Warriors in mix. Lakers pitch better than expected. Dwight race wide open.

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The Lakers meeting with Dwight Howard turned into the kind of clear the air honest talk about system and effort the team should have had in December, but in the end everybody felt better and on the same page.

After his Golden State meeting Dwight Howard can see himself and see himself winning in the Warriors organization. The question is just how he gets there.

The Houston Rockets remain the team to beat in the clubhouse with a squad ready to win now.

Which is to say, everything is up in the air.

Howard and his camp are in Aspen for the Fourth of July holiday, trying to decide what is best for him. What he really wants. While the Rockets should still be considered the front-runner — and their meeting with him went very well — everything is up in the air. This could still go a lot of directions.

So we all just wait.

Marc Stein of ESPN said that Golden State has moved into the conversation.

The biggest problem for Golden State isn’t the roster, it’s that they would need to do a sign-and-trade with the Lakers and the Lakers’ front office has quickly shot down any talk of that. If Howard leaves, the Lakers are not going to help him out of town and they are going to bank the cap space for a free agent push next summer.

Golden State would allegedly offer Andrew Bogut and his expiring $14 million contract (needed for the balance) and the Lakers choice of Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson in the deal. But the Lakers do not seem tempted in the least. And in this situation, the Lakers have the leverage so they would want more if they changed their minds on a deal.

But they are not likely to change their minds because they think they have a chance to keep him.

You would think after the Lakers had a year to show Howard how things could be it wouldn’t come down to a couple hour meeting, but it did. And multiple reports and sources say that meeting went well — the Lakers talked offensive philosophy, how Mike D’Antoni wants to use Howard, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash sharing the ball, Howard’s effort during the season and a whole bunch of the things that should have been cleared up during the season but were not.

Every report out of that meeting has said the Lakers gave themselves a real chance to keep Howard because if they can convince him they can win he knows he can get the extra year and $30 million, plus all the off-the-court possibilities.

Still, smart money is on Houston. Dallas is in the mix with cap space and Mark Cuban’s pitch.

Basically, it’s not an easy decision for Dwight Howard to make. And those kinds of outcomes are very hard to predict.

Devin Booker demolishes youthful scoring records

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When a 20-year-old LeBron James scored 56 points in a game, he called it, “probably the best game of my life.”

Devin Booker just topped him with 70 points in a game at age 20.

LeBron has obviously gone onto bigger and better things since dropping 56 in a loss to the Raptors during his second year, but that game was a harbinger. Booker – whom LeBron singled out before the season as an under-the-radar rising star – could be on a similar track.

Or Booker could be following Brandon Jennings, who scored 55 in his seventh game, also at age 20.

The future is bright – and unknown – for the second-year Suns guard.

What’s clear: His accomplishment last night is unmatched, and nobody else has come close. Here are the highest-scoring games in NBA history by someone under age 21:

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This is the result of Phoenix going so young and Booker playing so well. Not every team would provide such an opportunity, but Booker seized it.

Not only is he the youngest player ever to score 70 points in a game, he’s the youngest to score 60 in a game.

Somebody ought to buy him a drink to celebrate – in October, once it’s legal.

Union: Joakim Noah would not have been suspended under next CBA

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Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 was not banned by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement when it was enacted.

The next CBA will offer a new challenge policy for failed drug tests.

Perhaps Joakim Noah, whom the NBA suspended 20 games, just tested positively at the wrong time.

SARM LGD-4033 (Ligandrol) was added to the banned list after the current CBA was signed in 2011. The drug is also banned by the next CBA, which will take effect July 1.

But the next CBA would also allow Noah an opportunity to contest his suspension – which his union says he would have done successfully..

National Basketball Players Association:

“After a thorough investigation, the National Basketball Players Association believes that Joakim Noah did not intentionally or knowingly violate any policy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  Under the recently negotiated CBA effective July 1, a player’s unintentional ingestion of a prohibited substance would be taken into consideration, and we believe the conduct here would not result in discipline.  Unfortunately, the current CBA does not permit such consideration.”

“Joakim was completely forthcoming and cooperative throughout the investigation and we believe that this isolated occurrence was a regrettable mistake.  Joakim has offered his deepest apologies for this infraction, and neither he nor the NBPA will pursue an appeal.”

Unlike the current CBA, the new CBA allows a player to challenge a suspension if he “did not know or suspect, and could not reasonably have known or suspected, even with the exercise of considerable caution and diligence, that he was taking, ingesting, applying, or otherwise using” the drug. He must also establish how the drug entered his system.

That’s obviously a high burden. The CBA even defines it as an “unusual circumstance.”

Could Noah have presented such convincing evidence? Maybe, but it’s far easier to make that claim in a statement than actually convince an arbitrator.

Stephen Curry with touchdown pass to Andre Iguodala, who finishes with reverse lay-up (VIDEO)

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The 49ers may want to give Stephen Curry a call, because I’m not sure Brian Hoyer can throw that pass.

Curry showed a soft touch on a touchdown pass over a defender to the streaking Andre Iguodala, who had to finish with the reverse layup, a little no-look flip. It was vintage Warriors, a little playground in transition.

The Warriors beat the Kings 114-100 behind 27 from Curry. With the win the Warriors are 2.5 games up on the Spurs for the best record in the West, but Golden State has a tough road back-to-back this week in Houston than San Antonio. Get at least a split there and the Warriors will be tough to catch.

LeBron James says he has scratched cornea, could sit Saturday vs. Wizards

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With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.

It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.

 

 

That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.

James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”

He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.

The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.

And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.