Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitizki

Daryl Morey says he called Mark Cuban last summer asking to trade for Dirk Nowitzki

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BOSTON — Rockets general manager Daryl Morey appeared on a panel with Warriors general manager Bob Myers on Friday, as part of a negotiation discussion at the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

The two GMs were extremely open in detailing their perceived shortcomings and missteps in their personal negotiation processes, and one of the more interesting stories to come out of it involved last summer’s mad scramble to sign Dwight Howard in free agency.

Golden State couldn’t sign Howard even if he decided that’s where he wanted to play, because the team was $12 million over the salary cap at the time. It wasn’t Howard who the Warriors had to move mountains to acquire, however. It was free agent Andre Iguodala who had agreed to play for the Warriors, if only they could clear the necessary $24 million in salary to sign him.

Meyers detailed just how difficult this process was, and how low the odds were of him actually being able to pull it off — after all, few if any teams are usually willing to sign up to take on an extra $24 million in salary to essentially help someone else add a marquee free agent to the roster.

But Meyers found a willing partner in the Utah Jazz, and that sent Morey into a complete panic. He thought that Howard would be persuaded to choose the Warriors based on their addition of another All-Star talent, and so he went running to the phones to try to acquire another star of his own — without knowing that Howard had already made his decision to join the Rockets.

“This is where my emotion takes over,” Morey said. “I go into a complete panic. I really did. I thought it was down to us, Dallas, L.A.”

So Morey called Mark Cuban to try and poach his franchise superstar.

“I was like, ‘Well, you’re not getting Dwight Howard. Can you trade us Dirk Nowitzki?'” Morey said. “It was a bad moment for me.”

A really bad moment, considering that Howard had already informed Dallas that he was signing elsewhere, even though Morey hadn’t been made aware of his decision just yet.

“Mark thought I was taunting him,” Morey said.

That phone call must have been priceless from Cuban’s standpoint, given the sting of just losing out on Howard along with another general manager trying to do even more damage by asking for a player who has remained untouchable in Cuban’s eyes ever since Nowitzki came into the league some 15 years ago.

“We worked it out,” Morey said, in what was likely a painful negotiation all its own.

Watch Spurs’ Dejounte Murray throw off-the-backboard alley-oop to himself in pickup game

Washington guard Dejounte Murray, center, dribbles the ball past Mount St. Mary's center Taylor Danaher (50) as Washington forward Marquese Chriss, right, watches duirng the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Just a suggestion for rookie Dejounte Murray: Don’t do this in front of Gregg Popovich. You may not like his reaction.

That said, the Spurs needed to get more athletic this off-season — landing Pau Gasol certainly didn’t help that cause — so enter first-round pick Murray, who pulled this off in a recent pickup game.

Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.

He’s certainly got the athleticism.

Corey Brewer: “James (Harden) is going to play defense this year”

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets walks across the court during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.

Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.

Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.

“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”

We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.

Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.

Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?

If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.

 

Watch Drake hit a half court shot while doing a situp

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26:  Singer Drake celebrates after Terrance Ross #31 of the Toronto Raptors sinks a 3-pointer in the second half of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on April 26, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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I can see the questions on Twitter/in the comments already so let me save you some time.

Because it’s summer.

Because it’s Drake (he’s a celebrity and an NBA hanger-on with some quasi-official position with the Raptors).

Because Stephen Curry did it, too.

Because what other hoops are you watching on a late August afternoon?

And besides, you clicked on it. You know you want to see it.

So here it is, Drake, hitting a halfcourt shot while doing a sit up. Enjoy.

FOR THE KIA!!!!! @highlighthub @bleacherreport

A video posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

Mario Chalmers says he’s cleared to play

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers moves the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Washington. Chalmers was ejected in the first half. The Wizards won 100-91. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
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Mario Chalmers was thriving with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade from the Heat when a torn Achilles ended his season.

Not the way Chalmers wanted to enter free agency.

Still unsigned, he says he’s progressing.

Chalmers:

Can he go 100%, though? If not, when?

A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.