Magic give Howard until end of Wednesday to sign on for another year, or they trade him

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UPDATE 6:21 pm: Dwight Howard has told teammates he is in for this season and reportedly told both some teammates and the Orlando Magic front office he would “opt-in” and play for them next season.

The Magic are not going to take his word for it — they have given Howard until the end of the day Wednesday to sign paperwork that does away with his early termination option for this summer or they will work hard to trade him before the deadline Thursday at 3 eastern. That’s the report from David Aldridge at NBA.com.

The request (to stay) was a “complete surprise” to the Magic, according to a league source. So was Wednesday’s declaration. But Orlando is not convinced Howard genuinely wants to stay.

The Magic have asked Howard for months to commit just to playing next year. His sudden acquiescence, a day before the trade deadline, is being viewed skeptically by the Magic — hence the demand that both Howard and agent Dan Fegan sign by Wednesday evening.

Dwight Howard, you can’t just say nice things here. You have to sign on the line that is dotted.

And if he does not, if this was all lip service about the Magic but was really about keeping his options open, he will vault past LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as the most disliked NBA player by many fans. You should know also that unlike Kobe (who relishes it) and LeBron (who has grown used to it), Howard really does not want to be seen as a villain.

3:18 pm: Dwight Howard is apparently very serious about staying with the Magic for the rest of this season — and maybe the next one. Or not;.

Howard has informed teammates he is all in for this year but did not mention future years. He reportedly told Magic officials he will opt-in to stay with the team next season, but nobody has seen the paperwork yet. Some reports are conflicting on the details but Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated tweeted this:

As first reported by WFTV in Orlando, sources confirm Dwight Howard told teammates & confidantes he will play final option year of contract

Multiple other sources have now confirmed parts of this. He apparently called a meeting with teammates on the road in San Antonio to inform them he would not leave this season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. Howard also took the meeting to talk about what each player needed to do to win the NBA title this season.

Until Howard officially signs paperwork that formally removes the Early Termination Option for next year from his deal he could change his mind and leave after this season. Multiple reports say that paperwork is in his hands but has not been filed. The Magic are listening to trade offers until they get that paperwork.

Howard would take a big risk changing his mind —  if he did that Howard would zoom past LeBron James on the “hated basketball player” scale and Howard wants to be liked by fans more than LeBron ever did.

Even if he signs to opt-in he will be a free agent after next season (the summer of 2013), so consider this just a reprieve for the Magic. They still have to prove they can win with him, but Orlando now has another year to improve the roster.

Following an All-Star Weekend where the city showed him a lot of love — and a dramatic win over the Miami Heat that showed the Magic may well be the third best team in the East — Howard is willing to give them that chance.

In New Jersey, you can start the Deron Williams trade rumors in 5….4….3…2…1….

Markieff Morris calls Paul Millsap a “crybaby,” Millsap responds “It definitely got personal now”

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The Atlanta Hawks owned the Washington Wizards from the opening tip Saturday, making it a 2-1 series with an easy win.

It’s a series now — and that includes trash talk.

Paul Millsap had 29 points, pulled down 14 boards, got to the line 11 times, and led the Hawks to the win. He got the calls he wanted this game, but Washington’s Markieff Morris was not exactly down with high praise for Millsap.

The key line here: “”He just did more for his team. He’s a crybaby. Get all the calls and you a crybaby.”

Millsap was asked about that comment in his postgame presser — and the best part may be Dennis Schroeder’s reaction.

“It definitely got personal now, yes. I mean, I don’t care. So what? He can take his loss and go back to the hotel and be ready for the next game.”

These two have already had a beef this series.

Game 4 in this series just got a lot more interesting.

Marc Gasol game-winner tops Kawhi Leonard’s brilliance, evens Spurs/Grizzlies series 2-2

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Best. Game. Of. The. Playoffs.

So far at least.

Kawhi Leonard scored 16 consecutive points for the Spurs down the stretch of regulation to force overtime, then in OT hit a corner three with 7.2 seconds left to tie the game at 108-108. Leonard finished the game with a career playoff high of 43 points.

