Report: Four-team trade involving Howard to Lakers, Iguodala trade being discussed

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UPDATE 4:10 pm: Here’s a bit of an update on this complex blockbuster four-team Dwight Howard trade that illustrates how complex and potentially unlikely it is. From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo:

Orlando’s Jason Richardson has been significant name in 4-way talks too, sources tell Y! There’s a scenario where he goes with Howard to LA.

The Lakers would save about $10 million in a trade that would send out Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol and brings back Howard and Al Harrington, and that seems a reason the Lakers would do it. They are way over the tax line the next couple years and want to lower payroll. But it also gives them room to bring back someone like Richardson, who will make about $5.7 million next year but has three years left on his deal. That would dramatically cut the Lakers savings, give them a contract that goes three years out, and the question of if they are better on the court is still up in the air.

And that’s just one team’s concerns and issues in a four-team deal. These are very, very hard trades to pull together.

1:16 pm: While things publically have been blissfully quiet on the Dwight Howard front for the past couple of weeks, the Lakers and Magic have not given up efforts to find a deal that works for everyone to send Howard to the Lakers.

And to do that, things seem to have gotten more complex (maybe too much so) but are now picking up some steam, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and the NBC Sports Network.

There are multiple moving parts in the fluid talks, but the framework of a possible deal includes Howard and Denver forward Al Harrington going to the Lakers, Philadelphia guard Andre Iguodala going to the Nuggets, Los Angeles center Andrew Bynum moving to the 76ers, and Los Angeles forward Pau Gasol and Denver guard Arron Affalo going to the Magic, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The Magic would have a better chance of moving Gasol in another deal to get further assets, sources said, and eliminate the risk of Bynum leaving them as a free agent in 2013. Nevertheless, there was still a sense that Gasol’s and Bynum’s destinations could be fluid in the talks. Either way, one would go to Orlando and the other to Philadelphia, sources said.

I’m not saying it is impossible, but do not go thinking this deal is done — that is a whole lot of moving parts and a whole lot of questions.

First, you almost never see four-team trades (in any sport) because they are insanely complex and hard to pull off, both in terms of the cap and making a deal everyone likes. So that’s a strike.

Next, the Lakers have said they don’t want to give up both Gasol and Bynum in a deal, but that was before the Steve Nash trade. Is a Nash/Howard pick-and-roll with Kobe on the wing enough to contend in the West? Would the Lakers really give up both guys? Actually, they might to save money (Howard and Harrington as a combo save them about $10 million next season).

The next issue, both Philadelphia and Denver (and the Lakers) are teams over the salary cap, so nobody can just absorb more salary, and Orlando wants to unload the contracts of Hedo Turkoglu and/or Jason Richardson. Denver has a $13 million trade exception but they are not looking to take on more salary as an organization and wouldn’t do something to help the Lakers unless they got a lot of help in return. Olympian Iguodala might be enough. Might. I could see Philly being willing to move Iggy to get Gasol or Bynum, but how many picks and what else are they going to be asked to surrender?

Which is to say, right now there are more questions than answers.

But it’s out there. And it seems to have some substance.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr. planned to have J. Cole dunk in dunk-contest routine

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Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. seemed pretty steamed about getting eliminated in the first round of the dunk contest:

The dunk-contest scoring system – five judges ranking dunks on a scale of 6-10 – is plenty flawed. There should have been a larger difference between the Smith and Victor Oladipo dunks the Dallas point guard mentioned. But Oladipo didn’t advance, either. Personally, I thought the right two players – eventual-winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. – advanced.

Maybe Smith was more upset about the missed opportunity – dunks (plural!) involving rapper J. Cole.

Amin El-Hassan of ESPN on Black Opinions Matter:

If Dennis had made it to the finals, Cole was going to throw him the alley-oop. But then the plan was, he was going to throw him the oop, Dennis would dunk it, and then Cole would catch the ball, and then he’d dunk it too. That was going to be the ill, craziest dunk-contest use of a prop or a person ever. But we never got to saw it, because they were holding out until the final round. They didn’t want to bring it out in the first round.

This certainly would have been unprecedented and cool. But unless Smith had something amazing planned for the alley-oop, the best element would have been Cole dunking. That would have upstaged Smith, who’s presumably the one being judged.

