LeBron says we shouldn’t compare his free agent decision to Dwight Howard’s

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After a great deal of deliberation, Dwight Howard decided to opt-in for the additional year on his contract, staying in Orlando for at least one more season. It obviously was a difficult decision, evidenced by the fact that Howard changed his mind seemingly a thousand times before signing the necessary paperwork to stay with Magic.

During his press conference Thursday afternoon, Howard brought up LeBron James and his infamous decision to leave Cleveland while discussing how his own choice was what was best for him.

“Nobody wants to be hated,” Howard said. “I don’t think LeBron wants to be hated, but he did what he felt was best for him. The way he did it could have been wrong, but he did what was best for him. And he has to live with it, just like me.”

The fact that Howard was comparing his situation (at least on some level) to that of LeBron’s was mentioned to James at the Heat’s shootaround in Philadelphia on Friday. James seemed to want no part of the comparison, and pointed out how his situation was very different than Howard’s.

From Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

“I think his situation is totally different from mine,” James said. “Everyone keeps comparing all these guys’ situations to mine. I fulfilled my contract in Cleveland. I was an unrestricted free agent, and I was a free agent. I could have done whatever I wanted to do; I could have signed back with the Cavs or leave.

“Dwight’s situation is they were going down to the deadline. I mean, all these other guys going down trade deadline or getting traded, or saying they want to opt in or opt out, my situation is totally different from everyone else’s. I think the best thing about him is he’s happy. The organization is happy that he’s staying and they can move on with their season. But none of their situations — not Chris Paul, not Carmelo Anthony, not Dwight Howard — none of their situations is like mine.”

Wade said that it simply is how it is, that James is doomed to have such moments repeat themselves.

“In all fairness,” Wade said, “he’s the only one who went through free agency.

We all can agree that the way LeBron left the Cavaliers — essentially by ripping the hearts of the team’s fans out during a nationally televised special — was less than ideal, to say the very least. But when he’s talking about players like Howard or Carmelo Anthony and how the way they approached their impending free agency is nothing like how he handled it, James is absolutely right.

Anthony and Howard created a circus-like atmosphere around their teams in the final years of their respective deals; Anthony successfully forced a trade to New York mid-season, while Howard’s inner uncertainty and his constant flip-flopping was undoubtedly a huge distraction.

But James? He played out the final year of his contract, and there was no trade deadline drama where he was concerned.

When it was all said and done, James ultimately did leave Cleveland, which forced the franchise to rebuild through the draft completely from scratch. And the way he did it was brutal, adding insult to injury to Cavs’ fans.

LeBron does have a point here, though: He didn’t hold his team hostage during the final year of his deal, so maybe we should stop comparing other star’s mid-season decisions to his, which didn’t take place until after he fulfilled his contract and he entered free agency.

We’re absolutely positive that Cavaliers fans must feel much better about the whole thing when looking at it from that perspective.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Suns Eric Bledsoe revenge game

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Giannis Antetokounmpoone of the NBA’s best players – won’t help new Bucks teammate Eric Bledsoe in a revenge game against the Suns tonight.

Not only is Milwaukee missing Mirza Teletovic and John Henson (and Matthew Dellavedova and Jabari Parker), Antetokounmpo is out.

Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Antetokounmpo will miss Wednesday’s game against the Phoenix Suns due to right knee soreness.

Antetokounmpo says his knee soreness is the same injury he dealt with in the off-season, which caused him to withdraw from the Greek national team.

“It feels good,” Antetokounmpo said after sitting out shootaround. “I’m just trying to be careful with it and not make any damage. That’s it, because it’s a long season and I’m trying to be careful.”

The Bucks have been outscored by 18.6 points per 100 possessions without Antetokounmpo this season (and are +2.3 without him). Phoenix isn’t good, but neither is Milwaukee without Antetokounmpo.

I don’t think Bledsoe will mind a chance to get more aggressive tonight, though.

Report: Mexico City could host NBA’s 31st minor-league team

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said his league would look into placing a franchise in Mexico City.

Meanwhile, the NBA’s minor-league has affiliates for 26 of 30 NBA teams and counting. The league also has youth academies in China, India, Australia and Senegal – and also counting.

Jonathan Givony of  ESPN:

The NBA will announce a new basketball development and training academy in Mexico City during the Global Games December 7th and 9th, in conjunction with CONADE (Mexico’s National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport) and the Mexican Basketball Federation, sources told ESPN.

Mexico City could emerge as the 31st G League franchise, where prospects from the seven academies graduate up to, according to sources.

A minor-league team in Mexico City could be a nice testing ground for an NBA franchise. An unaffiliated minor-league team is also an interesting wrinkle, especially how it’d be stocked.

Ultimately, experimentation is a purpose of the NBA’s minor league. This would be running multiple test cases at once.

Lonzo Ball on his shot: “I feel like they’re going to fall. Just have to keep shooting.”

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Lonzo Ball‘s shooting woes this season have been well chronicled. Maybe even beaten to death — but when your father is a hype man, and Magic Johnson says you’re the “face of the franchise” it invites a whole new level of scrutiny. Doesn’t matter if it’s fair, it’s reality.

Rather than a cold recitation of the numbers, a look at Ball’s shot chart for the season says a 1,000 words worth.

Ball has admitted frustration but has said throughout he expects things to turn. He reiterated that in an interview on the Mason and Ireland Show on ESPN LA Radio. He likes the looks he’s getting, thinks they will start to go down. (Hat tip Lakers’ Nation.)

“I’m just missing shots. I definitely like the looks I’m getting. Most of them are wide open, people are going under screens. I feel like they’re going to fall. Just have to keep shooting and shooting with confidence.”

Ball is right. He is shooting 28.2 percent on shots where the defender is 4-6 feet away (22.9 percent from three on those), and 21.3 percent when the defender is 6 or more feet away (19.1 percent from three).

Those shots may start to fall — Luke Walton has preached the same thing to Ball, just keep shooting and it will come around. Right now Ball is in his own head about this, maybe guiding the shots rather than just firing away, but the Lakers aren’t going to rebuild his shot mid-season. He should just keep shooting.

Maybe of more concern is that 42.5 percent in the restricted area — if he isn’t a decent scoring threat on drives, it will hamper his entire passing game. He’s a rookie, he needs time to adjust to the speed, length, and physicality of the NBA, it’s far too early to say what he is and isn’t yet. But those finishing numbers are ones to watch.

Kevin Durant says “I plan on playing” against Thunder Wednesday

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After Kevin Durant missed the Warriors’ last game with a sprained ankle, there was some question about whether he would play on his latest return to Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

Doubt no more, he will play. Like we all expected.

Durant has a ring now and says he wants to move on from the drama surrounding his departure from Oklahoma City, but you can be sure plenty of Thunder fans don’t feel that way. KD will again have boos rained down on him all game.

This is obviously a very different Thunder team than the one Durant left, with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. While the Thunder have stumbled and blown leads (in six of their nine losses OKC had double-digit leads) this is a team with a lot of potential, as Durant discussed.