It wasn’t enough. Because in those final seconds Marc Gasol did this.

The 110-108 Memphis win ties the series at 2-2 as it heads back to San Antonio for Game 5. I might not want to sit next to Gregg Popovich on the flight home.

While Gasol hit the big shot, he never gets the chance if Mike Conley isn’t every kind of amazing through the clutch parts of this game. Conley finished with 35 points, and that includes a floater in the lane that forced OT (although Leonard got a pretty good look to end it in regulation and just missed). I’m surprised the Spurs switched on the pseudo pick on this play.

The Spurs struggled to get stops down the stretch, mostly because they had David Lee and Tony Parker both on the floor and Memphis did a good job getting switches onto those defenders. Spurs starting center and best defensive big Dewayne Dedmon missed the game due to an illness, and that ended up mattering.

Hawks take control early, romp past Wizards 116-98

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ATLANTA (AP) — Paul Millsap scored 29 points, Dennis Schroder had 27 and the Atlanta Hawks delivered an early knockout blow against Washington, cruising to a 116-98 victory Saturday that sliced the Wizards’ lead to 2-1 in the opening-round playoff series.

After two tight losses in Washington exposed some bad blood between the teams, Atlanta returned home and built a 25-point lead by late in the first quarter.

The Hawks were never seriously challenged by the Wizards, who were essentially a one-man team. John Wall kept up his dazzling play in the series, scoring 29 points, but the point guard got no help from his teammates.

The other Washington starters combined to score 30 points on 14-of-45 shooting.

Millsap also had 14 rebounds, while rookie Taurean Prince chipped in with 16 points.

Game 4 is Monday night in Atlanta.

The Hawks came out intent on moving the ball, getting open looks and cutting down on the turnovers that plagued them in the first two contests.

Talk about following the game plan.

Atlanta pushed out to a double-digit lead before the game was 3 minutes old and stretched the margin to 38-13 with just under a minute to go in the opening quarter on Schroder’s 3-pointer.

Wall did everything he could to spark the Wizards. He posed along the baseline after a thunderous dunk, which might have had more effect if the Wizards weren’t losing by 23 at the time. He also darted through the lane against a collapsing defense to bank in an improbable shot, drawing gasps from the Atlanta crowd.

Wall made all but one shot and scored 21 points in the first half, but the Wizards trailed 64-46 heading to the locker room. The other four Washington starters had just 18 points.

Beal, in particular, had a miserable night after averaging 26.5 points in the first two games. He was held to 12 points on 6-of-20 shooting, missing all six of his attempts beyond the arc.

TIP INS

Wizards: Wall is averaging 31 points per game in the series. … F Otto Porter Jr. left in the third quarter with a strained neck and didn’t return. … After a video review, Jason Smith was called for a flagrant foul against Millsap late in the third quarter.

Hawks: C Dwight Howard remains a non-factor in Atlanta’s offense. He scored five points and took just four shots, giving him a mere 15 attempts over the first three games. He did have 11 rebounds. … Schroder had some issues at the free-throw line, making only half of his eight attempts. Millsap did, too, going 5 of 9. … Atlanta had a double-digit lead for the final 44:24 of the game. … Prince picked up a technical foul for taunting the Wizards after an alley-oop dunk in the closing minutes. … The Hawks had just 11 turnovers.

 

Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic to play, start vs. Golden State in Game 3

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In 20 games after the Trail Blazers traded for him, Jusuf Nurkic averaged 15.2 points 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Portland was 9.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court and went 14-6, a surge that helped get them into the playoffs. Then a leg fracture had him sidelined for the end of the season and the start of the playoffs.

Until Saturday.

He will play limited minutes, but the Blazers will take it.

Portland is down 0-2 to the Warriors but are coming home to take on a Golden State team that will be without Kevin Durant again (strained calf) and coach Steve Kerr (illness).

Nurkic gives Portland some hope, he certainly helps their defense. We’ll see if that’s enough.