Kobe Bryant Dwight Howard

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.

Ryan McDonough: Suns plan to be ‘major players’ in 2017 free agency

Ryan McDonough
AP Photo/Matt York
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The Suns have swung big in free agency the previous couple years, chasing LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in 2014 and LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015.

But 2016 appeared to be the year Phoenix really eyed.

The Suns structured the contracts of multiple players – including Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris – to have salaries that dipped this summer. Time that flexibility correctly, and it can really pay off.

Phoenix big prize? Jared Dudley.

Dudley is a nice player, but he’s hardly the star the Suns seek. So, they’ll try again next year.

Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

That’s been one of our frustrations this summer. We were kind of on the sideline for some of the marquee free agents. But as you know, Woj, it wasn’t the deepest free agent class.

Potentially, it’s a very strong free agent class next year. And one of the things we’ve done with our contracts is we’ve lined them up to have max cap space next year without really touching the core of our roster.

I think and I hope at this time next year, we’re major players in free agency. Because as you mentioned, the Phoenix Suns are a destination franchise.

The 2017 free agent class won’t be as strong as hoped.

LeBron James locked in for multiple years with the Cavaliers. Russell Westbrook signed a contract extension with the Thunder. Kevin Durant indicated he’ll re-sign with the Warriors. So has Stephen Curry. Blake Griffin is reportedly “adamant” about re-signing with the Clippers.

Teams will almost certainly match any offer for the top restricted free agents – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel – if they don’t extend their contracts first.

That still leaves several quality unrestricted free agents – including Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap – but Paul and Lowry are point guards. Phoenix already has Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, and Devin Booker looks like the shooting guard of the future. So, forget simply sliding Bledsoe or Knight to off guard. It’d take a major shakeup for Paul or Lowry to make sense with the Suns.

Still, McDonough’s approach is logical. If he can keep kicking the can down the road, perpetually selling that his plan is a year from taking it hold, it’ll make it easier for him to retain his prestigious job.

But if he has to make his 2017 free agency plan work rather than deferring to 2018, it could be difficult.

The Suns project to have about $17 million in cap space (under a system that could change significantly with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement). Renouncing restricted free agent Alex Len could clear about $12 million more, and just $500,000 of Leandro Barbosa‘s $4 million salary is guaranteed. Trading Tyson Chandler, Bledsoe and/or Knight could open even more space. Losing Len isn’t ideal, but for the right free agent, the upgrade would be worthwhile.

The bigger issue is winning. Phoenix has struggled to lure top free agents, because the team has missed the playoffs six straight years. That’s unlikely, though not impossible, to change this year. If the probabilities hold, what does McDonough sell then?

He always has the option of using cap space to facilitate uneven trades, a route he previously broached. Depending on the deal, that could encroach on 2017 cap space.

But if his plan holds, the Suns will keep their books relatively clear until next summer.

Wesley Matthews: ‘I’m a whole different person’ further removed from injury

DENVER, CO - MARCH 06:  Wesley Matthews #23 of the Dallas Mavericks controls the ball against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 6, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Mavericks 116-114 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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After Wesley Matthews tore his Achilles in March 2015, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle preached caution and suggested Matthews could be out until Christmas.

Matthews said he’d play opening night.

Matthews was right.

He played in Dallas’ first game and 77 others last season. The problem: He didn’t play that well. Matthews meandered through arguably his worst pro season.

Matthews, via Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

“I’m a whole different person,” the 29-year-old Matthews said. “I’m a whole different player, and I’m really just excited to get out there and show it, and just to be who I know I can be and just to continue to grow. Obviously, it was different coming off of an Achilles (injury) and not having four or five months to prepare and all that stuff, and jumping right into the season being physically able to play every single game and play heavy minutes. It took until about after the All-Star break for me to get my legs back, because I play both ends of the court. And I feel better than when I got hurt.

I’ll need to see it to believe it.

Considering Matthews age, time might not be enough to return his production to pre-injury levels. He did improve after the All-Star break, but not enough to put concern behind him.

The stakes are high for the Mavericks, who still owe Matthews $53,652,528 over the next three years. Not only could Matthews’ decline hinder their ability to win a reasonable amount in Dirk Nowitzki‘s final years, it could limit their inevitable post-Nowitzki rebuild.

Hopefully, Matthews feels as good as he says, but players tend to be overly optimistic in these situations. On the other hand, Matthews backed up his similarly daunting declaration last year.

Report: Nets paid record $3 million to move up 13 spots in draft for Isaiah Whitehead

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Isaiah Whitehead #15 of the Brooklyn Nets poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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In 2010, the Thunder paid the Hawks $3 million for the draft rights to No. 31 pick Tibor Pleiss. That, according to Bryan Fonseca of Nets Daily, is the most ever paid for a player’s draft rights.

The Nets matched it this year – and they didn’t even get a fresh pick. They just paid to move up 13 spots in the second round.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

Nets sent $3 million and the 55th pick (Marcus Paige) to the Utah Jazz for the 42nd pick (Isiah Whitehead)

That’s a sizable commitment to get Whitehead, who has the size and raw skills to thrive at guard in the NBA. He was just so inefficient at Seton Hall, I have major doubts about his approach to the game. It will be up to Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson to refine Whitehead’s style.

If owner Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to pay for that opportunity, good for the Nets. Brooklyn has bought several extra draft picks over the last few years. The Nets don’t have an exceptionally high hit rate on those selections, but every extra swing increases their odds of finding quality contributors – especially important because they dealt away control of so many of their own first-rounders in doomed trades with the Celtics and Hawks.

Report: Incentive bonuses in Yi Jianlian’s Lakers contract would septuple his salary if he plays 59 games

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14:  Jianlian Yi #11 of China controls the ball as Nikola Kalinic #10 of Serbia defends during the preliminary round game at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Yi Jianlian’s unconventional contract terms with the Lakers had slowly emerged. He’ll earn somewhere between $250,000 and $8 million next season, $1,139,123 just for remaining on the roster through Jan. 10.

But that left a huge sum to unknown incentive bonuses.

Now, they’re known.

Yi can trigger $2,286,959 bonuses for hitting three benchmarks based on games played, according to Basketball Insiders. Here’s the running total for those incentives:

  • 20-39 games played: $2,286,959
  • 40-58 games played: $4,573,918
  • 59+ games played:$6,860,877

Whether or not he plays or is even active, Yi will earn $6,701 each day he’s on the roster from Oct. 25 until Jan. 10 (with a guaranteed minimum of $250,000 in total income). Then, if he’s still on the roster Jan. 10, Yi will lock in another $623,167. That’s his base compensation.

But the bonuses – for actually playing in games – are far more lucrative.

Here’s how Yi’s salary would increase throughout the season, which begins Oct. 25 and ends April 12, if he plays every Lakers game:

image

Of course, Yi might not play every game.* So, those three big jumps can be slid back accordingly. The Lakers did well to build Yi’s contract around incentives they have complete control over.

*If Yi doesn’t trigger his first games-played bonus so quickly, his base salary ($6,701 per day) would pass his guaranteed minimum ($250,000) Dec. 1.

The NBA Constitution calls for the trade deadline to be the 17th Thursday of the regular season, which would be Feb. 16 this year – before Yi can earn his third bonus and maybe before he earns one or two. This makes him an intriguing trade chip. Because his cap number will be $8 million throughout the season, he could help fetch a higher-priced player in a trade. Then, the team that acquires him could waive him and pay only what he had earned to date.

But before it gets to that point, Yi will try to fight his way into the rotation.

There’s a lot on the line.