Otis Smith will not consider trading Dwight Howard, no matter what

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Otis Smith talked to the Orlando Sentinel Friday night and gave what could commonly be considered the GM’s equivalent of “famous last words.” Dwight Howard’s  a free agent in 2012. He’s made it pretty clear he’s going to enter free agency, while playing the oh-so-tactful play of “I love Orlando, I just want to win a championship” which is code for “I’m simultaneously playing to the fans while giving myself an easy out.” The reason we know this is he’s about the fiftieth guy to take that approach towards their exit out of town. But Smith’s not worried, and won’t be taking calls about a trade for the best center in the league. And he has gotten calls. But why won’t he even listen to offers (assuming he’s being honest)?  From the Sentinel:

Smith wouldn’t divulge the teams who have made a run at Howard — or the fellow GMs who tried to hoodwink him during Dwight’s raw, formative years, he said.

Smith expects clubs to come calling before the trade deadline, thinking the Magic would rather receive compensation instead of letting Howard walk as a free agent.

Smith made it clear: He’s willing to take the risk.

“Sure,” he said.

There’s a reason he feels that way.

He reiterates that teams dealing superstars never get fair value, which is true, but there’s something more.

Smith believes — and this is obviously encouraging news for Magic fans — that Howard will stay in Orlando when all is said and done, texted and tweeted.

“That’s my sense,” he said.

via Orlando Magic: Orlando Magic expect to field trade offers for Dwight Howard – OrlandoSentinel.com.

I’m not trying to be a jerk here. Orlando fans have already started reacting to talk of Howard’s departure from the media as if we take some exquisite glee in the idea of Howard leaving the fans hanging just as Shaq did over a decade earlier. It’s not that at all. It’s that those Orlando fans need to ask fans in Cleveland, in Toronto, in Utah, in Denver.  This is what is happening. And for someone as attention starved as Howard, all the attention being showered on these stars by big name clubs in big name cities is attractive.

As Blogger-in-Chief Kurt Helin pointed out to me, what else is Smith supposed to do here? “Oh, yeah, we’ll totally explore trading him. He’s got us in a tough position and we have no leverage because of his free agency. So please, send over a great offer now that I’ve said that?”

Or, “Well, he’s probably gone. I know that I’ve made about fifteen trades trying to build around him, and spent a huge amount of money for a small-market franchise to try and put a contender around him, and helped him get to the Finals, but in reality, look at the guy’s behavior. Does that look like a guy who’s going to stick around in Orlando?”

Of course not. Smith can’t do either of those things. He has to stick to the script. Which puts confidence and strength in the organization and its fans. But if Smith’s actually not taking calls, he’s not doing his job. He needs to prepare for the future. Denver and Utah have shown that your entire contention doesn’t have to be destroyed by trading your best player. Utah fell off the map at the end of this season, but Utah also has set themselves up well for the future. They have potential and a stronger sense of depth. Denver on the other hand is wrecking ball right now. Those who did not pursue such a trade? Cleveland and Toronto are just sad.

Howard represents the Magic’s best chance at a title, at multiple titles, and Smith knows that. But at some point next season, he’s going to have to get as clear an answer from Howard as he can about his intentions, judge the positioning of teams like Boston, Los Angeles, and New York, and decide whether he’s going to have the pull to retain his star. Howard says he just wants to win a title. But the commercials, the media appearances, his entire approach has been to increase his exposure, including a movie in China. The biggest problem is those bigger markets have proven they have a leg up in the ability to win championships and to get him greater exposure. That’s the reality of the league, and something David Stern needs to take a good long look at while his owners continue to hardball negotiations and refusing to discuss revenue sharing. But that’s a whole other discussion.

Maybe Howard will surprise us all. Maybe he’ll re-sign this summer. Maybe the Magic will shock everyone and make a Finals run that nets them a championship and convinces Howard to stay with the one who brought him. Maybe he’ll see the pain that would be on the faces of Magic fans if he abandoned them and that will be enough to convince him to stay.

I’m not trying to be a jerk. I’m just looking at history.

 

DeMarcus Cousins pushes Trevor Ariza after whistle, gets technical foul (video)

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For better or worse, DeMarcus Cousins is moody.

Just after getting dunked on by Clint Capela, Cousins showed his frustration by pushing Trevor Ariza after a whistle. The Pelicans center got his NBA-leading ninth technical foul – automatic suspension triggered at No. 16 – but I’m surprised this didn’t escalate beyond just that.

Paul George floors Jeremy Lamb with crossover, hits step-back 3-pointer over him (video)

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The Thunder suffered a rough home loss to the Hornets, but at least Oklahoma City produced a couple fun highlights.

Not only did Russell Westbrook have this powerful dunk, Paul George put the moves on Jeremy Lamb.

David West pump fakes past one Trail Blazer, posterizes another (video)

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David West is 37 years old.

