Newly signed Houston Rockets player Dwight Howard during news conference in Houston

Warriors’ owner says team was ‘a lot closer than people realize’ to landing Dwight Howard in free agency

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Before ultimately deciding to sign with the Rockets, Dwight Howard met with four other teams in free agency — the Lakers, the Mavericks, the Hawks, and the Warriors.

No one on the outside truly believed that Howard would end up anywhere but Houston or Los Angeles, and Golden State especially appeared to be a long shot considering that they would need to clear salary cap space in order to sign Howard to the maximum contract he would require.

But Warriors owner Joe Lacob says the Warriors were truly in the mix, and were much closer to landing Howard than most realize.

From Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

“I don’t like to focus on those who aren’t here,” Lacob told SN as part of an exclusive conversation this week. “Good luck in Houston, Mr. Howard. And I am sure he will help that team, they will be better. But we would not have gone after him if we didn’t think we had a chance or that it made sense. … We were a lot closer than people realize to perhaps that actually happening, (Howard) coming here. I think that is a testament to what is happening here. He was affected by the presentation that he saw by our ownership and our management.”

Believe what you want, and obviously Lacob was in the room with Howard and we weren’t. It just doesn’t seem like the Warriors could have pulled it off, even if Howard had indeed decided that he wanted to spend the next five years in the Bay area.

But the fact that we’re even talking about it speaks volumes as to where the franchise is now, and in that sense Lacob is absolutely right.

Report: Lakers working toward buyout with Jose Calderon; Warriors, Rockets interested

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18:  Jose Calderon #5 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a called foul during the second half of a game against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on November 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The Lakers took on the salary of Jose Calderon this year so they could get a couple second-round picks from the Bulls (Chicago got him from New York in the Derrick Rose trade), but even with the previous regime in Los Angeles the aging point guard was never part of the future.

As was expected, the Lakers are now talking about buying out the Spanish national and letting him head to a playoff team for a stretch run, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN that it’s not yet a certainty Calderon will secure his release from the Lakers in the coming days, but the sides are indeed discussing the options as Wednesday’s playoff eligibility deadline nears….

Sources say that Calderon, if he winds up hitting the open market, would instantly become a target for both the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.

Cleveland may also have interest if their plan to land Deron Williams when he is bought out by Dallas goes awry.

Calderon, 35, was not part of the Lakers’ regular rotation, playing in just 24 games. He can still knock down a shot if he has space and can set his feet, and he still has a high hoops IQ and can see the floor, but his athleticism has faded, and that can leave him exposed. Particularly on defense.

Players are being waived now so they clear in time for teams to sign them by March 1, after that said players are not eligible for playoff rosters.

There are better players to hit the waiver wire in the coming days — D-Will, Andrew Bogut, Matt Barnes — but Calderon is going to land somewhere. He’d be a solid third point guard and veteran presence for a playoff run.

Marquese Chriss blocks Bobby Portis, who gets testy (video)

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Bobby Portis didn’t enjoy getting blocked by Marquese Chriss. And Portis sure didn’t appreciate how Chriss fell on him.

But it was all worth it (for me, at least) just to see the Bulls forward make a face that reminded me of this:

Dwyane Wade with dagger dunk to seal Bulls win vs. Suns (VIDEO)

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The time off during the All-Star break did Dwyane Wade some good.

The Bulls guard turned back the clock on Friday night, leading the Bulls with 23 points and topping it off with this dunk that proved to be the dagger, sealing a Chicago win. The Suns were convinced Wade was going to run the shot clock way down before making his move and they lollygagged into position — so he just blew past everyone for the poster slam.

The Bulls won 128-121. Devin Booker led the Suns with 27.

DeMarre Carroll shoves Isaiah Thomas to ground on break, tempers flare

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Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll picked up a deserved flagrant for this foul.

With a couple of minutes left to go in the second quarter, Isaiah Thomas made the steal when DeMar DeRozan lost the ball on a drive, and Thomas was off to the races. Trying to prevent a lay-up, Carroll decided to foul Thomas far from the basket, but did so with a forearm shove that sent Thomas sprawling on the ground.

Thomas got up and had words, as did Jae Crowder.

Carroll got a flagrant and a technical, Thomas and Crowder each picked up technicals for jumping in.