廉颇老矣 尚能饭否? 球场风云
Howard's scoring averages the past two seasonshave been his lowest since he was a rookie?Wadedidn't help the Bulls much during a .500 campaignlast season?Nowitzki averaged only 14.2 points lastseason, his fewest since his rookie year?WhyDwight,Dirk and D-Wade have become fallen stars inthe league?
The center who fancied himself as Superman has become a journeyman, joining his fifth team inseven years when his hometown Atlanta Hawks unceremoniously dumped him in a trade to theCharlotte Hornets one disappointing season into a three-year, $70 million deal.
Howard's divorces from the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets weren'tpleasant, but this marked the first time that a team simply had no interest in keeping the five-team first-team All-NBA selection. Atlanta's shift into full-fledged rebuilding mode under newmanagement might have influenced the decision, but the simple fact is that Howard didn'tmake the Hawks better during his one season with the Hawks.
Atlanta was outscored by 2.0 points per 100 possessions when Howard played last season; theHawks were plus-0.7 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor. As much as it botheredHoward, coach Mike Budenholzer had good reason to bench him during fourth quarters in theplayoffs.
Howard remains a dominant rebounder, ranking fourth in the NBA in rebounding percentagelast season, grabbing 23.5 percent of the available boards when he was on the floor. However, with his explosiveness diminished significantly by injuries, the three-time Defensive Player ofthe Year is no longer an impact player on that end of the floor.
Wade can certainly relate to Howard when it comes to awkward homecomings. Wade threw awrench in the Chicago Bulls' rebuilding plans when he exercised his player option for thisseason and was totally transparent about money being his motivation: "24 million reasons," hetold TNT's David Aldridge, well aware that he wouldn't have commanded that kind of a salary onthe open market this summer.
So Wade and the Bulls are engaged in a staring contest, a buyout ultimately in the bestinterest of both parties, neither of which is willing to make it a financially painful transaction atthis point. If and when Wade and the Bulls agree on a buyout, a question will be answered: Howmuch can he still help a contender?
Wade didn't help the Bulls much during a .500 campaign last season. They had a plus-2.1 netrating (points per 100 possessions) when he was off the floor and minus-2.4 when he played, the worst swing among Chicago starters.
Wade's scoring average (18.3 points per game) was certainly respectable, but it was his lowestsince his rookie year, which was the last time he wasn't an All-Star before last season. He hadcareer lows in field goal percentage (43.4) and assists (3.8 per game) as his minutes declinedfor the fourth consecutive season.
(Rankings don't win you championships.)
Precious few players in NBA history have been as productive as Nowitzki was last season at 38 or older. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Reggie Miller haveaveraged more points per game at that age than Nowitzki put up last season, his 19th in aMavericks uniform.
But Nowitzki, who self-deprecatingly refers to himself as a mummy due to his stiffness and lackof mobility, increasingly has to be hidden on defense and is no longer capable of creating onthe isolation plays on which he was virtually unstoppable throughout his extended prime. (Harrison Barnes has inherited that section of the Mavs' playbook.)
"Now, I'm still trying to compete," Nowitzki told ESPN last season. "I enjoy doing it. Obviously, it's not as easy as back in the day. All the extra work you have to put in to stay ready. Nowdealing with injuries that I really never had, it takes the fun away a little bit, but hopefully I canstay healthy and have fun."