Maybe now Dwight Howard can learn the value of silence

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I better not wake up next week and see that Dwight Howard has taken a full-page ad in the Orlando Sentinel. I don’t want to see any grinning image of Howard in a Magic uniform, I don’t want to see any message of how much his time in Orlando meant to him, I don’t want any platitudes of wishing the fans well.

He wrecked a franchise. He wrecked a fanbase. He bailed on the city, and in doing so, ruined their ability to get anything close to a comprehensive package back. He hurt them for a year, forced out a great coach, embarrassed the franchise and the city, and destroyed any leverage they could have had.

And now he’s a Laker. He got what he wanted.

There’s something inherently wrong in how this played out. Carmelo Anthony jacked with the season, held the franchise in limbo, but went about his business. He didn’t reassert his desire over and over again. His agent leaked enough to make his intention clear, but there wasn’t information deliberately leaked from Anthony’s camp to harm their leverage. In fact, Anthony handled it much better than Howard did.

Think about that.

Even LeBron James, hosting teams for meetings in Akron, not telling the Cavaliers, he held them hostage for just two weeks. Then he was gone. It was painful, and outrageous, and should not have been done on national television. But it was nothing compared to what Howard left them with. Which was nothing.

You can blame the Magic all you want, and you have a point. It was Otis Smith’s desperate decision making that lead to the large contracts that limited their cap space. The Magic could have held out for a better, different deal. They could have made the deal a year ago, they could have saved themselves. But Howard could have not forced them to save themselves.

And now he gets everything he wanted, if not exactly what he wanted. He still gets the superstar team. He gets the warm weather (nicer than Brooklyn). He gets the star point guard. He gets the commercial opportunities and television and film opportunities. He gets the money and a chance to re-up with the Lakers for the five-year max deal in 2013. This situation is actually better than what he would have found in Brooklyn.

So  what lesson do we take? We take that you can undermine your coach, demand a trade, constantly hamper and limit your team’s abilities to trade you and get the best possible deal for you, jerk them around for three days then decide to opt-in, getting their hopes up, then immediately demand a trade again, then have your people leak information to damage their ability to get the best deal, and you get everything your heart desires. This isn’t just player power or freedom. This is exploitation of a franchise and its fans.

Stan Van Gundy is one of the best coaches in the league, and he’s gone. Ryan Anderson was maybe their most promising young player, and he’s gone. They made the Finals in 2009, that’s gone. The Magic have been rendered to ash by Howard and his power play. There’s nothing left.

So, no, Howard should not thank the fans. He shouldn’t say anything else. He’s said more than enough for a lifetime, with his words. He said it when he demanded a trade from a team that had done a better job than many of building around their star, from the team that helped develop him into the player he is today. He said it with the way he pressured and conspired with his agent to not only exercise his completely understandable right to leave in free agency, but to be sent where he wanted so he could re-sign for the five-year deal. And he said it when he skipped the kids’ camp this week in Orlando.

No thanks for the thanks, Dwight. You won, now do us all a favor and play basketball so we never have to talk about any of this ugly affair ever again.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.