Dwight Howard: Serge Ibaka should have won Defensive Player of the Year over Tyson Chandler last year, Marc Gasol this year
Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Wayne Ellington
Told Marc Gasol won Defensive Player of the Year and that he finished 14th, Dwight Howard didn’t sound thrilled with the result. Mark Medina of inside the lakers:
The news caused Dwight Howard to say “it’s funny,” but he wasn’t offering his signature smile.
“It’s just funny,” Howard said. “That’s okay. We got next year and I got a long time. This year’s funny.”
Howard averaged more defensive rebounds, blocks and steals – both per minute and per game – than Gasol.
Like when LeBron James lost MVP to Derrick Rose, nothing held Howard back more than voters’ irritation with how he changed teams. Howard probably could have handled his departure from Orlando better, but that doesn’t affect how well he defends.
The second-biggest factor working against Howard was his drop in production relative to previous years, but he shouldn’t have been competing with previous versions of himself. He should have been competing with other players in 2012-13.
However, unlike the LeBron-Rose situation, Howard didn’t deserve the award. Gasol did.
With Gasol on the court, the Grizzlies’ defensive rating was 95.4. With Howard on the court, the Lakers’ defensive rating was 101.7. Gasol played with better defensive teammates, but they didn’t account for such a large gap. Besides, Memphis’ defense improved more when Gasol played than Los Angeles’ did when Howard played.
But don’t bother Howard with those advanced stats. Via Medina:
“Serge Ibaka with all the stuff he did this year, he should’ve been the guy to win it this year and last year,” said Howard, though the award went last season to New York’s Tyson Chandler. “With the stuff he’s done on the defensive end. I thought he was the clear cut winner. But people saw it otherwise.”
“He led the league in blocks. That’s what defense is all about,” Howard said of Ibaka. “He led the team and was number one in blocks this year. You can’t play defense without having any shot blockers. He was the No. 1 shot blocker the last two years. That’s great defense right there.”
I don’t hear Howard saying he shouldn’t have won Defensive Player of the Year in 2010-11, when Ibaka led the league in total blocks and Andrew Bogut led the league in blockers per game. But here is a summary of what Howard did say:
1. Blocks = defense
2. Every Defensive Player of the Year since he won has been incorrectly assigned.
NBA Rumors: Could Minnesota Timberwolves Trade Kevin Love To Boston Celtics?
With the NBA Playoffs underway, the contenders are already separating themselves from the contenders. Through the first two games of all of the first round series, many of the favored teams and higher seeds are not only leading two games to none, but they are dominating their opponent. One of these such series happens to be the one that many people were looking forward to the most, with the New York Knicks proving that the Boston Celtics can no longer close out a game on offense. With that being said, it is clearly time for the Celtics to look to the future, and that could begin by going back to the team that helped them build an NBA Championship team by dealing them Kevin Garnett. Perhaps this offseason, the Minnesota Timberwolves could trade Kevin Love to the Celtics and help them reload for a future run.
The Celtics are desperate for offense. Without Rajon Rondo, the team lacks that certain catalyst who can get things going. For those who felt as if the Celtics could entertain trade offers for Rondo once he is healthy, forget about that taking place. Just look at what has happened to Boston once Rondo went down for the season. They may have held things together for a little while, but the wheels are coming off in the postseason.
At this point, it is highly unlikely that the Celtics will come back from a 2-0 series deficit and knock off the Knicks. Anything can happen, especially on a team with so many veterans, but it just doesn’t look as if this is the same Boston team who pushed the Miami Heat like no one else in last season’s playoffs. They look much older, sluggish and severely outmatched.
Kevin Garnett is more likely to retire after this season. Paul Pierce will probably play one more season with the Celtics and retire in 2014. That leaves plenty of holes on a team who came within one game of facing the Oklahoma City Thunder in last year’s NBA Finals.
It also leaves a lot of salary cap space.
The Celtics could inquire about the availability of Love. Bill Simmons believes the Timberwolves would be wise to field some offers, although he mentions the Chicago Bulls as a better suitor. If Garnett does retire and Pierce unlikely to be dealt during the final year of his contract (although it would be a huge boon if Boston can move him instead of watching him walk off into the sunset the following year), it may seem as if the Celtics would not have enough on the roster to pull off a deal with Minnesota. But, with younger players such as Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley as attractive trade pieces, anything is possible.
THEY BETTER NOT BREAK ONE OF THE BEST BROMANCES IN THE NBA APART ! I WILL NOT STAND FOR IT !
