The Inbounds: The vanishing trade offer for Dwight Howard act

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Welcome to The Inbounds, touching on a big idea of the day. It could be news, it could be history, it could be a tangent, it could be love. OK, it’s probably not love. Enjoy.

If one were to really want to, you could find out what exactly the Magic were offered for Dwight Howard for themselves.

If you’re smart, crafty, lucky, and persistent, you can drag out enough information from someone surround the situation to get you an answer. And that answer will satisfy the requirement of knowing “what the Magic could have had for Howard.”

It doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

There are reporters who know. I’m not one of them. But there are some. A few have the entire story, I’m sure, but can’t report on the details due to circumstances. So instead we get half and quarter-truths. But the one thing that seems more and more apparent is that if there were better offers still on the table for the Magic when they pulled the trigger, they were not cognizant those offers were legitimate. And in that situation, that’s a failure of the trade partners to convey their offers.

On Wednesday, SI.com reported that sources outside the Rockets had a drastically different perception of what was available for Howard from Houston than what has been reported in regards to their offer. The “pick two” of Jeremy Lamb-Terrence Jones-Royce White component along with the three draft picks was off the table.

That shfit in perception damages a pretty popular argument that was made after the trade Friday. “They could have had a better offer and they just turned it down for this!”

As if Rob Hennigan is purposefully going to reject a better offer. These types of things aren’t rocket science. It’s establishing what the best package is with players, picks, and contracts. If Brook Lopez were on his rookie deal, it would have bee done months ago, even if the Nets had tampered with Orlando.

But that’s the perception. It was an impossible trade, and when teams started to bail and prepare for the season, something had to be done to get out from under the knife of dealing with Howard once the season started. That situation was untenable. Not for the front office, they knew they were doomed. But it’s not fair to a roster of players to have them train for camp not knowing if they were going to be on the team, going to be training for the playoffs, or just training.

The truth is, in all this he-said-he-said, both sides walked away from the deal with the perception they couldn’t get what they wanted. Both sides were right, at one point or another. But these talks shift moment to moment, and when the opportunity for a legimate deal comes through that accomplishes the Magic’s goals, it has to be taken. And if you have a better offer? It is your job to put away the efforts to establish leverage and to make it clear that no deal should be consummated without first checking with you. The stakes are too high. You should make it clear you want a chance to respond. But the posturing is always more important than the tactics.

Everyone’s always talking to everyone. There are very few secrets, but ther’s also very little real news. If your job was to improve the trade wth talk, wouldn’t you do a fair amount of talking?

The Houston and Brooklyn deals are the most often cited as alternatives to what the Magic walked away with. But the offers cited are never given dates, or if they are, they’re not reported as the “last available offer.” Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez had to agree to sign-and-trades had the offer been accepted by the Magic, who were tired of being jerked around by the Nets and Howard.

The Magic were never going to win in this trade. It was an impossibility. But they moved some salary, got some players they can build around or trade again. They picked up a wider selection of picks, which is crucial to judging this. Houston offered the Raptors and their own pick, yes. But with the Raptors possibly leaping into the playoffs with the possible fall of the Hawks and Magic, and the Rockets likely getting into the playoffs with Howard, the upgrade there is limited. Moreso, the picks would all be in one season, vs. the package Orlando did take, which spreads them out, giving them time to establish a plan and then take advantage of the extra picks.

Mostly, though, this is more about agendas than anything, though. There are agendas at work to make it seem like the Magic didn’t take the best available option. And as has been consistent throughout the process, the Magic have been largely quiet outside of a conversation between Hennigan and SI.com. They know they can’t win anything by revealing what offers they got and setting the record straight. So instead, they’ll simply deal with the jokes and accusations.

But somewhere in all this, the lines of communication broke down, somewhere in this, teams pushed back to try and get the best deal too much. And the result was the Magic simply relenting and getting it over with. So, yes, you can go find out what happened. But ask someone else, you’ll get a different answer. There is no one answer to “What could the Magic have had instead for Dwight Howard.” There is only what is.

