Orlando Magic v New York Knicks

Another reversal: Dwight Howard says he will opt-in with Magic

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Orlando called Dwight Howard’s bluff — when he refused Wednesday afternoon to waive his Early Termination option (ETO, the thing that lets him opt out of his contract next summer) the Magic had enough of Howard’s “take a chance on me” game and worked the phones hard to trade him.

Orlando was done.

But Howard wasn’t — he wants to stay in Orlando and had another change of heart.

In an exclusive interview with Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM (who gets the scoop of the year) Howard says he will sign the papers to stay with the Magic.

“Man, listen, you know my heart, my soul and everything I have is in Orlando,” Howard told RealGM. “I just can’t leave it behind.”

Orlando officials will believe it when they have the signed paper in their hands, but other sources have confirmed this is Howard’s plan. He said he would sign the ETO waiver first thing Thursday morning.

From the start Orlando officials believed Howard wanted to stay in the team but it was advisors around him — agent Dan Fegan and others — who were pushing him to be a free agent. (Fegan did not put together Howard’s current contract, so he had incentive to want a new one and get paid).

Howard essentially confirmed that.

“I have gotten some bad advice,” Howard said. “I apologize for this circus I have caused to the fans of our city. They didn’t deserve none of this. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. I will do whatever I can to make this right and do what I was put in Orlando to do…

“This has been a very hard time,” Howard said. “For me, my family and all of us. The fans deserve a better hero and I will make that happen. I love and appreciate my fans and this city.”

For the Magic to accept the waiving of the ETO, both Howard and Fegan have to sign off on it. We’ll see how that goes, Fegan has talked Howard out of signing off on it before. But Howard seems certain this time. And there are hints Fegan could be on his way out.

If I were cynical about such matters — and I am — I would note that if Howard were traded to the Nets, a team well out of the playoffs, he would lose a large bonus from Adidas, as reported by ESPN.

Again, we’ll believe it when we see it, but he seems serious.

If he does sign to stay, how will the city of Orlando react? My guess is they will welcome him with open arms like the prodigal son.

However, Howard’s national reputation will take a hit for how poorly he handled the entire situation, giving mixed signals and changing his mind multiple times. He handled the decision making process worse than LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, but his end decision is likely to be one casual fans like better. How that all impacts his popularity is uncharted territory.

Remember that him opting in is a one-year thing — next trade deadline, if the Magic have not improved the roster to Howard’s satisfaction, we cold be right back in the same place. That is the most likely outcome. Howard would be a free agent in the class of 2013.

But for now, Howard appears committed to the Magic for another year.

Sit back and watch the top 10 dunks from the first five weeks of NBA season

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Who doesn’t love a good dunk compilation?

Well, somebody probably just said “bah, humbug” but is that the person you really want to hang out with?

The fine folks at NBA.com put together the Top 10 dunks of October and November, and when Rudy Gobert dunking over Kristaps Porzingis is all the way down at 10, you know it’s a good list. Put off starting your Christmas shopping, at least for another 2:44, and watch the video.

Want to watch Chance the Rapper throw dodgeballs at mascots? Here you go.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 12:  Chance The Rapper performs on Camp Stage during day one of Tyler, the Creator's 5th Annual Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival at Exposition Park on November 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Want to watch Chance the Rapper throw dodgeballs at mascots? Of course you do. How is that even a question?

Above you can see just that from Chicago Friday night (where Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and the Bulls knocked off the Cavaliers). Benny the Bull is on his side as well, while the Cubs’ mascot and others try and stay out of the way.

I’ll take this over another kids’ dribbling contest any day.

LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobili hustling saves lead to Spurs bucket (VIDEO)

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That’s about the most Spurs play ever.

During the third quarter of San Antonio’s win over Washington Friday night, LaMarcus Aldridge saved the ball from going out-of-bounds on the baseline, he threw it out high to Manu Ginobili, who had to leap and save it from going into the backcourt. Two hustle plays. From there the Spurs whipped the ball around the perimeter, and it ended up back to Aldridge on the baseline, where he nailed the 12-foot jumper.

Eventually, the Spurs would get a Kawhi Leonard jumper to give them the victory.

LeBron on Cavs’ three-game losing streak: “We got to get out of the honeymoon stage”

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James wipes his face as he looks down after guard Kyrie Irving missed a shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Chicago. The Bulls won 111-105. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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For a team that is 13-5 and atop the Eastern Conference standings, the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been their intimidating selves consistently this season. There have been flashes during a 13-2 start, but mostly they win on talent, or when they flip the switch for a half, but they haven’t looked like a tested team working on building good habits through the first quarter of the NBA season. They have an elite offense, but their defense is surrendering 105.1 points per 100 possessions, 20th in the league.

It’s been worse the last four games. The Cavaliers had to come from behind to beat the Sixers, then got blown out by the Bucks and Clippers. Friday night, Cleveland lost to Chicago, giving the Cavs a three-game losing streak, and LeBron James had enough. He sent a message to his team through the media (from the Associated Press):

“We got to get out of the honeymoon stage,” James said. “You got to play the game, the right way. We’ve got to battle every night like we ain’t won nothing. Last year is last year. After ring night is over with, now it’s a new season and everybody is gunning for us every night and we have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over. It’s time to play some real ball and be physical, especially in the trenches. Giving up 78 points (in the paint) is ridiculous. We’ve got to man up. Everybody.”

The Cavaliers would be far from the first team to have a championship hangover, and considering the five-decade title drought in Cleveland before that win we should have expected one of those “I can’t get off the couch, I’m just going to lay here and watch golf all day” kind of hangovers. As Gregg Popovich has said before, its human nature to let up after a big win.

However, the blowout loss at the hands of the Clippers Thursday — the only title contending team the Cavs have faced this season — should be a wake-up call. The fact is the Cavaliers are still playing well enough to beat everyone in the East, but their real tests come in the form of the Warriors/Clippers/Spurs out West. Right now it’s hard to picture the inconsistent defense of the Cavaliers lifting them past any of those teams in four out of seven games.

LeBron has been to six-straight Finals for a reason — he does not let up. And he’s going to have to shake this team out of its malaise to get them back to an elite standing.

It’s also the first week of December. It’s we’re having this same conversation the last week of March about the Cavaliers then it’s okay to start looking for the panic button in Cleveland. For now, trust LeBron to be the leader this team needs. Calling them out was just step one.