25 Observations about the Dwight Howard trade

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25 observations about the Dwight Howard trade to send Howard to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets, Andrew Bynum to the Sixers, and very little to the Orlando Magic.

1. Let’s start with LA, since they’re the moneymaker for media and they get the best player. Wow. Holy Wow. Holy Geez Wow. The amount of talent on one team is just absurd.

2. We know where Nash fits, in the pick and roll with Howard. We know where Nash and Pau fit. We even know where Pau and Howard fit, with what we saw from Gasol’s lobs to Bynum last season. But where does Kobe fit in this? Pick and roll with Howard? Perimeter outlet shooter? Is he the winch at the elbow? How does tis work? Can he really deal with being a perimeter-outlet/ backcut scorer? That’s going to be a fascinating dynamic to watch. Beyond, you know, the general death and destruction this team will create on a nightly basis.

3. I thought that the Lakers would land Howard at the start, because it makes sense, right? Given what we know about the NBA, the Lakers getting what they want seems like a thing that would happen. I was convinced otherwise by Dwight and his agent’s constant scheming and pushing of the narrative, with all signs headed to Brooklyn, but looks like that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, it appears the Magic passed up what would have been a bad deal for the Magic with the Nets for an equally-bad-if-not-worse deal for the Magic with the four-team trade.

4. Howard gets warm weather, star power, a championship-contending team and will eventually get the money he wants. Because, really, when you look at everything he’s pulled in the last year, that seems fair.

5. For the Magic, I do think we need to give this trade some time before we react to it, but of course, no one will. They didn’t get rid of Hedo Turkoglu’s contract, despite it being with range of being dumpable, they didn’t lose Glen Davis’ contract, despite him having a surprisingly good year last year, they didn’t land an Eric Gordon player (who didn’t exist on the market). Getting Iguodala wouldn’t have helped him, at his age, salary, and role. Getting Bynum wouldn’t have helped them with his age, salary, and expiring nature (do you want to see how Bynum reacts to being on a lottery team? Because I don’t.) doesn’t help them. Getting Pau Gasol wouldn’t have helped them. We have to wait a year to see what they do in the draft and with the rest of the contracts on roster. But the lottery protections being reported on the picks make this really tough. That is the one element that makes it worse than the proposed Nets trade. You needed to at least have the possibility of getting a good pick if everything went haywire for a team.

6. It’s not a total loss for the Magic. Getting rid of the contracts of JRich and Duhon is considerable, and it’ll get lost but both Vucevic and Harkless are quality players. It doesn’t make up for the overall stench of the deal, but there is some potential there, and most of it is on easy-to-move contracts.

7. The Sixers finally got off the pot, to to speak. After talking about trading Andre Iguodala for four years, they finally pull the trigger and land the second-best center in the league. Bynum gives them the dominant offensive force they’ve been looking for, a go-to player who can also defend, and has no equal in the Eastern Conference. With a young, athletic roster and a great defensive system, the Sixers could challenge for the Atlantic title.

8. That’s assuming Bynum’s healthy. And motivated. And doesn’t kill Doug Collins. Or Collins kills him. So yeah, question marks.

9. The Sixers go from starting Hawes and Kwame Brown to likely bringing Brown off the bench and playing Thaddeus Young a high percentage of the time at the combo-forward spot. Oh, and they have Lavoy Allen. They have an army of bigs to throw at teams.

10. Denver is prepared to meet the athletic-wing hordes from Houston on the fields of battle with their own army.

11. Gallo moves back to the two-spot, where he was in New York, Wilson Chandler and Jordan Hamilton make up the reserve core, and the Nuggets have a more versatile playmaker who can also defend at an elite level. Big win for the Nuggets.

12. If you get an extension from the Nuggets, you might as well sell your house at this point.

13. Lawson-Iguodala-McGee is a pretty great core on its own, before you throw in Kenneth Faried and Gallinari. The Nuggets have about six guys who can defend multiple positions.

14. There’s not really a player that Iguodala doesn’t make better on that team. Lawson’s off-ball abilities will thrive with Iguodala on the floor, and McGee will prosper in the pick and roll. And he provides some veteran leadership in the locker room next to his old teammate Andre Miller.

15. Seriously, Steve-Nash-to-Dwight-Howard pick-and-roll. Run for your lives.

16. The Magic should have moved either Davis or Turkoglu in this deal, even with those deals not being as toxic as perceived. They should have gotten protection-free picks. They should have gotten a better prospect out of the deal or waited till one came available.

17. But then, they might have been able to had Howard not constantly and maliciously damaged their leverage at every turn.

18. Dwight Howard’s last act as an Orlando Magic player was skipping his own basketball camp… for kids.

19. Who’s ready for the Jameer Nelson-Aaron Afflalo-Moe Harkless-Glen Davis- Andrew Nicholson era?

20. Pau Gasol is now the fourth-best player on his team. Metta World Peace, an elite defender, is now fifth.

21. The Sixers have to be right there for the Atlantic now. And Jonas Valanciunas for the Raptors has to face Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Andrew Bynum, and Tyson Chandler 12 times a year. Somebody buy the kid a beer.

22. And hey, the trade didn’t get vetoed! So we’ve got that going for us. And by us, I mean everyone who didn’t want to hear complaints about the owner of a team rejecting a bad deal.

