Theres a lot to digest whenit comes to the Dwight Howard trade. Heres a quick summation of the main parts of the deal,which is supposed to become official on Friday: Howard is going to the Lakers; AndrewBynum is going to Philly along with Jason Richardson; Andre Iguodala is headingto Denver and Orlando will acquire Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevicand a slew of protected picks.Lets get into it --Thefirst thought I had upon seeing this deal was that Howard now has a realisticshot to win an NBA title. That wasnt going to be the case if he was the bestplayer on the team he was playing for.As good as Howard is, hesnot refined enough as a basketball player and doesnt have the killer instinctto lead a team to a championship without significant help. He has that now.Howard wont be under the radar for the Lakers, but he certainly wont bedefended as conscientiously has he has been in the past.The reality is that Howard onthe Lakers is a weapon a nice weapon, but just a weapon nonetheless. Thatsthe scariest part of the trade. Lets face it, hes not the best player onL.A.; that would be Kobe Bryant. And hes not even the best post-up player onthe Lakers; that would be Pau Gasol.If theres one thing thatslikely to be a challenge for Howard its that his team probably wont go out oftheir way to spoon-feed him the ball in the low post. Howard always seemed towant the ball more in Orlando, but the reality is that Howard is not an elitelow-post player.He doesnt pass well and hedoesnt have a go-to move down there. What Howard gets down low is mostly afunction of being the biggest, most athletic player on the court.Howards off-court reputationis at an all-time low right now. The perception is that he got his GM (Otis Smith)and coach (Stan Van Gundy) fired and has now left the franchise inturmoil.But thats irrelevant at thispoint. Were talking Howard as a basketball player. Yes, hes dominant, but hislack of a basketball foundation and the fact that hes shown only marginalimprovement in his game over the past several years has beentroubling.Howard is now 26, supposedlyin his prime. Honestly, its tough to envision Howard getting much betterindividually. He wasnt much of a passer out of the low post early in hiscareer and he still isnt. His foul shooting is still poor. His low post gameis still mostly raw and forced.Watching him in a new rolewith the Lakers will be very interesting. Hes got strong personalities aroundhim, and hell likely have to tolerate and live with fewer touches and lessresponsibility.Quite frankly, it shouldserve him well. The more you ask Howard to do, the less effective he becomesoverall.The reality is the Lakersdont need Howard to be a dominant low-post player or even any betteroffensively than Bynum was. They need him to be a lane protector andshot-blocker which is what he does best and what helped earn him threeconsecutive defensive player of the year awards. --As faras the Warriors are concerned, it does appear that the Denver Nuggets gotbetter adding Iguodala. The Harrington loss isnt a big one, its Afflalothats more curious. Thats the second player in a short period of time (Nene)that the Nuggets gave big money to recently and then got off the player soonerrather than later.Makes you wonder that theymay know a little something more about Afflalo than everyone else who knows,maybe that hes not the defensive stopper hes made out to be. Just guessing,here, but probably not out of left field.Lets assume Afflalo is stillupward trending, and he very well may be. But even if thats true, Iguodala isstill a better player right now than Afflalo. Taking it a step farther,Iguodala is a very nice all-around player and certainly an upgrade talent-wise.I had Denver at about a No. 6seed before the trade, and I dont see that getting any worse after this deal.I do know there are some optimistic Warriors fans out there who believe theNuggets are very much in the Warriors radar.Regardless, it sure seemslike the Nuggets got better, dont you think?--When it comes to the 76ers,their management doesnt seem to be under any illusions. They advanced to thesecond round of the playoffs this year albeit winning in Round 1 over aDerrick Rose-less Bulls team but that certainly wasnt going to beenough.Getting Bynum gives them ashot to get a round deeper in the playoffs, and who knows? Maybe Bynum turnsinto the best center in the NBA in the next year or two. Maybe that doesnthappen, but it wasnt like Philly was knocking on Miamis door if it sattight.Whats most worth watchingwhen it comes to Bynum is whether or not he can remain efficient on the low boxnow that hell get more opportunities. --Conventionalwisdom is the Magic took a beating in this trade and today, that might betrue. Its going to be a long way back for the Magic, who just traded theirfranchise player. Still, there is something to be said for ridding itself of a playerwho had no interest in being there regardless of his talent level.Harrington, Afflalo andVucevic arent going to strike fear into the elite teams in the East. But dontforget Orlando was just 37-29 last year. So, its not like they were on theverge of a title anyway.
Captured as we are in the amber jar of Small Sample Size Theatre, there is something about the Warriors worth chewing on as they head for Philadelphia and a date with the precocious Philadelphia 76ers Saturday evening.
They now seem to disregard large leads as beneath them.
I’m not prepared to say what this means, but three of their losses this year (out of four, of course) have featured them hurling up a double-digit lead – 17 in the second quarter and 16 in the third quarter against Houston,
13 against Detroit and 17 in the second and third quarters against Boston Thursday night.
This is more games in which they have done so than all of last season, in which they blew a 14-point lead Christmas Day in Cleveland and a 17-point lead at home to Memphis 13 days later.
In other words, this could just be a phase they are going through as the team that knows it can produce at will and believes the other teams will cower in fear at the mere sight of their power and fold like 200-thread towels.