Solo act: Kevin Durant carries Thunder without Russell Westbrook by his side
HOUSTON – Kevin Durant – dressed, coifed and preparing to leave his locker for the interview podium – could still sense the emptiness of the room. Suddenly, it occurred to him that this was one more basketball duty that would go on without Russell Westbrook, one more walk Durant would have to make alone in these playoffs.
As the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar spotted one of the franchise's young basketball staffers resplendent with hipster frames, Durant told him: "You're going to have to poke out the lens if you're going to be Russell's stand-in with me."
For two long days of grim facades and dire diagnoses, a most comforting sight resurfaced late Saturday: Durant tilted back his head and laughed. He was tired. He was relieved. He was still a little dizzy, a little discombobulated. Durant's instinct, his DNA, demanded dominance out of himself, and he desperately chased it on Saturday night.
In this 104-101 Game 3 victory over the Houston Rockets, his 41 points, his clinching 3-pointer inside the final minute, his 47-plus minutes, his broadening burden of ownership and, yes, his sense of genuine loss – took its toll.
"I sense it's been an emotional 48 hours for him, there's no way around it," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Westbrook isn't so much a teammate, as much as a force of nature. For five years, Westbrook never missed a game. He never missed practices. Durant and Westbrook were together in the preseason, the regular season, All-Star weekends and the NBA playoffs. They were together for USA Basketball in the world championships and Olympics.
[Related: Thunder's Russell Westbrook out for season after knee surgery]
They were inseparable, and now Westbrook's season-ending knee surgery separated them in these playoffs.
Kevin Durant scored 41 points in the Thunder's Game 3 victory over the Rockets. (Getty Images)"It didn't feel the same," Durant said.
From the hotel to the locker room to the basketball court, everything changes without an All-Star point guard. As the Thunder prepared for Game 3 in Houston, Westbrook underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in Colorado. Since Westbrook's diagnosis on Friday, Durant didn't change character with his teammates. He's never been too big on telling everyone how to proceed, as much as showing them.
"From the performance itself, you could see he had thought a lot about everything, thought about what he's going to have to do for us," Thunder guard Derek Fisher told Yahoo! Sports.
The performance was powerful, if inefficient. Durant had the ball in his hands to the start game, dictating tempo and turbulence and constructing for these Thunder a 26-point lead. From bringing the ball down the court to lunging at Jeremy Lin for a steal as the Rockets guard called timeout, the way Patrick Beverley had done on the Game 2 play to injure Westbrook, there hung an element of tribute in the air.
Nevertheless, Oklahoma City lost the lead, largely because Durant struggled to make too few of his 30 shots, because Kevin Martin and Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison missed 21 of 27 tries together.
At times, yes, Durant tried too hard, but the statement to his teammates was unmistakable in the absence of Westbrook: I can do this. Most of all, he needs to show them: We can do this.
When Game 3 was on the line, Durant still made the plays for victory. His 3-pointer with 41 seconds left bounced high in the air, tipped the backboard and every corner of the rim. "Lucky shot," James Harden called it.
[Related: Patrick Beverly not apologizing for Russell Westbrook's injury]
Durant played his first game without Russell Westbrook in the past five seasons. (USA Today Sports)Harden would've gladly taken it. In the telltale moments of the game, Harden missed two free throws with a chance to make it 93-93 within the final five minutes, and left his feet on two terrible passes for turnovers within the final two minutes.
For all the gumption the Rockets showed to fight back from 26 points down, they were without precision and poise when it was time to close out the victory.
For the Thunder, though, securing Game 3 was important for the franchise. A 3-0 series lead gives them the flexibility and time to search for the proper balance and style without Westbrook. They need to reshape themselves, and they need time to do it without being trapped in a fight for their playoff lives.
Oklahoma City can still emerge out of the Western Conference, but it won't happen with Durant needing to validate his genius with shots and scoring.
"The mentality – that's something we need every night out of Kevin," Fisher told Y! Sports. "But the minutes, the shot attempts, that's something that's still day to day. In this league, no matter how good you are, teams are not going to let a guy go to work on them for 48 minutes."
These Thunder can still score points without Westbrook, but something far more precious blew out of the room with him. The power of Westbrook's persona and disposition and relentless nature is real and connected to the core of this franchise.
"That's the most difficult thing for us to sustain now," Fisher said. "As time goes on, we're going to miss his presence, his passion, his fearlessness. All those things are out of place now. How do we fill that vacuum left without Russell?"
