The implications of rumors regarding the disintegration of Dwight Howard’s interest in the Lakers by the top dog Kobe Bryant

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OK, I’m going to tell you a story, and at the end of it, we’re going to try and make heads or tails out of what’s actually going on. Because it in no way can be what is reportedly going on because if it is, then Metta World Peace is no longer the craziest individual on the Lakers.

Let’s start here.

So for the last few months, the Nets have been considered the prohibitive favorite to land Dwight Howard, according to some sources. While a few have held out for what seems to be the more likely scenario involving the Lakers, as L.A. has players of actual value to trade, there has been a cacophony saying the Nets hold all the cards. But for many, the Lakers, who typically, you know, get who they want, are going to be considered a major player to the end. But then a few things happened.

It started innocently enough, with Larry Coon for ESPN.com burying the lede on something that seems fairly significant.

But the biggest impediment to a Lakers deal isn’t related to the trade rules — it’s overcoming the resistance on the part of both teams. Magic owner Rick DeVos has been reluctant to allow his team to lose a second franchise center to the Lakers (after Shaquille O’Neal in 1996), and the Lakers don’t want to pay such a steep price for what could amount to less than a season of Howard’s services. A source close to the negotiations says Howard’s representatives warned the Lakers that Howard would opt out of his contract and test the free-agent market next summer — which has the Lakers’ brass understandably nervous.

via Playing out the Dwight Howard scenarios – ESPN.

Huh. Alright. So that would mean that a major player, looking for a warm-weather big market with opportunities for a player who loves the camera more than anything outside of his momma has notified the Los Angeles Lakers that he would choose to test free agency despite every inherent advantage granted to the Lakers in terms of money and years for Howard. Seems odd. Coon’s not exactly a major news breaker, but that almost lends credibility here; he’s not going to throw out something like this if it doesn’t have legs, and his reputation as a shrewd evaluator of league mechanics is impeccable.

But that’s not where this story ends.

HoopsWorld followed up.

The Lakers have already been informed that Howard won’t sign a long-term deal in Los Angeles, according to sources close to the situation. If the Lakers were to trade for Howard, he would opt out and test free agency. Howard’s interest in Los Angeles has always been overstated, mainly because he doesn’t want to follow in Shaquille O’Neal’s footsteps and he doesn’t want to go through another rebuilding process anytime soon. With Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in their thirties, Howard would be reaching his prime just as his All-Star teammates were declining.

via NBA PM: Howard Forcing His Way to Nets? | HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors.

Now that’s a bit stronger. We’ve evolved from “Howard won’t sign an extension” which we’ll get to in a minute, to “Howard doesn’t want to deal with the Lakers’ rebuild process after Kobe and Pau’s decline. That’s a significant jump there, for a lot of reasons.

Now’s where the nutso part comes in.

HoopsWorld followed up with this:

Source close to Dwight Howard on why he’s leaning away from the Los Angeles Lakers: “Kobe messed it up. That’s all I can say for now.”Sat Feb 04 05:11:40 via Twitter for BlackBerry®


Wait, what?

And as we spiral further and further from mainstream sources and the inherent power of credibility that comes with said mainstream standing, we reach RealGM.com.

While the Lakers were easily the team Howard thought about most in the summer, his desire to play for the Lakers changed after a conversation with Kobe Bryant, a source said.

Howard envisioned going to the Lakers and forming a devastating one-two punch with Bryant. But Bryant had other plans for how Howard would be incorporated into the Lakers.

Bryant told Howard that he wanted him to come to Los Angeles and help him win two more championships, but not as an understudy. He wanted Howard to be the team’s third option behind himself and Pau Gasol, according to a source. Bryant tried to sell Howard on being his “Tyson Chandler” and made it clear that Los Angeles would be his, but only once Bryant decided he was done playing.

via Lakers Slip In Pursuit Of Dwight Howard – RealGM Wiretap.

I’m going off the rails on a crazy train.

Now, I’m going to level with you. A rumor about a conversation that Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard reportedly had in which Bryant told the reigning DPOY and MVP candidate best center in the league that he would be a third-option “Tyson Chandler” is not exactly breaking hard news. There’s no way to verify the accuracy of this account even if Howard does wind up on the Nets.

But we’ve got a weird pattern, here.

