics coach
"I say the same thing about him that I say about LeBron. As good as LeBron is now, in five years it's going to be a joke.''
And when that day comes, Rivers said he'll be looking for another job: "I'm doing TV.''
I received quite a few letters from Oregonians who were offended by
Could Roy break down the defense time after time after time if he chose to? I'm sure he could. But here's the key question: Would he survive the pounding that
We can argue back and forth about this and miss the larger point I was trying to make: There are a lot of athletes in the NBA, but there are very few players who know how to control the game as Roy does so well.
Was I criticizing Roy in this column? I didn't think so, but I'm sure I could've phrased things better. While writing this column, I was actually concerned that I was gushing too much over him. I love that he doesn't have to play above the rim, and I view it not as a weakness but as a strength that he applies his explosiveness in short, intelligent bursts. I want to see him extend his career because there are too few players as it is with his feel for the game.
The talk won't end until LeBron signs his next contract. The innuendo will continue whether or not he answers questions about it. It would be hard for him to leave Cleveland after leading the Cavs to a championship, but who knows for sure? Let's say he does re-sign with the Cavs: Even then he might very well negotiate another short-term deal that will enable him to opt out again, in 2013, when he'll be 28. It's a good bet the team that signs LeBron in 2010 is going to be under recurrent pressure to win a championship with him, or risk losing him again three years later.
Had he remained in Dallas, would Harris be playing to his current style as a slashing scorer worth his current scoring average of 24.8 points with the Nets? Probably not. In Dallas, he would be sharing the ball with
The bottom line is that Harris is a terrific scorer for the Nets, while the Mavs are asking Kidd to be a playmaker. Those are two entirely different roles. It's too early to call it a total bust while the Mavs are still adapting to new coach
The short answer is no, unfortunately. Players compete among each other for money just as they struggle for baskets, regular-season victories and championship rings. If one star agreed to take less money, then he may feel like a fool after seeing his GM award the extra cash to a less talented player who demands every last dollar he can get. You'll often see players near the end of their careers take a small contract in order to play for a contender, as
All three play for the Warriors. If young forwards
What would happen if the Warriors started three natural left-handers across their front line? Especially with
"It would be a nightmare, really,'' Rivers said. "Plus, they're all pretty skilled. That will be funny if it happens.''
"But if you put him in screen-and-rolls and get him the ball on the move, he's pretty good. He catches everything, he has great hands and an ability to go after every rebound and play hard and do all of those kinds of things. We are going to him more, but he just doesn't get you what other really great centers get you down there. It's different.''
A typical southpaw, in other words.
"Their games are completely different,'' Warriors assistant coach
Said Nelson: "I have a hard time predicting exactly. But it's exciting because they're long and they have different personalities. They both have quick jumps and the ability to block shots.''
How will left-handedness affect their development?
"Well, their brains are backward, so that ought to tell you something,'' Nelson said. "I guess they're all going to go left, huh?''
An NBA scout assesses two rising talents:
"But the big thing is his effort. His first effort, second effort, running the floor and defensively -- he gets all of those things. He's outworking everybody when he's out there. He's going to be a really good player. I bet he will get better on the jump shot, like
"The guy has a beautiful jump shot off the dribble. It looks textbook -- the rotation on the ball, everything. He just needs to concentrate on finishing the play with the right pass at the right time. But he's the kind of player that you rebuild your team around. He's that good.''
A big preseason question was whether the Celtics would have the hunger to fight for another title. Their technical fouls are in fact a positive sign of their fire.
"The only rule I have -- and we broke it a couple of times -- is no fourth-quarter techs,'' Rivers said. "Because those are killers. I don't want any techs. But I also don't want to ever [suppress] any of our emotion as a team. It's part of our personality.''