While the Lakers wait on Dwight Howard, they’re pursuing outside shooters for Mike D’Antoni’s system

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Dwight Howard is the Lakers’ first (and second and third) priority in free agency. They’ll meet with the big man on Tuesday with the hope that their pitch seals the deal on his return to Los Angeles where he will anchor their franchise and lead them into the post Kobe Bryant era.

However, as the Lakers wait to make their pitch, they’ve been very active in putting out feelers to free agents who will improve their team next season. At the open of free agency and through Monday, the Lakers were quite busy reaching out to multiple players all of which seem to have the same traits in common.

They’re all perimeter oriented players who are capable outside shooters.

From former Lakers Jordan Farmar and Matt Barnes to Knicks restricted free agent Chris Copeland to Timberwolves swing man Chase Budinger to Cavaliers sharpshooter Wayne Ellington to former Rockets Carlos Delfino and Francisco Garcia to the Sixers shooter Nick Young to the Bobcats’ Power Forward/Center Byron Mullens, the Lakers haven’t been shy about expressing interest in guys who can stretch the defense and help provide the spacing the team sorely lacked last season.

As we were reminded during the NBA Finals when the Spurs and Heat relied heavily on hitting shots from behind the arc, having capable shooters is a necessity in today’s NBA. And with the Lakers’ clearly deficient in that area, it makes sense for them to try and sign as many of these guys as possible. However, there’s more to trying to sign them than simply trying to keep up with the Joneses.

First off, if you’re going to build a team around Dwight Howard (not to mention Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol), having an excess of shooters should be a top priority. Howard’s most successful teams in Orlando all featured multiple players capable of knocking down the three-ball and the space those shooters provided allowed him the room he needed to operate in the paint. When Howard doesn’t have that space, he can be turnover prone and be fouled quickly to be put on the foul line where he struggles mightily.

The other key point, however, is that these players signal that the Lakers are very much in support of trying to build a roster that fits into Mike D’Antoni’s system. D’Antoni prefers to run a spread pick and roll attack that punishes defenses with made three pointers off kick and swing passes when too much help is provided in the paint on dives by the big man or the ball handler penetrating. But too often last season, the ball was being passed to Metta World Peace, Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark or Antawn Jamison — all capable shooters, but all also very inconsistent in how often they knocked down open shots.

If the Lakers could get better shooters on the floor consistently it would guarantee that the offense would run smoother. Adding one or more of the players listed above would be a nice start in accomplishing this goal and would help kick start D’Antoni’s attack from the inconsistent one that too often fell flat in Los Angeles to one closer to what he had in Phoenix.

Of course, if some of these shooters could also play some defense, that would be even better and could maybe help D’Antoni’s reputation on the other side of the ball. Or maybe they’ll just use Dwight for that. At least they hope.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.

Report: Heat signing Jordan Mickey

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Jordan Mickey – the No. 33 pick by the Celtics in 2015 – became the first second-round pick in memory to sign the year he was drafted and receive a higher initial salary than first-round picks.

He’s keeping the checks coming.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Mickey will be the Heat’s 16th player with a standard contract, though Matt Williams (unguaranteed) will likely be waived to meet the regular-season roster limit.

I’m not sure where Mickey fits on this team, which already has several bigs. Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk will likely play ahead of him. Miami also has A.J. Hammons (who might be just dead salary) and Udonis Haslem (who might provide nothing more than veteran leadership).

The Heat could just see Mickey as someone they can develop. At that point, how he fits into the current roster doesn’t really matter.

Mickey – 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan – is a mobile defender with nice timing for blocking shots inside. He even possesses a work-in-progress 3-pointer in his arsenal. There’s plenty for Miami to help mold.