Nets would rather get Howard now rather than wait until July

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It’s not that the Nets are impatient, but the organization would rather get Dwight Howard now rather than wait until this summer. Even if that’s not the goal of Dwight’s latest statements.

There are a couple of good reasons for this.

One, the longer they wait the more things that can go wrong. Call it the “bird in the hand” theory. Chris Broussard explains that thinking over ESPN.

While the Nets would love to get Dwight Howard as a free agent, thus enabling them to keep Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and all their other assets to build around Howard and Deron Williams, their preference is to get him before the trade deadline; just because you never know what can happen in free agency.

They’d rather trade for Howard this week and have the security of knowing he’s a Net, even if it means losing some of their good young pieces and draft picks. To that end, the Nets are seeking a third team to sweeten their offer to Orlando. Orlando is believed to be trying to create a bidding war between the Nets and the Lakers for Howard

The other problem with the Nets picking up Howard this summer is that while they have cap space, they do not have enough right to sign Howard to a max deal without making other moves. Challenging moves.

Zach Lowe explains the finances of the Nets in detail over at Sports Illustrated.

(After looking at guaranteed salary, cap holds and the like)… the Nets’ payroll for 2012-13 heading into free agency would be about $46.1 million, leaving them just short of $12 million in cap room to chase the big fella. Howard is eligible for a maximum salary of $18.996 million next season. The Nets, in other words, would be $7 million short of achieving this dream scenario, and there is no way to achieve it without shedding salary before free agency begins.

They could carve out max-level cap room by renouncing their rights to Lopez (and thus lopping off the $7.7 million hold), but he’s as good as gone if they do that…. If New Jersey wants to keep Lopez at market price, they have to shed salary now. Dealing Jordan Farmar and Johan Petro — one a redundant piece, the other just plain bad — for Boris Diaw’s expiring deal would get the job done, and the Bobcats would take in another lottery pick — probably the Nets’ own 2012 pick — as the price for having every NBA die-hard remind them in perpetuity of their role in helping enable a big-market Eastern Conference team to sign a star from a mid-market rival.

The Nets would be a better team if Dwight Howard just came there as a free agent. But if the Magic really are committed to moving Howard in a trade, the Nets need to jump in with both feet. Or they will lose Howard and then Deron Williams as a free agent this summer (hello Dallas), and then the move to Brooklyn will lack real energy and excitement.

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.