Archives For Dwight Howard

Feature Image: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America

Many fans across the league rejoiced when they heard the news that eight time All-Star, five time First Team All-NBA, and three time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard was coming home. Home to his native Atlanta. But as the city and the fans welcome home own of their, Atlanta cries for the loss its true son, who has left the nest after nine years.

Al Horford is gone, painting his Twitter account in green, indeed showing his intentions to sign with Boston Celtics on July 7th.

I’m still in utter disbelief. Throughout the night I tossed and turned, the Tweet announcing his next chapter embedded in my head. The moment he sent out this Tweet, you knew there was no going back DeAndre Jordan style.

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For the most part, day 1 of NBA free agency frenzy was thought to have been won by Mike Conley’s 5-year $153 million dollar deal with the Grizzlies (largest deal in NBA history), only to be outdid by the Atlanta Hawks signing Dwight Howard to a 3-year $70.5 million dollar deal shortly after. The hometown kid returns to his roots where we were first introduced to the 6”10 slender teenager with the Hollywood smile, as he dawned a #12 for Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Fast-forward 3 teams in 12 years later and his presence couldn’t come at a better time.

 

 

The Hawks have a history of having trouble acquiring star power, especially through free agency, and the low attendance numbers over the years are a direct result. Dwight’s signing doesn’t mean sold out games every night, automatic championship contenders, but what it means is the organization’s unwillingness to hunt big names is a narrative of the past. Owner Tony Ressler, GM Wes Wilcox and Coach Mike Budenholzer have decided that in order to every cross the bridge towards relevancy and appeal to the rest of the league, it will first need to establish a precedent and that’s what this acquisition does. Now the Hawks job isn’t done, they will need to surround Dwight with the pieces to legitimately contend for a championship. Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver still remain from the All-star foursome selected to represent in New York a year ago. Bazemore played the best basketball of his career this season and will return after signing a 4-year $70 million dollar deal and a confident Dennis Schroder steps into the starting point guard spot.

 

The 3- time defensive player of the year leaves an offense first, offense second, oh, and then defense third mentality in Houston; and now joins one of the best defensive coaches in the league. The Hawks have finished in the top three of defensive rating over the past two seasons. What Budenholzer has done is highly impressive, given the lack of size and rebounding capabilities on the roster; he now he has a game-changing player with the ability to secure both of those deficiencies. Atlanta has sorely missed that imposing defensive presence anchoring, sort of similar to what Tyson Chandler meant to those Dallas Maverick teams, an already outstanding group of perimeter defenders who do a terrific job of swarming ballhandlers and speeding up offenses Al Horford and Paul Millsap did all they could, playing much bigger than their listed size. However, now with Howard, Hawks are in a great spot frontcourt wise, because either Millsap stays at his designed position or Horford finally slides to the power forward spot where many believe he can be most productive in.

 

Another important note is that due to Budenholzer’s all hands on deck philosophy; he has been able to keep the minutes of his two cherished big men to a minimum, Horford logging in 31.9 minutes and Millsap logging in 33 minutes per game over the past 3 seasons, another refreshing sign for Howard.

 

Over the past couple seasons Dwight has not looked like the Superman we saw in Orlando, much of that can be attributed to injuries (knees and back) and poor coaching philosophies he was forced to endure. However, he is not absolved of blame, defense is all about effort and his effort was questioned much of the season as he looked disengaged at time. The injuries is one thing Atlanta is taking a risk on, but the mental stability is much more riskier. Howard discussed the situation in Houston on Inside the NBA on TNT during the playoffs.

 

“As a big, sometimes you want to feel a part of what’s going on,” Howard said on TNT. “If I could bring the ball up the court, shoot threes, go between the legs and do all that stuff, that would be great. But I have to rely on my teammates to get the ball. Now, there have been times where I’ve been upset and I’ve taken myself out of games in situations, and that’s on me. I have to grow to be a better player at that.”

