Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard

Kobe’s pitch to Dwight Howard: ‘I can teach you here’ how to be a champion

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As Dwight Howard enters seclusion in order to weigh his free agent decision, details continue to emerge about the various meetings he had with the five teams he’s currently considering.

The one with the Lakers was the most intriguing, of course, considering Howard played in Los Angeles all of last season and the team barely snuck into the playoffs despite the embarrassment of riches from a talent perspective that flooded the Lakers roster.

Exactly what the Lakers would say to Howard to try to convince him to stay is anyone’s guess, although one thing the team could point to was the way things came together during the second half of the season, when L.A. finished with a 28-12 record entering the postseason.

The team’s best and most tenured player, Kobe Bryant, had his own message for Howard, and it involved winning championships.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

When Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant spoke to Dwight Howard on Tuesday, his words to the free-agent center resounded an unmistakable and unflinching message: Let me teach you how to be a champion.

“You need to learn how it’s done first, and I can teach you here,” Bryant told Howard during the Lakers’ presentation, witnesses in the room described to Yahoo! Sports.

“You have to learn how it’s done,” Bryant told Howard, witnesses described. “I know how to do it and I’ve learned from the best – players who have won multiple times over and over.”

“Instead of trying to do things your way, just listen and learn and tweak it, so it fits you,” Bryant told him.

Not exactly a soft sell here, but Bryant and the Lakers are the one team courting Howard that could afford to be brutally honest.

No other player on any team has the championship resume that Bryant currently has, and though Howard said multiple times late last season that he and Bryant “weren’t best friends,” they were able to come to an understanding as teammates.

Howard may appreciate the straightforward approach from Bryant, as opposed to every other team promising the world with no evidence that they will be able to deliver, and with no history of personal experience like that which Howard shares with the Lakers.

All reports say that the Lakers’ presentation with Dwight went extremely well, and even better than expected.

Those rolling their eyes at how Bryant reportedly approached things are only seeing part of the story. Because if what Howard says about wanting to be in the best place to win is true, the reality is that he’d be gambling heavily in that respect by choosing to play anywhere else than for the Lakers, where winning over time has proven to be a sure thing.

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.