Report: Nets-Magic Howard deal blew up because of Orlando animosity

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Business is business. But business is conducted by humans, and humans have emotions, like pride, anger, and resentment. And it turns out that what may have sunk a potential Nets-Magic deal wasn’t the deal itself, but how Orlando felt about the Nets. From the New York Daily News:

A league source told the Daily News that a stumbling block in negotiations was lingering animosity stemming from the Magic’s belief the Nets illegally contacted Howard in December without Orlando’s permission. The Nets denied they had met with Howard, and charges were never filed with the league.

via Brooklyn Nets’ Deron Williams lost interest in Dwight Howard sweepstakes well before Thursday’s trade to the Lakers – NY Daily News.

In the same article, Deron Williams says that the Magic “just didn’t want to deal him to (the Nets).”

The reaction from most people is going to be outrage, or disgust, that personal feelings should never get in the way of a deal this important.

My response? There are bigger things at play here.

For starters, the Nets’ deal wasn’t some awe-inspiring package of young players and picks. The picks all came from one team, which was going to be 25-plus with a core of Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Brook Lopez is a phenomenal talent, but because of his free agency status, was going to end up giving them a sizable contract that was going to be hard to move if Lopez has injury issues or regresses further. Even if Kris Humphries would have been on a $9 million one-year deal as Yahoo Sports reported, 1. Humphries would have to agree to take substantially less than market value (he signed for two-years, $12-million) and 2. you’re still looking at over $20 million going on the books in 2013 for an absolutely wretched team. Even with Marshon Brooks and the cap-clearing, that’s not a good deal. you can argue it was better than what they got, that comes down to how you feel about Lopez, and there are arguments to be made on both sides.

But there’s a bigger point here.

In business, the companies that thrive long-term have a commitment to doing it the right way. You can skirt those tactics for a while, but eventually, the rot gets through your organization and your hubris takes its toll. And there’s something to be said for maintaining your pride. If the Magic legitimately felt that the Nets had tampered with their player, their best player, that’s a huge violation of NBA rules and of NBA managerial conduct. It’s one thing to tamper with your player, it’s another to then continually collude with that player’s camp to ruin all other leverage in regards to other deals and to constantly pressure the team into making the trade. And there’s a lot of evidence that that might have gone on. You can’t blame Howard’s people. It’s their job to fulfill their clients wishes. That’s what their responsibility is, not to the team. But to Howard, and to the Nets, as members of the NBA, there’s a way to conduct business and a way not to. So if Orlando decided it didn’t want to have someone steal their lunch money, then trade their backpack to get a third of that money back, I don’t see how you can blame them.

It’s not about being petty. It’s about conducting yourself in a way that maintains your self-respect. Maybe the Nets did nothing wrong, they certainly have always claimed so. But there were reports about meetings between Prokhorov and Howard prior to Orlando granting teams permission to speak with him. Even if they did nothing wrong, the Magic acted out of self-preservation.

Sometimes you just can’t let people walk all over you, even if it is, “the best thing for you.”

Cavaliers try to convey confidence amid their own star crisis (crises?)

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Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said the Pacers could have done better in their Paul George trade – a bold (though correct) public critique from someone who had to apologize for his handling of the last time he lost a star and is staring down the prospect of losing another star this summer and the original star again next summer.

What was supposed to be a press conference introducing new general manager Koby Altman today predictably turned into an examination of Kyrie Irving‘s trade request and LeBron James2018 free agency.

“This thing is not broken,” said Altman, who takes over a team that has reached three straight NBA Finals – winning the 2016 title – but now faces immense peril.

Both Gilbert and Altman kept their assessments of Irving’s trade request close to the vest, not even confirming it occurred. But even NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he assumes reports of Irving’s request are accurate.

Gilbert said he planned to call Silver, clearly part of an attempt to project stability. That was the transparent underpinning of the entire press conference, which included Gilbert saying he felt better about hiring Altman than any prior general manager. The plan went awry when Gilbert stumbled through an answer about why he’s never given a general manager a second contract and why the Cavs couldn’t lure Chauncey Billups, who turned down leading the front office and later said he knew of Irving’s discontent and labeled it “alarming.”

But Gilbert did give his assessments on the franchise’s biggest issues.

On LeBron’s future beyond this season: “We do not control all the cards we get dealt.”

On whether Irving will be in training camp: “Right now, Kyrie Irving is under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for two or three years, depending on the last year. So, as of now, he’s one of our best players. Sure, we expect him to be in camp.”

