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.

Nets’ Jeremy Lin: ‘We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else says’

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The Nets went 20-62 then traded their best player (Brook Lopez) for a worse player (D'Angelo Russell). Brooklyn’s biggest free-agent signing this summer (Otto Porter) plays for the Wizards. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert are nice developmental pieces but hardly seem on the verge of breakthroughs.

Still, Nets guard Jeremy Lin expects big things next season.

He set expectations in an Instagram Live video (hat tip: AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today):

We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else says.

The Nets are on the right track given their asset constraints. Though worse than Lopez now, Russell – eight years younger and on a low-paying rookie-scale deal – is more valuable. Brooklyn made the favorable swap by absorbing Timofey Mozgov‘s awful contract, a wise use of assets considering the difficulty of attracting free agents. An aggressive offer sheet for Porter was a reasonable swing in that situation, as well.

But that’s all helpful in the long run. In the short term, the Nets are almost certainly stuck as lousy. Maybe they can sneak into the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference, but even that is a huge longshot.

Not that Lin cares what I say.

Check out Top 10 blocks from Summer League (VIDEO)

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When you think of Summer League basketball, sharp defensive rotations is not the first thing that comes to mind. Defense, in general, tends to be an after thought.

But there were some great blocks.

Here are the top 10 blocks from the Las Vegas Summer League. Enjoy the flashes of defense from Vegas.

 

Memphis Grizzlies sign former Oregon forward Dillon Brooks

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies have signed former Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, a second-round pick in last month’s NBA draft.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Brooks was selected by the Houston Rockets with the 45th overall pick. The Grizzlies acquired him in exchange for a future second-round pick.

Brooks, 21, averaged 16.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a junior at Oregon last season. He was named the Pac-12 player of the year and helped Oregon earn its first Final Four berth since 1939.

 

Report: Even after Kyrie Irving requests trade, Carmelo Anthony still focused on Rockets, not Cavaliers

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Carmelo Anthony was reportedly willing to waive his no-trade clause for the Rockets or Cavaliers. Cleveland never seemed overly interested, but Houston was. Anthony became set on the Rockets, even reportedly expecting a trade to Houston.

Then, Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavs.

That has thrown everything for a loop. Maybe Cleveland is more keen on trading for Anthony now? The Knicks are reportedly interested in trading Anthony and draft picks for Irving.

But any deal still depends on Anthony’s approval, and it’s now unclear he’d still grant that for the Cavaliers.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

However, a source close to Anthony said late Friday that the All Star forward is focused on getting a deal done with Houston.

Consider this another indication LeBron James will leave Cleveland next summer. Of course, Anthony might have other reasons for preferring Houston. But when reading tea leaves on LeBron’s future, this is a clue.

I doubt LeBron has completely decided his plan, and he hasn’t even necessarily shared his thinking with Anthony, a close friend. Remember, LeBron edited his coming-home essay while on a flight with an unknowing Dwyane Wade, another close friend. But it was one thing for LeBron to strand Wade in Miami, a desirable city where Wade was happy even before LeBron arrived. It’d be something else entirely for LeBron to ditch Anthony in Cleveland. If LeBron is considering leaving, maybe he’d tell Anthony to stay clear.

Anthony could also be operating without hearing directly from LeBron. But if LeBron’s friend believes LeBron might leave, that’d still say something (though obviously not as much).

Back to the possibility that Anthony prefers the Rockets for other reasons. What happens if New York and Cleveland agree to a trade? Does Anthony still hold out for his top choice? Or does he relent and accept what was once his second choice? For now, it seems as if he’s still angling for Houston and will cross other bridges if he reaches them.