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#pounditSunday, October 2, 2022

Basketball

Dwight Howard issues message for NBA teams

Dwight Howard looking on

Jan 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) arrives at Toyota Center before a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard remains 0-for-30 with NBA teams this offseason, but he is not quitting just yet.

The eight-time All-Star center Howard took to Instagram on Saturday with a message for the entire league. Howard posted a video of himself vigorously riding a stationary bike and put in the overlay caption “when you’re in the best shape of your life but still a free agent.”

“It’s okay because I BELIEVE in me,” Howard wrote in his post caption. “#trusttheprocess #motivation”

Howard, who will turn 37 in December, had fairly gracefully transitioned into a full-time bench role in recent seasons. He averaged 6.2 points and 5.9 rebounds in 16.2 minutes per game for the Los Angeles Lakers last year (all career-lows) but was still efficient and unselfish with the touches he did get.

But Howard gained a reputation in past years as a bad teammate and has had six separate one-year stints with all different teams (the Lakers twice) since 2016. The payoff may not be worth it anymore to give Howard an NBA roster spot. But rest assured, you will still be seeing him on TV regardless.

Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to be like 1 Hall of Famer in retirement

Giannis Antetokounmpo warming up

Oct 23, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) warms up before the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo has become one of the most well known players in the NBA. He’s made six All-Star teams and won two MVP awards and a championship.

The Greek Freak has worked extremely hard to become as good as he is, which has led to tons of recognition among basketball fans. But Antetokounmpo hopes that will all go away once he retires.

Antetokounmpo spoke with SiriusXM NBA Radio’s Frank Isola and Brian Scalabrine and talked about his retirement goal.

“When I retire from this game, I want to disappear,” Antetokounmpo confessed. “I want to go somewhere where they’re not going to know me.”

Antetounmpo then shared how he took a trip to Sweden and nobody recognized him. The 27-year-old enjoyed blending in and not being recognized.

“I want to be like Tim Duncan. Where the hell is Tim Duncan? I want to play the game … and then you forget about me. You don’t talk about me,” Antetokounmpo said of his retirement desire.

Duncan was always a humble, low-profile player even while he was with the Spurs. Social media wasn’t a big thing for most of his playing career, and he has avoided it in retirement. But the 46-year-old Hall of Fame forward did coach the Spurs in 2019 and 2020, so he has been around in the game of basketball.

Giannis is just too fun, too friendly, and too beloved to disappear like Duncan. Maybe he’ll go retire in Scandinavia, because in America, nobody will forget him.

Shaq interested in joining ownership bid for 1 NBA team

Shaq looks on

Nov 22, 2017; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; NBA former player Shaquille O’Neal during the first half of the game between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and Arizona Wildcats in the 2017 Battle 4 Atlantis in Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Shaquille O’Neal never turns down a good investment opportunity, and there may be a new one that is piquing his interest.

The retired NBA icon O’Neal said this week an interview with TMZ that he was recently eyeing the opportunity to join the bidding for the Phoenix Suns. But O’Neal pumped the brakes a bit once he heard that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was named as a potential buyer for the team. Now instead, O’Neal would like to join Bezos’ group if given the chance.

“Nobody on this planet can compete with Big Man J.B.,” said O’Neal. “I’m not gonna be in there tryna go up against Big Man J.B.

“[But] if he wants me for it, I would gladly like to talk to him,” O’Neal added.

O’Neal, whose net worth TMZ estimates to be roughly $400 million, played for the Suns for two total seasons from 2008 to 2009. He was previously a minority owner for the Sacramento Kings and recently hinted at interest in buying another one of his former NBA teams.

Now-disgraced Suns owner Robert Sarver, who purchased the team in 2004, has begun the process of putting them up for sale. Bezos was among several wealthy figures listed as initial candidates to buy the Suns.