The Coon article on ESPN. The follow-up. And the follow-up to the follow-up.

So what are we looking at here? We’re never going to know, but we can theorize.

Some possibilities.
1.  The truth. The Lakers have blown their shot at Howard, he does want the Nets, Kobe did grate on Howard and tell him he was going to be a third-wheel, effectively killing the franchise’s best shot at a future beyond his tenure and putting his ability to win a sixth ring in jeopardy. After all, the Knick needed 25 points and 7 assists from Jeremy Lin to beat the Nets, Chris Paul is a Clipper, Lamar Odom is a Maverick, the Cavaliers are a fringe playoff team and Tom Thibodeau played Luol Deng 41 minutes in a blowout win over Milwaukee in his first game back from a wrist injury. So why not throw one more crazy-ass thing on the fire?

2. Subterfuge. Is it certain that all three individuals received their info from the same source? No. Is it possible? Yes. And if so, there’s likely an agenda behind it. It would behoove the Magic to chill Lakers talk in part to get questions about L.A. to simmer down. The Nets clearly would want to create a perception of stress between the two parties because if they don’t get Howard, they’re going back to the basketball equivalent of the stone age. It would in no way mean that those reporting this story are off, simply that the story being spun is directed by agenda and not, you know, open dialogue. This isn’t anything shocking. But given the names of those involved you have to think they thought this through somewhat before going with it.

3. A misunderstanding. There’s a level of  interpretation involved here and it’s important. Coon notes in his article the particulars of the new CBA and its effect on Howard’s situation. In short, an extend-and-trade, a sign-and-trade, and a trade-and-extend all limit the amount of money Howard can gain in free agency. The most money, and best situation for him is to go where he wants, then opt-out, then re-sign at the max for five years. That gets him the most money, strongest raise platform, and and most stability of any option. Basically him opting out of his last year and into free agency with the Lakers is less an indictment on where they stand as a franchise and more as a product of how the CBA is structured. The jump from that piece of information to “Dwight doesn’t want to play in L.A.” is a short one.

You’d probably like this if I informed you the answer to this riddle. But I don’t know. And you don’t know. And a lot of reporters don’t know. A lot of people have sources, a lot of people are talking, and Howard’s still in Orlando. But this latest series of information means that things are only going to get crazier in the next month and a half.

Chris Paul scores 33, Rockets topple Warriors 116-108

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden felt closer to normal after struggling in his first game back from a hamstring injury, and the Houston Rockets got a big game from Chris Paul to down the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.

Paul scored 33 points with 11 rebounds, Harden bested Stephen Curry twice in the final seconds and the Rockets held off the Warriors 116-108 to snap their 14-game road winning streak.

The victory gives Houston a 2-1 series advantage over Golden State after the reigning NBA champions had won the series the previous three seasons.

“Obviously they’re a championship caliber team for the past four years … and that’s what we’re trying to build our way up to,” Harden said.

Harden stepped back from Curry for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 114-108 with 1:10 left, then blocked Curry’s 3-point attempt after a timeout.

Harden finished with 22 points. Paul added two free throws with 28 seconds left.

Golden State lost away from home for the first time since Nov. 22. The Warriors had won seven straight in Houston.

“It’s been a good streak, disappointing end to it,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But we didn’t deserve to win tonight. We played pretty poorly, did a lot of things to hurt ourselves and we’re playing a great team. Can’t get away with it.”

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni raved about the performance of the 32-year-old Paul .

“The guy is a winner, he’s been a winner, he’s going to win,” D’Antoni said.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 26 points, Draymond Green had 21 and Curry added 19 on a night he went 5 of 15 on 3-point attempts and 6 of 20 overall. It was just the sixth time in his career that he’d attempted 20 or more shots while making six or fewer.

“It was just one of those nights where I personally didn’t have the right vision on the floor,” he said. “So I’ve got to take that responsibility for that one. It was pretty bad.”

The Warriors were wrapping up a five-game road trip and had won the first four games to tie a franchise record for consecutive road wins. But they struggled from the outset Saturday and trailed by double digits for most of the first half.

It was Harden’s second game back after missing seven with a strained hamstring. He was in a much better rhythm than in his return Thursday night, when he scored a season-low 10 points. He had eight assists, two steals and two blocks Saturday.