 

Howard’s played 71 games and the entire first round, so the issue wasn’t physical, but much more a mental block. He averaged just 13.7 points per game, the second lowest of his career on just 8.5 field goals a game, on a team that took 7,392 regular season threes during his tenure. He now joins a philosophy that believes in ball movement and has shown that they don’t mind playing through their bigs, two factors that I’m sure played a large part in his decision. Howard will certainly find much more comfort playing with a willing passer in Dennis Schroder, especially in pick n roll situations forcing defenses into a tough circumstance with shooters on the perimeter. This scheme also promotes lower post passing between its big to create easier scoring opportunities as he would likely post and catch or catch and go closer to the rim. A similar scheme is currently ran on the clippers between Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan whenever they play two-man game from a Hi-lo setting; Millsap is just as much, if not more, of a floor stretcher as Griffin and an excellent passer too.

 

The possibilities with this team, under this coach are limitless for Howard as long as he stays healthy and engaged. He is now 30 years old with an injurious history and has been apart of enough drama to launch a Netflix series. More than ever before, Dwight’s legacy will be impacted, in his hometown, as an Atlanta Hawk.

The hopes that Al Horford would retire a Hawk are dashed. The long term future of the franchise is not, however.

In case you hadn’t heard, the Hawks have agreed to sign Atlanta’s own Dwight Howard to a three-year, $70.5 million contract and will retain Kent Bazemore for $70 million over four years. Such was not the same fate, sadly, for the most tenured Hawk.

Remove the emotional aspect of the tumultuous past couple of days and come to realize this is by no means a disaster for the Atlanta Hawks. The team rebuilt the wing corps through the draft and were able to retain breakout star Kent Bazemore. They landed the much maligned but still effective Dwight Howard without having to commit to a fourth year.

Sure, their hopes of winning a championship are very slim this season, especially so if Durant lands on an Eastern team like Boston or Miami, but all you can hope is to be a top four seed in the conference and maybe a path towards the Finals opens up. There are 30 teams competing for one trophy and it’s unrealistic to have half of the teams contending and half rebuilding; there’s always going to be middle ground.

Besides, a Millsap-Horford core proved to be in the same non-contending boat. That duo had two true opportunities to dethrone Lebron’s reign on the Eastern Conference and failed woefully each time. Subsequently, the Boss received a nice severance package and headed to greener, shamrock-filled pastures and we went to Plan B. That’s just how the business goes sometimes.

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The Atlanta Hawks rolled to their fifth consecutive victory following their 109-97 triumph over the Houston Rockets. Michael Beasley — yes, Michael Beasley of all people — led all scorers with 30 points off of the Houston bench on the second night of their back-to-back sled. The Hawks, meanwhile, were led by Al Horford’s 22 points (on 10-of-19 shooting) and nine rebounds.

A five game winning streak can only mean one thing…

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That’s right, for the first time since the very early stages of this season, the HaWWWWWks are back.

Dwight Howard and “Sticky-gate”

OK, OK. In all seriousness, this is the thing that people are actually talking about — and I guess this is what we’re calling it?

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The Atlanta Hawks may not be seen as one of the most physically intimidating teams in the league, but their mental toughness makes up for that and then some.

In December, Atlanta battled back to win 121-115 against the Houston Rockets after overcoming a 17-point deficit at halftime. Today, the Hawks fought through a dismal second quarter of nine turnover and Mike Beasley’s best game off the bench since returning to the league (30 points); but once again, that showed the true make up of this team.

“I feel like we are a much better team right now than we were before, said Al Horford, who finished with 22 points and nine rebounds. “We are much more focused, our defense is really good and we are starting to put it together on the offensive end.” Continue Reading…

With how good the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs often are, it is hard for road teams from the East to come into Texas and expect any success. The Hawks are not an exception to that, but Atlanta grinded out a rare victory in the Lone Star state, beating the Rockets 104-97. The Hawks now sit at 19-7 and have now won 14 of their last 16 games.

Atlanta managed to pull it out in the end thanks to some nice passing and solid execution. It also helped that Jason Terry completely forgot to cover Kyle Korver during one of the game’s most crucial moments.

While the game started off close, it wasn’t like that until midway through the third quarter. The Hawks had a decently-sized lead through most of the first half thanks to crisp ball movement getting them a lot of open looks. For the majority of the game, the best the Rockets could do was go on a small run occasionally, but the Hawks would withstand it and get right back to business and build up their lead once more. That was until the Rockets adjusted.

