Josh Howard interested in joining the Celtics

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The lack of a free agency period to date has all but eradicated the NBA’s rumor mill. Teams have undoubtedly discussed some of their potential targets in private, but with no structure set to actually enable player acquisition, those discussions lack grounding. Those general managers, owners, and coaches are floating ideas, ones that up to this point have yet to escape via unnamed sources.

So now, we turn to the other side of the coin. With NBA teams unwilling to talk about — or even leak anything about — any player in particular, all we’re left with are potential free agents and their personal preferences. Such players know little to nothing about which teams might be interested in them and what they’d be willing to offer, but some players have been willing to discuss their preferred landing spots on a conceptual level.

Josh Howard isn’t exactly a top-tier free agent, but he’s nonetheless a useful player who will be courted by a handful of teams. A report from The Boston Globe hinted that Howard could be on the Celtics’ wish list, a pairing that could certainly be beneficial for both parties. Howard could use a successful platform to give his career a jump start, and Boston — even after acquiring Jeff Green mid-season — could still use a bit of help in filling out their wing rotation on the cheap. Howard isn’t likely to demand a very substantial contract, and could pan out as a nice, short-term value signing for a team like the Celtics.

And, wouldn’t you know it: Howard sees the same potential value in the pairing. From Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (via Celtics Town):

Josh Howard has spent the past 18 months recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, spending most of last season on the sideline before playing in 18 games with the Wizards. A free agent at age 31, Howard said he is just now reaching 100 percent health, but the lockout – and the lack of a summer league – has prevented him from showcasing his game.

In last weekend’s Chris Paul-organized all-star game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Howard participated in his first organized action of the summer, expressing full confidence that his knee is healed. During his prime, Howard was an effective swingman who averaged 18 or more points for three consecutive seasons (2006-09) and was an effective defender.

…The Celtics, meanwhile, have only seven signed players and may be seeking established veterans of Howard’s ilk. “Boston is a great organization,’’ he said. “I also have a good friend in Marquis Daniels that spent a lot of time up there and who spoke highly of the organization. So that would be one of the teams I would actually look at if I had the opportunity to go there.’’

These aren’t the kinds of comments that players just volunteer on their own; Washburn was following up on the initial note from his previous report, and appears to have clearly and directly asked Howard about his own interest in the organization. His response is noncommittal, but vaguely positive.

That’s about all one could ask of Howard at this point in the game, and this is about as close as we’ll get to a true free agent rumor until the lockout finally ends. Unnamed sources around the league are on a gag order and risk being heavily fined if they start tossing out player names, so we’re limited to thoughts and one-sided responses. I never thought I’d miss the spitballing of the rumor mill, but trade buzz and free agent rumors have become an integrated part of the NBA experience. Even if they offer little more than a glimpse into an alternate reality, they fuel the NBA and its sense of infinite possibility.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.