Report: Dwight Howard chooses Houston Rockets

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It’s not been confirmed by Howard himself, but it is where all signs have been pointing for days — Dwight Howard has selected the Houston Rockets as his next team, something first reported by Sam Amick of the USA Today.

This has now been confirmed by other sources including David Aldridge of NBA.com, Ken Berger of CBSSports and others. Howard’s agent Dan Fegan has said the choice has not been finalized and would not be until later tonight or tomorrow, but that sounds like him trying to get out in front  of the story. It sounds like the choice is make it’s just a matter of finalizing the contract, which is not yet done.

Howard has been personally calling teams to let them know of his choice, according to multiple reports, which started with Dallas and now has included every team. This had been a five team race for Howard: The Rockets, Lakers, Mavericks, Warriors and Hawks.

The question remains if the Rockets will do a sign-and-trade with the Lakers for players such as Omer Asik and/or Jeremy Lin. Frankly, the better move for the Lakers is to do a sign and trade where they net a massive trade exception to use later. Either way, the Rockets have a little salary cap room to still clear out to offer Howard a max deal. The Rockets also have been talking to the Hawks about an Asik deal that would free up more cap room and bring back Josh Smith to pair with Howard in a great defensive front line (that would have interesting offensive challenges), but would allow the Hawks to move Al Horford to his more natural four spot.

The Rockets had been the frontrunner because if this was really a basketball decision for Howard it put him closest to a title — paired with the playmaking of James Harden and good role players such as Chandler Parsons, the Rockets instantly enter the contenders conversation. That is a busy conversation in the West with the Oklahoma City Thunder getting Russell Westbrook back, the Clippers loaded and ready to go with a new coach and better role players like J.J. Redick, and of course discount the Spurs at your own peril.

But with Howard, the Rockets are in that conversation. That is huge for them.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.