Dwight Howard gets booed by Lakers fans, responds with efficient 20 points in Rockets win

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This game played out pretty much exactly as expected.

Dwight Howard made his return to Staples Center and was lustily booed by Lakers fans.

Then the game tipped off and the Rockets went out of their way to feed Howard in the post — he scored the Rockets first six points and had eight points, six rebounds and two blocked shots in the first quarter.

From there, as expected, the Rockets simply overwhelmed an over-manned Lakers squad. The Rockets went on a 9-0 run to end the first quarter, another 12-0 run late in the second, were up by 20 at the half and never looked back.

When it was all over Houston won 134-108, the Rockets eighth straight win. Just as expected. James Harden led the Rockets with 29 points, Howard added 20 points and 13 rebounds, and neither played in the fourth quarter.

“I think he came out and wanted to make a statement and stuff,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni s said after the game during a televised interview when asked about Howard. “He’s good and he’ll play well.”

On the court this game was never really in doubt. The Rockets were getting points any way they wanted — they scored 62 in the paint, they ran on the Lakers and won the fast break points total by 7, the Howard/Harden combo ran some nasty pick-and-rolls as they carved up the Lakers defense with little trouble. The Lakers wanted to make sure the Rockets got their quota of easy buckets this season and turned the ball over 20 times, too.

Wesley Johnson had 24 points for the Lakers, Kendall Marshall added 20 points and 16 assists.

The real drama was off the court. The Lakers’ fans who wanted a cathartic release could and did boo Howard. For most Lakers fans it’s not as if they are really happy with Howard, but they have moved on. By and large they are more focused on Steve Blake getting traded and if they can get Dante Exum in the draft. Howard is an afterthought.

Although one Lakers fan did pull the “psych” on a Howard high five as he exited the court.

Howard has moved on too — he’s happy as a Rocket and is on a team he thinks is building toward a contender. He’s playing his best basketball in years. He’s smiling and having fun and joking around — that’s the way he likes to play, but it drove Kobe Bryant crazy.

In the end Howard showed that the Lakers how well he and his teammates are playing. Now everyone can move on.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.

Report: Heat signing Jordan Mickey

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Jordan Mickey – the No. 33 pick by the Celtics in 2015 – became the first second-round pick in memory to sign the year he was drafted and receive a higher initial salary than first-round picks.

He’s keeping the checks coming.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Mickey will be the Heat’s 16th player with a standard contract, though Matt Williams (unguaranteed) will likely be waived to meet the regular-season roster limit.

I’m not sure where Mickey fits on this team, which already has several bigs. Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk will likely play ahead of him. Miami also has A.J. Hammons (who might be just dead salary) and Udonis Haslem (who might provide nothing more than veteran leadership).

The Heat could just see Mickey as someone they can develop. At that point, how he fits into the current roster doesn’t really matter.

Mickey – 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan – is a mobile defender with nice timing for blocking shots inside. He even possesses a work-in-progress 3-pointer in his arsenal. There’s plenty for Miami to help mold.