New Hornets center Dwight Howard lauded for basketball IQ


New Hornets center Dwight Howard lauded for basketball IQ

BOSTON – Kemba Walker prides himself on knowing what’s around the corner, but a recent conversation with new teammate Dwight Howard totally caught him off guard.

Howard approached the former UConn star and offered him some tips on of all things, Kyrie Irving’s game.

“He’s a really, really smart dude,” Walker told NBC Sports Boston. “He knows a lot of the personnel (in the NBA). He catches on to plays really, really fast.”

When it comes to Howard, seldom do you hear praise for his basketball intellect which has been a factor that has allowed him to be among the top centers in the NBA for the past decade.

But it didn't do him much good in his preseason debut with the Charlotte Hornets who were downed 94-82 by the Boston Celtics. 

Howard finished with seven points and 10 rebounds, but turned the ball over a game-high six times. 

Good or bad, it's never a good idea to put too much stock into how players perform in the preseason. 

Regardless of how Howard played against the Celtics on Monday night, the 31-year-old big man will still be a major factor in Charlotte's push to get back to the playoffs after failing to do so last season. 

And the experience he has gained from playing in the NBA for more than a decade, will help. 

“As far as basketball IQ, that’s always been something that’s been in me,” Howard said. “I just think that a lot of times people see me getting technical fouls and the crazy fouls and they feel like I don’t have basketball I.Q. But when it comes to this sport … I’ve been playing it for a very long time and I watch. I study. I read. And I learn from those who came before me.”

That experience has paid off in what will be a Hall of Fame career when all is said and done.

Howard is an eight-time All-Star as well as a three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner.

Hornets head coach Steve Clifford worked with Howard previously in Orlando when Clifford was an assistant (2007-2012) on Stan Van Gundy’s staff.

Clifford was among the first to reach out to Howard when the Hornets acquired him and the 31st pick in last June's NBA draft, in exchange for MIles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and the 41st overall pick. 

And while there are those who question how much can Howard still provide on the floor at this point in his career, Clifford is among those who are convinced that Howard’s talent – and his intellect as a basketball player – will enable him to still be an effective player.

“He’s really smart,” Clifford said. “There’s an old axiom in the NBA, ‘you never know a guy until you coach him.' There’s a total misconception about him, that his total game is based around his athleticism. It’s certainly a part of his exceptionality. He’s as smart a player with coverages as I’ve ever been around.”

Said Howard: “It’s just good to hear guys like him (Walker) and coach (Clifford) and the rest of the guys talk about it. Because it’s something that’s always been there, but to hear it is great. I never try to talk about it myself because that’s not who I am, but it’s a good feeling.”


Stars, studs and duds: Bird 'pretty surprised' to make NBA debut

Stars, studs and duds: Bird 'pretty surprised' to make NBA debut

PHILADELPHIA – Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.
Jabari Bird, in California at the time, took that approach when the Boston Celtics needed him to catch a red-eye flight back to Boston following Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury.
And in his first shot at playing time on Friday, a similar mindset was on display with Bird serving as one of the key contributors to Boston’s 102-92 win over the Sixers


He played 13 minutes and 38 seconds on the floor, finishing with three points and a rebound.
But more important, it was his defense which helped cool off a red-hot J.J. Redick who finished with a team-high 19 points.
Bird admits he was caught off guard when he heard his name called to go into the game, and then play a decent amount of minutes.
“I was pretty surprised, for it being my first time getting into an NBA game, getting those minutes," Bird said. "I was a little nervous, but I tried to go in there and do the right things on defense and space the floor on offense and try to do what I’ve tried to do my whole career and that’s play the right way.
He added, “I … wasn’t supposed to be here, to be honest. The fact that they put me in, in a tough situation like that, means I’ve earned the trust of the coaching staff. I’m just trying to build on it.”
The good thing for Bird is that next time he sees action, he’ll likely be calmer and composed than he was on Friday night.
When he got the call to enter the game, Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry had a few words for him.
What he’d say?
“I honestly couldn’t hear him,” Bird said. “I was so focused, I was happy to be in the game. I didn’t hear what the coaching staff was saying to me.”
And while there’s no guarantee that Bird will suit up for Boston’s next game on Tuesday against the New York Knicks, there’s one thing we all know now about Bird.
He will be ready.
“My mindset is, if you stay ready you don’t have to get ready,” Bird said. “So I try to live by that every time, game day, practice, whatever I’m doing; stay ready and I’ll be prepared for each and every moment.”
Here are some other Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 102-92 win over Philadelphia.  
Shane Larkin