Three Things to Know: Rockets extend win streak to 10, Thunder… not so much

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s a roundup of Monday night’s action you might have missed while paying for a $14,000 Uber ride.

1) Rockets fall behind in a shootout, but come back from 13 down late in the third to extend win streak to 10. This was as good a game as the Pelicans could play without Anthony Davis — they put up 103 points on 58.7 percent shooting and hitting 17 threes. DeMarcus Cousins was a beast in the paint, while Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore couldn’t seem to miss from beyond the arc. Late in the third the Pelicans were up 13, and they were up 10 at the start of the fourth.

It was not enough.

James Harden had 12 points in the fourth (and finished the game with a career-high 17 assists).

Chris Paul added 11 in the fourth, and the Rockets stormed back winning the fourth 37-20 and the game 130-123, extending their win streak to 10 games.

The Rockets are 21-4 and are outscoring teams by 11.4 points per 100 possessions this season — they are the best team in the NBA right now. CP3 and Harden mesh on offense — the Rockets are +7.8 points per 100 when they are on the court together — and Houston surprisingly has the fifth best defense in the NBA this season. None of this is a fluke. This team is playing hard right now, establishing an identity, and establishing themselves as a contender.

Can they beat a healthy Warriors team in a seven-game series? I am not going that far, I think there are things that can be exploited in a series, but we are five months away from the Rockets needing to answer that question. What Houston has shown is it is the team best suited to challenge Golden State — the Rockets can play at pace and thrive, they have multiple elite scoring playmakers (and coach Mike D’Antoni staggers them so one is almost always on the court), they have a switchable defense that can attack the Warriors wings, and they have the right mindset. GM Daryl Morey put together a team to go after the Warriors, and he did it better than anyone. They are a legit threat to the title holders, and the Rockets should only get better as the season moves along.

2) Celtics lose with Kyrie Irving out. Thunder lose because… you tell me? There were a couple of upsets Monday night in the NBA, but only one was easy to excuse.

The lowly Chicago Bulls have not been quite so lowly the past week, winning three straight games, the latest one handily against the Boston Celtics 108-85. Credit best friends Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis (*cough*) who combined for 47 points, plus the improved play of Kris Dunn lately continued as he had a dozen points. We would normally call this a terrible loss for the Celtics, and you can be sure Brad Stevens didn’t like it, but with Kyrie Irving sitting out with a left quad contusion, there is at least a good reason for the off night.

There is no good reason for the Thunder — fully healthy — to lose at home to the Charlotte Hornets 116-103. The Hornets hit 13-of-25 from three, and Dwight Howard outplayed Steven Adams all night on his way to 23 points, Kemba Walker had 19 points and 9 assists, but this is the kind of game the Thunder should win. After a Russell Westbrook highlight slam over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the game was tied 66-66, but then the Hornets went on a 22-2 run. Of late, the Thunder looked like they were turning a corner with three straight wins, but then followed it up losing 2-of-3 now and needing to go to overtime against a shorthanded Grizzlies team to get that one win. Royce Young re-tweeted himself and hit the nail on the head.

There is no one thing wrong with the Thunder, but more and more focus is turning to Carmelo Anthony. Not just his lack of defense or his shooting slump — he had 11 points Monday and is shooting 33 percent overall and 16.7 percent from three his last five games — but the roster depth OKC gave up to get him. Paul George and Russell Westbrook have a grove together (the Thunder are +4.8 per 100 when they are paired) but things slow when Anthony is added to the mix and another star sits while Anthony plays. In ‘Melo’s last five games OKC is -1.8 per 100 with Anthony on the court.

The Thunder still have time, but each day the inconsistent play and losing get more concerning. As George said after the game, “We can say we’re going to figure it out, we can say all that, but at some point it’s got to stop.”

3) Matt Barnes retires. Barnes announced Monday on Instagram that his 15-year NBA run was over.

For a lot of fans, mention Barnes and they think of the guy who tried to get in a fight with Derek Fisher. Or the New York nightclub incident with Cousins. Or the guy who was a pest on the court and seemed a magnet for technical fouls and fines from the league office. But Barnes was the kind of guy you wanted coming off the bench on your team and hated to play against — he went hard, he could shoot threes, he defended, and he brought a spark to the game. He was the kind of opponent you hate to go against.

Barnes was a second-round pick out of UCLA who played for nine teams during his career. He was the guy teams turned to for a spark off the bench — both because he could shoot the rock and because he played a fiery, emotional game. Barnes finished his career averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Barnes won an NBA title with the Warriors last season, and he played well after Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury and Barnes was thrust into a larger role (the Warriors went on a 14-game win streak in that time).

While he had a rough exterior, off the court he was one of the more thoughtful basketball interviews out there — ask him about the game and he gave smart, calm, intelligent answers, not just clichés. He was active with charities and gave of his time and money, it wasn’t just a tax write off for him. He’ll be missed by some of us, but he’s a guy ready for life after basketball.