Lakers unlikely to sign and trade Dwight Howard to the Clippers, Rockets, or anyone else

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When the reports started flying of a possible deal that would net the Clippers Kevin Garnett and head coach Doc Rivers from the Celtics, Dwight Howard’s name got thrown in the mix at some point as someone that L.A.’s historically junior team would then like to pursue.

Talks have stalled between the Celtics and Clippers for now, but the report that the Clips have weighed offering Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe to the Lakers in a sign-and-trade package for Howard had plenty of people wondering where the Lakers stand on potential scenarios involving Dwight should he decide he wants out of the Forum blue and gold as a free agent after July 1.

Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com have put together a handy list of updates, some of which we’ll discuss.

Yet the Lakers also, according to sources, have not completely ruled out the idea of a sign-and-trade if they come to find next month that Howard is determined to leave. Sources say they are indeed leaning against sign-and-trade scenarios because they’d rather bank the resultant cap space from Howard’s departure for the summer of 2014. But sources say they’ve adopted a keep-all-options-open approach. So they’ll at least listen to just about anything.

Of course the Lakers will listen, but they’re highly unlikely to do anything to help Howard go somewhere else. And, especially publicly, L.A. isn’t going to put it out there that this is a course of action that they’d be fine with, because all that would do would give Howard even more choices of where to play next season somewhere other than for the Lakers.

Now, if there’s a ridiculous package on the table involving young star players who are clearly franchise cornerstones, then it becomes slightly more tempting. But it’s unclear if Griffin (and certainly Bledsoe, who’s become a bit overrated showing flashes in short stints off the bench in L.A.’s monster media market) is exactly that, and again, the Lakers want to re-sign Howard, so they’re going to shut down these conversations at a very early stage until and unless a truly amazing offer presents itself.

There’s also the unlikely prospect of the Lakers doing anything to help their Staples Center co-tenants, for a variety of reasons. But apparently, a deal with the Clippers isn’t completely out of the question.

One source with knowledge of the Lakers’ thinking said Saturday that any suggestion they could not philosophically allow themselves to make a major trade with the Clippers was “overblown.”

This goes back to that “listening” thing. You can’t ever say never, but the Lakers are the team with the banners in the building, and they’re definitely not looking to do anything that could result in a red, white and blue one being hung on the wall for the very first time.

This next one’s my personal favorite.

[S]ources say that the Rockets will certainly attempt to convince the Lakers to take in return Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin in a sign-and-trade deal for Howard, thus theoretically keeping alive the possibility that Houston could preserve its cap space to pursue Chris Paul and possibly pair Howard with Paul.

LOL, as the kids say.

Look, the Rockets are a team that has a history of acquiring assets that on the surface seem appealing before trading them away. But the Lakers aren’t a trial-and-error, experimental organization. As long as they have Kobe Bryant on the roster, it won’t be about dealing for players who might be a fit, eventually, or in the right situation. It’s about certainty and winning championships in Los Angeles, so the Lakers will not be taking on salary of borderline players when the end result could be the creation of a superteam in Houston that would be firmly in the Lakers’ way on the road to a title.

If Dwight Howard chooses to leave the Lakers, the team is most likely to let him do so without getting anything in return. They’d rather shed the salary (and the associated luxury tax penalties) and get right financially by creating salary cap space for 2014 to pursue someone who actually wants to play for one of the league’s most storied franchises.

The Lakers aren’t going to help Howard go play somewhere else, and they aren’t going to help another team build a legitimate contender. As always, the Lakers will do things their way, and it’s pretty difficult to argue against their long-term success and championship-level results.

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.