Court Vision: Jim Buss says Dwight Howard ‘was never really a Laker’
• Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, Ric Bucher has a fascinating look at the challenges — collective bargaining, personality, and otherwise — facing Lakers executives Jeanie and Jim Buss in the wake of their father’s death in February. Jeanie expresses some frustration that she’s not involved in basketball decisions, and the siblings offer totally different reactions to the summer departure of All-Star center Dwight Howard after just one season in Los Angeles.
Instead of Jim spending time with Howard, the team launched a widely derided media campaign that implored “Stay” on billboards. After Howard bolted, Jim turned on his former star, saying he wasn’t surprised or dismayed. “He was never really a Laker,” says Jim. “He was just passing through.”
Those close to Howard say the Lakers could have persuaded him to stay. Even Jeanie believes that if her father had not been sick, he would have sealed the deal like so many before it. “It’s disappointing that Dwight isn’t here,” she says. “I feel like we failed him.”
• From the Associated Press, Sixers GM Sam Hinkie reflects on his hiring of coach Brett Brown, a process that took most of the summer.
“We went through an exhaustive search to find the right head coach for our organization, one who had a passion for developing talent, a strong work ethic to help create the kind of culture we hope for, and a desire to continually improve,” general manager Sam Hinkie said. “Brett has all of that. He also has a wealth of experience as a head coach and a championship pedigree, to boot. We are delighted to welcome him as our coach, and I am invigorated for the two of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
• Danny Chau of Grantland.com has written an informative introduction to Dante Exum, the Australian guard who finds himself near the top of 2014 mock drafts.
This highlight reel of Exum’s performance at the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit last April is the best sampler of his ability. His speed in the open floor and ability to change direction is special. While his frame resembles a scaled-down Nicolas Batum, he has the jets of a player four inches shorter. The video isn’t the best reflection of his role in the game — Exum largely played off the ball, with Atlanta Hawks draftee Dennis Schroeder handling much of the point guard duties — but it does show off the many ways in which he’s able to score. The tip-in attempts shouldn’t come as a surprise — Exum’s court awareness and near-6-foot-10 wingspan allow him to be an excellent rebounder on both ends for his position. And while he may not possess the same kind of vertical explosiveness as his idol, Derrick Rose, at his best, Exum’s ability to drive and kick with his top-end speed falls right in line with how Rose and other dynamic point guards have set the league on fire. As long as he doesn’t try to adopt Rose’s violent jump-stop, I think he’ll be just fine.
• Thunder forward Kevin Durant looks so incredibility disappointed with his streetball “nickname” in this new Nike ad. Video via YouTube user nikebasketball.
• Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie writes that reality television star Gia Allemand, girlfriend of Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson, has died at 29.
• Ken Berger of CBSSports.com noticed that, for once, everyone seems to have stopped bagging on Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard made a decision, too, this summer. He made a decision with a lower-case ‘d’ — deciding to leave the Lakers for the Rockets, where he felt he had a better chance to win in a city and market that better fit his personality.
Nearly six weeks later, where is the fallout? Where is the outrage? When will Howard grab the persona-non-grata baton from LeBron and tote it around shamefully for a year or more?
• Clippers guard Chauncey Billups has earned more than $104 million in NBA salary and he’s investing it in dozens of Wendy’s restaurants, according to Mark Brandau of NRN.com.
Former professional basketball player Junior Bridgeman has become the first existing Wendy’s franchisee to acquire company-owned locations in the quick-service brand’s recently announced 425-unit refranchising effort.
Bridgeman, one of the restaurant industry’s most established athlete franchisees, bought 30 Wendy’s units in the St. Louis market through BB St. Louis Inc., a partnership between Bridgeman and Chauncey Billups, a point guard for the Detroit Pistons and a 16-year veteran of the National Basketball Association. The deal marks Billups’ first foray into the restaurant industry.
• Knicks guard Raymond Felton appears in a form-fitting Batman shirt on the cover of Slam’s latest Kicks magazine.
One of the first things a pickup baller does when coming to a new court (after they’ve found out who’s got next and if they have five) is to find out how what scoring system they use. Watch a few possessions and you know if the cats can play, watch a little while longer and you notice who can shoot, and who (if anyone) passes. You can tell if they prefer turn-taking, clear-out, iso-style pickup–the cognitive equivalent of tic-tac-toe and checkers or if their approach is more strategic–say like chess or go. Do they collectively treat pickup like a sprint, like a marathon, like a brawl, or more like a picnic?
• Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk wishes Lakers legend Magic Johnson a happy 54th birthday.
• What does it take to be an NBA beat writer? Get to know Baxter Holmes, the Boston Globe’s Celtics beat guy, in this interview with CelticsBlog.com.