During halftime, the Rockets made some tweaks that managed to get them back into the game, tying the game up by the end of the quarter. Part of it was the Hawks just not hitting shots, but the Rockets rotations were much more organized in the second half; when the Hawks started to move the ball, the Rockets were right there to contest the shot. Continue Reading…

FINAL

HOU.gif(23-14) 83 – 80 (20-17)ATL

Key Performers:
K. Korver (ATL): 20 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast, 3 stl
J. Harden (HOU): 25 pts, 7 reb, 7 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

The Rockets jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the first quarter, but Mike Scott responded with eight first quarter points to keep the Hawks within a reasonable distance. The Hawks then won the next two quarters 55-42 to take a 65-60 lead into the fourth quarter. In the fourth, the Hawks used a DeMarre Carroll three-pointer to take a 79-78 advantage that they would not relinquish as four free throws from Kyle Korver iced the game in favor of the Hawks. The win gives the Hawks 20 on the season as they improved to 14-5 in Philips Arena.

Reaction grades [assessed 0-10]:

Paul Millsap: After four very rough games for Millsap, he was able to respond against Houston. His jumper was still a little off, but he did get a couple of three-pointers to fall. His four offensive rebounds were very important, as that was one of the keys that pushed the Hawks to victory despite a 37.2% shooting night from team. 7/10

DeMarre Carroll: DeMarre’s night kind of reminded me of Pero’s game against Charlotte. He was doing the little things throughout the game, but he could not hit a shot to save his life. Finally, with the Hawks trailing 78-76, he got a three to fall. 6/10

Pero Antic: Not a very good night for Pero, who finish with four points on eight shots. On defense, he wasn’t doing completely terrible, but Dwight was simply too physical for Pero on some possessions. The result was Pero getting into foul trouble and a minutes increase for Elton Brand. 4/10

Jeff Teague: Teague was outplayed by both Lou-Will and Shelvin tonight. Dwight Howard’s defense probably gave Jeff the most difficulties of any ATL player, as Jeff just couldn’t do what he wanted in the lane. Outside of the lane, Jeff was consistently short on his jumper, which is very reminiscent of how he was shooting the ball at the beginning of the season. 4/10

Kyle Korver: Kyle Korver has been the team’s top performer in consecutive wins against Indiana and Houston. Korver was 6-for-11 from the field and his three three-pointers in the third quarter were huge for the Hawks being able to take the lead. Korver also played very strong defense in the second half, as his digs and activity caused problems for Houston’s big and their guards. 9/10 Continue Reading…

FINAL

HOU(11-5) 113 – 84 (8-8) ATL    

Key Performers:
A. Brooks (HOU): 21 pts, 2 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl
A. Horford (ATL): 14 pts, 8 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk
[FULL BOX SCORE]

The Rockets were without James Harden, and then Jeremy Lin after he left the game in the first quarter due to injury. Didn’t matter, as the Rockets routed the Hawks with a barrage of three-pointers. Aaron Brook and Francisco Garcia each scored 21 off of the bench, and Houston scored 36 points in the fourth quarter to close the game out. The Hawks may have been without Kyle Korver, Lou Williams, and Shelvin Mack, but losing by 29 to a Rockets team that was playing without Harden and Lin isn’t an ideal result. I guess this does help show how important Korver’s spacing is to this team. The Hawks have now lost three straight games.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Al Horford: Al did his best on Dwight Howard, and the Rockets big man only had 11 points and eight rebounds. However, Horford didn’t do too much on the offensive end, scoring 14 points on 14 shots, many of which were wide open jumpers that he needs to be hitting at a better clip. 7/10

Jeff Teague: Not a good night for Teague. He was killed defensively, and his offense just wasn’t there. He was 0-for-5 from the field in the first quarter, and he didn’t take a shot after that point. He did have six assists and probably should have had a few more, but he definitely wasn’t able to attack the rim as effectively with Howard and Asik manning the paint for the Rockets. 5/10