Trade offers are liquid, and if nothing is there to catch them, they slip into the cracks and disappear forever, even as their creators cry that they are right there to deal the water they can’t see.

Warriors, Cavaliers meeting in most star-studded NBA Finals ever

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Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Kevin Love, Klay Thompson – the 2017 NBA Finals will be oozing with stars.

Seven All-Stars appearing in the Finals the same year is tied for the most ever with 1983 (76ers: Andrew Toney, Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks; Lakers: Magic Johnson, Jamaal Wilkes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and 1962 (Celtics: Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn; Lakers: Elgin Baylor, Frank Selvy, Jerry West).

But there were 24 All-Stars and 23 teams in 1983 and 24 All-Stars and nine teams in 1962. This year, there were 25 All-Stars and 30 teams – a ratio that makes this year’s feat more impressive.

To account for these differences, I’ve used All-Stars above average – the number of All-Stars in the Finals relative to the number of All-Stars for two average teams that year. For example, the average team had 0.83 All-Stars this year. So, an average matchup of two teams would feature 1.67 All-Stars. The 2017 Finals have seven All-Stars – a difference of 5.33.

Here are the All-Stars above average for every Finals since the NBA instituted an All-Star game:

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Here are breakdowns of the Finals with the most All-Stars above average:

2017: Warriors-Cavaliers

All-Stars: 7

All-Stars per team: 0.83

All-Stars above average: 5.33

Warriors

Stephen Curry

Kevin Durant

Draymond Green

Klay Thompson

Cavaliers

LeBron James

Kyrie Irving

Kevin Love

1983 76ers 4, Lakers 0

All-Stars: 7

All-Stars per team: 1.04

All-Stars above average: 4.91

76ers

Andrew Toney

Moses Malone

Julius Erving

Maurice Cheeks

Lakers

Magic Johnson

Jamaal Wilkes

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

1987 Lakers 4, Celtics 2

All-Stars: 6

All-Stars per team: 1.09

All-Stars above average: 3.83

Lakers

Magic Johnson

James Worthy

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Celtics

Larry Bird

Kevin McHale

Robert Parish

2013 Heat 4, Spurs 3

All-Stars: 5

All-Stars per team: 0.83

All-Stars above average: 3.33

Heat

Chris Bosh

LeBron James

Dwyane Wade

Spurs

Tony Parker

Tim Duncan

2012 Heat 4, Thunder 1

All-Stars: 5

All-Stars per team: 0.83

All-Stars above average: 3.33

Heat

LeBron James

Dwyane Wade

Chris Bosh

Thunder

Russell Westbrook

Kevin Durant

2009 Lakers 4, Magic 1

All-Stars: 5

All-Stars per team: 0.87

All-Stars above average: 3.27

Lakers

Kobe Bryant

Pau Gasol

Magic

Jameer Nelson

Rashard Lewis

Dwight Howard

2010 Lakers 4, Celtics 3

All-Stars: 5

All-Stars per team: 0.93

All-Stars above average: 3.13

Lakers

Kobe Bryant

Pau Gasol

Celtics

Paul Pierce

Rajon Rondo

Kevin Garnett

If you’re wondering about the below-average outliers:

Washington Bullets forward Elvin Hayes was the only All-Star in the Bullets’ 4-3 win over the Seattle SuperSonics in 1978, when there were 23 All-Stars and 22 teams.

There were four All-Stars in the 1965 Finals: Sam Jones, Bill Russell and Tom Heinsohn for the victorious Celtics and Jerry West for the Lakers, who lost in five. Yet, that was still below average in a league with nine teams and 21 All-Stars.

That’s why it’s important to consider the NBA’s changing landscape – which leads to even more appreciation for the caliber of players in this year’s Finals.

Of course, current All-Star status is not the only measure of stardom. The NBA’s best player should count more than the league’s 12th-best player in the lesser conference.