In context, Gilbert sounded as if he was merely saying he expected every Cavalier under contract to be in training camp until their contract status changed – not that he was predicting Irving wouldn’t be traded this offseason.

All reports are that the Cavs are proceeding as if they’ll trade Irving, though Gilbert also brought Kobe Bryant’s infamous 2007 trade request. Kobe and the Lakers reconciled, and he won two more titles in Los Angeles.

“I’m not saying that that happens here,” Gilbert said. “But the possibilities of what will happen are wide.”

The Cavs at least left the door open publicly for Irving returning. Altman downplayed any animosity between the team’s stars, echoing LeBron’s tweets. But Irving’s issues with LeBron appear to be deeper and different than face-to-face resentment, and this summer’s saga hasn’t necessarily helped.

Altman called LeBron “deeply committed to this team and deeply committed to this city” and Irving a “core piece of who we are and what we do.”

Yet, the new general manager wanted to expand discussion beyond those two.

“It’s interesting,” Altman said. “We’ve had an active offseason that I wish some of you would talk more about, in terms of what we’ve done.”

The offseason LeBron reportedly deemed frustrating?

Altman gets a pass for David Griffin’s departure, which clearly rankled LeBron. But Cleveland’s signings – Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, Cedi Osman – leave plenty to be desired, especially as the Warriors load up. A championship looks even further from Cleveland.

With the goal so high and future so turbulent, Gilbert and Altman faced an uphill battle in projecting stability today. Luckily for them, this isn’t the true measure of success.

But things that matter far more – navigating Irving’s trade request, re-signing LeBron – might not be much easier.

Watch the top 60 clutch shots from last NBA season

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It’s that time of the year when there is no basketball, so we fill the time with idle Kyrie Irving speculation and video highlights of last season.

Along those lines, above you can out the top 60 clutch shots from last season, as determined by the folks at NBA.com.

The great thing about the clutch shot list is the ball is in the hands of stars at the ends of games, so there is plenty of Russell Westbrook, John Wall, LeBron James, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and more. Personally, I would have switch No. 1 and No. 2 on the list, but it’s all fun to relive.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert: Pacers ‘could have done better’ on Paul George trade

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Kyrie Irving has requested a trade. LeBron James could leave next summer. The Cavaliers keep churning through general managers, the newest – Koby Altman – the reason for today’s press conference.

But Cavs owner Dan Gilbert looked past his own team’s turmoil and potential turmoil to take a shot at the Pacers, who traded Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

“I will say Indiana could have done better than they did,” Gilbert said after Altman refused to directly address a question about George trade talks and shifted the discussion elsewhere.

This didn’t strike me as Gilbert trying to distract from Cleveland’s troubles. He just seemed to want to take a shot at a foe, something he’s no stranger to doing. The Cavaliers are particularly salty about their trade offer for George, which included Kevin Love, not being accepted.

For what it’s worth, Gilbert is right. The Pacers should have done better. Oladipo is now on a lucrative contract extension, and Sabonis spent his rookie season showcasing the reasons people doubted him the draft. That’s a piddling return for a star, even one on an expiring contract with dreams of joining the Lakers.

Report: Kings meet with former Magic GM Otis Smith about front-office job

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The Kings lost Scott Perry to the Knicks, so Sacramento is seeking someone else to aid Vlade Divac in the front office.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Former Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith has met with Sacramento Kings officials about the franchise’s vacant vice president of basketball operations job, league sources told ESPN.

Smith has plenty of experience, which Divac lacks. But it’s not all good experience.

Running the Magic, Smith made numerous errors – including drafting Fran Vazquez (who has never played in the NBA) No. 11, overpaying Rashard Lewis and then trading Lewis for Gilbert Arenas’ even worse contract. If Smith’s Orlando tenure is predictive, he’ll indulge the Kings’ worst tendencies to mortgage the future for the present.

That said, Smith might have learned from his time with the Magic (though working under Stan Van Gundy with the Pistons the few couple years isn’t exactly the best place to hone long-term-planning skills). What amounts to an assistant general-manager role might be a better fit for him, too.

Usually, this opening wouldn’t garner so much attention. But Perry was lavished with praise for Sacramento’s offseason, raising the profile of this job – which already carried relative prominence. The No. 2 in the Kings’ front office is now perceived, somewhat fairly, as more important than the typical assistant general manager.