Dwight Howard and 9 Other NBA Stars Who Will Revive Their Careers in 2012-13
Every NBA season, there's a collection of players who revive their careers in one way or another.
There are numerous reasons why players have down years in the NBA. It could be injuries, unfavorable situations, a poor supporting cast or simply just a down year. Unless a player is done physically, a comeback is always possible.
A down year doesn't have to mean just a lack of production but could also be the result of a poor relationship with the fans and media. You could make an argument LeBron James revived his career this past season when he led the Miami Heat to an NBA championship. James is no longer viewed as a career loser, and most people outside of Cleveland have moved on from the circus he caused when he bolted town.
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Whether it was smart for the Brooklyn Nets to pay Gerald Wallace $40 million over four years is debatable. Wallace is a player who depends on his athleticism and hustle to be effective, and at the age of 30, who knows if he'll be nearly as effective in years three and four as he will be in years one and two.
But the Nets don't seem too concerned with how players will perform at the end of their contract, which was made evident by the fact that all five of their starters make an average of over $10 million per season. All the Nets care about is making sure their inaugural season in Brooklyn is a success.
The Nets are going to go from a rarely talked about basketball franchise to a glamorous side option to the New York Knicks. The Nets made all the headline signings and trades in the offseason and on paper have arguably the third or fourth best roster in the Eastern Conference.
With the rise of the Nets in the standings and in relevancy will also come a career revival for Wallace. He'll be an X-factor on this Nets roster, especially this upcoming season.
Wallace is a glue guy, a defensive hound who will be much needed when facing players like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. With the star power of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, Wallace will be the perfect above average role player that makes everything flow smoothly.
Playing in Portland and Charlotte made Wallace an afterthought at times, but now that he's back in the spotlight, expect his career to make one last relevant spike.
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Brandon Roy may not return to the level he was at from 2008 to 2010 when he was the third best shooting guard in the NBA, but he could easily revive his career as a reliable role player for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Roy signed with the Wolves for two years, $10.4 million. What the Wolves will get out of Roy will be a mystery until the season starts, but teaming up in the backcourt with Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea has the potential to be deadly (assuming Rubio can return to full strength).
In a literal sense, just being back in the NBA again will revive Roy's NBA career. It may take him time to adjust to a new situation as a role player, but a player as smart as Roy should figure it out in due time.
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If you look at just the stat sheet, Dirk Nowitzki's 2011-12 season did not look poor. He still averaged 21.6 points and 6.7 rebounds rebounds per game, as well as 89 percent from the free-throw line.
But if you watched the Dallas Mavericks last year, the fear Nowitzki put on opponents in the 2010-11 season was gone. He also shot the lowest shooting percentage from the field since his rookie season.
The slight decline can be explained rather easily. Nowitzki had a championship hangover, and there were questions asking if he started the 2011-12 season out of shape. The Mavericks also had a significantly weaker roster in 2011-12, which can reflect badly on the team's best player.
The Star-Telegram reported that Nowitzki said he wasn't out of shape, but did admit his body wasn't where it needed to be to start the season. He said:
You saw on my jump shot I had no lift, shot most of them straight-legged. Had no air time. This week I really focused on getting my legs under my shot again and bending down and getting low and getting the right base.
In order to avoid another slow start for the 2012-13 season, Nowitzki said he changed his offseason workout program.
Nowitzki is 34, and its imperative that a player of that age puts in extra work in order to continue to be an elite player. Last season was the first time Nowitzki's body let him down. Recognizing his time may be coming to an end, expect Nowitzki to enter this season in tip-top shape.
With the Mavericks' roster improvements and a re-energized Nowitzki, expect a career revival from the "German Wunderkind."
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Pau Gasol's decline in the 2011-12 NBA season was largely overstated. Instead, Gasol was largely misused in an effort to give Andrew Bynum more of a featured role.
Gasol will still be asked to play power forward, but the Los Angeles Lakers will also switch to a new offense—the Princeton offense.
The Princeton offense, made famous by former Princeton coach Pete Carril, emphasizes constant motioning, passing and back-door cuts. Gasol is a great passing big man, and the addition of Steve Nash should only make this offense flourish in Los Angeles.
The Sacramento Kings from 1996 to 2006 ran the Princeton offense. Because of their skilled passing big men, Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Brad Miller, the Kings ran the offense to near perfection in their heyday. It's yet to be seen how good of a passer Howard can be, especially with improved teammates, but this offense is tailor made for Gasol.
Gasol was brilliant in the Summer Olympics, where he proved he can still take any big man to the woodshed with his low-post moves. The addition of Howard and Nash will take more pressure off Gasol. The implementation of the Princeton offense will give Gasol more open looks and will allow him use his skills to the Lakers' benefit, instead of wasting them.
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2011-12 wasn't a failure for Stephen Curry because of a decline in his production but because he had trouble staying on the court. Curry missed 41 of the Warriors' 66 games last season, and his points per game dropped by nearly four.
Curry is expected to be ready for training camp when he will prepare to get his NBA career back on track.
In his first two seasons, Curry was one of the best young point guards in the league. As long as Curry can avoid the ankle sprains that spoiled his third NBA season, he should lead a frisky Warriors team to compete for a spot in the postseason. ESPN reported that Curry talked about his positive expectations for the Warriors. Curry said:
We have size, we have shooting and we have a better defensive unit. When you add all those things up, it adds up to more wins.
The Warriors do have talent surrounding Curry including Klay Thompson and newly drafted Harrison Barnes. With Monta Ellis now on the Milwaukee Bucks, Curry is expected to be the new leader. Entering his fourth NBA season, Curry is ready to handle the load.
