Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Sept. 15) -- Jordan Bell gets feel for what it's like to guard LeBron James Staff

This morning’s headlines:

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Rookie gets crash course in guarding LeBron — There are many welcome-to-the-NBA moments in a rookie’s career, but perhaps none is bigger than trying to defend one of the league’s household names. Golden State rookie Jordan Bell got his first taste of that during a pickup game at UCLA in which he had to guard LeBron James at times. Monte Poole of caught up with Bell about that moment:

“We had an open gym in LA, at UCLA, and I was guarding him the whole time,” Bell recalled of a session last month. “It’s different than what you see on TV. It’s waaaay different.”

Bell is a 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward, James a 6-9, 260-pound specimen who defies a conventional position. Insofar as Bell is 22 and James 32, this was a crash course in Grown Man-ism.

“It’s crazy how big he is, how quick he is for his size and how smart he is,” Bell recalled. “He was standing straight up, and I’m thinking he can’t go by me if he’s standing straight up. I’m in a good defensive stance. He’s not crouching.

“But there he goes. I’m not going to say he got by me, but I didn’t realize he was so quick. For him to be standing straight up, there’s no way he should be able to move that fast. I’d understand that quickness if he got lower, but I’ve never seen anybody so quick while standing straight up.”

The University of Oregon product believes he avoided embarrassment, though he clearly was the student to James’ teacher.

“I thought I did a pretty good job on him, but he obviously hit some shots,” Bell said. “But he would get on the block, and I’m containing him, not letting him back me down, and he would fade away from the block to the 3-point line — and make it. And I just played the best defense of my life. It didn’t matter.”

Bell said he left the workout trying to imagine what it must have been like to deal with James five or six years ago, when he was in his mid-20s.

“Back when he was in Miami, it looked like he was quicker than everybody else and stronger than everybody else,” Bell said of James.

Not a lot has changed, really, as James remains the single most physically imposing force in the league. Bell now knows why.

“I know they’re not all like that,” he said. “But, obviously, this is not college any more.”

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Howard sees Charlotte as perfect fit — Last season, Dwight Howard signed with the Atlanta Hawks in free agency in hopes of a career revival of sorts. In the end, he put up his lowest scoring average since his rookie season (13.5 ppg) and was traded by the Hawks this summer to the Charlotte Hornets. Howard talked with the Charlotte Observer‘s Rick Bonnell about how the Hornets will suit him well in 2017-18:

Thirteen seasons into an NBA career that points him to the Hall of Fame, Howard feels a little picked upon. He’s on his third team in as many seasons. His hometown team, the Atlanta Hawks, traded him one season after signing him, and were willing to take back Miles Plumlee’s awful contract to make that deal happen.

Howard sounds ticked off. About two weeks before the start of training camp Sept. 26, he arrived in Charlotte looking to change perception. If that means he’s an older, wiser version of the guy who has passed through four other franchises, all the better.

“This is going to be better than my first couple of years in the league, I think,” Howard said, following an assembly at Starmount Academy, where Howard pledged a $100,000 contribution toward the operation of a Boys and Girls Club at that Charlotte elementary school.

His new coach is also his old coach. The Hornets’ Steve Clifford was an assistant with the Orlando Magic (the team that drafted Howard No. 1 overall in 2004) and with the Los Angeles Lakers when Howard was there. Howard maintains a huge benefit in this trade is his history with Clifford.

“Cliff has been around me from Day One,” Howard said Thursday. “He knows the sort of person I am.”

In particular, Clifford said last week, Howard anticipates what’s about to happen in a basketball game at a very high level.

“I understand so much about the game, and he’s right: I can see things before they happen,” Howard said when told of Clifford’s description.

Then Howard sidetracked into how he feels he’s been misrepresented by media pundits.

“There have been writers who get national attention who have said things about me that stick in people’s minds and in their hearts,” Howard said.

“I’ve allowed things that have been said about me to have an effect on me.”

“This opportunity for myself to really get back everything that I would say has been taken away. I’m not too much worried about the naysayers, the rankings and stuff, but just the hearts of the people,” Howard said. “I’m in a much better place mentally, physically and spiritually than I have been in a couple of years.”

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Reports: Knicks, Jack closing in on deal — So far in his career, Jarrett Jack has played in 70 or more games in seven of his 11 NBA seasons. Injuries have slowed him over the last two seasons as he played in just 34 games in that span, but he remains a capable backup guard when healthy. The Knicks are banking on his dependability and are closing in on a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with Jack, writes Ian Bagley of

The 33-year-old point guard has been limited by two major right knee injuries in the past two seasons. If healthy, he gives the Knicks another veteran to potentially mentor rookie Frank Ntilikina.

Jack’s agreement with the Knicks, which was first reported by Basketball Insiders, is for one year and is not fully guaranteed.

General manager Scott Perry has said that the club would look to add veterans to play alongside Ntilikina, whom the Knicks selected with the No. 8 pick in June’s draft.

In addition to Jack, the Knicks also signed veteran guard Ramon Sessions. It is unclear at this point whether Sessions or Ntilikina will start at point guard for New York, which is coming off of a 31-win season.

Jack has struggled through injuries in the past two seasons. He suffered a right ACL injury early in the 2015-16 season while with the Brooklyn Nets and was unable to return. Jack then inked a deal with Atlanta prior to the 2016-17 season, but he was waived prior to the season after being unable to participate in training camp.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jarrett Jack and the Knicks are reportedly finalizing a one-year, non-guaranteed deal … Could the Bulls’ signing of Diamond Stone pave the way for a Robin Lopez trade? … The Kings have a new court colorway they’ll use this season … Dwight Howard has donated $100,000 to start a Boys and Girls Club in Charlotte … Cleveland’s renovations to Quicken Loans Arena may help it’s hopes of getting the All-Star Game in 2020 or 2021