Dwight Howard keeps his cool as trade rumors swirl

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It’s the Clippers. No, it’s still the Nets. No, the Lakers. And Orlando still loves you!

Rumors are swirling around Dwight Howard like he’s an honorary Kardashian, but he is keeping his cool, keeping his head down and winning games. And for now that is working.

The latest rumor to come up was that the Clippers were now on his list of teams where he would sign an extension. First, off, there is no deal the Clippers can offer right now that the Magic would take (unless you think D’Andre Jordan and Mo Williams will get it done… in which case you are wrong).

But the Clippers and Magic have not spoken since before the season anyway, reports ESPNLosAngeles.com. Not that formal talks are any real way to measure progress, things can be discussed through back channels, but there is not a lot to discuss because the Clips used their good trade pieces to get Chris Paul.

Then there is Patrick Ewing, the Knicks legend and current Magic assistant passing on advice, via the Orlando Sentinel.

“Everybody always thinks the grass is always greener,” Ewing said. “But it’s a great opportunity for him to stay in a [single] place. I wish I had stayed and finished my career here in New York. But it’s his decision….

“You’ve got to have a thick skin to play in a place like (New York,” Ewing said.

What does Howard say about all this? He is talked with and is taking the Carmelo Anthony route — speak platitudes and win games. Keep his head down and just keep going, as Ken Berger notes at CBSSports.com.

“All (‘Melo) said was, ‘Do what’s best for you,'” Howard said Monday after his Magic beat Anthony’s Knicks 102-93 — Orlando’s fourth straight win, the last three on the road. “‘Whatever you decide, people are gonna dislike you, but you have to live for you.’ And it’s good advice. I just told him, ‘I want to do whatever I can do to win.'”

He’s winning now in Orlando, but this roster is not going to win a title come the playoffs and everyone knows it. What’s more, there are no clear paths to getting better than Miami or Chicago in the near term. Under the new CBA Howard is going to have to take less money when he leaves — only Orlando can offer a super max deal, the sign-and-trade way Anthony did it is no longer allowed. Howard seems good with that.

Howard can keep his head down and keep plugging along for now. But when the All-Star Game comes to Orlando next month it will be different. Then the trade deadline will approach and the Magic will have some hard decisions to make. Decisions they can ignore now as the team wins.

For now platitudes and wins will work. But not much longer.

Reports: Cleveland, Boston in “serious” trade talks for Kyrie Irving

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Among the list of teams that have the pieces to offer Cleveland everything they are asking for in a Kyrie Irving trade, the Boston Celtics might be at the top of the list. They can send back a quality point guard in Isaiah Thomas, they have a number of rotation players who can help now, they have the Brooklyn pick next year or the Lakers’ pick (protected), and they have young stars such as Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum who could be thrown in a deal.

The question is, would the two top teams in the East want to do business with each other, potentially helping the other out? Can you see Dan Gilbert helping the Celtics? Danny Ainge helping the Cavaliers?

The two sides are at least talking seriously, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

I get why Boston would want Irving over Thomas — he’s younger, taller, and has a couple of years left on his current contract. Plus, if Boston is going all in for a ring Irving is a fit. I get why Cleveland would want Thomas back in an Irving trade, it puts a scoring point guard next to LeBron James and keeps them as the team to beat in the East next season.

The unprotected first-round Brooklyn pick would have to be part of the deal as well for the Cavs, although maybe the Lakers’ pick works, depending on who else is involved.

But it would be a mistake for Boston to give up Jae Crowder in the deal — they need his wing defense against Cleveland and, theoretically, Golden State. Plus he’s on a good contract. Boston would prefer to send Thomas, Ante Zizic, whichever pick, and some players to round out the deal. That may not be enough for Cleveland. To my eye, Boston would be getting similar production next season from Irving as they would Thomas, and they are giving up a lot of other assets in that swap. Is it really worth it?

Danny Ainge has a long history of getting serious in talks, asking for a lot, then deciding it wasn’t enough and pulling back.

That said, the pieces can be made to work. But do these teams want to deal with one another? Maybe so.

Mike D’Antoni thinks “synergy” between James Harden, Chris Paul will be beautiful thing

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It’s been one of the most interesting questions of the offseason — how will Chris Paul and James Harden share the ball and control of the Rockets?

In particular, how will they do it in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system that made Harden an MVP candidate and is not the calculated, surgical style that CP3 uses to carve defenses up?

Mike D’Antoni isn’t too worried about it. In an interview with our old friend Matt Moore of CBS Sports, the 2017 NBA Coach of the Year said the greats figure out how to work things out.

Team USA is an interesting example. Mike Krzyzewski wants to play fast (the USA is far more athletic than any team they face, they should take advantage of that) but he gives his players freedom within that outline to do what works. D’Antoni sounds like he wants to give Paul and Harden some space to figure out how to play together, what works for them. (The advantage is Team USA plays inferior opponents, often vastly inferior, and that will not be the same case for the Rockets in the NBA.)

Do the same rules apply if/when Carmelo Anthony gets traded to Houston? Probably.

D’Antoni is rightfully high on the Rockets’ offensive potential.

The real question is on the other end of the court. The Rockets were a middle of the pack defensive team last season (18th in points allowed per possession), but they have added quality defenders in Paul, P.J. Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute. Can the Rockets become a top-10 defensive team, one with players who can match up with Golden State? Because we know the Warriors are going to finish the season top three on both ends of the court.

It’s going to be a fascinating season in Houston.

Morris twins have day in court next week on 2015 assault charge

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Back in 2015, brothers Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — both then playing for the Suns — were investigated and eventually charged with felony aggravated assault joining three other men to allegedly beat up Erik Hood at a recreational basketball tournament in the Phoenix area (hood ended up in the hospital with a broken nose and other injuries). The motivation allegedly had been Hood sending “inappropriate” text messages to the Morris brothers’ mother. From the start, both brothers have denied any involvement.

Next week, the brothers will get their day in court. The Boston Globe has the details (Marcus now plays for the Celtics, Markieff for the Wizards).

Celtics forward Marcus Morris and his brother Markieff, each facing aggravated assault charges stemming from an incident in 2015, will get their day in court on Aug. 28 in Arizona.

Often cases like this are pled down to a lesser charge that the defendant accepts, and that usually happens close to trial. However, it is unclear if the Morris twins would be willing to do that — any admission of guilt would likely come with some level of suspension from the NBA in addition to whatever punishment is ordered by the court. If convicted of a felony, each Morris brother would face a minimum 10-game suspension from the NBA.

If the Morris twins were not involved, they are right to fight this. Either way, it will head to court next week.

Watch Lonzo Ball dodge relentless stream of LeBron James questions (video)

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Shortly before the draft, Lonzo Ball was asked in a televised interview to pitch LeBron James on joining the Lakers – and did.

A couple months and a tampering investigation into the Lakers later, Ball learned his lesson.

Sports Illustrated:

Rohan Nadkarni’s questions were all in good fun, and he couldn’t trick Ball into tampering, anyway. The NBA has essentially decided it won’t punish players for tampering with each other.

Ask Ball an honest LeBron question, and he’ll give an honest answer.