Dwight Howard’s status still murky for Sunday night vs. the Kings

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First, reports stated that Dwight Howard was going to play against the Kings. Upon hearing those reports, Mike Brown noted that it was far from certain Howard would suit up and added that his big man would need to get through Saturday’s practice without any setbacks.

Well, Saturday has come and gone and with Dwight available to speak to his status, what do we know? It turns out not much more than we did on Friday.

From Lisa Dillman of the L.A. Times:

“We’ll see tomorrow,” Howard said Saturday, playfully. “What will make the final decision? What’s the guy from ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’

“‘Your final answer.’ That’s the guy. He’ll make the final decision tomorrow.”

The Lakers have been cautious with Howard, taking the long view in his recovery. They need him healthy for the stretch run of the season and into the playoffs. In other words, in May and June, not October.

That said, the Lakers would be best served if they started to build some in game chemistry sooner than later. It’s one thing to get to practice together. And, by all accounts, Howard has looked great in that setting. But the real evaluation and the growing pains that come with integrating him into the lineup will only come with game action.

And there will be some growing pains. Howard is sure to be rusty after not playing in an NBA game since April. Plus, he’s joining an entirely new team with an offensive system he has never played in and players whose games, tendencies, and comfort zones he needs to learn. It will take time for Dwight Howard to look like the Dwight Howard we’re used to seeing.

The Lakers are also at the point in the preseason that there’s little to be gleaned from these games without Dwight joining his mates. The starters have looked good in his absence but the bench hasn’t yet found it’s stride. Most of that has been due to Mike Brown carrying 20 players and insisting on playing all of them, but it’s also reflective of the Lakers not being able to set a rotation that even remotely resembles what they’ll use when the games start to matter. Howard is a major domino in setting up those rotations.

You don’t want to put too much meaning into the preseason — especially for a veteran team like the Lakers. But all the newness with this team does present some hurdles to clear if all the team isn’t available to play. Howard finally taking the floor in games will help start the Lakers on the path towards where they want to go this year.

But until it actually happens the Lakers are effectively spinning their wheels and waiting. Maybe that wait ends tonight. Like Howard said, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr. planned to have J. Cole dunk in dunk-contest routine

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Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. seemed pretty steamed about getting eliminated in the first round of the dunk contest:

The dunk-contest scoring system – five judges ranking dunks on a scale of 6-10 – is plenty flawed. There should have been a larger difference between the Smith and Victor Oladipo dunks the Dallas point guard mentioned. But Oladipo didn’t advance, either. Personally, I thought the right two players – eventual-winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. – advanced.

Maybe Smith was more upset about the missed opportunity – dunks (plural!) involving rapper J. Cole.

Amin El-Hassan of ESPN on Black Opinions Matter:

If Dennis had made it to the finals, Cole was going to throw him the alley-oop. But then the plan was, he was going to throw him the oop, Dennis would dunk it, and then Cole would catch the ball, and then he’d dunk it too. That was going to be the ill, craziest dunk-contest use of a prop or a person ever. But we never got to saw it, because they were holding out until the final round. They didn’t want to bring it out in the first round.

This certainly would have been unprecedented and cool. But unless Smith had something amazing planned for the alley-oop, the best element would have been Cole dunking. That would have upstaged Smith, who’s presumably the one being judged.

For what it’s worth, Cole can dunk. We’ve seen it in the celebrity game: