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.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Kendall Marshall, Marshall Plumlee headline Team USA’s AmeriCup roster

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AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.

But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):

  • Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
  • Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
  • Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  • Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
  • Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
  • Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
  • Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
  • Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
  • Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
  • C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
  • Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)

The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.

This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

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In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?

Report: Nerlens Noel hires Rich Paul as agent, looking for big deal from Mavericks

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It’s been a rough year for restricted free agents (and plenty of unrestricted ones). After NBA teams spent like drunken sailors on shore leave last summer, this time around — with the cap not rising as much as had been expected — the market got tight quickly, and few questionable contracts were handed out. A year ago the Brooklyn Nets were making the Miami Heat pay big to retain Tyler Johnson and the Trail Blazers pay big to keep Allen Crabbe. This year teams were not biting the same way on restricted free agents.

Which left guys like Nerlens Noel, who expected to be maxed out by the Mavericks (or someone), still looking for a deal. Noel was frustrated enough to switch agents, picking up Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

Paul is LeBron James‘ agent, and in recent years has done well getting Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe good contracts as extensions to their rookie deals. In both cases, he showed a fearlessness in holding out longer and being willing to push the envelope. That had to appeal to Noel.

But it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics at play — and not just with Noel. Paul also represents restricted free agents this summer Shabazz Muhammad — who has yet to sign a deal — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had to take a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million (well below his max). Throw in Noel’s injury history, and teams were not eager to jump in with a big offer for the athletic big man.

At this point, no team has the money to offer Noel a max contract right now — the Bulls have the most available money at $17.3 million, the Sixers and Suns have about $15 million and $14 million. Noel’s max is $24.7 million a year. Dallas is playing hardball because they can — without another offer on the table, Noel’s only real threat is to sign the qualifying offer (about $6 million) and play the season for that, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That’s possible, but a guy with Noe’s history of injuries may want to be careful betting on himself like that.

With Paul in the negotiations, expect them to drag out. That’s about the only sure thing.