Report: Magic may keep Howard, try to land Steve Nash

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More and more, it feels like the Orlando Magic may not trade Dwight Howard — despite Howard’s trade request still being on the table — do what they can to keep him and roll the dice that he doesn’t opt out of his contract and walk away leaving them nothing this summer.

How do they keep him? How about convincing the Suns to throw in the towel on Steve Nash and trade him to Orlando? That’s one option the franchise is considering, reports Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

The Magic, sources say, remain committed to playing out the season with Howard, perhaps adding a piece to push the team to elite status and hoping that all of it — plus the additional $25 million-$30 million Orlando would be able to pay him as a free agent — will be enough to persuade Howard to stay.

League sources say Orlando has not ruled out making a play for Steve Nash in the event the Suns decided to trade the point guard to a contender before the March 15 deadline. Nash, even at 37 and even on a rental basis, could push the Magic back to the NBA Finals at a time when the Celtics are faltering and the Heat are showing signs of wear and tear.

This is probably about as likely as Eddy Curry making the All-Star team.

First, the Suns have said they would only trade Nash if he asks to be traded and he has said he is not going to ask for a trade. Phoenix is loath to move Nash, while they are not even a .500 team with him right now (5-9) he is loved in the community and there would be a backlash if he were shipped off.

Berger goes on to talk about why the Clippers should consider a Blake Griffin for Howard trade (likely after this season in a sign-and-trade deal), citing the basketball reasons that Dwight is better and a better fit with Chris Paul. I’ll grant him that. But the Clippers are not going to trade Griffin for marketing and business reasons. This was the league’s laughingstock franchise and Griffin changed that on the court, changed the culture in the locker room (goodbye Baron Davis) and is the guy the fans latched on to. He is the face of that franchise, the fans hero, not the best player (that is Paul). The Clippers will not trade Griffin.

That’s where we are with Howard now. The speculation gets wilder as the team sits back doing nothing and Howard just keeps playing — and playing well. But the Magic’s patient strategy runs some big risks, as the Nets can offer him a big deal as a free agent this summer and Howard could walk for nothing. If Dallas can find a sucker to take on Shawn Marion’s deal, they could offer Deron Williams and Howard near max deals.

For now, we wait.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.