Paul Millsap: Millsap was battling foul trouble for some of the night, but when he was in, he was doing his best to take advantage of Terrence Jones and Omri Casspi. Millsap had 16 points on just 10 shots and he was dominating on the block. He did have a few head-scratching turnovers in this game, but he was definitely the most effect Hawk on offense. 6.5/10

DeMarre Carroll: 2-for-8 from the field is not what you want from DeMarre. The Hawks have weirdly been running pick-and-rolls for DeMarre lately, and it’s effective sometimes… but a lot of times it is ending up with DeMarre taking weird looking floaters in the lane, which is really a shot I only want Jeff Teague or Lou Williams to take. 4/10

Cartier Martin: Starting in Kyle’s place, Cartier was actually effective in being the team’s go-to three-point shooter. Cartier scored 14 points, including 4-for-7 from behind the arc. Defensively, he was… you know what, everyone was awful defensively. Just assume that for each following player unless I note otherwise. 7/10 Continue Reading…

2012-13 Record: 45-37 (8th in West)z-rockets

Playoff Result: Lost in First Round

Key Additions: Reggie Williams (free agent), Omri Casspi (free agent)) – oh and that Dwight Howard guy.

Key Losses: Carlos Delfino (free agent), Thomas Robinson (trade)

Projected 2013-14 Record: 52-30 (5th in West)*

What to Expect: Here’s the thing with Houston. Last year they were exceptional on offense with a very efficiency-driven approach. That meant a lot of threes and a lot of free throws. The flip side was that they were “meh” defensively with the team relying on Omer Asik in his first year as a starter and defensive anchor and Carlos Delfino who was 31. What changed? Well, they got Dwight freakin’ Howard.

Now immediately you think Dwight Howard, top echelon center, on top of this young and prolific core of James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley/Jeremy Lin means a cemented spot among the top teams in the Western Conference.

Yes, and no.

The Rockets’ biggest issue was their defense, and nabbing Howard to take Asik’s spot wasn’t a huge upgrade. Howard is obviously better at that end, but questions remain about his health with the back problem that seemingly has been bothersome for over a year. Not to mention that Houston really has little help defensively for Dwight, losing Delfino and quite possibly starting Lin over the defensive spark-plug Beverley this year. One could say starting Asik with Howard would alleviate these concerns, and that’s true, but they’d just bring up spacing ones on the other end. Obviously, Howard is a major upgrade over Asik in terms of offense. Continue Reading…

So, there’s two free agents off the board.

Andre Iguodala signed with the Warriors today after Golden State was able to dump the salaries of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson to Utah. The deal is for four years, $48 million.

USA Today’s Sam Amick has reported that Dwight Howard will sign with the Houston Rockets. Current details of a contract are unknown.

What does this mean for the Hawks? Well, their likely plan-B is off the table; the Hawks had been rumored to be in heavy pursuit of Iggy if they missed out on Howard and CP3. (which they now have) Free agents Al Jefferson, Tyreke Evans, JJ Redick, Tony Allen, and David West are also off the board now.

So, who’s left? Of course, the Hawks still have their own free agents to look at in Josh Smith, Devin Harris, Jeff Teague, and Zaza Pachulia, with Smoove likely being the best available of all options at this point. (even if Dwight hasn’t picked a team yet, he’s most likely not picking Atlanta) Nikola Pekovic is still out there, but I expect Minnesota to match any offer he gets, even if it does put them in the luxury tax.

Of course, a sign-and-trade with Houston to send Josh Smith to play with his best friend, Dwight, is still in play. In such a trade, the Hawks would likely get center Omer Asik and might have to take on Jeremy Lin.

Paul Millsap may now be one of the more intriguing options for the Hawks. Yes, Horford would still have to play center if Millsap was signed, but Millsap can rebound well and space the floor. His defense isn’t ideal, but it could work.

Andrei Kirilenko is also a feasible option right now, as is Corey Brewer. Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, who are now likely to sign elsewhere because of Golden State’s new situation, could also be a fit with Mike Budenholzer’s vision of this team.

Players I would avoid like the plague: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, and JJ Hickson. To be fair, Jennings and Ellis are players that could work in the right system, but I’m not a fan of their play styles. Hickson is a trainwreck; don’t even look into it, Danny.