The Rockets got the victory despite missing Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green, who were both serving the second game of a two-game suspension for an altercation with the Clippers. Clint Capela added 18 points for Houston on a night when top reserve Eric Gordon went 0 for 9 from 3-point range and finished with just six points.

Golden State led by four before Houston went on a 9-2 run, with the first five points from Paul, to take a 109-106 lead with about three minutes left.

 

Report: NBA’s minor league won’t allow potentially eligible college players

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USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Louisville’s Brian Bowen and Auburn’s Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy haven’t played this season due to the FBI’s probe into college basketball. Mitchell Robinson left Western Kentucky before his freshmen season started to train for the NBA draft.

But they’re all potentially eligible to play college basketball again someday.

So, they can’t play in the NBA’s minor league.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

That ineligibility stems from a rule that prevents players who were enrolled in college during an academic calendar year from being offered a contract in the same season, unless they have been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA with no opportunity of being reinstated (as was the case with P.J. Hairston in 2013).

“We’re not looking to compete with college basketball for their players,” a G League source said. “The NBA, specifically NBA lawyers, are concerned about the optics of NCAA players being disgruntled with minutes or coaching decisions and leaving college with the hopes of joining the G League. This is a blanket rule unfortunately that applies to all players. Like all of our rules, we are open to revisiting them if needed, but at the moment any player that was enrolled in a college this season is ineligible to play in our League.”

NBA executives and scouts are griping because they can’t evaluate these prospects in games. I don’t care about that.

This is an affront to capitalism. The basis of our economy should be competition, and the NBA is handing the NCAA – a cartel – a monopoly in this level of basketball. And it’s the workers (players) who lose.

So what if a freshman is disgruntled with his minutes and wants to turn pro during the season? He can’t join the NBA due to the age minimum. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to at least enter the NBA’s minor league, for which he’s old enough? We should trust him to manage his future, not protect the almighty college coach from facing consequences to his rotation.

I don’t know whether or not the NBA and NCAA colluded, but the NBA’s stance is the exact one it would take if it colluded. The NBA has worked to improve the quality of play in its minor league by increasing salary to compete against foreign leagues for players. It’s strange to just willingly take a backseat to college basketball when there’s a great opportunity to compete for top talent.

The players could legally challenge the policy, but they’ll be eligible for the NBA draft in June, and there’s risk in upsetting a potential future employer. And would anything be decided quickly enough in court to matter for the challenging player?

Players like Melton, Bowen, Wiley, Purifoy and Robinson aren’t allowed to let the market set their compensation as college basketball players, because NCAA schools have colluded to cap wages. Those players aren’t allowed to seek employment in the comparable American professional league, because that league doesn’t want to compete with the NBA.

It’s a travesty for capitalism and these workers.

LeBron James has tepid response when asked about Tyronn Lue’s job safety

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LeBron James was no fan of David Blatt, so he was let go around the All-Star break with the Cavaliers a couple of years ago when the team had the best record in the East.

Now the Cavaliers have fallen to third in the East and have lost 8-of-11, were blown out by the Thunder on national television on Saturday, have one of the worst defenses in the NBA, and have a brutal stretch of games against good teams ahead.

Is Tyronn Lue’s job in danger? That question has been asked around Cleveland, and when LeBron was asked about it after the OKC loss his response was tepid (via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com)

Is a coaching change really the answer? I’m not Lue’s biggest fan as a coach, I think Cleveland’s offense has too much isolation and can get simplistic, but he’s got an older team that lost Kyrie Irving (and replaced him with Isaiah Thomas, who just returned to the rotation a couple of weeks ago and is still getting his legs under him).

Maybe that wakes the team up, but the more likely change is a trade or two at the deadline. If Cleveland isn’t willing to put the Brooklyn pick in the mix (reportedly they will only do that for an elite superstar) it’s hard to see them getting a player that really makes a difference. However, get one who wakes the team up out of its malaise and plays a little defense, and the Cavaliers become more likely to out of the East.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks in Cleveland.

Thunder drop 148 points on defenseless Cavaliers, win in rout

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If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.

The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):

• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.

• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.

• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.

• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.

• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.

• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.

• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.

To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.

For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.

It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.

Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.

This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.

Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?