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Czar’s Season Preview

Czar's Preview-Houston-Rockets-29OCT2013

Around the League

Dwight Howard Photo ShootThe Miami Heat held up the championship trophy on June 20th, and a week later the 2013 NBA Draft was held in Brooklyn. Since then some veteran stars have relocated while others chose to remain with their current squads. Here’s a quick hits edition of the five most influential signings of the past few weeks:

The most speculated upon player this off-season was Dwight Howard. Entering his 10th pro campaign, the 27-year old, 7X All-Star, 5X Rebounding champ and 3X Defensive Player of the Year chose to depart the glitz and glamour of the Lakers and hitch on with the Rockets and head coach Kevin McHale. Howard was never truly comfortable in LA and it showed. He griped about Mike D’Antoni’s offense and his misuse. Nonetheless, Howard still led the league in boards, and when motivated he’s easily the best 5-man in the league.

Mikhail Prokhorov promised a winner when he bought the Nets a few years ago. With the acquisition via trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the rebuilding Celtics, Brooklyn now has the most talented first 5 in the league with PG Deron Williams, SG Joe Johnson and C Brook Lopez. KG and The Truth may not have much left in the tank, but they will bring leadership and championship pedigree to a franchise that has struggled in the standings for so many years. And come the 2014 playoffs, these two won’t back down from anyone, including LeBron.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles ClippersThe Cleveland Cavaliers have the best young lead guard in the NBA in Kyrie Irving. And now they’ve gambled on the mercurial Andrew Bynum, who, when healthy, is one of the two or three best centers in the league. Only 6 million of Bynum’s two-year, 24-million-dollar contract with the Cavs is guaranteed, which is important in this case considering that Bynum played zero minutes last year for the 76ers due to knee issues. Entering his 9th year, Bynum is only 25 years old and has two championship rings from his time with Kobe and Co. If he can stay healthy this could be the best free agent signing of the summer.

The Golden State Warriors upset the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs and then a few weeks later signed free agent Andre Iguodala away from them. Entering his 10th year, the above-average defender Iguodala brings a toughness and well rounded game to coach Mark Jackson’s relatively young team. Iggy’s career averages are impressive:  15.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.9 apg and 1.7 spg. He is a strong, sturdy wing player who has played in all 82 games five times in his career.

I’m going to combine a player and coach for my final pick – Chris Paul and Doc Rivers. Paul is the best point guard in basketball and pushed hard for the Clippers to go out and get the respected Rivers. After 9 seasons in Boston, including a title and another trip to the Finals, Rivers expressed interest in departing the rebuilding C’s. He found the perfect landing spot with “LA’s second team.” The talented Clips are on the verge of making the jump to title contender. However, if CP3 had decided to leave via free agency, LA would have slipped back to average in the talent-heavy Western Conference.

Czar Trivia

Will the third team be a charm for newly signed Rocket Dwight Howard? Here are some fun facts to welcome Howard to Houston:

  • The total area of Houston is so large it could contain the cities of New York, Boston, and San Francisco combined.
  • Howard will be in good company if his rigorous NBA schedule keeps him too busy to cook. H-Town residents eat out more times a week than folks in any other American city.
  • Houston is home to the world’s largest livestock show. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo attracts more than 2.2 million visitors each year.
  • When the Apollo 11 moon lander touched down, Neil Armstrong said, “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed,” making “Houston” the first word said on the moon. And Houston’s official nickname is appropriately “Space City.”
  • Dwight won’t get bored during the off-season. Houston is one of only five cities with professional resident companies in all four major performing arts disciplines: the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Ballet and The Alley Theatre. Located downtown, the 17-block Theater District is home to eight performing arts organizations. With 12,948 seats for live performances and 1,580 movie seats, it’s second only to NYC as far as its concentration of seats in one area.

Gameday Dish: Clippers vs. Lakers

Whose town is Los Angeles anyway? The Lakers’ with their 16 NBA titles and handfuls of players in the Hall of Fame? Or the Clippers’ – the new guys in town (1984 to be exact) with zero division titles and never a sniff of the finals?

Well, in seasons past this wasn’t even debatable. But in hoops, like everything else on this basketball-shaped planet, things change. LA is not Laker Town anymore – in 2013 it belongs to the Clips.

The 38-17 Clippers lead the Pacific Division by 6.5 games over second place Golden State and are 12 games ahead of Kobe & crew. In fact, with a win tonight coach Vinny del Negro’s squad can take the four-game season series from their Staples Center rivals. The last time the Clippers took the series from the Lakers was in 1992-1993.

The Clippers bested the Lake Show on November 2nd and January 4th by the respective scores of 105-95 and 107-102. 17th-year superstar Bryant had 40 and 38 in the two games, while the Clips’ leader PG Chris Paul dished out 15 and 13 dimes.

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles ClippersCoach Mike D’Antoni’s team is 25-28, but has seemingly righted their ship of late with five wins in their last seven games, six of which were on the road. Their most recent 48 was Tuesday in Phoenix, where Bryant only scored 4 points on 1 for 8 shooting, but dished out a game-high 9 assists in the victory. The much maligned Dwight Howard had 19 points and 18 boards in 41 minutes, and his recent shoulder issues seem to be on the mend.

LAC is operating at full strength with 16th-year combo guard “Mr. Big Shot” Chauncey Billups back after missing 49 games due to injury. The Clippers earned their third W in row when they beat the Rockets last night at home. They came out of the gate on fire and put up 46 first quarter points, the most points they’ve scored in a quarter since 1986. Blake Griffin had 20 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in 32 minutes. Best 1-guard in the NBA Chris Paul had 10 points, 11 dimes and 3 steals in 31 minutes.

Tune in tonight at 10:30 PM ET to TNT to watch four of the West’s five All-Star starters (Bryant, Howard, Griffin and Paul) battle for supremacy at Staples.

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