Report: Wait, Jason Smith actually killed the Chris Paul Lakers trade? Pack it in, civilization ends here.

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Yes, we’re still talking about this. Forgive me, I’m just as tired of it as you are. But for the unrighteously indignant…

So one more time with feeling, the Lakers, Rockets, and Hornets had agreed on a trade last December. Chris Paul goes to the Lakers, Pau Gasol goes to the Rockets and magically solves all their problems, and a bunch of older players on the decline and a Knicks latter-half first-round pick go to New Orleans. Then Emperor Stern came in and ruined everything because he hates the Lakers just hates them and vetoed the trades as acting commissioner of the NBA because Dan Gilbert wanted him to and because, again, he hates the Lakers.

That’s the popular sentiment which is in no way rooted in fact.

(Reality: Stern vetoed the trade as acting owner of the Hornets, a move which Mark Cuban said at the Sloan Sports Analytic Conference was not uncommon in any way for any anowner, surprise surprise, because it took on long-term money for marginal players in pursuit of short-term gains in the win column while sacrificing long-term flexibility which is pretty much the worst way to rebuild ever. Fin.)

But there’s something that’s stuck with analysts for a long time. Trying to construct that trade? It left a big old salary hole. There was a missing component. The numbers do not compute. Error, error. I’m sorry, I can’t do that trade, David. The assumption was that they would have found a way around it, but the reality is with the salary situations of all three teams, that was going to be difficult.

And now late Friday night, ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that the big hang-up was actually… Jason Smith. That’s right.

The principal pieces of the original three-team deal were indeed all agreed to: Paul would be going to the Lakers; Pau Gasol was bound for Houston; and New Orleans would be receiving Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, along with a 2012 first-round draft pick from the Rockets that had been previously acquired from the New York Knicks. But based on that trade construction, sources say the Lakers would have been forced to absorb another $3 million more in salary to make the cap math work.

The teams involved concluded that the best way to solve that issue would be for the Hornets to sign and trade Smith to the Lakers as part of the exchange. The Lakers, however, were prepared to guarantee only the first year of the three-year deal required in all sign-and-trades. Sources say Smith promptly rejected that offer, believing he should hold out for a longer-team deal, then had his decision vindicated when the Hornets later offered him a three-year deal worth $7.5 million with the first two years fully guaranteed.

via Weekend Dime — Scouts on Lakers, Knicks and more – ESPN.

So Jason Smith refused a sign-and-trade because he knew he was worth more money which he then in fact got and that meant that there actually wasn’t a framework in place. So now David Stern has vetoed a trade that wasn’t actually in place because it wasn’t actually possible under the proposed conditions because, again, he hates those Lakers (who he once said he wished could play against themselves in the Finals because it makes so much money for the league). So he vetoed a non-existent trade which was blocked because Jason Smith… again, Jason Smith knew he could get more money on the open market.

(Note: Jason’s played rather well for two seasons in New Orleans despite wide fluctuations in his role and playing time, it’s just amazing that he’s the linch pin in this thing.)

Bring back the lockout, I’m done.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.