Orlando Magic v New York Knicks

Everyone denies report Dwight Howard called team owner about Van Gundy


Let us start with a good reminder for reading a lot of stories in today’s journalism world — every anonymous source has a motive. If someone “leaks” something to a reporter its because they are trying to spin the story for their own motives.

With that, we bring you the updated report from Orlando’s WKMG’s 6 Sports Director David Pingalore — this is the same guy who broke the story Dwight Howard wanted coach Stan Van Gundy fired and earlier this week reported Howard would not be back for the playoffs. Now he takes everything a step farther.

Pingalore was told through sources that have direct knowledge of the call that it was taken in the DeVos suite at Amway Center by DeVos sometime during the Magic’s game with the Atlanta Hawks.

According to the sources, Howard is still upset with Van Gundy, confirming Pingalore’s report from earlier this month that Howard went to Magic management asking for Van Gundy to be fired. Sources confirm the call to DeVos came after Howard visited Los Angeles to get diagnosed for his sore back.

Not long after that report came out, denials started raining down like Ryan Anderson corner threes.

First came this from ESPN:

But multiple league sources directly affiliated with the Magic and Howard disputed the television report to ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace.

“It’s a completely made up, B.S. story,” one of Howard’s representatives told ESPN.com.

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated sent this out on Sulia:

Regarding report that Dwight Howard told Orlando owner Rich DeVos he wouldn’t play for coach Stan Van Gundy, a source close to the situation says it’s not accurate. It speaks volumes that people are ready to believe it, though. Dwight’s PR is a nightmare these days.

The Orlando Sentinel talked to Stan Van Gundy about it.

Of the WKMG-TV report, Van Gundy told the Sentinel Thursday afternoon in a text message, “I make nothing of them and I have no comment.”

My thought — look, Howard doesn’t like playing for SVG. Apparently nobody does. We get it. But with his good image taking a hit, if Howard’s back let him out on the court for the playoffs he would be out there. I don’t think he’s doing it to sabotage the coach — Van Gundy is gone when the season is over anyway. This is the NBA, a superstar player always wins the power struggle with the coach because that level of player is hard to come by. Howard knows he’s won the war, he’d go out and fight another battle if he could.

But that doesn’t mean people around all the participants don’t have their reasons to spin the story.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.