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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Dwight Howard: It’s ‘stupid’ to believe I was negative influence on Hawks

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard doesn’t think that Dwight Howard was all that bad of an influence on his former team, the Atlanta Hawks.

Speaking with the media ahead of Friday’s game against the Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets center took time to respond to reports over the offseason that he was a negative locker room influence in Atlanta.

“I think that’s stupid,” said the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Because how could you win an award for being the best teammate in your locker room but then be the most negative guy? That doesn’t make sense. So whoever said that obviously was trying to make a story.

“I’ve been nothing but professional,” Howard continued. “Anybody who’s ever been in that locker room knows who I am as a player and a person. They know that in the locker room, I’m not a guy who’s gonna bring any negativity out and do all the whispering. If I have something to say, I’m gonna say it to you. So all that stuff is always false, but I understand people need stories and people need to make money, so they gonna make the story that they need.”

The perception of Howard as a bad teammate has followed him for many years now. But Cunningham does add that the eight-time All-Star was indeed named the Hawks’ Best Teammate in the NBAPA’s Players Voice Awards last season, so the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle here.

Yasiel Puig gives funny explanation for why he licks his bat

Yasiel Puig tongue

Now that he is officially taking his bat-licking antics to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is providing some funny insights into his rationale for doing so.

After his Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the National League pennant with a victory over the Chicago Cubs in NLCS Game 5 on Thursday, Puig had this to say about why he licks his bat, per James Fegan of The Athletic:

The Cuban outfielder first went viral with the bat licks during his first plate appearance of the divisional series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since then, he is hitting .414/.514/.655 with a home run and six RBIs in eight games for the postseason, so the bat must enjoy it. Keep doing you, Yasiel.

Brad Stevens asked Frank Vogel for advice on how to deal with Gordon Hayward injury

Brad Stevens

In the wake of the devastating injury to All-Star forward Gordon Hayward on opening night of the NBA season, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is turning towards a fellow Eastern Conference coach who has been there before.

Speaking with reporters on Friday, Stevens said that he called Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel for advice on how to deal with Hayward’s recovery, per Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

Of course, Vogel knows what Stevens is going through, as he was head coach of the Indiana Pacers when Paul George suffered a broken leg in August 2014 during a USA Basketball scrimmage and missed almost the entire 2014-15 season. Hayward seems to be looking at a similarly lengthy recovery period, so Stevens could definitely learn a thing or two from his Eastern peer here.

Magic F Jonathan Isaac was so nervous to make NBA debut he forgot to put on jersey

Jonathan Isaac may have had some slight butterflies prior to making his NBA debut on Wednesday against the Miami Heat.

In a video shared to Twitter by Orlando Magic teammate Bismack Biyombo on Friday, the rookie forward sat on the bench for the team’s season opener having forgotten to wear a jersey underneath his warmups. He quickly ran to the locker room to put one on upon realizing his mistake.

The 20-year-old Isaac, who was picked No. 6 overall in this year’s draft, would eventually check in at the 3:10 mark of the first quarter. He finished with a respectable four points, eight rebounds, and two blocks in 17 minutes on the evening as the Magic picked up the 116-109 victory.

We’ve seen some similar mishaps in baseball before, but in any case, at least Isaac now has a heck of a story to tell about his professional debut.

Image via Around the Association on YouTube

Carmelo Anthony may have turned down Portland due to long distance

As Carmelo Anthony begins the new season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, we’re getting a better idea of why it wasn’t the Portland Trail Blazers instead.

In an appearance this week on “Bald Faced Truth,” Marc Stein of the New York Times, who recently had an in-depth chat with Anthony, said the star forward may have turned down a trade to Portland due to the distance.

“We had a fair bit of discussion about Portland,” Stein said, according to John Canzano of the Oregonian. “He did say that it meant a lot to him how badly those guys wanted him. I think it really was the distance. I don’t think it was about Portland, the place… I think it was about family… presumably his wife and son are going to stay in New York for the bulk of the year. He was in constant contact with [Damian] Lillard and [CJ] McCollum.”

The Blazers’ star backcourt did indeed go hard after Anthony, and some indications were that the 10-time All-Star would accept a trade to Portland as a backup option. But Oklahoma City is roughly 1,450 miles and one time zone away from New York, as opposed to about 2,900 miles and three time zones away for Portland. That plus the better chances for championship contention probably made the Thunder a bit more of an appealing destination for Me7o.

Vikings TE has high praise for Teddy Bridgewater after QB’s first practice

Teddy Bridgewater

Kyle Rudolph seems encouraged to see Teddy Bridgewater back on the field.

After the Minnesota Vikings quarterback practiced with the team for the first time in over a year, Rudolph had some rather lofty praise for him.

“I thought he looked like Joe Montana,” said the Vikings tight end of Bridgewater, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “He was excited. He was smiling, bringing energy to practice.”

It has been about 14 months since Bridgewater’s catastrophic knee injury, but the signs right now are definitely encouraging. While the 24-year-old likely won’t be winning four Super Bowls, he believes he will return to game action at some point during the 2017 season, and it sounds like Bridgewater’s presence is an uplifting one for his teammates on the Vikings as well.

Report: Gordon Hayward could return in March in best-case scenario

Gordon Hayward

Now that Gordon Hayward is out of surgery, his injury timetable is becoming a little bit more concrete.

Boston sports anchor Mike Lynch of WCVB-TV reported on Wednesday that Hayward suffered no ligament damage and had a good “prognosis.” He also added that Hayward could return in March in a best-case scenario.

The Celtics have been hesistant to offer a specific timetable on Hayward’s recovery from his gruesome leg injury in Tuesday’s season-opener, only that he is expected to recover fully. However, Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN his client is unlikely to return this season.

Boston concludes the regular season on April 11, so it does sounds like a return to the court before then for Hayward is possible but not likely.

Mark Cuban tried to pitch NBA on getting rid of draft

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban apparently tried to go full Shark Tank on the league.

According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN on Thursday, the Dallas Mavericks owner attempted to pitch other members of the NBA’s board of governors on abolishing the draft and moving towards a system where each team would get a pool of money to sign rookies based on record.

“The team with the worst record gets the most money and the team with the best record gets the least money,” said Cuban. “It’s like a free agency. It makes it a lot harder to tank because you don’t know if you get the best players if you’re horrible all the time. Nobody liked that at all, not a single person.

Cuban, who was the only owner to abstain from the recent NBA lottery reform measure, also had another idea to lock the team with the worst record into a given draft slot (either third or fourth). It similarly failed to gain traction.

The billionaire owner is never short of revolutionary ideas, and he might actually have the support of one NBA head coach. Nevertheless, doing away with the draft entirely is probably a bit too radical of an idea to be realistic.

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