For what it’s worth, Cole can dunk. We’ve seen it in the celebrity game:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard returns this season

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When announcing last month Kawhi Leonard was out indefinitely due to a lingering quad injury, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dismissed the idea his star forward would miss the rest of the season:

Apparently, Popovich’s expectation has changed.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

The Spurs (35-24) are third in the West despite Leonard playing just nine games. Popovich has done a great job (maybe Coach of the Year-worthy). LaMarcus Aldridge is having a bounce-back season in a leading role. Pau Gasol leads a supporting cast of players good in their roles.

But San Antonio’s ceiling is so much lower without Leonard.

He’s an elite defender who shuts down opposing scorers on the perimeter and can comfortably switch inside. He can isolate offensively to score efficiently, and he spaces the floor off the ball with strong 3-point shooting. Those are all skills that translate to the playoffs.

Without him, the Spurs rely too heavily on older, slower defenders. That’s ripe to be exploited in the postseason.

Teams might even jockey to match up with San Antonio – the most vulnerable-appearing Western Conference team in line to get home-court advantage in the first round.

Of course, this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of Leonard returning. Popovich could just be trying to shut down speculation. He clearly doesn’t like discussing this issue.

But the Spurs are the most cautious team on injuries. If Leonard risks further injury, they’ll keep him sidelined.

This injury has already caused tension. This won’t help.

Mark Cuban’s fine third-largest known fine in NBA history

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While explaining how he told his players the team was better off losing this season, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said “I’m probably not supposed to say this” and “Adam would hate hearing that.”

Cuban was right.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver fined Cuban $600,000 for “public statements detrimental to the NBA.” The league doesn’t announce all its fines, but that’s the third-largest known fine in NBA history.

The leaderboard:

1. Timberwolves, $3.5 million in 2000 (signing under-the-table agreement with Joe Smith)

2. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, $2.5 million in 2014 (making racist comments)

3. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $600,000 in 2018 (saying he told his players the team is better off losing)

4. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $500,000 in 2002 (criticizing officiating)

4. Knicks, $500,000 in 2006 (fighting Nuggets)

4. Nuggets, $500,000 2006 (fighting Knicks)

4. Vladimir Radmanovic, $500,000 in 2007 (injuring his shoulder while snowboarding)

4. Pistons general manager Joe Dumars, $500,000 in 2010 (leaking confidential league memos)

4. Heat owner Micky Arison, $500,000 in 2011 (tweets during the lockout breaking rank with other owners)

I’d be on Cuban (and/or the Mavericks) getting yet another spot on this list following the investigation of the franchise for a culture tolerant of sexual harassment and domestic abuse. That one will probably be deserved – not just the league trying to preserve the illusion of pure competition amid a system that incentivizes losing.

Mark Cuban fined $600,000 for telling team “losing is our best option”

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Of all the hot water Mark Cuban is in right now with the Mavericks and the NBA league office, this is probably the smallest tub. And the least expensive fine.

Cuban recently went on Julius Erving’s podcast, House Call with Dr. J, and said:

“I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night. And here we are, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, “Look, losing is our best option.” Adam would hate hearing that, but at least I sat down, and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again.”

You were not supposed to say that — the NBA Wednesday fined Cuban $600,000 for “for public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Cuban’s not wrong, it’s just a matter of perception. The NBA has worked very hard to lessen the image that teams are tanking for draft position (why do you think there was pressure on the Sixers to replace Sam Hinkie?), they don’t need an owner saying it’s the smart thing to do. Even though it is. Teams tank — it is still the only way for a small or medium market team to get a superstar, get high in the draft and hopefully pick one (it’s not that simple, ask the Magic) — but the league wants at least the facade that all of its teams are competitive. All the way through the end of the season.

As you read this, the bottom eight teams in the NBA are within three games of each other for the worst record — and a higher lottery slot. Does anyone think any of them are not going to roll out young, less-talented rosters in the name of development when the real goal is to lose as many games as they can the rest of the way? Most scouts think there is some real talent at the top of this draft, and teams are going to try to get up there and get it.

Just nobody can talk about it.