Lakers introduce Dwight Howard, who’s awfully relieved this situation he created is over

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Dwight Howard appeared at the podium, that big, goofy smile of his plastered on his face. He was beaming from ear-to-ear with a look that said excitement, anticipation, and most of all, relief. Yes, Howard was clearly grateful that this entire ordeal is behind him. After months and months, he can finally put this chapter in the rear view, and get away from all the problems that have plagued his life since last December.

You know, all of those problems he created.

Howard told reporters at his introductory press conference as a Los Angeles Laker that he was just glad everything was over and that he could “breathe” again. Which is convenient, since he literally choked the life out of the Orlando Magic franchise. Howard refused to talk about the team that he started his NBA career with in 2004, saying that it was “Laker Day” and refusing to comment on the situation in Orlando, beyond thanking the fans and the city there (as it burns in embers behind him) and this one quote:

“It was a very tough situation for everyone to let go.”

You can say that again.

Howard spoke to the situation with the media, and how his public image had taken such a hit in recent days/months/eons due to his constant trade demands and a never-ending series of leaks from his camp spelling out his feelings for the franchise, even after willingly opting-in to another year with the team. Howard said he “forgave” the media, including Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, which is just incredibly benevolent of him.

Howard spoke of the past four months he’s spent rehabbing from back surgery in L.A., and mentioned that he has not started running yet, nor will he “rush” his return, an ominous line that has to send shivers down the back of Lakers fans. But most estimates say that Howard should be fully healthy by the time training camp starts.

Howard also mentioned that that time in L.A. is in part what made him feel that this was “home.” So just to be clear here, he felt more at home in a hotel he’d been staying at in Beverly Hills for four months than the community he’d lived in since 2004. Got it.

Howard provided his prototypical comic relief when he did a pretty spot-on Kobe impression of the phone call shared between the two Friday night, which Bryant confirmed earlier in the day prior to Team USA’s win over Argentina. He joked and laughed and seemed at ease. And why shouldn’t he? He got everything he wanted, and now gets to be the hero to millions.

The All-Star center repeatedly made mention to his Superman moniker, and briefly touched on the “mistakes” he’d made throughout this process. “I’m going to do better,” the big man said before leaving the podium with his new Lakers No.12 jersey. Just in time for Orlando fans.

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.