He only had 10 points with four assists, but make no mistake about it: Boston does not win this game without Larkin’s floor game in the fourth quarter which is when he scored eight of his 10 points absolutely killing the Sixers with a two-man pick-and-roll game with Al Horford.
J.J. Redick

The Celtics had problems most of the game with Redick who led the Sixers with 19 points. But Boston made him a non-factor in the fourth, limiting him to just two points on 1-for-4 shooting.
Kyrie Irving

He looked a lot more comfortable scoring the ball even as the Sixers blitzed him often with double-teams and tilts defensively. He led all players with 21 points along with six rebounds and four assists.


Al Horford

He had a solid night for three quarters but really came alive in the fourth. That is when he scored nine of his 17 points and wound up with nine rebounds – one shy of a double-double.
Jerryd Bayless

Very efficient shooting the ball most of the night, finishing with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting.
Terry Rozier

Good call on Brad Stevens’ part to keep Rozier attached with the second unit. He had 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists.
Ben Simmons

He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (4-for-11), but still managed a double-double of 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
Jayson Tatum

The rookie continues to play with a pace and poise that’s so atypical for a rookie, let alone a 19-year-old. He had yet another near double-double for the Celtics, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds to go with three blocked shots.
Joel Embiid

Boston’s Aron Baynes did a really good job on Embiid, which makes him finishing with a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds all that more impressive considering it wasn’t even close to being one of his better games.

Markelle Fultz

The number one overall pick in last June’s NBA draft continues to deliver some not-so-impressive stat lines for the Sixers. He came off the bench and scored six points while missing seven of his nine shot attempts with
Boston’s free throw shooting

The Celtics had yet another sub-par night from the line as they shot 68.8 percent (22-for-32) from the line with a pair of players – Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier – each missing three free throws apiece.


Larkin provides fourth-quarter spark, Celtics beat Sixers, 102-92

Larkin provides fourth-quarter spark, Celtics beat Sixers, 102-92

PHILADELPHIA – Despite playing its second straight game without a key rotation player, the Boston Celtics did just enough to get their first win of the season, 102-92, over Philadelphia.

Boston (1-2) was led by Kyrie Irving’s game-high 21 points, but it was Shane Larkin's floor game down the stretch that truly catapulted Boston to its first win of the season.

Larkin, who was seeing action in large part because Marcus Smart was out with a left ankle injury, provided a huge spark in the fourth before finishing with 10 points and four assists.

He drained a 3-pointer that tied the game at 75-all, which was part of an 18-9 Celtics run.

The Sixers (0-2) were led by J.J. Redick and Jerryd Bayless who had 19 and 18 points, respectively. Joel Embiid got off to a slow start, but finished with a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Boston played with a lead for most of the first half, but Philadelphia took over with a 7-0 run to end the second quarter and had the Celtics playing catch-up for all of the third and some of the fourth quarter.

Boston was once again short-handed, with Marcus Smart out with a left ankle injury. He replaced Gordon Hayward, whose left ankle injury in the first quarter of Boston’s loss to Cleveland on Tuesday, is expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

But with players out, that opens up opportunities for others to step up.

Larkin, who walked away from a contract overseas that would have paid about $5 million more than he’s making with the Celtics, was one of those players.

Aron Baynes, who got the start with Smart out, had 10 points and eight rebounds. Boston also got another strong game off the bench from Terry Rozier who had 14 points and seven rebounds