[Also: Bulls stun Nets in triple OT]
Slowly, surely, the Thunder will search out that answer for themselves. Everything was still so fresh, so raw, on Saturday night, and perhaps that was the reason Kevin Durant delivered such desperation and determination.
And ultimately, in the quiet moments of an emptying locker room, the best player on these Oklahoma City Thunder couldn't stop thinking about chasing this championship without Russell Westbrook. He couldn't stop thinking about preparing for Game 3 without him, playing it and ultimately walking down the corridor to talk about it.
They didn't just lose a ballplayer on these Thunder, but a force of nature. All these minutes, all these shots and the formula on the first night of the rest of the season without him felt a little off for Durant, a little too forced. Always, his heart, his intentions, are in the right place. The Thunder need to help him get his game there, too.
He had a great laugh over his line to the staff on Saturday night, but these past five seasons have taught Kevin Durant a most unmistakable lesson: For Russell Westbrook, there's no stand-in. No substitute.
SOLD OUT married girlfriend Yvette Prieto, celebrated in a really big tent
Any discussion of the NBA postseason eventually turns to Michael Jordan, the greatest player in NBA history and a strong point of comparison for today's stars 15 years after he participated in his last playoff game. That was particularly the case on Saturday, when Chicago Bulls guard Nate Robinson came up one point short of Jordan's franchise record for fourth-quarter scoring in the postseason in a wild Game 4 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
However, the day was an important one for Jordan for reasons entirely unrelated to basketball. More than a year after becoming engaged in December 2011, Jordan married fiancee and former model Yvette Prieto, his girlfriend of five years. People.com has details:
After five years of dating, former NBA star Michael Jordan, 50, and his model-fiancée, Yvette Prieto, 35, made it official with a wedding in Palm Beach, Fla., on Saturday.
About 500 people arriving by tour buses piled into an Episcopal church called Bethesda-by-the Sea, where Donald Trump was married to Melania in 2005.
Jordan invited another 1,500 to join them for the reception at the Bears Club, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course community in Jupiter, Fla., where Jordan recently built a 38,000-square-foot home.
While 2,000 combined guests does not exactly suggest a modest affair, the full size of this monstrous event cannot be communicated by words. After the jump, check out aerial photos of the wedding tent.
Michael Jordan’s Wedding Tent is 40,000 sq ft, 5000 sq ft larger than his 35,000 sq ft home in the elegant and classy Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl. As you can see from the aerial, Jack Nicklaus has graciously allowed Jordan to place the largest tent in wedding history on the driving range of his renowned golf course in order to house the only 2,200 invited guests! [...]
The sound system for the affair arrived in four semi-trailers and the band spent the entire day Friday rehearsing for the BIG EVENT. Golfers had a great time on the course, with a backdrop of music to play to.
So, to recap, Michael Jordan's wedding reception occurred in a temporary tent larger than his own house, complete with bathrooms big enough to host a separate large wedding and a dance floor with its own lighting effects system. What an intimate affair!
This is Jordan's second marriage. In 2006, he split with Juanita, his wife of 17 years, in what Forbes called the costliest divorce ever. He has two sons and one daughter from that marriage.
There are as yet no details on the content of Saturday's ceremony and/or reception, so we can only speculate if His Airness wore special Air Jordans or how many buttons were on his suit jacket. It's safe to guess that several of Jordan's former teammates were in attendance, although chances are he didn't invite Craig Ehlo.
Also, while it may seem odd for the owner of an NBA franchise to schedule his wedding during the playoffs, please remember that Jordan presides over the Charlotte Bobcats, the second-worst team in the league this season at 21-61. I'm pretty sure both MJ and Prieto knew their schedule would be free.
Derek Jeter's vow: 'I'll be back soon'
NEW YORK - Derek Jeter wasn't giving an inch at his press conference this afternoon. He believes he'll return this season after his second ankle fracture, and be the player he used to be, and move the way he was moving when he was healthy last season.
His message to you: "To the fans, I'll be back soon."
Jeter was in good spirits at the press conference, but he had also received his get-out-of-Tampa card. He said he will be with the team for at least this homestand.
"I've been stuck in a training room pretty much for the last, when did the team leave (spring training)? I don't even know how many weeks I've been going to the training room and doing physical therapy and rehab," Jeter said. "This is the first time I've been out of there for quite some time. So I'm happy to be out of there. But, yeah, of course, I keep saying 'frustrating.' That's probably the biggest thing.
"When I got it, it wasn't good news. I thought I would go up there, when I went to see the doc (last week), I thought he would say it was something different. Tape it up. Let's go. But it wasn't the case. It didn't feel too good for quite some time. I'm laughing and smiling and happy that I'm up here. But I'm still upset that I can't play."
