Draft rumors: Sixers, Magic, Jazz want to trade up; Parker prefers Bucks to Cavs

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Just four days before the NBA Draft — and with that what has for the past couple years been the most active NBA trading season — rumors are flying around faster than twitter can keep up. Almost.

Chad Ford of ESPN had a couple of big ones in his latest mock draft. That starts with a number of teams wanting the Cavaliers No. 1 pick.

The Cavs received intriguing offers from the Sixers, Magic and Jazz late last week. Each is offering its own high lottery pick plus a veteran. The Cavs could theoretically get either of Thaddeus Young, Arron Afflalo or Derrick Favors and still have a top-5 pick in the draft. It would make it much easier to draft Embiid if you knew you got additional value in the form of a veteran who can help now.

If the Cavaliers do not grade out Andrew Wiggins as a transcendent player — and apparently they don’t as they were ready to take Joel Embiid in front of him — then a trade is a good option. The Cavs seem to be leaning toward taking Jabari Parker because he can be plugged into a need and help this season, rather than thinking who will be the best player in five years. That’s shortsighted. First off, the Cavs are not good enough at any position save point guard to think they don’t need an upgrade. This is not a good roster. If the Cavs don’t love the guy they would draft at the top trade out to 3-4-5, then they can get Jabari Parker there (or Embiid or Dante Exum or whoever) plus they get a veteran, good player who also can help now. But get the best player you can, the talent isn’t there in Cleveland for them to be picky.

Parker, however, doesn’t want to go to the Cavs, reports Ford.

Parker came in to work out on Friday in front of the Cavs’ front office and ownership. Parker wasn’t great. He was a bit heavy (he weighed in at 255 pounds), didn’t shoot the ball well and got winded at times. Furthermore, two different sources told ESPN.com that Parker seemed a bit indifferent. One source said he thought Parker “tanked” the workout.

Why? A source says he strongly prefers to play in Milwaukee. The Cavs appear to be aware of this. “Jabari wasn’t himself,” one source said. “It was clear we weren’t his first option.”

I don’t buy this. And it’s insulting to Parker.

Is it possible that Parker prefers the Bucks and being next to John Henson than what he has seen from the Cavaliers player development team in recent years? Sure. Not sure I would blame him.

But to suggest he would be so unprofessional as to tank a workout (and to publish that rumor) is crap — nobody I have every spoken to about Parker has been anything less than glowing about his professionalism and effort. Nobody has talked about him being out of shape or not giving it his all. Guys have off days, but this is more than that. This sounds more like Cavs people blowing smoke or trying to cover their own behinds than it does reality.

But it is the time of the NBA calendar for smoke and behind covering.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.