Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Unsurprisingly, Dirk Nowitzki opts out to become free agent. Not that he’s leaving Dallas.

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You know the NBA’s “silly rumor season” is in full swing when talk of Dirk Nowitzki turning his back on Dallas to chase a ring with Golden State gains traction.

The rumor that the Warriors are interested in the best European ever to play the game popped up Tuesday and there is one thing we know to be true in this — Nowitzki is going to be a free agent. Which isn’t a surprise. Via Marc Stein of ESPN.

What this does is give Dallas more flexibility in chasing free agents.

As for the Warriors, Nowitzki has said before he is not looking to leave the Mavericks.

“(Not having a ring) would have been the only scenario where I go somewhere at the end to kind of hang on and maybe try to win one,” Nowitzki said, referring to his 2011 title team. “But ever since I won a championship here and we did that, I want to finish my career here. I always said that. The only scenario where I’ll try to go somewhere is if we’re rebuilding.”

I have no doubt the Warriors would have interest, he’d be a great fit with what they do playing mostly off the bench. I just don’t see Nowitzki turning his back on Mark Cuban for any reason.

Report: As expected, Dwight Howard opts out of $23.1 million with Houston, is free agent

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Almost everyone around the NBA expected Dwight Howard to opt out of his contract with Houston — then when the Rockets hired Mike D’Antoni as their new head coach it became a mortal lock.

It was just a matter of time. Now it’s happened reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Howard averaged 13.7 points a game on only 8.5 shot attempts per game (the fewest since his rookie season) and added 11.8 rebounds a night. He played good defense, although not at the pre back surgery levels.

Howard wants a max contract, which will start at $30.8 million for him (with the projected salary cap of $94 million).

At least half the people reading that last sentence shook their heads and said, “no way.” But I bet he gets it, or something close. What concerns more some teams more than the money is the years — he has a history of back problems and is now on the wrong side of 30. He’s been playing through pain for years (and some years missing a lot of games). I can’t see any GM locking him in for four guaranteed years, one that goes three likely can land him (with a team option for the last year). Plenty of teams likely steer clear of him entirely once July 1 opens. Dallas is among the teams reportedly interested in Howard.

Report: Joel Embiid given all clear to start scrimmaging

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Next season, along with Ben Simmons (and whoever else they pick up in the draft), the Sixers could unveil rookie Joel Embiid.

Finally.

Hopefully.

Embiid was the No. 3 pick of the 2014 draft, and had it not been for foot issues he might have gone No. 2 behind Andrew Wiggins (and in front of Jabari Parker). Of all the Sixers picks in recent years, including Jahlil Okafor and Simmons, Embiid was the highest rated by scouts.

However, those foot issues were real (the second surgery involved a bone graft), and he has missed two full seasons following two foot surgeries. Now he is healthy enough to be cleared for scrimmages, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

After a full year of rehabilitation, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has been cleared to start light scrimmaging in five-on-five settings, league sources told The Vertical….

The 7-foot Embiid has been impressive in his non-contact workouts in recent weeks at the 76ers’ facility, sources said, and the soundness of his problematic right foot should continue to allow him to begin preparations for next season. Embiid, 22, is expected to travel to Las Vegas for the 76ers’ entry in the summer league in July but only to practice with the team, sources said. There’s no plan for him to participate in summer league games.

On one hand Summer League seems the perfect place to break Embiid into competition for a few games, but you can understand the Sixers caution at this point.

With Embiid, Simmons, Okafor and Nerlens Noel, the Philadephia front court is crowded. Which is why you get plenty of Okafor and Noel trade rumors, and those are not going to stop.

Ben Simmons on Instagram: “Trust the Process.” If you needed more proof he’s Philly bound

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Since the night of the draft lottery, it has been the worst-kept secret in the NBA that the Philadelphia 76ers would take Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick. Tuesday Simmons did his one and only predraft workout for the Sixers, where he reportedly was told he would be taken with the first pick.

But if you needed even more confirmation, here is what Simmons posted on Instagram after the workout.

Trust the process

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

“Trust the process.”

It’s a little late to be quoting Sam Hinkie, but we get the idea.

This draft is obvious with the top two — the Lakers will take Brandon Ingram second — then gets really interesting with the third pick.

After winning NBA title, would Cleveland still trade Kevin Love?

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Usually, when a team wins the NBA title, they try to keep the band together and bring largely the same team back to go for the repeat.

Kevin Love certainly helped the Cavaliers win their first NBA title with his Game 7 performance — he was a beast on the boards early (finishing with 14 boards, nine points, and was a +19) then played good perimeter defense on Stephen Curry on one of the key plays late in the game. Love isn’t a great matchup against Golden State, but he gives other teams trouble.

All that doesn’t mean the Cavaliers will bring back Love next season.

What it does mean is they don’t feel any pressure to make a move. The Cavaliers tested the market for Love at the trade deadline — when they weren’t very serious about moving him — and got nothing but lowball offers. Cleveland doesn’t want your draft picks and “meh” role players. If Boston and other interested parties make the same offers this summer, they will get the same “no.”

Sean Deveney of the Sporting News does a fantastic job breaking the Love situation down and noting there is a lot of demand for Love’s services around the league.

But the fact that Love’s name comes up (in trade rumors) is a testament to the number of teams that recognize he could be his old All-Star self if he did not have to sacrifice to win with the Cavs. Even when it looked like Love was on the outs in Cleveland, even while many were focused on his weaknesses, NBA executives still considered Love to be an elite-level player. The view of one league executive summed it up: “I think most of us feel like he might be a bad fit with LeBron, but he’d be a really, really good fit for our team. And I mean, there’s almost 29 teams that would look at him and think that.”

Add to that the scent of a championship Love now bears, and the Cavaliers will have to consider the fact that Love’s value is at a two-year high. He turns 28 in September, at the peak of his prime. The Cavaliers will not, as they might have been had they lost the Finals, feel pressure to make changes to smooth out some of their rough spots. They will be able to deal from a position of power.

But it’s not clear that they have interest in dealing at all. The Cavs’ long run to this championship certainly erases any immediate deal for Love—they’re not going to trade the guy at the draft, obviously—but that’s not much of an issue since the Cavs were never going to move Love for draft picks. The league executive speculated that if some deal gets seriously discussed, it probably won’t be until after Summer League and maybe not even until during or after the Olympics in August.

The Cavaliers just won an NBA title with Kevin Love as their starting power forward. He averaged 16 points and 9.9 rebounds a game this season, and that was with taking a vastly reduced role in the offense so LeBron and Kyrie Irving can isolate more. He’s not listening to the critics.

“I never got really trapped by the dogma and living with the results of other people’s thinking,” Love said after Game 7. “I just continue to fight through it, and knew that tonight I just had to have one great game. I was going to go out and be aggressive on both sides of the ball as far as rebounding the basketball. I was just told to rise above it, especially by my teammates.”

We certainly can talk about fit — Chris Bosh took this same reduced role in Miami, but Bosh brought fantastic pick-and-roll defense to the table, also. Love is not a good fit against the Warriors, but that fit was good enough for Cleveland to win a title with Love playing a significant role.

Maybe by late summer and into training camp next season some team assesses its situation and comes up with a legitimate offer that Cleveland needs to consider seriously. Maybe. But the Cavs aren’t going to move him just to move him and shake things up this summer. They don’t need to. They can bring everyone back and, if they stay healthy, no team in the East will keep them out of the Finals again.