|Ah, yes...I can see why The Kahn would be interested!|
NBA lockout: 14 days and counting...
Only two weeks in and I find myself starved for something, ANYTHING, to happen. Just one crappy free agent signing, just one dumb trade...I HAVE NEEDS! Thankfully, the Big Quote Machine (Shaq) is completely unshackled from his NBA lockout/PR burdens and is free to stir the pot like only Shaq can.
In his TNT introductory press conference today, Shaq gave us a little gem that will likely go largely unnoticed. It's not controversial, it's not going to rock the boat, and it's likely not going to ruffle any feathers (I hate this phrase...why am I using it?), but it's pointedness and simplicity are incredibly profound.
"If he (Dwight Howard) doesn't get 2-3 championships, I'll be very disappointed. He has no competition out there. None."
Wow Shaq! Call it like you see it, Big Fella! As you think about his statement, keep in mind the acrimonious relationship between the two All-Star centers. Though often as petty as a sibling dispute over what to watch on television, their feud erupted into an all out media war over the last few years. Just how petty was it, you ask? Shaq was offended and angered over Howard's use of a Superman costume during the dunk contest because Shaq was "the REAL Superman." So yeah...petty probably isn't a strong enough word.
Childish as the feud may be, there is definitely bad blood between the two. Still, that doesn't mean Shaq's quote rings hollow as the bitter outcry of an old, washed up ball player. In fact, Shaq's intimation that the center position is the MOST important position is entirely fundamental to the way the game has been played, coached, and managed throughout its history. This fact, combined with Howard's abilities, makes Shaq's comments well worth examining.
Earlier in the week, I wrote a piece about the death of the center position. The decline of the position since the mid 90's has been rapid and steep. Instead of Shaq, Ewing, Olajuwon, Robinson, and Mourning; we now have Howard, Brook Lopez, Andrea Bargnani, Marc Gasol, and Andrew Bogut. Nothing against Gasol or Bogut, but I think I'll take Ewing and Robinson. Not only has the talent level at the position declined, but the overall size of the players has been reduced as well. Al Jefferson, Al Horford, Andrea Bargnani, Nene, Emeka Okafor, Chuck Hayes, and others are all either well under 7'0" or well under weight. Throughtout the early 2000's, Shaq feasted on the plethora of undersized and undertalented "big men," to the tune of 25ppg+ and 10rpg+ in his prime.
If anybody understands the true nature of a size advantage, it's Shaq. If anybody understands the true competitive advantage of a dominant center, it's Shaq. Do not dismiss his comments about expecting Howard to win multiple championships, because he's right on the money. The fact is, Shaq is right about the competitive advantage Howard has. There truly is no competition for him! How else would a player with as little offensive skill as Howard average nearly 23ppg? HE'S BIGGER THAN EVERYONE ELSE! Think girly Brook Lopez can guard him in the post? Think the human toothpick Andrea Bargnani can guard him in the post? How about comically undersized Chuck Hayes, or earth-bound power forward Al Jefferson? (Hint: The answer to all those questions is no...)
A quick survey of NBA history tells us that Shaq is indeed correct about the value of having a dominant low post player.
*George Mikan and his Minneapolis Lakers won 4 championships
*Bill Russell and his Boston Celtics won 11 championships
*Wilt Chamberlain won 2 championships (76ers, Lakers) and went to 4 others, losing twice to Russell and twice to Willis Reed
*Willis Reed and his Knicks won 2 championships
*Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won 6 championships (1 with Milwaukee, 5 with the Lakers)
*Hakeem Olajuwon and his Rockets won 2 championships
*Shaq won 4 championships (3 with the Lakers, 1 with the Heat)
*Tim Duncan and his Spurs won 4 championships
That's 35 of the 62 NBA Championships! That doesn't even account for Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Dave Cowens, Bill Walton, Bob Pettit, and Dolph Schayes winning one apiece (Cowens actually won two, and I'm not giving Walton credit for winning one as the 6th man on the 1986 Celtics)! Add those up and you have 42 of 62 NBA Championships being won by a team with a dominant big man. The only team to experience significant long term success without a dominant center was the Chicago Bulls...and please, let me know when the re-incarnated Michael Jordan shows up to take his league back.
The point is, Dwight Howard has a MASSIVE advantage and whatever team he plays for will have a HUGE head start in their championship quest. Though long overdue, Howard made significant strides last year in becoming the type of dominant, go-to low post threat that he should be. Many people, including myself, thought Howard should have been the easy MVP selection. Perhaps another summer (and maybe fall...and maybe winter...kill me now...) of work to refine his skills, combined with an improved supporting cast, will push Howard over the top as both an MVP candidate and a franchise player.