Steph Curry throws shade at ESPN over their latest prediction

Stephen Curry during a playoff game

Jun 13, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) gestures after defeating the Boston Celtics in game five of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There still appears to be no end in sight for Steph Curry’s revenge tour.

ESPN shared in a social media post this week that the Golden State Warriors are projected to finish eighth in the West this coming season according to one of their stat-based models. The model gave the Warriors an average expected win total of 41.9.

The reigning Finals MVP Curry quickly hit back at the post. “14% chance to win the Finals last year too,” Curry commented with a laughing emoji.

Indeed, ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gave Golden State just a 14 percent chance of defeating the Boston Celtics before the start of the 2022 Finals.

Curry raises a good point about how flawed these statistical models can be. There are so many variables, tangible and intangible, that can affect a team’s success even in just a single seven-game series against one other team. Thus, it is impossible to use numbers alone to accurately predict how a team will do relative to all the other 29 teams over the course of an 82-game season.

Of course, the four-time champion Curry is also a (deservedly) petty dude who enjoys rubbing it in whenever he proves people wrong. Earlier this offseason, Curry took another memorable shot at a notable NBA rival.

Sacramento Kings now own 1 unfortunate sports record

Vivek Ranadive smiling

October 29, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive celebrates during the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Sleep Train Arena. The Warriors defeated the Kings 95-77. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Though there are still several weeks to go before the start of the new NBA season, Sacramento Kings fans may already want to look away.

MLB’s Seattle Mariners officially ended their over two-decade-long playoff drought on Friday by clinching a postseason berth with a victory over the Oakland Athletics. Seattle had not made the playoffs since 2001, but that ended in dramatic fashion on Friday with a walk-off homer by Cal Raleigh (video here).

The Mariners’ drought was the longest in major pro sports. Now that they have finally shed it however, the unfortunate record (as noted by Marc J. Spears of ESPN) hereby belongs to the Kings, who haven’t made the NBA playoffs since 2006.

Elsewhere in sports, the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres (2011), the NFL’s New York Jets (2010), and (now taking over for Seattle) MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies (2011) hold the longest active droughts in their respective sports. But all of them pale in comparison to the Kings, who have not made the playoffs (nor even had a single winning season) since 2006.

The last time that Sacramento was in the playoffs, their starting lineup was Mike Bibby, Bonzi Wells, Metta Sandiford-Artest (then known simply as Ron Artest), Kenny Thomas, and Brad Miller with Rick Adelman as their coach. Between assuming the longest active postseason drought in all major sports and getting trashed on by their former players, it has not exactly been the best offseason for the Kings.

Orlando Magic considering unusual lineup experiment for this season?

Paolo Banchero at a press conference

Jun 24, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic first overall draft pick Paolo Banchero speaks during a press conference at the Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic could be cooking up something unusual for the coming season.

Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. revealed to reporters at training camp on Friday that the team has experimented with a frontcourt trio of him, Bol Bol, and No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero. Carter added that head coach Jamahl Mosley envisions the trio playing positionless basketball and sees Bol as the best shooter of them.

The idea may just be crazy enough to work. Carter plays significant minutes at center but is undersized at 6-foot-10. But he is light enough on his feet to defend the perimeter, which is a skillset that would pair nicely with that of Bol. Standing 7-foot-2, Bol is a bit less nimble outside of the paint but hits his three-pointers at 37.8 percent career rate.

The Cleveland Cavaliers already found success last season with their Lauri Markkanen-Evan Mobley-Jarrett Allen frontline. If Orlando can fit the 19-year-old Banchero into the puzzle as well, they could create something similar. That should not be too hard either considering what we heard recently about Banchero’s insane measurements.

Luka Doncic having hard time pronouncing name of 1 new teammate

Luka Doncic smiles

May 15, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts against the Phoenix Suns in game seven of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Luka Doncic does not have very many weaknesses, but pronunication appears to be one of them.

