Report: Dwight Howard signed with Magic to avoid trade to Lakers

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Reports had surfaced long before the trade deadline that Dwight Howard had ruled out going to the Lakers. Maybe it was a meeting with Kobe Bryant that rubbed him the wrong way (Kobe allegedly told Howard he would be the third option on offense). Maybe it was him not wanting to follow in Shaquille O’Neal’s footsteps.

But apparently Howard’s distaste for going to the Lakers was so strong the Magic were able to use it as leverage to get him to waive his option year and stay in Orlando.

That is what the New York Post is reporting.

According to league sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Orlando brass got fed up with Howard’s yes-no-maybe posturing and threatened to trade him to the Lakers, not his desired location (the Nets), if he did not sign an agreement to waive the opt-out clause for the final season of his contract. Howard eventually signed the papers, but only after he was told “he would be a Laker by the end of the day,” according to one source.

Howard was waffling before the threat — he was not fully ready to force his way out of Orlando to the Nets and come out of it the bad guy. He does like Orlando, but he wants to win and likes the idea of New York. He changed his mind a few times. So…

Orlando played its trump card. Sources for months maintained Howard wanted no part of the Lakers, that he did not want to follow the legacy of Shaquille O’Neal. Orlando leaders had one other reason for the threat: They favored the Lakers’ package of Andrew Bynum, Devin Ebanks and Steve Blake over the Nets’ offer.

When was the last time you remember a free agent trying hard to avoid going to the Lakers? That said, you may want to take a grain of salt with the report — whether this was the determining factor or one smaller factor among many can be up for debate.

What is not up for debate is Magic have real problems — Howard’s feud with coach Stan Van Gundy has gone public in an ugly way. That combined with the state of the roster (not a contender and not close to being one) and it is going to be hard to keep Howard around after his contract is up in 2013.

If he is going to bolt then, the Magic have to trade him, ideally this summer before the circus comes back to town next season. And you can bet that Lakers package is still on the table.

Oh, things are a hot mess in Orlando right now.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Cavaliers on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.