And then there were three…
The Atlanta Hawks really never stood a chance to get Dwight Howard in free agency (he was only going home if Chris Paul went with him, and that chance died).
Now the Dallas Mavericks have been told they are out of the race, something first reported by to Marc Stein of ESPN and now confirmed by other sources.
Dallas’ pitch was to win for a year or two next two Dirk Nowitzki then they had the space to rebuild the team around Howard. Apparently that didn’t fly.
That leaves three teams in the race.
Houston is known to be the frontrunner, pitching that Howard and James Harden from the inside/outside combination of a contender that can be surrounded by quality role players who get the job done. They have good role players around such as Chandler Parsons and cap flexibility to add more parts.
The Lakers, where Howard played last season, can offer the most money with larger raises and an extra guaranteed year. Plus, they offer the winning tradition of the Lakers and their desire to make Howard a centerpiece of that going forward. Finally, they offer the off-the-court endorsement and media opportunities the other cities cannot. The question is if Howard believes he can win there. The Lakers do not seem sold he is staying.
Then there is Golden State, which becomes a more complicated deal after their recent move to offer Andre Iguodala four years, $48 million, and trade out Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins (plus cut loose Jarrett Jack and others). The Warriors may still be able to do a sign-and-trade with the Lakers around Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes and some other pieces. That would be a hard sell to the Lakers. To make that work Howard would have to keep Houston in the mix as leverage (“I’m going to Houston and you get nothing unless you do a sign-and-trade with Golden State”).
Your reminder that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are the best together.
DeRozan was asked about Lowry’s long 3-pointers after the Raptors’ win over the Timberwolves last night.
- DeRozan: “”Them shots be lucky. … To me, it’s a bad shot.”
- Lowry (off camera): “Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise.”
That’s not quite what the analytics say, but I won’t let the facts get in the way of a superb diss.
The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:
Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?
Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:
I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.
Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.
But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.
His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.
Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.
So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.
The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.
Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.
After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).
But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?
The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.
He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.
But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.
I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.