But these Finals would hold up by any measure. They feature winners of the last five MVPs (Curry, Durant, LeBron) and the consensus best player in the world (LeBron).

Cavaliers-Warriors III will truly feature a special collection of talent.

Adrian Wojnarowski: Clippers, not Spurs, ‘pretty overwhelming favorite’ for Chris Paul

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Both the Clippers and Spurs are reportedly taking seriously the idea that Chris Paul could sign with San Antonio this summer.

Is Paul bolting L.A. for the Spurs realistic?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports on CBS Sports Radio:

Not that I see. I don’t know where that came from, and I’ve spent a lot of time around the Spurs this spring. They would have to just tear up that entire payroll. It’s almost unlike anything the Spurs would have done or would do to. To even have a chance at him, they’d have to really gut the roster. And to do that for a 30-plus-year-old point guard, who has a couple great years left, there’s no question – I think there’s more pressure on the Clippers to have to re-sign him than for the Spurs to turn their whole franchise over to make a run at him. Listen, Chris Paul, financially, the difference with him being able to stay in L.A. and get paid, I’d still have a hard time imaging him leaving there. There’s so much money for him to be made. And in that Los Angeles market, in terms of his marketing endorsements, I still think they’re a pretty overwhelming favorite to re-sign him.

The Clippers can offer Paul a projected $205 million over five years. Because they have his Bird Rights, they don’t need cap space to re-sign him.

The Spurs’ max offer to Paul projects to be $152 million over four years, but they’d need major moves to clear enough cap room to do that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Green, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker, they’d still need to dump two of those players.

It’s obviously a lot for San Antonio to overcome.

But it’s not so far outside the Spurs’ norm. To sign LaMarcus Aldridge two years ago, they traded Tiago Splitter (to Hawks) and let Cory Joseph (Raptors), Aron Baynes (Pistons), Marco Belinelli (Kings) walk in free agency.

Paul is probably more valuable than the players San Antonio would have to shed this time around, though his age and the Spurs’ loyalty to Parker raise questions. Would they rather dump an injured and declining Parker or a productive player like Green or Aldridge? (Gasol, who has spent only one year in San Antonio and might even be convinced to opt out, is the most likely to go.)

The Clippers should be favored to sign Paul. But I wouldn’t completely rule out the Spurs.

LeBron James admits Warriors pose one of biggest challenges he’s faced in Finals

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LeBron James is used to being the underdog in the NBA Finals. It started with the first time he got a team there, the 2007 team where after LeBron the two leading scorers were Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden — that team was not really Finals worthy and the Spurs showed that with a sweep.

Entering his seventh straight NBA Finals in 2017, the Cavaliers are again heavy underdogs. When asked about the challenge these Warriors — now with Kevin Durant — pose LeBron was nothing but complimentary, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“It’s probably up there,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice. “I mean, it’s up there. Obviously, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too, with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.

“So it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me. They’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team, and I’ve played against some other [stiff competition]. I’ve played against Ray [Allen], KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers]. So it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

The Warriors bring four of the top 15-20 guys in the NBA (depending on where you want to rank Klay Thompson), with two of then in the top five with Durant and Stephen Curry. However, what makes the Warriors more dangerous is the way they buy into the offensive system, move the ball and set screens/move off it, all of which makes them greater than just the sum of their parts. Well, that and the fact they had the second best defense in the NBA this year.

Cleveland, however, is probably the team best suited to beat them. Nobody has a good answer for guarding the 1/3 LeBron/Kyrie Irving pick-and-roll, Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the game, they are strong on the glass and can be impressive on defense (the challenge will be doing it consistently this series, they haven’t had to up to this point). Ultimately, LeBron is the great equalizer, he is the best player in the game.

All that said, Las Vegas oddsmakers have Golden State the heavy favorites (those odds are a reflection of what the betting public thinks). If LeBron and the Cavaliers pull this off, it will be one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.