And that brings us to the most interesting part of this whole topic. What uniform will Howard be wearing when he brings home his hardware? My opinion is that Shaq is 100% spot on with his comments and that Dwight Howard should be the single most impactful player over the next five or six seasons. As I've detailed, no player in the league is equipped to guard Howard, and even a moderate improvement to his game should allow Howard to have a Shaq-like impact next season. In all seriousness, why shouldn't Howard average a 30/15 next year? Why shouldn't he single handedly destroy every playoff opponent he faces?
While skepticism on Howard's future development is warranted, I'd quickly advise any NBA GM to ardently pursue him. He's still young (26), he's shown steady improvement every year, and he's proven to be a hard worker. The main problem for Orlando last year definitely wasn't Dwight Howard, it was the players surrounding him.
Given the uncertainty about the future CBA, it's impossible to predict where Howard will end up and if a "Carmelo" situation will unfold between Howard and the Magic. All I will say is, if I'm Orlando, I would do anything and everything in my power to put some pieces around him and make him happy. And if I'm Los Angeles, Golden State, New Jersey, or any other team with a realistic chance to land Howard; I'm giving up the farm.
As goofy as Shaq is, he understands how this league works and he understands how to win. There is no real competition for Dwight Howard in today's NBA, and, shy of Greg Oden being touched by Jesus Christ himself, it doesn't appear as if there is any real competition on the horizon. Dwight Howard stands alone as a man among boys. Shaq is right, Howard should DEFINITELY take him 2 or 3 championships during his career. If I'm a GM, I'd take those results in a heartbeat.
We all love a good David Kahn joke and Kahn is usually generous enough to provide with endless amounts of fresh material. Here's what Kahn has been up to lately:
After holding coach Kurt Rambis hostage for 3 months, Kahn finally announced that Rambis would not remain as coach for the 2011-2012 season. There's a lot to be said about this story, so I'll try to boil it down into two points.
1.) How can you possibly keep a coach in limbo for three months? No, Rambis didn't do the greatest of jobs, but it's not like you can expect much when you hand Darko and Luke Ridnour to work with! Rambis dealt with a lot of crap during his short time in Minnesota, and he definitely did not deserve the brutal treatment he received at the end. By keeping his fate a mystery, Kahn essentially prevented Rambis from seeking other coaching or basketball related positions. Look, we all knew Kahn was going to can Rambis! It wasn't a secret! Kahn can't even handle the simple job of firing his coach!
2.) Kahn is stupid for hiring Rambis in the first place! I'm not killing Rambis' coaching ability here, I'm killing Kahn for hiring an obviously poor fit. Recently, Kahn made an appearance on the BS Report (shocking considering how often Simmons rips him) and detailed his vision to run an exciting, fast paced offensive system. That's all good and well, but why would you hire a coach who runs the Triangle offense? The Triangle is a notoriously slow paced offense!!! HOW DO YOU NOT THINK ABOUT THIS?!?!? Rip on Rambis all you want, but this was doomed to failure from the beginning. Kahn hires a slow paced coach to run a fast paced offense and then drafts a pick and roll point guard to run the aforementioned slow paced (no pick and roll) offense. Sounds great.
Now that Kahn has finally pulled the trigger on Rambis, the coaching search is finally underway. Early rumors have Kahn once again looking for a coach who favors a fast paced offense, and the early returns have linked both Rick Adelman and Don Nelson to the position. Yes, you read that correctly...Don Nelson. Honestly, I thought Don Nelson had died! He's 147 years old! Don Nelson?! Are you kidding me?! The same Don Nelson who pretty much quit on the Warriors midseason? The same Don Nelson who looked like he was taking naps during games? That Don Nelson???
Given how toxic the situation is in Minnesota, I wonder why any legitimate coach would want to take over that team. There's no hope of winning, there's a 100% chance of Kahn making a disastrous personnel decision (I'm betting on Kevin Love to Boston for Jeff Green and a future 1st round pick...actually, I'm hoping), and there's a 150% chance that Kahn is fired in the next season or two, ushering in a new front office regime that will likely want to hire its own coach. Rick Adelman is an absolute pipe dream for David Kahn...I'd be beyond shocked if he even interviewed for the position.
Perhaps then, that explains the mutual interest in Don Nelson. Kahn must know he can't land a serious candidate, and Nelson must understand there is literally no other way back to an NBA bench. You know what? I hope Nelson gets hired, I hope he starts taking in-game naps again, I hope Ricky Rubio is as bad as I think he will be, I hope Kahn makes a few stupid trades, and I hope Kahn never gets fired. Ever. He's simply too entertaining.