23. There will be a lot of backstory blame passed around the Magic organization to try and figure out who was in charge, ownership or Rob Hennigan. Not the way you wanted to start.

24. Remember when Melo-Amar’e was a powerful team-up? Remember when Deron Williams-Joe Johnson was big news?

25. We might just get that Heat-Lakers, LeBron-Kobe finals after all.

Stephen Curry says talk of lack of competitive balance “disrespectful” to Warriors, Cavaliers

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This year’s NBA playoffs have been horribly lopsided and they lacked drama because we all knew where it was headed: Golden State vs. Cleveland. They were so dominant that between them they lost one playoff game so far. This has brought up discussions of competitive balance — we have seen the same Finals three years in a row, and we will almost certainly head into next season expecting a fourth. Then maybe a fifth.

Not surprisingly, Stephen Curry isn’t a fan of the lack of competition argument, saying it disrespects the Warriors and the Cavaliers.

“That almost is kind of disrespectful, because it’s not like it’s easy for us to get here. It wasn’t that at all. Us and Cleveland worked our butts off all year to put ourselves in a position to be playing for a championship. The league is as strong talent-wise across the board as it’s ever been. Every night we get challenged. Obviously, we had that one stat I guess, point differential, all year. We had a pretty solid showing in that respect. But, every night was hard. Every night was challenging. You can’t just sleepwalk through a season and sleep walk through the playoffs and expect to be here. You got to do something. You got to come out every night and prove yourself. Granted, anybody who was betting on who was gonna be in the Finals probably picked those two. It’s easy for them to say that and just wake up in June and see it happen. We had to put that work in all year long to make it happen.”

Curry is right in that nobody should question the work the Warriors and Cavaliers put in to get to this point, and that the other teams did not just roll over for them. Also, both teams did get a little lucky with injuries.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that right now there is a dominant team in each conference, and that sucks the drama out of the postseason. (Maybe a healthy San Antonio team could have pushed the Warriors, we didn’t get to find out.) Golden State has four of the top 15-20 players in the NBA, and that makes them a juggernaut — again, regardless of the work put in. Other teams don’t have much of a chance if the Warriors are healthy and focused, not in a seven game series. The fact that it was flukey circumstances that put a dominant team in each conference — there isn’t another LeBron James returning home, and out West it took a one-time salary cap spike to add Kevin Durant to a 73-win team — doesn’t change the fact this season has felt like a foregone conclusion from the start.

Right now we’ve got what we wanted and expected, the trilogy between the Warriors and Cavaliers. But if we head into next season expecting (and maybe getting) round four of this matchup in the Finals, is that good for the league? Why watch the movie if you know how it ends before it starts?

Bill Laimbeer on LeBron vs. Jordan comparisons: “I’ll take LeBron James, absolutely”

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LeBron James is headed to his seventh straight NBA Finals. He just passed Michael Jordan to take over the top spot on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Fourteen years into his NBA career, he has put together a resume that few in the game’s history can match — and he’s not done.

You don’t have to think that LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan, however, if you don’t think it’s a valid discussion, you’re blinded by bias.

Former NBA All-Star, champion, and WNBA coach Bill Laimbeer of the “bad boy” Detroit Pistons was asked about the LeBron/Jordan comparison on “The Rematch” podcast, and he said we’ve never seen anyone like LeBron (hat tip the USA Today).

“I’ll take Lebron James, absolutely,” Laimbeer said to host Etan Thomas… “He’s 6-8, 285 (James is listed at 250 pounds). Runs like the wind, jumps out of the gym. Phenomenal leader since he’s been 12 years old. Understood when he came into the league how to involve his teammates from the start. And you can’t guard him. You can’t double-team, he’s too big, he powers through everything. Michael was a guard. Yeah, he was 6-6, but he wasn’t a real thick and strong guard. It took him a lot of years to learn how to involve his teammates in order to win championships. Don’t fault him for that, it’s a learning experience. But we’ve never seen anybody like LeBron James physically. He just bullies you.

It was Laimbeer and the Pistons who taught Jordan to win — they beat the Bulls year after year in the playoffs, until Jordan broadened his game (and got better teammates) and the Pistons started to fade. People point to MJ’s unblemished Finals record, but he was seen for years as a guy who couldn’t get a team to the Finals because of those Pistons (LeBron learned his lessons on a different stage, taking some early Cavs teams that had no business in the Finals to that stage anyway, only to get crushed).

LeBron has a more versatile game than Jordan, which better suits this era: When Jordan was a force in the ’80s and ’90s there was no zone defense, which led to a lot of clear-out sets where eight guys watched a one-on-one battle from the other side of the key, and if the double-team came it was obvious from where. Jordan’s skill as a guy who could get his shot, kill it from the midrange or get to the rim, his ability to physically play through contact, and the legendary killer instinct made him great. But he was aided by timing — the booming popularity of the sport in the 1990s, the rise of Nike as a marketing giant, and the fact he didn’t have a true rival, a Bird to his Magic, that could best him.

LeBron has reached the point in his career that the legacy talk and where he ranks all-time is the only real discussion left — and Jordan sits as the bar to clear. Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Bill Russell, and a few others should be on that tier as well, part of the discussion, but the point is LeBron has moved on to that level of discussion. He’s earned it. The fact some people on Twitter/sports talk radio feel the need to rip him for everything doesn’t change that — if Jordan played the social media era he would have heard the same things from the same people.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.