The Inbounds: Dwight Howard and the need for quiet time

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Moderation in all things.

There’s room in our discussion for NBA players to have choices about their lives and careers, to have the opportunity to decide their own fate, to express their wishes to management and not simply shut up and play, and for us not to be left with what Dwight Howard has given us. We thought LeBron’s Decision was crushing and absurd, and that seems like nothing more than a rude declaration at this point. We thought the Melodrama was the furthest application of player power, engineering a trade to the team he wanted.

But this? This Dwightmare? It’s gone beyond anything that we thought would happen. It has crossed every boundary of reasonable expectation for a player’s behavior and at this point resembles some giant-sized child, smashing houses while it screams that it wanted its birthday cake with aqua-colored icing, not blue.

Consider the latest nonsense to come trickling out, as Yahoo Sports and CBSSports.com reported late Wednesday night that the Magic center met with GM Rob Hennigan and his assistant GM along with his agent Dan Fegan and his manager, and not only reiterated his trade demand for the 700th time, but “pointedly” questioned why the Magic hadn’t traded him yet. He pushed again for the Nets in the long-term, and the Lakers in the short-term.

Wait.

Hold up.

One second.

Trade demands are nothing new, that’s a common defense of Howard from the seven people left on the planet who don’t feel he’s being a complete brat. And that’s certainly accurate. And the new standard is to demand a trade where you want to go so you can get that full five-year (or six under the previous CBA)  deal and have the market you want. OK, fine, we can even live with that. It’s a bit too much cake to eat it, too, considering it’s a deliberate attempt to hold a team hostage in order to avoid the restrictions of the available market in free agency, but fine.

But now Howard’s asking about why the Magic haven’t made this or that deal?

“I’ve held you hostage for a year, put your franchise’s ownership through an emotional rollercoaster, tortured your fans, and made your organization seem like a complete joke, and now I’m going to tell you which deal you should take in exchange for the All-Star who you had the foresight to draft, develop, and build around. Wah.”

This is the worst kind of exercising of player power. It’s not just the audacity of Howard to essentially demand that the Magic take an absolutely wretched deal (seriously, have you seen the Nets’ deal particulars?), but it’s this key element: Who do you think leaked these talks to the media?

It’s not the Magic. All it does is serve to hurt their leverage in getting a deal for Howard, something they’ve had to fight against Howard’s nonsense to get for six months. It was Howard’s camp, trying to undermine the Magic’s efforts. If they lose leverage, a deal comes faster, and may land Howard where he wants. If it doesn’t, it still hurts the Magic’s leverage and could land him in Brooklyn at the trade deadline.

As if he hasn’t done enough to this franchise.

As if last season wasn’t ruined under a cloud of drama, as if this season hasn’t already been destroyed by the impending trade. Those players know Howard’s gone, they know they will play as professionals, and yet it won’t matter. Howard has sucked two years from this franchise, and now he’s going to question which deals they take?

Howard wants to know what is taking so long, why he hasn’t been dealt yet. And the answer is because since Howard has abandoned the so-called “loyalty” he has for the franchise, their primary responsibility is not to him. It’s to themselves. Rob Hennigan still has to manage the Magic after this trade. He still has to try and get the best deal for the Magic going forward. His job is not to make Dwight Howard happy. The Magic don’t owe Howard happiness. They owe him his money, and they  owe him the courtesy of keeping him informed. There has been nothing to inform him of, so they haven’t contacted him. They don’t owe him a trade, they don’t owe him a trade where he wants, they don’t owe him a trade where he wants, when he wants. The Magic were a franchise before Dwight Howard’s goofy smile went to Florida, they will be one after.

If Howard really wanted this deal completed as quickly as possible? He’d think back to Kindergarten and remember quiet time. He needs to disappear from public view. No interviews, no meetings, and most importantly, no leaked meetings or feelings. Keep your camp tight, don’t talk to anyone, shut off all conversations. This thing will sort itself out. He’s made his feelings crystal clear, the Magic know who they can and can’t deal with. This thing will happen in its own time. But trying to rush it along is only going to hurt Hennigan’s leverage, which means he has to take more time to recover it. Hennigan has to give teams the indication he’s under no real hurry or pressure to trade Howard, and he only will if the deal he wants will come. He’s not going to get that if teams know that Howard’s constantly bending them and pressuring them in certain directions.

