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.

Reports: Jazz might trade Rodney Hood before deadline

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Rodney Hood has been a solid shooter for the Jazz this season, averaging 16.7 points per game and shooting 41.3 percent from three. Of course, you remember him better for this.

Hood is in the final year of his rookie contract, and with the rise of Donovan Mitchell it’s not exactly clear what Hood’s role would be for the Jazz going forward.

Which means Utah might trade Hood, according to multiple reports.

Hood isn’t going to net much in return because he’s in the final year of a contract and because he misses time with nagging injuries (he was out the end of Friday’s game against the Knicks with a lower leg contusion), but considering the number of teams who could use another shooter in the mix there will be interest. More than the big name deals — Kemba Walker, DeAndre Jordan — this is the kind of trade likely to get done at the deadline.

Lowry scores 24 points as Raptors beat Spurs 86-83

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TORONTO (AP) — Kyle Lowry scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan added 21 and the Toronto Raptors beat San Antonio 86-83 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak against the Spurs.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 17-3 at home, the second-best home record in the NBA behind San Antonio’s mark of 19-2.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 15 points and Patty Mills had 13 as San Antonio lost for the fourth time in six road games. The Spurs are 11-15 away from home.

It had been more than two years since Toronto last beat San Antonio. The Raptors won 97-94 at home on Dec. 9, 2015.

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili missed his second straight game because of a sore right thigh. Ginobili returned to Texas after the Spurs won at Brooklyn on Wednesday.

The Spurs trailed 70-69 after a 3-pointer by Bryn Forbes at 6:52 of the fourth, but DeRozan and Lowry connected on back-to-back possessions, giving Toronto a 74-69 lead with 5:11 remaining.

After a jump shot by Mills, Toronto reeled off a 6-0 run including baskets by Lowry, Valanciunas and DeRozan to lead 80-71 with 2:40 left.

Another 3-pointer by Forbes made it 86-83 with six seconds left. DeRozan was fouled but missed both free throws, giving San Antonio a chance to tie, but the Spurs couldn’t get a shot off in time.

After making seven of 23 shots in the first quarter, the Raptors hit 11 of 20 attempts in the second, including a buzzer-beating jumper from DeRozan that gave Toronto a 44-37 lead at halftime.

Toronto led 55-41 on DeRozan’s three-point play at 7:33 of the third but Aldridge did all the scoring in an 8-0 Spurs run that cut the gap to 63-60 heading to the fourth.

 

Memphis pays tribute to Zach Randolph as he returns to FedEx Forum

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Zach Randolph found his career around in Memphis.

He had fantastic on-the-court years in Portland, then bounced to New York and Los Angeles, but it was in Memphis that he became a beloved figure in the community who embraced it, plus on the court played a big role in the best years in the Grizzlies franchise.

He took the bigger check in Sacramento last summer, and when he returned to FedEx Forum in a Kings uniform Friday he was greeted with nothing but love.

🙌🏽 The @memgrizz pay tribute to @macbo50! #ThisIsWhyWePlay

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Randolph has earned this. Hope he savored it.

 

 

Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins: All-Star nods bode well for Pelicans pairing

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins figure they’ve proved they can co-exist to spectacular and prolific effect.

Both big men have been named All-Star starters, giving them hope they’ll be paired together beyond this season, which is Cousins’ last under contract.

“First time I’ve ever been in an All-Star game with a teammate,” the 6-foot-11 Cousins noted after practice on Friday, one day after All-Star starters were announced. “This is big for the entire city, the organization and just our team moving forward. It kind of shows what this combo has the potential to have.”

The 6-10 Davis, who was the Pelicans’ lone All-Star last season, sounded equally pleased by the results a decision by New Orleans to counter the trend of guard-heavy “small ball” by pairing dynamic big men who can dominate inside, handle the ball and shoot with range.

“The biggest question was, was it going to work? I think we just proved that it is and it can work,” Davis said. “We feel like we complement each other.”

The 24-year old Davis is averaging 26.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Cousins, 27, has averaged 25.3 points, 12.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.6 blocks. Their exploits have filled highlight reels, sometimes on plays involving one setting up the other – above the rim or otherwise.

“I’m mostly happy for DeMarcus,” Davis said. “To be a starter, that’s huge – huge for him. He’s having a hell of a season. It’s well deserved.”

The comparable production from both Davis and Cousins shows that “both of those guys are willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “Both of those guys are willing to leave a little bit of their game off the floor so the other guy can be good.”

There’s just one problem.

New Orleans hasn’t won enough to be firmly on a path toward postseason play.

At 23-21, the Pelicans entered Friday night’s action tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for seventh in the eight-team Western Conference playoff picture.

The Pelicans’ past two results were a microcosm of their season. On Tuesday night, New Orleans beat Eastern Conference-leading Boston. The following night, they lost at Atlanta, which entered the game with the worst record in the NBA.

“We’ve had flashes throughout the year,” Cousins said. “We’re still trying to find that consistency. There’s still a lot of things we need to work.”

Cousins acknowledged the Pelicans have yet to master “being the team we want to be at all times … no matter if we’re playing Golden State or the Atlanta Hawks.”

The Pelicans have yet to string more than three consecutive victories together this season and had developed a habit of losing to teams with losing records well before their Atlanta collapse. New Orleans has dropped home dates with Orlando, Sacramento, Dallas and New York. They’ve lost twice at Memphis.

If that trend continues, it could sour Cousins on the prospect of re-signing with New Orleans.

“I wasn’t really concerned about accolades. I’ve gotten accolades. I’ve done everything except win,” said Cousins, who spent his first seven seasons in Sacramento before his trade to the Pelicans following the 2017 All-Star game in New Orleans. “With the whole (trade) going down, what I thought I had a chance to do was win, and that’s why I was OK with it.”

Still, Cousins sounded confident he won’t be dealt to another club when asked if he liked the league’s decision to move up the trade deadline to Feb. 8 this season, before the All-Star break.

“I don’t really care because I don’t think I’m getting traded,” Cousins said. “Hopefully I’ve never got to deal with it again.”

If the Pelicans aren’t able to make a major addition with a trade, they could get a boost from the expected return of small forward Solomon Hill from an offseason hamstring tear. Valued by the club for his defense, Hill, a former starter, is scheduled to return for the final month or so off the regular season.

In any event, the Pelicans have 38 games to make their push, starting at home Saturday night against Memphis.