Video went viral on Friday of the Dallas Mavericks star Doncic struggling mightily to pronounce the name of new teammate JaVale McGee. Doncic was referring to McGee as “Joel” during training camp before being corrected by a team staffer. Check out the funny video.

Mavs reporter Callie Caplan confirmed that Doncic was calling the veteran center McGee “Joel” throughout practice.

For McGee, a 14-year NBA veteran and three-time champion, that has to be adding insult to injury that Doncic does not even know his name. You might recall that McGee was on the Phoenix Suns team that Doncic stuffed into a suitcase last postseason.

Of course, the two players are Mavs teammates now, so they will probably just laugh Doncic’s goof right off. But perhaps Doncic can get some advice from this NBA figure who clearly knows how to pronounce McGee’s name.

Darvin Ham dropping big hint about Lakers’ starting lineup this season?

Darvin Ham in a suit

Apr. 7, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Lakers 125-105. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham may be tipping his hand early.

Ham told reporters on Friday that there has been one particular starting lineup that he has used in training camp the most often thus far — Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Damian Jones. Ham did add however that he has not yet decided on a five-man group, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

Most notably, that early training camp lineup features Westbrook (around whom there has been some doubt as to if he will start again this season) and Nunn, who missed all of 2021-22 with a bone bruise in his knee. Though the Lakers would likely be far better defensively with Patrick Beverley starting instead of Nunn, Ham did speak highly of Nunn’s defensive work in camp.

The Lakers have plenty of options at their disposal as that training-camp five does not even feature new additions like Dennis Schroder (whom the team recently reunited with), Lonnie Walker IV, and Troy Brown Jr. There are even two additional summer standouts who did not make that cut either.

Report: Ime Udoka used ‘crude language’ with Celtics worker

Ime Udoka looking on

Dec 25, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka looks on during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A new report published on Friday shared information about the big rule Ime Udoka violated that led to his suspension from the Boston Celtics.

Last week, we learned that Udoka was having an “improper intimate but consensual relationship” with a female staff member of the Celtics. The team suspended Udoka for the entire 2022-2023 season and named Joe Mazzulla as their interim head coach.

The Celtics hired an independent law firm to investigate the matter. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the firm’s investigation found that Udoka “used crude language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship with the woman.”

The use of crude language with the woman prior to their relationship apparently was a significant factor in the length of his suspension.

The power dynamic for the improper relationship was the big rule violation cited by the law firm in their report, which apparently was completed last week.

Udoka, 45, is set to receive a pay cut while he is suspended. He reportedly is unlikely to get his job as head coach of the Celtics back when his suspension ends.

A former NBA player, Udoka led the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season in his first year on the job.

Ex-Blazers coach Terry Stotts could land on staff of top contender?

Terry Stotts coaching

Jan 20, 2020; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts watches from the sideline during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Stotts took a gap year in 2021-22, but it may be time for him to return.

Veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein said this week in a post to Substack that the Boston Celtics have shown interest in the former Portland Trail Blazers coach Stotts to be the top assistant under new interim coach Joe Mazzulla. Stein does note though that the Celtics are ultimately “pessimistic” about their chances of landing Stotts.

Additionally, Stein reiterates the Celtics’ interest in another former NBA coach that they had been previously linked to.

Boston continues to search for a new assistant after Mazzulla was abruptly elevated to interim coach amid the scandal and subsequent suspension for the entire 2022-23 season of head coach Ime Udoka. At 34, Mazzulla is set to be one of the NBA’s youngest coaches and could use a veteran coach’s voice to guide him.

Stotts, meanwhile, sat out last season after spending the previous nine as head coach of Portland (leading them to two division titles and a conference finals berth in 2019). He did interview for a prominent NBA head coaching job this offseason but did not get it. With bigger-name candidates like Quin Snyder and Frank Vogel as well as an ascendant new generation of younger assistant coaches to contend with, perhaps it makes the most sense for the 64-year-old Stotts to take a job as a top assistant at this point of his career.