Report: Lakers have “dropped” on Dwight Howard’s list

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First off, if you’re a Magic fan, stop reading this. You’re only going to get frustrated and angry that the big mean media is once again making up stories about Dwight Howard when he clearly wants to re-sign in Orlando. After all, he said he loves the city! And who says that and then leaves? So you should just stop and go check out StayDwight.com instead. You’ll be happier and I won’t have to feel like a heel for pushing material that clearly could not be more untrue to you which will only worry you. So long, Magic fans!

(They gone? Okay, back to reality.)

It really is possible Howard stays in Orlando, I wasn’t just making that up. The guy’s been there a long time, the Magic have always been aggressive in trying to build around him, and a possible franchise tag could lock him up against his will. But the noise out of Howard’s camp isn’t fabricated, despite what Magic fans may want to believe, and there’s enough of it to buy into the idea there’s something going on, especially when combined with what we know of his personality and branding, which, let’s be honest, portrays an image of  a guy who wouldn’t marry the camera, but might give it a promise ring.

The big assumption has been that the Lakers with all their flashbulb opportunities would be where Howard lands, but ESPN’s Ric Bucher said in a chat Friday that doesn’t look like the case at the moment.

Lakers have slipped on Dwight’s list for reasons beyond (Bynum being “untouchable”). I’d rank his preferences in this order: Orlando, Dallas, NJ, Lakers. But for Orlando to keep him, they’re going to have to make some serious deals, ones that I’m really doubtful they can pull off.

via Chat: Chat with Ric Bucher – SportsNation – ESPN.

That second city on the list is going to raise some eyebrows. The Mavericks will have expiring contracts, young talent, draft picks (they’re one of the few teams who haven’t completely mortgaged their long-term prospects to improve), and a market big enough to contain Howard’s ego while putting him next to a Hall of Famer. Obviously how the Mavericks fair in the Finals might affect this decision but that’s an intriguing prospect. The Nets remain an option with Brooklyn on the horizon, despite their continual “Knick-ing” of themselves (defined as “removing all long-term prospects and assets in a fruitless pursuit of immediate and significant improvement”).

The hometown team is still first, just like Toronto and Cleveland were still first on the other’s lists. Dwight’s not either of those players, but he’s also experienced just as much frustration. Derrick Rose winning the MVP over him despite Howard’s very arguable superior season, in a landslide, has to make Howard wonder where the lack of respect is coming from and what role markets played into it.

Howard staying would be the best thing for everyone. He would have an opportunity to man up and be the guy for the franchise, Orlando wouldn’t lose yet another superstar to brighter lights of a bigger city, the tied would be stemmed on the mass migration of stars to the five top markets, and Otis Smith would still have a job. And it could happen.

It just doesn’t feel like it.

Lakers hire Kardashian trainer Gunnar Peterson

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A celebrity trainer known for getting the Kardashian clan into shape is going to work for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gunnar Peterson is the Lakers’ new director of strength and endurance training, the team announced Wednesday.

Peterson has been a favorite trainer among entertainers and athletes for many years while running a well-regarded private gym in Beverly Hills. His client list has included Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Pete Sampras, along with most of the Kardashian family.

Peterson will develop a strength and conditioning program for the Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka says.

The 16-time NBA champion franchise has replaced several key members of its internal staff since Magic Johnson and Pelinka assumed control of basketball operations earlier this year.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.