The original fracture in the playoffs and the subsequent second fracture — he doesn't know when he did it after reporting to Tampa — hasn't made him ponder his baseball mortality.
"Me breaking my ankle wasn't just because I was getting older," Jeter said. "I played on something that I probably shouldn't have played on and it ended up breaking. It wasn't because of my 'advanced' age that my ankle broke. It would be a little different if my body started breaking down. Then you might think about, 'I don't know how much longer I can do this.' But this was just a freak thing that happened. I have to deal with it. If I was 22 years old, I'm pretty sure it would've taken some time for it to heal then."
Jeter wasn't in a walking boot at the media gathering, but said he has otherwise been wearing the boot even though he doesn't think he needs to wear it. He just has to wait for the healing to take its course.
"Right now, there's really not much I can do," Jeter said. "I'll just sort of play it by ear."
When will he be back? "I have a date in my mind when I'm going to be back," Jeter said. It's up to us to guess. He wasn't saying.
Also, Kevin Youkilis isn't in the lineup for the fifth straight game because of lower back tightness.
"He tried to take some work in the cage," Joe Girardi said. "He's just not ready. I thought it would be today. So hopefully it's tomorrow. We'll just go day by day."
Heyman writes for the (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal-News
Washington Capitals set to face New York Rangers in NHL playoffs once again
By Katie Carrera, Sunday, April 28, 6:39 PM
After 48 games exclusively against Eastern Conference opponents, the Washington Capitals acknowledged there was no avoiding a familiar foe in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
But there’s no denying that the Capitals are particularly well-acquainted with the opponent they drew, the New York Rangers. The series, which will start either Tuesday or Wednesday, will mark the fourth time in five years that they’ve faced off in the postseason. Washington went 1-2 against the Rangers this regular season, with its only victory coming in a shootout on March 24.
Insight on the Capitals and all the latest news from Post reporter Katie Carrera.
“They’re a real physical team. It’s going to be a tough opponent. Obviously, we have a little bit of history with them,” winger Eric Fehr said Saturday night after a 3-2 overtime defeat of Boston in Washington’s regular season finale. “We’ve played them a number of times. It’s going to be a man’s series, no question. They’ve got a lot of big guys and they like to play physical. It’s a good challenge for us.”
Only five players on the Capitals’ roster — Mike Ribeiro, Martin Erat, Jack Hillen, Steve Oleksy and Aaron Volpatti — haven’t been involved in at least one of the three previous series between the two teams. (Wojtek Wolski, while in his first year in Washington, played for the Rangers during the first-round matchup in 2010-11.)
The frequency of the matchups makes for few secrets between foes and creates the potential for a hard-nosed series.
“Definitely it’s going to be tough matches all the time,” said captain Alex Ovechkin, who on Sunday clinched his third Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer in the regular season. “We just have to play simple and play our game. If we’re going to play our game, we’re going to get success. In the playoffs, you have to give everything you can to get success.”
Washington claimed victories in two of the previous series, but last season the Rangers triumphed in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Last year’s matchup pivoted in Game 5, when a penalty by Joel Ward paved the way for Brad Richards to tie the game with 7.6 seconds remaining in regulation and then Marc Staal to score the game-winner in overtime. While the Capitals won Game 6 to force a decisive Game 7, New York had the momentum from the moment it snatched that victory.
“Obviously we felt we were better for seven games last year,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “We know they’re a good team and we played them before. It’s going to be a tough battle. I think we’re ready and they’re probably ready as well. It’s going to be, I think, a long series.
Will Chris Jericho Perform Fandango Theme With Fozzy?, Mick Foley's Novel Gets High Praise, Rikishi
- Chris Jericho was interviewed by "Our House" about touring with Fozzy, you can watch it in the video above. During the interview, Jericho was asked if the band would ever perform the Fandango theme.
"That's probably the dumbest question I've ever heard in my life," Jericho replied. "If we had some flutes - or is it trumpets? - then maybe we could do it, but [you] can't really do it on guitar."
- Shortlist.com has named Mick Foley's 2004 novel, Tietam Brown, one of the "30 best coming-of-age novels." The site called the book a "hilarious dysfunctional tale." You can check it out at this link.
- Former WWE star Rikishi will be in action at Old School Wrestling's Saturday Night Slam this Saturday at Belvidere High School in Belvidere, IL. He will also be taking part in a special meet and greet before the show at 5:30 pm. You can purchase tickets or get more information at this link.
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