Dwightmare continues for Howard and the Lakers


Dwightmare continues for Howard and the Lakers

BOSTON - The Lakers were down 30 points to the Celtics midway through the fourth quarter.

Kobe Bryant didn't touch the floor in the fourth. Neither did Steve Nash or Antawn Jamison. Metta World Peace was subbed out around the nine-minute mark after an official timeout.

But Dwight Howard stayed in. The tables had been turned. He wouldn't watch from the bench this time. Coach Mike D'Antoni was sure of that once Howard "decided" to play.

He was left in, deserted by D'Antoni until he inevitably fouled out when he was down 25 points with 5:27 to play.

Bad back? Nah, not bad enough for his coach. Bum shoulder? Meh.

CSNNE.com asked D'Antoni why Howard was left in the game -- in the condition he's supposedly in (or not in, depending on who you ask) -- with all other main rotational guys out.

"Because I think he needs to get his rhythm," D'Antoni said to the media hoard just outside the Lakers locker room. "He's been out for a week, and surely wasn't tired. So just trying to find him some rhythm."

Ah, rhythm. In a fourth-quarter lineup featuring Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Jody Meeks, and Earl Clark; a lineup that Howard will rarely -- if at all -- ever be in again.

Howard had missed the last three games -- all wins for the Lakers -- but not at the decision of trainers or D'Antoni. According to D'Antoni, Howard could have played.

"Yeah, he's been cleared for a while," he said. "I mean, he's always clear because he has a tear. It's going to be there but he had pain, so obviously he's not going to play with the pain, and he felt better today. That's why he played."

There's that "pain" shot again. The same one that Kobe Bryant gave Howard prior to Thursday's game. Bryant said to ESPNBoston.com, "We don't have time for Howard's shoulder to heal. We need some urgency." Bryant also said that pain is "something that you have to balance out and manage."

D'Antoni echoed that after Thursday's loss, saying, "Well, Howard has to work his way through pain because we don't have a whole lot of other solutions right now with Pau Gasol being out especially."

The process of Howard figuring out his health, though, has admittedly been problematic for D'Antoni.

But while the coach said Howard has been cleared to play for a while now, and "his health his fine", Howard was quick to disagree. He's also not taking much stock in what D'Antoni and teammates are putting out for public consumption.

"I can't get involved with what they've been saying to the media," Howard told CSNNE.com. "I understand they've been saying certain things, but I know my health. I haven't been cleared for weeks to play.

"This is my body, and I have to control my body and my future and my career. So I can't worry about anybody else."

Howard has made that abundantly clear. It's "he" before "we". His team, on the other hand, couldn't care less about the injuries he may or may not have.

And there lies the problem. The disconnect between Howard and the Lakers is quite apparent. It looks and sounds like a player not willing to sacrifice his future for a team he doesn't see in it. And it looks and sounds like a team not willing to sacrifice the present for a future it simply doesn't have.

That has inevitably made things "Dwight Howard vs. Lakers", and as the record shows, it's just not going to work.

"Hopefully they'll start supporting me the way they need to," Howard told CSNNE.com. "Until then, I'm going to continue to do whatever I can to help our team win."

When he "decides" to, anyways.

Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley


Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley

BOSTON – Another year, another season in which Avery Bradley plans to showcase a new and improved skill that will benefit the Boston Celtics.
But with each improved skill, Bradley moves just that much closer to being an all-around, two-way talent that creates problems for teams at both ends of the floor.
We all know about Bradley’s defense, which was good enough to land him a spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive first team last season. He also gets props for steadily improving his game offensively in some area every summer, but defenses might have their hands full more than ever with Bradley.
According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, the 6-foot-2 Bradley was the only guard in the NBA last season to shoot better than 70 percent in the restricted area among players who took a minimum of 200 field goal attempts.
He is among a list that includes Los Angeles Clippers big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin; Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; current teammate and former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford; San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge; Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Atlanta big man Dwight Howard.
But if you’re thinking about keeping him away from that part of the floor, Bradley also made the 3-point shot a bigger part of his offensive game last season; as in, 40 percent of his shots came from beyond the 3-point line.

Having that kind of diversity makes him a difficult player to get a clear read on how to defend. And because of that, it may open things up even more so for his teammates.
Bradley can shoot from the perimeter; he can score close to the rim. His ball-handling skills have improved in the offseason to where it no longer looks as though it’s a major weakness.
And he defends at a level few players in the league can match.
Collectively it makes Bradley one of the many challenges awaiting teams whenever they face the Celtics, a player who is poised to showcase his diverse set of skills beginning tonight against the Brooklyn Nets. 

Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue


Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue

Tonight’s pregame number to watch is 45.4%. That was the Celtics' score frequency on pick and rolls finished by the screener last season, which was the worst rate in the NBA.

Score Frequency: The percentage of possession in which the team or player scores at least 1 point.

The major problem for the Celtics last season was personnel, as Jared Sullinger finished the most pick and roll plays for the C’s after setting a screen, and he was -- to put it nicely -- freaking terrible. Sullinger was the second-worst roll/pop man in the league, averaging a paltry 0.87 points per possession.

Fortunately, the Celtics replaced Jared Sullinger with four-time All-Star Al Horford, who is one of the elite roll/pop men in the NBA. Last season, Horford finished fifth in the NBA averaging 1.13 points per possession as a roll/pop man and boasted a more than solid 57.1 eFG% on those plays. 

eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage): Measures field goal percentage adjusting for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. The equation is ((FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

If you watched the preseason, then you already know the kind of impact Horford can have on the Celtics half court offense. So keep an eye out for those pick and rolls tonight and throughout the season, and we should see that 45.4% Score Frequency jump somewhere closer to 50%.