Howard trade impacts entire NBA


Howard trade impacts entire NBA

One does not have to be the most astute observer of the NBA to understand that after trading for Dwight Howard, the Lakers are once again expected to compete for a championship. Even with a weak bench -- though free-agent acquisition Antawn Jamison helps its cause -- and having to find a way to keep Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash happy, apparently within the Princeton offense, one of the league's perennial glamour teams is once again in the spotlight.
While some have already penciled them into the NBA Finals, the Lakers still have to unseat the Thunder as the best in the West. They'll also have to get past the other rugged teams in the conference such as their Staples Center co-tenant Clippers, the new-look Mavericks, physical Grizzlies, run-and-gun Nuggets and the Spurs, who tied the Bulls for the most regular-season wins last season.
But as much as the new-look Lakers brings memories of the failed Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal-Karl Malone-Gary Payton quartet of the past, with Howard playing with arguably the game's best passer and no longer miscast as his team's primary scoring option --along with Bryant benefiting from playing with an elite playmaker for the first time in his career, as well as Gasol's pick-and-roll strengths likely being highlighted -- the Lakers' formidable starting lineup is impressive.
When it comes to evaluating the trade from Orlando's perspective, it's obvious that they wanted to be done with Howard prior to the start of training camp, especially with a general manager and head coach both in their first year. However, it's hard not to criticize the Magic for not getting more in the deal, particularly when reported offers from the Nets and Rockets seemed so much more beneficial to the organization.
In any event, it appears that the franchise will start from the bottom to rebuild -- shooting guard Arron Afflalo is a legitimate starting-caliber shooting guard, big man Nikola Vucevic had serviceable stretches as a rookie last season, swingman Maurice Harkless is regarded as having one of the higher ceilings in the incoming rookie class and veteran Al Harrington, whose contract is only partially guaranteed in its remaining years, is a trade asset.
On the other hand, the draft choices Orlando acquired are protected picks and don't have as much value as what they would have received from either Brooklyn or Houston, a process that will take time. That strategy worked in both Oklahoma City and San Antonio, where general manager Rob Hennigan and head coach Jacque Vaughn have roots, but in a city weary of the "Dwightmare," with arguably the most impressive arena in the NBA, Magic fans can't be blamed if they're not patient.
For the two other teams involved in the deal, the blockbuster swap should pay major dividends instantly. Philadelphia and Denver were nice young playoff teams last season, but lacked the star power that All-Stars Andrew Bynum and Andre Iguodala, respectively, bring to their new workplaces.
The 76ers had good luck in beating the Bulls in the first round and showed a lot of spunk against the Celtics in the conference semifinals, but they looked to be a team that was a go-to scorer and dominant low-post player away from being taken seriously, weaknesses the organization only addressed in terms of depth in free agency. Although Bynum, a native of nearby New Jersey, isn't guaranteed to sign a long-term contract extension in Philadelphia, the Sixers didn't have to mortgage their future to acquire him.
Iguodala was seemingly on the trading block forever and it was whispered that Chicago native Evan Turner's game wouldn't have a chance to blossom with the All-Star swingman also in the lineup. And with their legion of long, athletic wings (Turner, trade acquisition Dorell Wright, free-agent gunner Nick Young), additional inside help (holdover Thaddeus Young, free agent Kwame Brown, draft pick Arnett Moultrie and re-signed big men Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes) and emerging point guard Jrue Holiday, having the second-best center in the league and an impact player on both ends of the floor makes the young squad a force to be reckoned with.
And that's not even taking into account the expected boost in perimeter shooting that veteran Jason Richardson, also acquired in the deal, should provide.
Iguodala is the perfect fit for Denver's run-and-gun style, and while the Nuggets still don't have a true primary scorer, at the very least the USA Basketball defensive stopper is a player familiar with having the ball in his hands in clutch situations (as evidenced by his coast-to-coast drive that ousted the Bulls from the postseason in the spring).
Joining the likes of sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari, former DePaul standout Wilson Chandler and defensive-oriented Corey Brewer on the wing, along with the superb point-guard tandem of speedster Ty Lawson and crafty Andre Miller, the Nuggets' back court has plenty of options. And re-signed center JaVale McGee, rebounding monster Kenneth Faried and backup Timofey Mozgov make the Nuggets once again a scary potential opponent for one of the West's supposed contenders.
More transactions can certainly occur between now and the NBA's opening night, let alone the February trade deadline, but assuming the Howard deal is the last major trade of any significant impact, why not hazard a guess at how the playoffs could shake out?
In order, the Eastern Conference's postseason qualifiers should be the Heat, Celtics, Knicks, Sixers, Pacers, Nets, Bulls and in eighth, either the Bucks, Hawks or Wizards.
The Western Conference playoffs should feature the Thunder, Lakers, Clippers, Spurs, Mavericks, Nuggets, Grizzlies and in a battle for the final spot, either the Timberwolves, Warriors or Jazz.

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

There are diehard Michael Jordan fans.

And then there's this guy.

Forget anybody getting a tattoo of their favorite team's championship trophy. Forget the people who wait for hours in terrible weather just to catch a glimpse of their favorite player.

This dude has a constant, 24/7 reminder of "His Airness":

Yep, that is a full tattoo of a Jordan "23" jersey on his back, complete with a Michael Jordan "autograph" in the middle of the "2." 

Dedication at its finest.

Couple questions: 

A) Does it carry over to the front at all? And if not, is that a plan for the future?

2) Will one of his buddies get a "45" Jordan jersey tattoo or are we just gonna continue to pretend that era never happened?

D) What will that tat look like in a few years? That guy better stay away from the Doritos...

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.