While team shops him, Dwight Howard tells Magic “take a chance” on me

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It’s actions, not words that matter.

Dwight Howard told the Magic Wednesday night to take a chance on him again, like they did when he was 18. Trust him.

“They took a chance on me at 18,” Howard said (transcribed from the Orlando Sentinel’s postgame video). “And what did I do? I gave them everything I had for eight years. Take a chance again.”

But Magic ownership sees a guy that earlier that day told his teammates and members of the front office that he would opt-in and spend another year with the Magic — then hours later said he would not give up his right to terminate his contract this summer. He would not give up his rights to walk away after this season and leave the Magic empty handed. Ownership sees a Howard that wants his cake and to eat it to — to make a playoff run with a good Magic team then test free agency.

Even as late as 1:30 am Thursday morning came a report from Jarrod N Rudolph of RealGM that in an exclusive interview Howard told him again he would opt-in for next season. That he would send the paperwork in Thursday morning.

The Magic will believe it when they see it. As they should — actions not words. In the short term they feel they have no choice — Magic officials are burning up the phones talking to other teams, looking to move Howard before the 3 p.m. Thursday trade deadline, according to multiple sources such as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

The Nets — Howard’s preferred destination — have a package centered around Brook Lopez and a couple first round picks, along with other players. The Rockets and Lakers, both long time suitors of Howard, are making a push. The Magic are reaching out to teams like the Knicks to see if a package involving Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler is a possibility. They are talking to everyone.

But Howard really doesn’t want to be traded. Here is what he said following the Magic’s loss to the Spurs Wednesday night (transcribed from the Orlando Sentinel’s video of his postgame remarks).

“They know how I feel,” Howard said. “I’ve expressed that to my teammates. I’ve expressed that to ownership, and it’s on them now. I’ve done my job. I haven’t changed. And despite whatever is being said, I’m still the same person. If you want to scrutinize me for taking care of Dwight, then that’s fine….

“I’ve sat down with them on numerous occasions about what we can do together, but I can’t do it all myself. I want them to help. I want them to be involved in changing Orlando. That’s always been my goal. And if that don’t know what to do. But I want to continue to play…

“They took a chance on me at 18. And what did I do? I gave them everything I had for eight years. Take a chance again. I go out every night and play hard. If I didn’t want to win I would have dogged it, but I can’t do that. That’s not who I am. And look where we are. We’re in a great position. All I said was take a chance. They took a chance on me at 18 when everybody else said ‘no, don’t do it.’ It looked stupid at first, but look now. It’s the same situation. That’s it. I understand their situation “

If he really understands their situation, he’ll understand why they have to trade him. They can’t trust him not to walk away at the end of the season now. He lost that. Because of his actions.

Thunder drop 148 points on defenseless Cavaliers, win in rout

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If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.

The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):

• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.

• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.

• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.

• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.

• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.

• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.

• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.

To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.

For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.

It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.

Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.

This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.

Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo out a couple of games to manage sore knee

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It’s not discussed much, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chronically sore knee that has been an issue since last summer. It’s not debilitating, it doesn’t require surgery, but it’s something Antetokounmpo and the Bucks need to actively manage.

Hence, Antetokounmpo is sitting out the next couple of games. From Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo will sit out Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Monday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns as the team actively manages the health of Antetokounmpo’s sore right knee….

Antetokounmpo’s injury, which is not considered to be tendinitis, is regarded as something that is always going to bother him to some extent, according to a league source. There will be days where the discomfort is higher and some when it’s lower, and the team’s goal is to manage that on a daily basis to keep the injury from becoming severe or significant — something it is not considered to be at this point.

Antetokounmpo is going to get eight days of rest this way, which is the smart long-term move for the Bucks.

The challenge is the Bucks may be sixth in the East as you read this, but they are just one game up on the nine seed Pistons. They need to get wins without Antetokounmpo, which is hard because they have been outscored by 10.6 points per 100 possessions. However, they could be without him a lot longer if Antetokounmpo’s knee isn’t managed now.

Kristaps Porzingis: “Players know” he’s All-Star starter

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When picking the East All-Star starters, two of the three frontcourt choices were obvious: LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the third slot there were a few players who could make a case. The fans chose Joel Embiid third, Kristaps Porzingis fourth, and Kevin Love fifth. The media also had Embiid third and Porzingis fourth, but Al Horford fifth. That was enough to earn Embiid the starting nod.

The players voted Porzingis third, Embiid fourth, and Andre Drummond fifth. Needless to say, Porzingis thinks the players got it right, as he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“Players know,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

If one were cynical, one would note the players also voted for Tyler Cavanaugh and Tyler Zeller, so how much do we trust their vote? Fortunately, we’re above such crass things.

Porzingis is a lock to make his first All-Star Game this year as a reserve (picked by the coaches).

What separated the two? Embiid has been a little more efficient this season, he’s stronger on the boards and had been a bigger defensive presence. Also, the Sixers have a better record than the Knicks, who have stumbled of late. Or, maybe the fans just like Embiid’s big personality more — he’s blowing off Rihanna.

Both of these guys should have a lot of All-Star starts in their future. This year it goes to Embiid.

 

Lakers make 14% of their free throws, win

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Jordan Clarkson‘s free throw rattled around the rim before falling out late in the first quarter. The Los Angeles crowd groaned. The Lakers missed their first five free throws, and the visiting Pacers led by seven.

It appeared to be one of those nights.

And it was. The Lakers shot just 2-for-14 (14%) on free throws Friday. But they still won, 99-86.

That’s the worst free-throw percentage with at least eight attempts by any team and the worst free-throw percentage regardless of attempts by a winning team in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to 1963-64.

Here’s the “leaderboard,” winners in purple and losers in gold:

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The Lakers are shooting an NBA-worst 69% on free throws, but last night took the cake. The offenders: