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#pounditTuesday, September 22, 2020

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Dwight Howard admits it was tough not playing against Rockets

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard has had to swallow his ego with the Los Angeles Lakers this season, and the last playoff series was probably his hardest test yet.

Howard admitted on Wednesday that it was tough not playing in the second round against the Houston Rockets, per Spectrum SportsNet’s Mike Trudell. The former All-Star also said that he and JaVale McGee tried to stay positive and engaged on the bench so as not to let any negative energy seep in.

While the Lakers did win the series in five games, Howard and McGee were effectively out of the rotation. Houston was playing without a traditional big man, so the Lakers chose to match by going with smaller lineups. Howard especially was looking forward to facing the Rockets, his former team.

Granted, the Nuggets, who employ a bigger frontline of Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic, are up next for the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. That means that Howard can probably look forward to playing some meaningful minutes again.

Josh Smith takes shot at former coach Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers

Josh Smith was certainly happy to see history repeat itself this week.

The former LA Clippers forward clowned his former coach Doc Rivers in an Instagram post on Wednesday. The Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in their second-round series, very similar to the 3-1 lead that they blew to the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2015 playoffs.

Smith was a member of the Rockets at the time and helped orchestrate the comeback. He posted a picture of himself from that 2015 series, and his caption read, “We’ve seen this movie before. In fact I wrote the script. #ByeDoc #The3-1Bum”

Interestingly enough, the Clippers signed Smith that very next offseason. But Smith never quite fit in, and the Clippers traded him away just a few months later. Rivers was also their president of basketball operations at the time, so Smith may have a personal axe to grind with Rivers for trading him.

Regardless, Smith is simply joining the chorus right now because plenty of people are elated to see the Clippers implode.

Lakers fans, show everyone who runs LA with this great T-shirt. It makes a perfect gift for you or a friend. You can buy it here.

Buccaneers mocked over odd tweet about Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are apparently trying to take whatever positives they can from their Week 1 showing.

In Tom Brady’s Bucs debut on Sunday, the team lost to the New Orleans Saints by the final of 34-23. There was not a whole lot to like about their performance, but Tampa Bay’s Twitter account did find something. They tweeted that they had held Saints running back Alvin Kamara to 1.33 yards per carry, the lowest such number of his career.

Indeed, Kamara rushed for just 17 yards on 12 attempts. However, he also got a rushing touchdown and caught five passes for 51 yards and another touchdown. Kamara even had a third touchdown wiped away late in the game when instant replay showed that he had stepped out of bounds just before crossing the goal line, so he was far from ineffective against Tampa Bay’s defense.

The Bucs were promptly clowned for the tweet, especially since they also lost the game by double-digits.

Brady did have a commendable response to the loss. But as for Tampa Bay’s social media team, this tweet was probably a swing and a miss.

Heat’s Kendrick Nunn clowns Giannis Antetokounmpo in Instagram post

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Kendrick Nunn is having fun at the expense of his team’s vanquished foes.

The Miami Heat guard wished Jimmy Butler a happy birthday Monday with a funny post on Instagram. The post was a Photoshopped image depicting Butler with Giannis Antetokounmpo and TJ Warren as his children.

The Heat, led by Butler’s excellent two-way play, toppled Warren and the Indiana Pacers in the first round. They then took down Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round. Miami begins their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

While Nunn’s post was pretty funny, he may want to tread lightly here. After all, the Heat could be targeting Antetokounmpo as a free agent in the future.

Rajon Rondo’s brother William may be temporarily barred from attending games

Rajon Rondo

William Rondo’s verbal altercation with Russell Westbrook may cost him his spot in the stands for the foreseeable future.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated reported Sunday that William, brother of Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, is expected to miss a couple games due to the incident. Spears added that it is uncertain when he will be allowed to attend again. William is not expected to be kicked out of the Orlando bubble however.

William got ejected from Saturday’s Game 5 between the Lakers and the Houston Rockets after an exchange with Westbrook. The NBA has warned family members granted access to games that they should not engage in any kind of misconduct, verbal or otherwise, with players or referees.

William is also in charge of the barbers, braiders, and manicurists in the bubble. That may have helped his case to stay. Regardless, the Lakers are a title favorite right now. Thus, William may still have plenty more chances to attend games, even with a brief ban.

Isaiah Thomas takes shot at Clippers for waiving him

Isaiah Thomas is one player who is revelling in the LA Clippers’ misfortunes.

The former All-Star guard went straight to Twitter on Sunday after the Clippers blew another big second-half lead to lose to the Denver Nuggets.

“I know for damn sure I could’ve helped the Clippers!!!” Thomas tweeted. “We just gon (sic) keep working tho.”

Thomas, 31, played for the Washington Wizards this season and was traded to the Clippers in February as part of the three-team Marcus Morris deal. He was then waived by the Clippers just a couple of days later.

The Clippers are losing their footing and now need to win Tuesday’s Game 7 in order to avoid a calamitous second-round exit. But it is hard to envision that Thomas could have fixed what is ailing them. The Clippers have enough scorers and have been undone by their inability to contain Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic. Thomas is an undersized ball-dominant defensive minus, so he might not have even seen the court for them this series.

In any event, the Clippers know that they need to change their mindset for that final game against Denver. Otherwise, slander like this from Thomas will be even more universal and long-lasting.

Josh Hader opens up about challenges of 60-game season

Josh Hader

Despite it only being nearly a third as long, Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader is encountering some unique challenges with the 2020 campaign.

Speaking this weekend with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Hader opened up about his struggles to find a rhythm in the shortened season. Specifically, the All-Star lefty alluded to having difficulty adjusting to the stop-and-start nature of the last several months.

“This year has definitely been a different year for us,” said Hader. “Coming in, stopping [during the pandemic] and going [during summer camp], it’s definitely a unique year for me, personally, trying to see what works, what doesn’t and continue to try and stay healthy through it.

“When you see the 60 games, it seems like it’s not that much,” the 26-year-old added. “But it actually seems like it’s taken more of a toll than on paper it looks. I’m trying to stay strong throughout my days that I don’t pitch and continue to get work in where I can and try to stay sharp.”

You would not know that Hader has been struggling based on his numbers this season. He has converted nine of his ten save opportunities and boasts an elite 2.13 ERA with 20 strikeouts in just 12.2 innings pitched. Granted, the Brewers are just 20-22 on the year and have also had games postponed against both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds. Thus, Hader has not had very many save opportunities to avail of.

Hader was also the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, so it definitely has been a roller-coaster season for both him and the rest of the league.

Jimmy Butler does not think Heat should be considered underdogs

Jimmy Butler

Coming off a gentleman’s sweep of the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Jimmy Butler is feeling plenty confident.

This weekend, the Miami Heat star brushed aside the notion that the team should feel like underdogs against the Boston Celtics in the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals.

“We don’t really use ‘underdog,'” said Butler, per Nick Friedell of ESPN. “We may say that we have a chip on our shoulder, but I don’t think that we’re the underdog. I think that we’re a really good team. We play together. Everybody knows their role. We just compete.

“I think we’re supposed to be here,” the All-Star swingman went on. “That’s how we think of it. To me, to us, that’s all that matters. We’re not underdogs. We’re competitors.”

The Heat enter the series as the No. 5 seed in the East as opposed to Boston, who is the No. 3 seed. But Miami just toppled the Milwaukee Bucks, the No. 1 seed and the NBA’s best regular season team, in five fairly lopsided games in the second round. Thus, the Heat have to feel like they can beat anybody in the league right now.

Butler has helped carry the Heat this far with some unwavering confidence, and he is certainly not about to stop with the bravado now.