Dwight Howard says he’s “on same page” with Rockets trying to add another star

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Houston has Dwight Howard and James Harden, but they want their own “big three.”

In their first year together Howard and Harden led a Rockets team with an explosive offense to 54 wins, but in the playoffs Damian Lillard was knocking down shots and leading Portland to knock off the Rockets 4-2 in the first round. It was a sign of how far the Rockets still have to go

Now the Rockets want to add one more big name — Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James or Chris Bosh if they opt out, or whoever else may be available.

Howard is “on the same page” with that and he just wants to win, he wants to get another star in Houston, he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“Looking at this organization, where we’re trying to go, I think all of us are pretty much on the same page. Each day I’m talking to the people up top, trying to figure out ways to try and get better. The coaching staff, from our trainer, in the weight room the guys are working on our bodies every day just trying to figure out how to get better. That’s been our focus….

“I haven’t spoken with Melo personally. I know this is a time for him when he has to really just focus on what’s going to be best for him. And I really believe that in this point in Melo’s career, he just wants to win. He’s done everything – we both have that kind of same mentality to where all the individual accolades, we’ve got them. We’ve got a gold medal, he has been in tops in scoring for a while, but those are all individual things. I think at this point he just wants to win, so it would be great to have him here because I know what his focus would be. It’s up to him, where he’s at in his career. But I want people on my team who are all about winning. That’s my focus.”

Howard spent the entire Q&A talking about winning, about pushing himself and his teammates to get to the next level. He said everything a Rockets fan could want to hear.

That off-season improvement likely is not enough in the West, hence the drive for a third star.

Getting Anthony or any star will require some financial gymnastics — trading Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin without taking any salary back, plus possibly letting Chandler Parsons walk (he’s a restricted free agent so the Rockets can match and offer, and they have his bird rights so they can go over the cap to re-sign him, but that has to be after the star signs for there to be room to add a player like that).

Last season was a bit of a learning curve year for the Rockets, one where Howard and Harden tried to adjust to one another. The Rockets should be better next season no matter what moves GM Daryl Morey makes, the problem is they are in the West and better may not be good enough against the Spurs, Thunder or Clippers.

So the Rockets want another star. Howard wants that, too. He’s not going to recruit guys, but he’s on “the same page” with the front office.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.

Kawhi Leonard is smiling, and that confuses Manu Ginobili (PHOTO)

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Much like Kevin Durant, it appears that Kawhi Leonard is having a great summer.

In fact, this appears to be the Summer of Kawhi Smiling. Which, according to one of his longtime teammates, is a bit confusing.

When the Spurs posted a photo of Leonard with a big old grin on his face to their Twitter feed recently, San Antonio legend Manu Ginobili responded asking the team whether something was up.

Specifically, Ginobili said that he had seen more photos of Leonard smiling in the past two days then he had in six seasons as a teammate.

Via Twitter:

You can leave an anonymous tip about why Kawhi Leonard is smiling so much by contacting the produce manager at your local H-E-B.