Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard gestures during the first half of their NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston

Dwight Howard goes on rant about fourth quarter touches, even after the Magic win

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Let me tell you how bad Dwight Howard’s post-game rant in Milwaukee was.

I don’t have enough room to block all the important quotes. I’m sitting here, staring at this mass of text, and that’s usually my format. Gentle intro, segue to blockquote, blockquote, discussion of blockquote, tangential remarks, unnecessarily snarky finish, the end. But this thing is too long. So please go read the full remarks, as I try and give you some indication of Howard going off the deep end after… wait for it… the Magic won Saturday night.

“I do want the ball more in the fourth quarter,” a frustrated Howard told FOX Sports exclusively after the game.

“I want to become a closer. The only way you get there is by getting the ball and have coach have the confidence in giving me the ball.

“That’s how Kobe (Bryant) and the rest of the great fourth-quarter players got that way. It’s trial and error. When Kobe first got in the league, it took him a while to become the killer he is in the fourth quarter now. That’s because he went through that phase where he had to learn what shots to take and just get confidence in taking shots in the fourth quarter.

“That’s one thing that I want for myself, so I can become the guy who finishes games for my team. I want to be that guy whose team wants him to close games out for them. Coach just needs to have confidence in me.”

via ‘Superman’ expects to wear cape late in games.

Now, there’s a number of things that are weird about this, as noted by Sam Gardner of Fox Sports Florida. Howard is incredibly hard to get one-on-ones with, because, you know, he’s an All-Star. And he really threw his team and coach under the bus after a 16-0 run to win a game? Maybe the reporter just seized an opportunity put out the bait, and Howard landed on it. If so, good on him. But Howard hasn’t been careless with his approach to the media. This whole thing seems weird.

First off, let’s take note that while dealing with a million questions regarding his trade demands and his situation with the Lakers, he name drops Kobe Bryant. There are a million players he could have dropped there. Is Bryant the most notable? Absolutely. Is he the only one who people have reported Howard has a bad relationship with after phone calls this month? Also yes. Additionally, since he’s saying he wants to be the closer, and he’s saying Kobe Bryant is L.A.’s closer…

No, you know what? We’ll save that for another time, because I’m far enough out on the ledge as it is right now.

Howard is complaining… after a win! His team won! Jason Richardson won the game for the Magic by going nutso in the second half! Howard talks all this year about how he needs help, he just wants to win, he wants to have better teammates. Now he’s mad because he didn’t get the ball enough in the fourth quarter, when they won, and his teammates step up.

It’s always something with Howard. He’s creating an impossible situation for the Magic, and you’d think he’d just be happy for the guys he says he loves so much in Orlando.

Putting aside his free-throw issues, the fact that nearly no team goes to their big man late in games to close, Howard’s long-standing history of difficulty with quality low-post defense and the fact he just wasn’t having a great game, this just isn’t the time. I’m willing to discuss how to use Howard late in games, his effectiveness in shutting the door, all of that. But not after a win and not after everything else that’s gone on in Orlando. This is just absurd.

 

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. 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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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.

John Wall pushes down Jusuf Nurkic from behind in retaliation (video)

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John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.

An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.

But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.