But three times in four weeks would be enough for head coach Steve Kerr to find a new way to put foot to hinder at future practices. It suggests that the Warriors, having outgrown their early weariness from a fun-filled summer (hey, they went to China and didn’t get busted for anything, so there’s that), maybe take themselves a bit for granted, and Kerr and team lecturers Draymond Green, David West and Andre Iguodala will now have something to help them all correct in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Oklahoma City and then home again.
I mean, what’s the point of having a big lead if you can’t enjoy it by making it bigger and bigger? What’s the value of leading by 17 and calling it a night when you can lead by 29 and THEN put your feet up? I mean, Houston did it last night and took the whole second half off.
Anyway, that’s today’s Warriors Gristle – what to do when you think you’ve won enough hands and find out you haven’t. Tomorrow, we’ll touch on what they need to do about keeping those old Kevin-Durant-back-in-OKC story lines tired and repetitive.
OAKLAND — Klay Thompson danced unabashedly in China after winning another NBA championship, and it got shared all over social media. He smoked a stogie on the rooftop, letting loose to reveal another side of himself.
“I didn’t plan for that video to go viral,” Thompson said matter-of-factly. “I was just having fun. I’ve always been myself and having fun while doing it and learning to enjoy every day, because it goes by so fast.”
Coming to that mindset, however, has been a process for the seventh-year Golden State guard, who acknowledges for so long he put extreme pressure on himself to be the best.
The quiet, more under-the-radar Warriors All-Star of the bunch, Thompson has provided a steadying hand early on for the reigning NBA champions who are favored to capture a third title in four years.
“I used to stress a lot more at the beginning of my career about my performance,” Thompson recalled. “Now, it’s not like I don’t stress, but I play more carefree and I’m more able, if I play as hard as I can I’m satisfied with the results. ... I used to compare myself with all players and want to be the best so badly, but now it’s all about winning and having fun and realizing basketball is more of a team sport than anything.”
After a recent practice, Thompson dazzled right alongside a couple of visiting Harlem Globetrotters, spinning the ball on his finger, rolling it up and down his arms, off his knee and then a foot soccer-style before swishing a short jumper.
“I should’ve been a Globetrotter!” he yelled.
It’s a new look for this hang-loose, beach-loving Splash Brother.
The approach is working for the Warriors.
“He still carries the threat. You have to honor him,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s great at making the right play. Their whole team is. I think he’s trying to fit in with their whole buy-in that ball movement and passing is greater than any one man carrying the bulk of it.”
Still, his numbers are stellar. Thompson has had a fast start this season, which previously hasn’t been the case.
Thompson credits the familiarity with teammates and a comfort in coach Steve Kerr’s offense.
“He’s taken another step in his game. Just the experience that he’s had in his career, every year he’s gotten better and I think this year he’s shown how at the end of the season he carried it over to the beginning of this year,” backcourt mate Stephen Curry said. “Historically he hadn’t started seasons well but this year he’s locked in. He’s obviously shooting the ball well and playing great defense, but I think the biggest thing is his playmaking in situations where he’s drawing a crowd. He’s making great decisions setting guys up and just playing under control for the most part this entire season.”
Life off the court is great for Thompson, too, and that helps him be stress-free on it.
Look closely, and it’s easy to see he has come out of his shell.
On a day off last week, he golfed a popular public course close to Oracle Arena. Thompson signed someone’s toaster last spring, and it became a superstition.
In July, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at an Oakland Athletics game, then drove an IndyCar in September while serving as Grand Marshal of a series stop in Sonoma.
Thompson shares his training tricks on social media and posts photos with his bulldog, Rocco.
He recently donated $75,000 to relief efforts in the aftermath of the devastating Northern California wildfires, committing $1,000 per point for a three-game stretch during which he scored 69 points — but added to that total.
He is a spokesman for chocolate milk and an obscure — in the U.S. anyway — Chinese shoe company. He signed an $80 million, 10-year extension to wear the sneakers.
“Life’s good,” Thompson said. “I never thought I’d get paid millions of dollars to wear shoes and apparel. I’m very proud to be a part of Anta. ... It’s so cool that I’m big in China. I never thought I’d be on billboards and posters in China.”
Thompson has found a balance during the offseason to stay sharp, mixing up his workouts with outdoor activities he enjoys.
“It took years for me to figure out how to prepare the best I can for the season. I finally learned in my sixth year,” he said. “You’ve got to stay in shape almost year-round because as you get older it’s harder to get back into shape. It’s easier to get out of shape than it is to get back into shape. I do other things besides basketball to stay in shape in the offseason. I think that just keeps my mind fresh.”
He hopes to do a formal swim from Alcatraz, or even a triathlon. He swims in the ocean — “my favorite place in the world” — whenever he can. Freestyle is his strength, butterfly not so much. He plays hours of beach volleyball or just throws the football around and runs routes through the sand.
At work, he has been a model of consistency. Thompson is determined to be a better passer, creating for teammates whenever possible. He also usually guards the opponent’s top perimeter scorer.
Thompson is off to his best shooting season ever, with career highs of 49.4 percent shooting from the field and 45.6 percent on 3-pointers.
“I think his playmaking has been the best it’s been in his career,” Kerr said. “He’s really doing a good job of putting the ball on the floor and moving it on, drive and kick game, finding the centers in the pocket for little floaters. ... It’s been his best passing season so far.”
Thompson used to get teased for his lack of assists, and it remains a running joke.
“I got thick skin,” Thompson quipped, “honestly I don’t really care.”
That carefree approach has taken time, and the Warriors are better for it.