Steve Nash calls going to Lakers “surprise” but is excited

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Even Steve Nash didn’t expect to be a Laker.

Well, he was hip to the idea before the rest of us were, but it was just a couple weeks ago that Nash was saying it would be hard to picture himself as a Laker. But things change in free agency. Fast. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak called Bill Duffy, Nash’s agent, on July 1 to plant the seed and three days latter it blossomed.

Nash went on ESPN 710 Radio in Los Angeles on Thursday and talked about the move, again emphasizing the importance of being close to his family in the decision (as opposed to going to New York or Toronto). Here are some of his highlight quotes:

• “It was a surprise. I said I think 10 days ago that it would be hard for me to put on a Lakers uniform, so for everyone including myself it was a surprise. But things happen. First and foremost the Suns decided to go in a new direction. Then the opportunity to be close to my kids was exciting to me. And I think you’ll agree basketball wise it makes a lot of sense.”

• “Frankly, the idea to be close to my son and my daughters who will be in Phoenix is my No. 1 priority. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic that I’m a good fit for the team and we have a great team and we are a contender. That’s incredible, too. But as far as getting over the hump and being able to be a Laker after being a Sun and trying to beat the Lakers in the playoffs after all those years, this was too good an opportunity to pass up.”

• On speaking to and being recruited by Kobe Bryant: “To me it was important to speak to (Kobe) to make sure he was completely on board, that he could visualize this as being a good fit and being excited about it. So I spoke to him, I spoke to coach Brown, and they were excited….

“(He can be) Someone to help handle the ball, and to lead. I think he also thought we were complimentary leaders. I’m more on the positive side, he’s more, um, as he said it “crack the whip.”

• “Kobe is still one of the all time great players in this game and I hope he does have the ball in his hands a lot. But I think it takes pressure off him if someone else can handle the ball, get him the ball in spots, maybe get him a few more easy baskets, and at the same time create offense for other guys so he’s not stuck so often having to take on one or two defenders. Perhaps we can all compliment each other because of our different skills. Maybe I can space the floor for those big guys.”

• “I feel like I’m in great shape, I know a lot about my body and I think I’ve learned a lot over the years to preserve the level of play I’m at now. I’m not worried about minutes.”

• He said a championship would not define him “but I’m dying to win one.”

• As for the ongoing Dwight Howard to the Lakers speculation: “(Howard) is a special player, a special talent for sure and I can understand why the Lakers may be recruiting him. But all I know is that for me to get the opportunity to play with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum that’s amazing. It’d be a pleasure to play with those two. And frankly that’s a lot for me to pick up there, so I’m not even going to speculate with what is going to happen with Dwight.”

• He said he hoped the Lakers would recruit Grant Hill to the team as a reserve.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

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.