Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard and Miami Heat forward LeBron James talk during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Orlando

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


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.

Pistons reveal “Detroit Chrome” alternate uniform

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I’m a fan of the Pistons’ alternate uniforms in general — their “Motor City” ones may be may favorite alternates around the league.

Now they have a new one — Detroit Chrome.

The Pistons will break these out for seven home games this season. From the official release:

The inspiration for the Detroit Chrome jerseys came about as a way to honor our coolest cars from the past and the cars of the future. Detroit is universally known as the auto capital of the world, where chrome leaves an indelible mark on the cars we create. The uniforms feature a matte chrome base color with clean simple lines inspired by the classic muscle cars that have roared up and down Woodward Avenue for decades. The navy trim and Detroit emblazoned across the chest represent the blue collar work ethic that the auto industry and region was built on.

Clean, simple, cool — I like it.

That would look good in the first round of the playoffs, too. (I’m predicting they get the eight seed.)


51 Questions: Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

Miami Heat v Phoenix Suns
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Do the Phoenix Suns finally have a playoff formula?

It has been five years since the Phoenix Suns made the playoffs, tying the franchise record for longest playoff drought. It’s the fourth longest active drought in the NBA (Timberwolves at 11, Kings at nine, and Pistons at six).

Think about it this way: The Magic, Sixers, and Jazz have been to the playoffs more recently than the Suns.

Phoenix hasn’t bottomed out on a rebuild, they’ve actually been pretty good — they surprised everyone and won 48 games two seasons ago, then had 39 wins last season when things went very wrong and injuries crushed the team after the All-Star break. However, in a deep Western Conference pretty good isn’t good enough.

Suns management and ownership wants that to change. They want back in the playoff dance. Now.

It’s why they went hard after LaMarcus Aldridge this summer, coming in a surprising second to a Spurs team that nobody was likely to catch in that chase.

This summer the Suns made other moves to address needs. They went out and got Tyson Chandler as a free agent. The first reaction was he was there to provide a shot blocking and defensive quarterbacking, two things the Suns sorely lacked. However, just as importantly, they needed a vocal locker room leader, a vacuum that was part of the problem in Phoenix’s implosion last season.

The Suns also needed shooting, they went out and got Mirza Teletovic and drafted Devin Booker.

It’s easy to think the Suns regressed because they lost a lot of talent since the last trade deadline — Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, Brandan Wright — but they believe the pieces they have now fit together better.

Phoenix believes it can make the playoffs; it thinks it finally has the right formula.

Maybe. They will be in the mix. But a four things have to happen to make that a reality.

First is Chandler has to lead a defensive renaissance on this team. Last season they were average, 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but Chandler can help change that. First, he gives them defensive rebounding that they lacked. He gives them a quarterback that they needed to call things out and have everyone on the same page (reports of how he talks on defense are already pouring out of camp). And he helps protects the paint — that means Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and P.J. Tucker can pressure the ball more and take risks out on the perimeter knowing Chandler can erase some mistakes.

The second is an obvious one: Bledsoe and Knight need to be able to work well together. They are going to share playmaking duties, and both are going to spend time working off the ball, both need to be ready for that mental adjustment. We haven’t seen that much yet, we need to see how it works out.

Third, there needs to be shooting to space the floor. Bledsoe is a penetrator who is a career 32 percent from three, while Knight shot just 31.3 percent from three after being traded to the Suns (likely due to ankle injuries that required off-season surgery). Those two men will be running the pick-and-roll with Chandler, who sets a good pick, rolls hard and can finish, but doesn’t have shooting range. The Suns other two starters are likely P.J. Tucker, who is not a huge threat from three but shot a respectable 34.5 percent from there last season, and Markieff Morris, who is a career 32.8 percent from three.

If I’m an opposing defense, what’s to keep me from going under picks and packing the lane against the Suns? Phoenix needs Knight to return to the guy who is a career 36 percent from three, they need Morris to improve from the outside, and they need guys like Teletovic and Booker to play key minutes and space the floor at times.

Fourth, and finally, they need the potentially volatile mixture of an unhappy Morris and a coach in Jeff Hornacek in the last year of his contract not to combust. Everyone is saying all the right things at the start of camp, and this is why guys like Chandler and Ronnie Price were brought in, but there is the potential for things to go sideways, especially if some early losses pile up.

The biggest hurdle for the Suns in ending their playoff drought is they are in the Western Conference.

Even if all four of things mentioned above go right for them — if they run and hit more threes plus play better defense — this is likely a 45 win team (give or take a few, and probably take). The problem is that in the West that may not be enough. Barring injuries, there are likely seven lock playoff teams in the West — Spurs, Warriors, Clippers, Rockets, Thunder, Grizzlies, and Pelicans. That leaves the Suns battling teams such as the Jazz, Mavericks and maybe the Kings for that final playoff spot. It may take more than 45 wins, and things are going to have to break the Suns’ way to get there.

Maybe Robert Sarver gets his way and the playoff drought ends this season, it’s more likely than snow in Phoenix this winter. But I wouldn’t bet much on either happening.