Dwight Howard says he wants to move on from Kobe, Lakers. Actions show feud going strong.

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LOS ANGELES — For a little more than three quarters, the Dwight Howard vs. Kobe Bryant storyline was shoved aside in their opening night showdown to make room for the “damn, James Harden is insanely good” storyline. Or maybe the “we knew the Lakers were bad but not THIS bad” storyline.

Then this happened.

“They just don’t like each other, simple as that,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott post-game, putting a voice to what we all saw. Howard and Kobe wouldn’t even shake hands pre-game and the animosity (and Kobe’s frustration with losing) eventually bubbled over.

Both men tried to sell the “it’s just basketball” line after the game, but you tell the way they went at each other — the way Kobe calls Howard “soft” and all the finger pointing — that there is more than just smoke to the feud talk. Neither has moved on. (Remember when people tried to sell us Howard not returning to the Lakers had nothing to do with Kobe? That was a funny. Louis CK funny.)

When asked about the incident Howard went to the “I’m just happy we won the game” card over and over. He did his best to avoid the topic, but the questions about Kobe and Howard’s exit from Los Angeles — which brought lusty boos from the Lakers faithful at Staples Center opening night — just kept on coming.

“What do you all want me to say, because I’m not fitting to give you nothing. It’s stupid. We won the game. It’s over with,” Howard eventually said. “I mean, there’s no need to go into it. We won the game. It’s about basketball. I mean it’s over with. It’s nothing. I’m not even focused on it.

“I mean people are always going to talk (about him leaving the Lakers). I had a good time in L.A. It didn’t end how everybody wanted it to. Life happens. Things happen, and I’ve moved forward from it….. I think it’s over with. I made a decision for myself.”

Kobe seemed to have a sarcastic tone in his voice when asked about Howard and the incident.

“You can’t help but like him, He’s a teddy bear. He’s a really nice kid, and I really mean that,” Kobe said. “When you compete and you have a goal in mind, I know one way to get there. He elbowed me in the face and I’m going to let him know that I don’t like that. It’s that simple.”

That was as much as anyone would say, especially on a night when the terrible Julius Randle injury cast a somber mood over both locker rooms.

Still one other thing was clear Tuesday night besides the fact the Kobe/Howard rivalry is alive:

Howard clearly made the best basketball choice for himself moving on to Houston.

A lot of us said that at the time, but it was crystal clear Tuesday. Howard and Harden make a far more formidable force than Howard could have with the aging and inefficient Kobe we saw Tuesday in Los Angeles. Make no mistake, Kobe was as good as anyone should have expected, but right now Harden is simply better. It doesn’t hurt that Howard’s back is clearly the healthiest it has been in a couple years.

Plus, with Kobe’s still largest in the NBA contract, it would have been hard for the Lakers to build much around the pair. The Rockets are struggling with that, too, but still right now they have role players like Terrence Jones and Trevor Ariza that are better fits in their system than anyone the Lakers role out. Plus the Rockets as a team buy into an up-tempo offensive system that works for them. The Lakers have another coach and are on another quest to find their identity.

None of that changes the bottom line — it’s not just smoke, there’s real fire in the Kobe Bryant/Dwight Howard feud. Their words may play it down, but their actions tell the real story.

Lou Williams trolls Jimmy Butler for resting during All-Star Game

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Jimmy Butler was in Los Angeles and enjoying his well-earned All-Star slot on Team Stephen.

Well, except for the actual playing basketball part. Butler did not set foot on the court during the All-Star Game at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

Lou Williams, the Clippers’ guard who likely would have been near the front of the line for an open All-Star roster spot in the West (likely second in the queue behind Chris Paul), but instead took part in the Saturday Skills Competition then had Sunday off, trolled Butler for it on Twitter.

This seems more good natured than genuinely bitter.

Williams will roll with it, but his point’s a valid one — if you’re an All-Star, at least play a little and give the people what they want. Get out there for five minutes or whatever. LaMarcus Aldridge only played four minutes, no big deal.

If you’re not going to use the roster spot, give it up to someone who will.

Report: Raptors won’t sign Vince Carter if he gets bought out

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Of returning to the Raptors, Vince Carter said, “It’ll happen one day.” It sounds as if the Kings would buy him out if he wants.

Will he end the season with Toronto?

Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050:

After speaking with a few team sources, I can confirm that they’ve had internal dialogue and debate about the idea of bringing Vince Carter back. It’s something that they wanted to do over the summer. That’s why they made him an offer, something that I’ve reported in the past. And it’s also something that they’d be open to in the future, perhaps next year in some capacity. But they’ve decided now is not the right time. And I think the consensus seems to be there’s so much going on right now, and they want this season to be about this team, their accomplishments and their playoff push and not the sideshow that I think would come with a Vince Carter return.

The Raptors (41-16) are on pace for their best record ever. They’re excelling offensively and defensively. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are spearheading a more dynamic offense that spurs hope for more playoff success.

Toronto is probably correct to save the Carter reunion for another year – though it depends who else is available. That 15th roster spot could be useful. If Carter is the best player who’d sign, the Raptors should sign him and deal with the hoopla.

But it’s not clear whom they could get or whether they could even get Carter. He hasn’t sounded like someone who’d forgo guaranteed salary to play for the minimum.

Tiago Splitter announces retirement

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Tiago Splitter was so effective in his role for the Spurs during their playoff run to the 2014 title – 19.1 PER, .239 win shares per 48 minutes, +7.5 box plus-minus. It gets forgotten, because he twice lost his starting job that postseason.

Limited by a late start in the NBA and injuries, Splitter’s prime was short and ill-timed. He was a traditional center just as those were going out of style.

But for moments in the right matchups, he provided a major boost to a championship team. That was the peak of a seven-year NBA career.

HoopsHype:

Tiago Splitter announced his retirement at the age of 33 in an interview with SporTV.

Splitter just couldn’t get healthy. He missed 150 games over the last three years with the Spurs, Hawks and 76ers.

Drafted No. 28 in 2007, Splitter remained overseas for a few years and built hype and intrigue. He signed with San Antonio and started alongside Tim Duncan for a couple years. The Spurs later dumped him on Atlanta to clear space for LaMarcus Aldridge – a sign of Splitter’s success. He earned about $47 million in his NBA career.

J.J. Redick apologizes for saying what sounded like a slur for Chinese people

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76ers guard J.J. Redick explained saying what sounded like a slur for Chinese people – he was tongue-tied. But he didn’t actually apologize, and that bothered many.

Now, he’s getting that part right.

Redick:

Maybe Redick really did just stumble over his words. Based on the inflection, it certainly sounds possible.

Maybe he thought he was being funny then got caught.

He’d respond now the same way now either way. Maybe it’s just unfortunate he’s caught up in this. Maybe he’s using plausible deniability to get away with something.

I don’t know, but it’s good he apologized. People can apologize for accidents, and it usually helps make everyone feel better and move on.