Howard’s best move is to just stop. To be quiet, and wait. This isn’t about a sentiment about players not expressing their wishes. If a player is unhappy, he should be able to express to management that he is. Howard has done that. A hundred times. A player should be able to request/demand a trade. Howard has done that. A hundred times. The Magic don’t want him around anymore anymore than he wants to be in Orlando. This is a stressful and unpleasant situation, and the Magic aren’t the ones dragging it out. Were they able to solicit offers across the market for Howard, if Howard had publicly expressed he’ll play anywhere but Orlando but privately only in a certain number of cities, Hennigan would be able to ratchet up the offers and get a better deal.

Howard is, in fact, working against himself. He’s hurting his own chances of being traded, and banking on Hennigan rolling over. As much as management and ownership in days gone by had little confidence in the intelligence or savvy of the players, now it seems the players think management will just do what they want, on their timeline, when they snap their fingers. That’s now how it works. Howard’s holding a franchise hostage, then asking why the franchise he’s holding hostage won’t let him leave.

You’re holding them hostage, man! Put the threat away and everyone can get out of this bank and go home!

But no. Not in this new era of player power gone to the extremes. For years, players have been exploited by management and ownership, taken advantage of, robbed of their ability to express their desires and play out their careers the way they want. Now we’re seeing the ugly other side of it, as a player thinks he’s standing up for himself when he’s really just acting the child.

It’s time for quiet time, Dwight. Your complaints have been duly noted. You have exerted your power and influence over the situation. Everyone respects how important you are. Now go away and let the big boys get the business of ending this disaster you’ve created done.

Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas offers advice to Ball brothers on Lithuania

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Lithuania is a hoops-mad country.

The Baltic nation has fewer people in it than the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area, yet it has three players in the NBA right now — Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas, and Mindaugas Kuzminskas — and has put 11 players in the league total (such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Arvydas Sabonis, and Sarunas Marciulionis). The country has won three bronze medals in the Olympics ( 1992, 1996, and 2000). It’s Lithuanian league also has been the launching pad for Celtics’ Aron Baynes to make the NBA.

Now the Ball brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo are headed there on professional contracts.

One of those players — the Raptors’ Valanciunas, had advice for the Ball brothers, speaking to ESPN.

“They’re getting themselves into a great opportunity. Lithuania is beautiful country… We have great basketball history. We’re such a small country, but we have many, many great players. Our basketball school is good., so they chose a really good school. They just gotta work hard — it’s all about working. You can be as good as you can be by working. Talent is one thing, but work you put in, that’s gonna show up.

“If they have any problems, let me know. I can help them out.”

Good luck finding anyone around the NBA who thinks this ends well, especially those who know the Ball family. They are sending a college freshman and a high school junior to a small city in a former Soviet bloc country with a very different culture, that will be a major adjustment. The coach doesn’t speak English and his former American players have not spoken highly of him. The Lithuanian league itself has men — far more physically developed than the Ball brothers — and is known for a physical style of play. It’s also known as a league where the players have a reasonably high hoops IQ and don’t like undisciplined players.

But if LiAngelo and LaMelo have any problems, they can call Valanciunas.

Paul George on return to Indiana Wednesday: “For whatever reason, I’ll be booed”

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This week is the Oklahoma City Thunder’s “you can’t go home again” week of the schedule. On Saturday night, Carmelo Anthony will return to New York where Knicks fans should welcome him with cheers and open arms — he meant a lot to that franchise in recent years — but may very well not.

First up, however, Paul George returns to Indiana in a Thunder uniform Wednesday night.

There’s little doubt how he will be greeted by Indiana fans, who felt betrayed by a man they stuck by through recovery from a severe injury. George knows what is coming,

Here are the key lines from PG13:

“Boos. I honestly wouldn’t think it would be any other way. The Pacers fans outweigh the Paul George fans. That’s what I’m looking forward to. For whatever reason, I’ll be booed, but I’m gonna embrace that. I’m gonna thrive on that.”

For whatever reason? You asked to be traded and fans take that personally. There is no loyalty in sports — I have no problem with players asking out because teams show no hesitancy in dumping players they no longer have a use for (and fans are almost always good with that) — but he had to know how this would be taken in Indiana.

What George might want to worry about is stopping the red-hot Victor Oladipo (he averaged 35.7 points per game last week), because he and the Pacers are playing better than the Thunder right now.

Kawhi Leonard returns Tuesday on minutes restriction

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The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.

Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.

He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.

Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.

However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.

That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?

 

 

 

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.