Report: Dwight Howard has change of heart, would re-sign with Lakers

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Lakers fans, go ahead and celebrate this news. But know one key thing — this doesn’t bring the trade any closer to reality.

Still, one of the questions out there in the proposed trade scenarios to get Dwight Howard to the Lakers was the concern he would not re-sign in Los Angeles. And in the past his people have said as much. But he has had a change of heart. That according to the well connected Jarrod Rudolph on twitter.

Sources: Dwight Howard is ready to join Lakers. If traded to Los Angeles Howard will re-sign long-term with team after 2012-13 season.

Chris Broussard of ESPN confirmed this, adding that Howard is now very focused on LA. Again, it’s good news for Lakers fans.

Now, let me throw some cold water on the celebration.

The Lakers willingness to make a move has never been the holdup in getting a deal done — they have been ready to make a trade even without a commitment long-term from Howard. They thought he would come around.

And they’re right — Howard has shredded his public image through this process. He cannot get traded somewhere, play out the string and become a free agent, then start the bidding/rumor cycle again. That would make LeBron James’ decision look brilliant. Howard has to lock down wherever he goes.

What has held up things has come down to getting Andrew Bynum to commit long term. The Lakers All-Star center is in the last year of his deal and has resisted committing to re-sign in Orlando, which kills a two-team deal.

So the teams have reportedly brought in Cleveland (or maybe Houston) for a three-team deal that sends Bynum to the Cavs with Kyrie Irving (Bynum said he would re-sign there, but saying it and putting pen to paper are different things). In this deal, Anderson Varejao and picks go to Orlando, but is that enough for them? After what they have turned down before? Is that better than the Rockets offer?

All reports have called the three-team talks “preliminary.” As in shaky and a long way from done. And there are questions about how to balance salary (if Cavs take in Bynum but only ship out only Varejao, need more salary to make that work). And from the start, Orlando has been in no rush.

If this doesn’t move fast, the Lakers may spin and just work on re-signing Bynum and keeping that going. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne emphasized this:

Orlando, while willing to trade Howard, is not in a rush. The Magic will wait until they get a deal they like. The Lakers remained dogged in their pursuit of Howard late into the night Wednesday and plan to continue discussions into Thursday, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com, but the longer the process drags on, the more it complicates their other offseason business and forces them to consider moving on.

 

Bottom line: talks will get serious soon — and the Magic do not seem to be moving fast — or this house of cards will crumble, too.

But at least we know Howard is good with it now.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).