Report: Howard won’t sign extension with Lakers, but they are not out of it

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It’s all about the money. And it’s not necessarily as big a deal as Lakers fans think. But it might give the Lakers front office pause.

Lakers radio play-by-play man (and long-time Los Angeles sports personality) John Ireland reported on Tuesday that Dwight Howard’s agent Donald Fegan told the Lakers his client will not sign an extension if traded to the Lakers.

That makes trading for Howard more risky for the Lakers — if he will not sign an extension upon arrival he could play for the team the rest of this season and then opt out of the last year of his deal and bolt for New Jersey or Dallas (or wherever his heart chooses).

That does have to give the Lakers pause. But it’s not as big a deal as some make it out to be.

First, the Lakers could ask Howard to do what Chris Paul agreed to do with the Clippers when he was traded there — take his player option for next season off the table and opt in. Howard would then make $19.5 million next year.

Howard is not signing an extension immediately wherever he is traded for financial reasons. Here is a comment from ESPN’s cap guru Larry Coon in an email to PBT:

An extension is a problem. An extend-and-trade only allows three years (including the current years on his contract) and 4.5% raises, and any extension that occurs within six months of a trade is treated like an extend-and-trade. If he was traded to the Lakers and subsequently extended, he could add on only one new year, with a 4.5% raise. If he was traded on, say, March 15, he could lock-in the additional year (on his existing deal), then sign an extension after September 15 that allowed for three new years and 7.5% raises.

Remember, under the terms of the new CBA, there is no sign-and-trade like Carmelo Anthony got — if the Lakers (or Nets) did a sign-and-trade Howard could only get the three years and smaller raises.

However, after a trade the Lakers would have Howard’s hometown “Bird rights” which means that if he was traded to them, opted out of his contract them re-signed with them they could offer the extra year and $30 million over the life of the deal that only the Magic can offer now.

If the Lakers are insistent that Howard sign an extension, either now or Sept. 15, and he refuses to agree to that, the Lakers have a much bigger risk to take in getting him now. But the ideal scenario might be to get him to take on that existing year then they have a few months (and maybe a deep playoff run) to convince him to sign that extension in September.

Jerry Buss has always been a gambler. If the Lakers could make a deal with Orlando — and that is a massive, massive “if” bordering on very unlikely when you hear the people in Orlando talk — he might be willing to bet he could convince Howard to stay. But is Jim Buss willing to make that same gamble?

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.