LaMarcus Aldridge's Big Leap Forward
Kevin Arnovitz speaks to Blazers big man LaMarcus Aldridge about the new mood in Portlandia, Roy Hibbert's comments about Aldridge's post moves and teammate Damian Lillard's musical stylings.
If you have little children and find yourself subletting a place that has a long, white, linen-covered couch you should throw sheets on it. This is obvious. And yet we did not take these precautions. Why not?
I lamented this oversight for about one second before moving on to the real issue, which was much darker—it was my fault. I have a weakness, indulged only occasionally, for sugar-free Popsicles. I like them in combination with N.B.A. basketball. I had watched the playoffs during that month in his house, and, once, (once!) had bought a box of these Popsicles. I must have let one slide down between the cushions. Then, at some impossible-to-determine point, an hour or a week later, while we were innocently going about our lives, a silent bomb exploded and incinerated two thousand dollars.
Our life in the sublet place had been mostly happy. The house was located on a prim, pretty street in New Orleans right next to Audubon Park. Sometimes, in the morning, I would stroll out into the heat shirtless, my baby boy on my hip wearing a diaper and nothing more. In the park, with its birds, water, and sweating joggers, we fit right in. I rejoiced in the feel of his skin on mine, and in the smiles his baby fat elicited. But now, hearing of the Popsicle, this indiscreet shirtlessness felt like a rationalization for being a slob.
Part of the horror of the two-thousand-dollar Popsicle was, naturally, the money. But another part was the fact that in my marriage, my wife is the neat, fastidious one worried about germs, and I am the easy-going one who doesn’t mind a little dirt. She finds this tiring. And now this happens.
I often hear that Howard has “no offensive game” or “no post moves.” This is the kind of hyperbole that misleads not just because it is hyperbole, but because its spirit is wrong. Howard is a good offensive player; he’s not merely subsisting on alley oops and tip-ins.
Dwight’s footwork is fine, he can often freeze a guy with a rocker step and jaunt towards the rim. Back to the basket, Dwight likes to shade one way, and fluidly spin in the other direction, leaving his defender to watch the whirl. If you’re looking at Dwight’s feet, you won’t find his Achilles’ heel.
Flaws can be found in his handle, his court vision, and yes, his (free throw and otherwise) shooting. Fortunately for him, these flaws round out the least essential elements for a prototypical big man.
I don’t think the aforementioned flaws contribute much to the negative perception of Howard’s offense, with the exception of his shooting. But his problem is broader than an errant shot–it’s how bad it looks when the ball goes in. Dwight’s form is highly constrained, as though he’s trying to avoid an invisible barrier. Howard does not feel comfortable fully unfurling his lengthy arms, so he always appears to be pulling back from the ball, even as he pushes it.
This description is also applicable to Dwight’s hook shot, which can have the vertical trajectory of a floater. For whatever reason, Howard prefers to loft the ball rather than swing his arm towards the basket a la Kareem. This can give the visual impression that his made buckets are almost accidental, especially since Dwight pulls back from the ball at the last instant, like a batter checking a swing. It is hard for an observer to have confidence in such a method, even if the method is sound.
When Andrew Bynum takes a hook shot, his fully extended arm is grazing planets. The shot is blessed by a fluid, swinging, follow through. Bynum’s hand chases the ball towards its destination, making success seem quite intentional. When the twine flutters, Drew is still pointing in that direction. If you used CGI to make the ball invisible, Bynum would look like a wizard, casting a spell at the net. If you did the same with a Dwight shot, the swish might appear more coincidental than summoned.
Aside from free throws, there is nothing, nothing at all that Andrew Bynum does better than Dwight Howard. And yet, there is the sense that Bynum’s game is more refined.
The difference from this year to last year was Shane Battier. That’s why we went after him so hard in the offseason. People looked at that as a little unconventional. They thought we had so many wing players, why would we go after another one? But he was the key to really unlock all our versatility and to put our best players out there and really be positionless and make other teams have to adjust to us.
"We talk about process, but process is work. It's doing your work every day. It is not just a word, it's an action that we do every day. Nothing is going to change. We're going to come to work today and work on things that we think that is going to help us win tomorrow night, but that process is always about work, and our guys believe in that, and that's not going to change."
"It doesn’t have to be basketball. It can be a musical instrument or it can be learning mathematics or going to law school or figuring out how to turn the water off in your house because you’re an idiot.
If you can’t figure that out you just keep looking, keep trying, keep going."
-- Gregg Popovich, explaining his "pounding the rock" Jacob Riis quote, as quoted by 48 Minutes of Hell