Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Nov. 5): James Harden, Dwight Howard meet up in Atlanta

Harden, Howard reunite | Porzingis returns, too | Lakers blow out Warriors | Hurt Nowitzki on shelf

No. 1: Odd couple Harden, Howard meet again — It certainly hasn’t stirred up the strong emotions and the psychiatrist’s coach overanalyzing of Kevin Durant playing his first game against his old pals from Oklahoma City. It likely won’t conjure up he visceral reaction of seeing Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah wearing New York uniforms on their first trip back into Chicago. The pairing of James Harden and Dwight Howard was always an uncomfortable fit in Houston and their breakup was met mostly with yawns. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle says tonight’s first meeting between the pair in Atlanta has produced no advance fireworks:

With Harden and Howard, that led to widespread assumptions about their relationship. They always denied it was as destructive as it was described, but neither was it good enough for their partnership to last.

“It didn’t bother me,” Harden said of the impression that exists about their relationship. “I know what the truth is. There’s no beef. We never got into a heated argument or anything. It just didn’t work out.”

Harden has said “the vibe” with the Rockets is better, a comment that was assumed a reference to the most conspicuous change since last season. There is no doubt the mood is better, a change he expects to last through tough times. In some ways, players seemed relieved to have last season fully behind them. Still, there was a tension now gone.

“It was tough,” Harden said. “We lost and it was draining. Everything was draining. It was tiring. It wasn’t fun at all. It’s a different feeling this year for sure. The ‘vibe’ means we have different players. We have to figure out how to make them feel as comfortable as possible. That’s what I meant by different vibe.”


No. 2: Porzingis makes a statement — While most of the focus Friday night in Chicago was looking back with the return of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to the United Center, our man Steve Aschburner says the more significant event going forward was the strong play of young power forward Kristaps Porzingis for the Knicks after a few miserable performances:

“I think maybe it was in the back of their heads of my teammates to get me more involved than I was in the last game,” Porzingis said afterward. “We reacted quickly when there was a mismatch. A lot of times they switched on me with the guard. They gave it to me and I was able to attack.”

Both Porzingis, who got seven 3-point attempts and made four, and coach Jeff Hornacek cited New York’s spacing. “It was not as crowded as our last game and we made concerted effort to get out into open spaces,” Hornacek said.

Whether he ‘fessed up to impatience of his own, it was clear that Knicks fans were getting impatient on his behalf.

“I was just learning from my own mistakes,” said Porzingis, also referring to the Rockets game as a “reality check.”

“Games where I didn’t play so well and I wasn’t getting the ball enough, I was trying to get in situations where I can be more aggressive and attack from there. I know teammates are going to find me – when I’m open, they’re going to kick the ball to me.”


No. 3: No 3s, no chance for Warriors — The famously sharp-shooting Warriors have been struggling to make 3-point shots since the season began. On Friday night it was particularly evident, notes Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News. Not only did the team misfire all night long in a 20-point thumping by the Lakers, but Stephen Curry had his streak of 157 straight games with a 3-pointer made snapped:

Two statistics told the story: 20 Warriors turnovers, which including a batch of unforced, strange errors. And a 5-of-32 night from 3. Twenty of those attempts came from either Curry or Klay Thompson. The duo only combined to make two.

Thompson’s night, while slightly better (2-of-10 as opposed to 0-of-10) is the more concerning. It continued his prolonged early-season shooting slump. He’s now 9-of-46 (19 percent) from 3 on the year. Friday night, he missed a variety of uncontested attempts, looking increasingly frustrated with each brick.

“You just leave him be,” Kevin Durant said. “He’s good. Missing shots, so what? Move on. Keep shooting. We want him to keep shooting.”

The Warriors delivered the same message to Curry. He’s streaky and Golden State gladly rides those waves. He slumbered through the first 24 minutes in Portland two games ago and then erupted for 23 in the third quarter to break the game open. So there was a feeling, after an 0-of-6 first half Friday night, he’d awake after halftime.

But Curry didn’t, missing all four of his second half 3s. It was the first time since November of 2014 he had gone without a made 3.

“The what?” Curry said when asked about the streak. “Oh yeah, that’s right. It was a cool little ride…Kind of weird not to make one.”

Last season, en route to an NBA record 73 wins, one of Golden State’s nine losses came against a terrible Lakers team on a Sunday afternoon in Staples Center. In that game, the Splash Brothers went 1-of-18 combined from three, making them 3-of-37 their last two times on this floor.

“Our annual beatdown in Staples,” Kerr said.


No. 4: Achilles injury to sideline Dirk — It’s bad enough that you’ve just taken a Friday night beatdown at home from the Trail Blazers to run the poor start to the season to a historically bad 0-5 record. But now comes word from Tim McMahon of that the nagging Achilles’ tendon injury that has slowed Dirk Nowitzki will keep the future Hall of Fame out of the lineup for at least a week:

“He’s going to be out for a while,” coach Rick Carlisle said during his news conference Friday night after the Mavs fell to 0-5 for the first time in franchise history with a 105-95 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. “We’ll update you guys in about seven days. He’s not going to play at least until then.”

Nowitzki, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, did not play in the second half of Friday’s loss due to the soreness, which has been an issue since late in the preseason. He had five points on 2-of-6 shooting in 16 minutes during the first half.

“He didn’t reinjure the Achilles,” Carlisle told reporters. “It’s just lingering. It’s not getting better the way it needs to, so we’ve got to shut it down.”

Nowitzki, a 13-time All-Star who remains the Mavs’ franchise player in his 19th NBA season, has led Dallas to the playoffs in 15 of the past 16 seasons. The lone exception was the 2012-13 season, when Nowitzki missed the first two months after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

“It’s bad news, but we’ll get through it,” Carlisle said in his news conference. “We’ve gone some periods like this before, but his health is the most important thing. He’s more than willing to continue playing, but it’s pretty obvious that things aren’t right, so we’ve got to do the right thing here and back him off.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Because he lost a World Series bet to his good buddy Dwyane Wade, LeBron James will have to wear a Cubs uniform…Coach David Fizdale wants to see more teeth and better defense out of his Grizzlies…Mark Cuban says he was asked to pay Donald Trump to quit the presidential race…Steve Kerr and Draymond Green are unhappy with the way referees are treating the Warriors…George Hill clears up his comments on a contract extension in Utah…Chandler Parsons is slated to make his season debut on Tuesday against the Nuggets.