Magic may want to land Ellis, but trade complicated, unlikely

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It looks more and more like the Orlando Magic are going to go with the Jerry West philosophy and call Dwight Howard’s bluff — go ahead and leave us and that guaranteed $30 million on the table. (Which is not really $30 million, really, but we’ll get to that.)

What’s more, they are trying to convince him to stay by bringing in help to the nice but not contender status Magic roster. Maybe in the form of Monta Ellis. But that trade is very complicated and hard to pull off.

The Magic likely would be very willing to do it — anything to show Howard how serious they are — but for the Warriors it is hard to make this trade work. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com explains.

The Warriors are discussing ways to acquire center Andrew Bogut from Milwaukee as part of a complicated, three-team proposal that would send Monta Ellis to Orlando, multiple league sources told CBSSports.com.

The Warriors would get Bogut from the Bucks and send Ellis to Orlando as part of the Magic’s efforts to persuade Dwight Howard that they are prepared to continue surrounding him with top-flight talent. The Magic are exploring multiple scenarios to upgrade their roster in the hopes that Howard would then relent on his strategy to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

I get why Magic GM Otis Smith would want to do a deal like this — he is desperate to show Dwight Howard that they can build a contender around him. Of course, the real problem is he’s other desperation moves to show the same thing — trading for Gilbert Arenas after the gun incidents and knee surgeries when he had the worst contract in the NBA, or letting Brandon Bass go so he could make a run at Glen Davis — have not panned out well at all. Which is part of the reason the Magic are a second tier team in the East and Howard is looking to get out.

But why would the Warriors do this? They certainly need to make changes to the roster, but is Bogut coming off another major injury and the cast-offs from Orlando really much of an upgrade? The targets in the West for the next few years are Oklahoma City and the improving Clippers — those will be the teams to beat in the next five years, barring any major changes. Not sure how this would move the Warriors much closer to that goal.

Plus there is this about the Warriors from the Contra Costa Times.

Team sources, once again, refute reports that Golden State is considering trading guard Monta Ellis to Orlando for anything other than Dwight Howard.

It’s all a long shot. But the Magic are in the long shot game right now as they try to keep Howard. So they keep pushing for deals that would send Bogut or Chris Kaman to Golden State.

They can say their deal offers $30 million more — which would not be true because while they can guarantee that fifth year Howard likely would play it somewhere for a large salary, it just would be smaller due to smaller raises. At his age, with his earnings from endorsements, the wins may matter more than that money. To sum up, Berger:

The most difficult aspect of Bogut going to Golden State in the three-team scenario that would send Ellis to Orlando is Howard’s apparent reluctance to commit one way or the other by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. Even if Howard decided he wanted to stay in Orlando, it’s likely that he would opt out of his $19.5 million contract for next season anyway and test free agency, when he could get a five-year deal from Orlando as opposed to a four-year deal with one of his top two choices, the Nets or Mavericks.

LeBron James, do you owe Cleveland anything? “I don’t owe anybody anything”

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It will be the biggest off-court topic of the NBA season: Will LeBron James stay with the Cavaliers after this season?

Right now, LeBron doesn’t know the answer to that question for sure. I’m sure he has ideas, but he wisely leaves all his options open, then can make a call next summer when the time comes.

When that time does come, does he owe his hometown Cleveland anything? LeBron answered that question in the latest issue of GQ, and he answered with an emphatic no.

“LeBron James owes nobody anything. Nobody,” he said. “When my mother told me I don’t owe her anything, from that point in time, I don’t owe anybody anything. But what I will give to the city of Cleveland is passion, commitment, and inspiration. As long as I put that jersey on, that’s what I represent. That’s why I’m there — to inspire that city. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”

That’s not what Cavs fans may want to hear, but it’s also spot on. LeBron has given this franchise everything he has, he has brought them the first title the team has had in 50 years, and nobody sane can question his passion or how hard he plays.

LeBron could well get to his eighth straight NBA Finals, feel he’s on a team that can push the Warriors, then look at his options — the Lakers and a young core that doesn’t defend well, for example — and think maybe he’s best where he’s at. Perhaps he teams up with another star in Los Angeles or somewhere else. If LeBron called up 28 teams and said “I want to come there” those teams would make whatever moves they needed to for the deal to happen. (I say 28 because the Warriors wouldn’t, and even they’d think about it.)

LeBron has the leverage, and he is always a guy who keeps his options open. He will be asked about his future in every road stop, he will dodge the questions, and we’ll try to read the tea leaves, but as of right now LeBron doesn’t know for sure what LeBron will do next summer. Neither do we.

Report: Final season of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract extension just $7 million guaranteed

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Spurs big LaMarcus Aldridge, who will earn $21,461,010 this season, agreed to exercise his $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19 in conjunction with signing a two-year, $50 million contract extension.

As usual, the devil is in the details.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Guaranteeing Aldridge just $7 million in 2020-21, when he’ll be 35, is obviously to San Antonio’s advantage relative to fully guaranteeing his extension. But it sets up an uneasy choice for the Spurs. Their three options for Aldridge will be:

  • Pay him $24 million in 2020-21 to play for them
  • Pay him $7 million in 2020-21 not to play for them
  • Pay him $2,333,333 in each 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 not to play for them

There’s a solid chance that none of those are appealing.

Some speculated San Antonio extended Aldridge to facilitate a trade, removing uncertainty stemming from Aldridge’s player option. Though the Spurs now can’t trade him before the deadline, they could move him in the offseason.

But that 15% trade kicker is a significant inhibitor. His salary is already lofty for his age. An increase would only dissuade teams.

The simplest explanation is probably correct: The Spurs value the stability of their core, no matter how old it is, over flexibility.

Thunder give P.J. Dozier No. 35, Kevin Durant’s old number

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The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.

Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.

Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.

But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.

Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.

In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.

Cornrowed Joel Embiid calls minute limit f—ing BS

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76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.

Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.

Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”

“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”

“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”

“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”

We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.

Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.

Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.

At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.