Report: Dwight Howard told Lakers GM he was frustrated with D’Antoni

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From the start, there was one thing most likely to keep Mike D’Antoni from returning as Lakers coach — free agent Dwight Howard.

It may not have been that direct — and it may not change who is the Lakers coach next season — but apparently Howard let Lakers management know exactly how he feels about D’Antoni.

During the Lakers exit interview after they were eliminated by the Spurs, players met with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and D’Antoni, but then had the chance to speak to Kupchak without D’Antoni in the room.

Howard took full advantage of that, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, part of the discussion between Howard and Kupchak centered around Howard’s frustration with D’Antoni — particularly how the center felt marginalized as the coach looked to Bryant and Steve for leadership and suggestions and discounted Howard’s voice….

D’Antoni chose not to retain assistant coach Chuck Person, a Howard confidant, on his staff for next season. Also, Lakers assistant coach Steve Clifford, who was with Howard in Orlando for five seasons before both of them came to L.A. last year, has become a hot head coaching candidate, interviewing with Milwaukee and receiving interest from Charlotte.

One source described the potential departure of Clifford, coupled with the loss of Person as “removing the buffers,” between Howard and D’Antoni, “which is a bad thing.”

If Howard is trying to dig out of the PR mess he created in Orlando and repair his image, this is not helping. At all. The leaks over the last week make him look petty and indecisive again. Also, if only Kupchak and Howard were in that meeting then the leak came from one of two sides here. You think it was the tight-lipped Kupchak?

When D’Antoni arrived to the Lakers he tried to fit the square pegs of the Lakers’ roster into the round holes of his offense. It didn’t work and it wasn’t pretty. The Lakers didn’t defend well for him, either, and they struggled. But by the end of the season the Lakers had moved away from what D’Antoni prefers to more traditional NBA sets. The Lakers also became more dependent on Kobe as the defacto point guard running the offense.

Is there enough frustration there for Howard to turn down $30.4 million more guaranteed? The Lakers can offer one more guaranteed year and slightly larger raises than other teams which all adds up to that sum (how much that extra guaranteed year matters to Howard only he can answer). Howard is reportedly intrigued by the Rockets and Mavericks — two teams in Texas where there is no state income tax. That can make up some of the money but Los Angeles presents more endorsement opportunities.

But is it all about money for Howard? Or was his frustration with D’Antoni, Kobe Bryant and the entire year in Los Angeles have him thinking Houston looks pretty good.

Smart money still is on Howard re-signing with the Lakers. But it is no lock.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough: Eric Bledsoe hair-salon claim about tweet was unbelievable

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Eric Bledsoe reportedly requested a trade from the Suns before the season then tweeted yesterday:

Clear message?

Apparently not.

After sending home Bledsoe today, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough explained his rationale:

The hair salon! What a wonderful excuse.

Is it true? I’m not going to call Bledsoe a liar. It might be.

It’s also probably true that Bledsoe isn’t long for Phoenix.

Report: Suns send Eric Bledsoe home, expect to trade him

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In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Bledsoe:

That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.

This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.

At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.

Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.

But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.