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It was only a year ago when Derrick Rose wore the crown of "Best Point Guard in the NBA." Rose won the Most Valuable Player award for the 2010-11 season, making him the youngest recipient in NBA history. He was also the leader of a feisty Chicago Bulls team, who many expected to give the Miami Heat a run for their money.
After being injured for a large part of the 2011-12 NBA regular season, then tearing his ACL against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, Rose has largely been overlooked and forgotten. The hot debate now for best point guard title is between Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo, and rightfully so. Both players did a spectacular job leading their teams a season ago.
ACL tears are tricky. It's usually a year-long injury (Don't tell Adrian Peterson that) and can take up to two years before players can return to the level they were at pre-injury.
Rose should return at some point this upcoming season, and then he will attempt to carry his Bulls back to the point they were before he got injured.
The Bulls are an easy write off without Rose, but don't underestimate them. Coach Tom Thibodeau is one of the NBA's best and should make sure the Bulls find a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs regardless of when Rose returns.
Once Rose does return, the Bulls will once again become a legitimate threat in the East. Imagine if Rose returns in March or April, and the Bulls snag a playoff seed somewhere between No. 5 through No. 8. The Heat or Boston Celtics, or any top seed, won't be excited to have to face off against Rose and the Bulls in Round 1.
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O.J. Mayo always seemed under utilized with the Memphis Grizzlies, and he'll finally get the chance to prove that was the case this upcoming season with the Dallas Mavericks.
Mayo signed a multi-year deal to play for the Mavericks, where he will likely get a chance to start again. Coming off the bench for the Grizzlies in each of the last two seasons resulted in a statistical drop for Mayo, but he believes he's a much better player now than when he was a rookie. ESPN Dallas reported that Mayo said:
Even though the stats don't show it, I'm mentally and physically a better player. I'm just looking forward to going out there and getting the opportunity to show that I'm a starting guard in this league and I can compete with the other starting guards in this league and compete at a high level.
The Mavericks will look significantly different this upcoming season with the additions of Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Mayo. Since Mayo will likely start, he'll have the opportunity to revive his career that looked very promising when he was picked third overall in the 2008 NBA draft.
Other than Nowitzki, the Mavericks don't have many players on the roster who demand shots. Mayo will get the most looks and opportunities he's ever had in his young career.
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Eric Gordon played in a whopping nine games for the New Orleans Hornets last season. Despite playing in so few games for the Hornets, the team matched the Phoenix Suns' hefty four-year, $58 million contract.
Gordon will now team with 2012 No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis, as they attempt to get the Hornets back to the playoffs after a one-year absence.
Gordon's not exactly the most durable player, playing more than 62 games a season in only his rookie year.
Playing more than half the 2012-13 season would account for a career revival for Gordon. He's a special talent when he's on the floor, averaging more than 18 points in his career. With the current crop of shooting guards in the NBA, Gordon is arguably a top five talent at the position.
The addition of Davis and fellow first-round draft pick Austin Rivers will take pressure off Gordon as he attempts to rejuvenate his NBA career. It wasn't long ago when Gordon was regarded as one of the best young talents in the NBA. If he's healthy, there's no reason to believe he won't become an all-star level guard.
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Deron Williams has been a top-level point guard for awhile now, but fell out of relevancy since being traded to the lowly Nets.
The Nets revamped in a big way in the offseason, as they prepare to open their inaugural season Brooklyn. Williams is now the face of the new New York franchise.
Similar to teammate Wallace, Williams will benefit greatly from the Brooklyn exposure. Williams' talent hasn't slipped, but he's been less watched on a bad NBA team which has resulted in less exposure. The Nets will be significantly better this season, so Williams will once again be one of the most marketable players in the NBA.
It's hard for a player to stay relevant when he doesn't play in any meaningful games. Williams, who competed in the playoffs on a regular basis as a member of the Utah Jazz, should get a taste of playoff action this upcoming season with the Nets. Fans who haven't watched Williams since his days with the Jazz will quickly be reminded how good of a player Williams is.
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Dwight Howard wasn't a disappointment on the court in 2011-12, but he was more than a disaster off it.
Good thing for Howard that winning makes everyone forget. Taking from LeBron James' notebook, court success and a championship can cure many things, especially Howard's career off the court. Laker fans won't care if Howard was a jerk on his way out of Orlando. All they care about is getting to the NBA Finals and spanking whoever they face.
As noted earlier in the Gasol section, the Lakers will implement the Princeton offense this season. In order to make the most of the new offense, Howard will need to become a strong passer and selfless player (or at least hope Kobe Bryant can become a selfless player).
Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick asked Pete Carril, the coach who perfected the Princeton offense, how Howard would fit into the new Lakers offense. Carril said:
With coaching and teaching and understanding of what this can do, he might turn out to be better than he is now. He should be. If he takes instruction and he listens, and of course he's playing with better players now too. He's got two Hall of Fame players for sure on that team at guard, so they're going to have a profound influence on him.
Carril's assessment of the effect Nash and Bryant will have on Howard needs to be hammered home. Not only will those two players improve Howard's game on the court, but they will help him off the court as well.
Howard has never shown the ability to be a good team leader. There's no better leader in the NBA than Nash, and as you know, Bryant is the best there is in terms of leading by example. Bryant's work ethic is legendary.
The two guards will have a profound effect on Howard not only as a player, but as a person. The first step in Howard's career revival was getting traded to the Lakers. Now he's finally under the right guidance that will help him reach his true potential as one of the game's true great big men.
Now if only Howard could develop an offensive game like another great Laker big man. That's when the rest of the NBA would really be in trouble.
Follow Branden FitzPatrick on Twitter @divingmelvin