Dwight Howard just wants to win. Which is why he’s refusing Chicago, still. Obviously. Because that makes sense.

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Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that the Magic finally have a team they’re willing to trade with, who wants Dwight Howard. One problem, he doesn’t. Howard has long said that all that matters to him is winning. That that’s what’s important. Which is made clearly by the fact he doesn’t want to go to… Chicago?

From CBSSports.com:

The Orlando Magic would like to seriously engage the Bulls in trade talks for Dwight Howard, but the All-Star center’s apparent reluctance to make a long-term commitment to Chicago has all but killed the discussions, league sources told CBSSports.com.

The feeling among rival executives remains that the Magic seem intent on rolling the dice and keeping Howard for the rest of the season, hoping a long playoff run, emotional ties to Orlando and an extra year and $29 million they could offer would persuade him to stay beyond this season. But the move would be highly risky, given that Howard has refused to publicly commit to the Magic — a stance that sources view as a strong sign that hed leave as a free agent if he isn’t traded.

“He’s telling everyone he’s leaving,” one league source said Sunday.

via Ken Berger – CBSSports.com Keep Dwight? Not if the Magic could trade him to Chicago.

So Howard never gets to play the “I just want to win” card ever again, right? It’s fine if his move is just financially motivated or he just really wants to live in New York. It’s fine if he thinks Mikhail Prokhorov can put him on more billboards or make him big in Uzbekistan or something. But if you want to win titles, multiple titles? You go to Chicago with Tom Thibodeau’s defense and the MVP Derrick Rose. It would be the best 1-2 combo in the league. It makes them better than the Heat. It may be the only thing that can make Chicago better than the Heat.

But, no.

Instead, it’s Deron Williams, who is a superb player, a top-five point guard in this league when motivated, and then… probably nothing after the trade. Avery Johnson, a good coach sometimes, a bad coach sometimes, an allright coach most of the time. Maybe Anthony Morrow, maybe MarShon Brooks, not both, probably Kris Humphries. Yeah, that sounds much better than the best team in the East.

For the Bulls, giving up Deng is the problem, really. Everything else is largely expendable. Take Carlos Boozer, please, the Bulls say. But losing Deng is losing an All-Star wing player, and that can’t happen without assurance from Howard he’ll stay. So instead the situation remains the same, and we’re left to wonder why a player talks so much about winning and then says no to his best short-term and l0ng-term chance to win.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.