It’s official: League approves four-team deal, Howard a Laker

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Some Lakers fans were convinced David Stern was going to try to kill this blockbuster, balance changing trade. And you could bet if he really could have some owners (*cough*Mark Cuban*cough*) would have pressured him to do so.

But the league had no real standing to block this trade — because it can be justified for basketball reasons and because Stern is not the defacto owner of the team like he was with the Hornets when he called off the Chris Paul trade. This trade was going through. And it has, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and the NBC Sports Network:

The teams finalized the trade on a call with NBA officials Friday afternoon.

So here is how the trade works out.

Lakers get: Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark,

Magic get: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, three first round picks (one from each team), two second-round picks.

76ers get: Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson.

Nuggets get: Andre Iguodala.

As I said before, I like this trade a lot for the Lakers, Sixers and Denver. They all get better and have guys that fit with what they want to do.

As for Orlando, they said they wanted to get picks, get some good young players and save some cap space. There was no good deal for them to take, there was nothing remotely like equal value, so they looked for a way to rebuild. Most of the guys they just picked up are nice rotation players, and the picks will be lower in the draft order. However, the Magic are going to be bad and it is their own picks the next few years that will be key to them getting to rebuild through the draft.

Could they have saved more money and gotten better picks from Houston? Probably. This is not a great deal. But I don’t think we can call it a bust until we see how those picks pan out. And that’s going to take years.

But it’s done now, either way. Good luck, Magic fans. Lakers fans, you don’t need it.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.