Kurt Helin

Dwight Howard says he’s motivated after last season, wants to bring title to Atlanta

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The Atlanta Hawks lost Al Horford at center and replaced him with Dwight Howard. Few see that as an upgrade.

Of course, Howard doesn’t see it that way. In an interview with the Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Howard talked about taking the Hawks back closer to the 60-win, conference finals team of a couple of years ago.

“I want to do whatever I can to bring a championship home,” Howard said Tuesday from Philips Arena while attending a Dream game. “I know it’s not going to be easy. I’ve worked extremely hard this summer, every summer. I’m very motivated. I’m really (ticked) off about last season. I’m looking forward to coming back with a different mentality.”

Why was Howard angry last season?

“Losing,” he said. “A lot of people see me with smiles and all that stuff and think I don’t care but I hate losing. I hate seeing other people stand up on the podium and hold up that trophy and I worked so hard for it. That’s the main thing.”

I don’t doubt Howard means that. Of course, he said something similar at every stop on the tour of his career, and let’s just say things have not lived up to the hype.

As always with Howard there are two key questions. First, can he stay healthy? Second, will he buy into the Hawks’ team first concept? Will Howard focus on defense and rebounding, then willingly move the ball on offense rather than demand a bunch of post touches that drag down the Hawks’ ball movement? He’s saying the right things, but he’s said that before.

Big shoes: Brandon Ingram not daunted by taking Kobe’s spot

Associated Press
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Until a couple of months ago, Brandon Ingram‘s new locker at the Los Angeles Lakers’ training complex was occupied by Kobe Bryant.

The 18-year-old rookie sees the daunting symbolism in literally taking the place of the most prolific scorer in franchise history, and he greets it with a smile.

“I did see where my locker was, and I definitely knew it was Kobe’s locker,” Ingram said. “(General manager) Mitch (Kupchak) told me I had some big shoes to fill when I came in here, but I liked it. I like the pressure that’s on me right now. Of course it’s going to motivate me to do good things on the court. It’s all good pressure for me.”

Ingram put on those shoes for the first time Tuesday at a practice for the Lakers’ Las Vegas summer league team. The No. 2 overall pick in last month’s draft then joined fellow Lakers selection Ivica Zubac in a tour of the complex, posing in front of owner Jeanie Buss’ collection of championship trophies before receiving their new gold jerseys – No. 14 for Ingram, No. 40 for Zubac.

The Lakers believe Ingram is a centerpiece of their next great roster. They’re starting nearly from the bottom after the worst season in team history and the retirement of Bryant, who won five titles and became the NBA’s third-leading scorer during his 20-year career.

Ingram could be two decades away from approaching those achievements, but the smooth-shooting forward hasn’t flinched under the weight of comparisons to Bryant – or to Kevin Durant, another lanky shooter who transformed a struggling team. Just over a year after graduating from high school in tiny Kinston, North Carolina, Ingram is shouldering those burdens with apparent ease.

“He never talked about (being compared to Durant),” said Ingram’s father, Donald. “He definitely has similar tools on the court, but he’s never showed that he feels the pressure. Even here, with people talking about filling Kobe’s shoes, he’s just going to pave his own way. He’s going to be Brandon.”

Ingram is already determined to build chemistry with Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and fellow No. 2 pick D'Angelo Russell, the Lakers’ point guard. His primary goal is to become a more vocal player after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski impressed the importance of communication on him last season.

“I was ready for this first practice,” Ingram said. “Just getting on the floor with those guys, and just seeing how he (Russell) wants to play, and of course how the coach wants to play. Connecting with those guys is really important to see what they want to do to be a contender in this league.”

Ingram’s cool is even impressing Zubac, the 7-foot Bosnian teenager chosen with the 32nd overall pick. Zubac grew up an enormous Lakers fan, but he wouldn’t want Bryant’s locker.

“He can have that pressure,” Zubac said, drawing a laugh from his new teammate.

Ingram will have plenty of support in his rookie season, starting with Luke Walton and the Lakers’ new coaching staff. Los Angeles also signed fellow Duke product Luol Deng as a free agent, and Ingram intends to stick close to his fellow 6-foot-9 Blue Devil.

He’ll also have support from family and friends, including Jerry Stackhouse, his longtime mentor and fellow Kinston native.

Donald Ingram is a veteran basketball referee who has also run a recreation center back home in Kinston. He raised his sons with a healthy respect for the game’s rules and fundamentals, putting Brandon into ball-handling drills as a child. Donald was determined to prevent his sons from falling into what he calls “the AND1” mentality of flashy, highlight-driven play.

“He’s always been a player that listened, even when the adults were playing,” Donald Ingram said. “That’s part of being coachable, his ability to listen. He’s a kid that’s willing to learn.”

Ingram’s 25-year-old brother, Bo, played at the University of Texas before getting drafted by the D-League and playing professionally in Mexico. Bo will be out on the West Coast with Brandon after summer league, looking for a place to live before getting to work in September.

“We’re from the East Coast, and he’ll be 19 years old,” Donald Ingram said. “We want to make sure he has somebody with him, and he’s living as close to the facility as possible. It’s a big concern, and that, to me, is more of a concern than his ability to make an impact with the Lakers.”

Report: Dwyane Wade to meet with Nuggets, Bucks, Bulls, maybe Heat in New York

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I know, the constant Dwyane Wade updates are starting to annoy me too — it still feels like someone is leaking all this to use as leverage against Miami. Then again, the Wade/Miami relationship has deteriorated dramatically in the past couple days, maybe it’s reached a point of no return. Either way, we will dutifully pass the news along.

Wade is in New York Wednesday where he will meet with teams, and Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports has the details.

There are rumors the Knicks, Cavaliers and other teams in the mix too, though nothing confirmed. Cleveland is not going to land him, by the way.

It makes sense for Wade to take the meeting with Denver and Chicago, but he then needs to ask himself: Is this really what he wants? To finish his career in Denver as the veteran name to sell tickets on a rebuilding team? Chicago is his home, but the Bulls are not near contending even with him and the franchise’s long-term plan going forward is not exactly clear (to put it kindly).

Is Wade so mad at Miami that he would take one of these offers?

We may find out soon.

Rumor: Ray Allen considering NBA return, intrigued by Warriors

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Because what the Warriors need is another all-time great shooter.

I’d take this rumor with a grain of salt — Ray Allen has happily spent two years in Miami golfing, going up to Connecticut to take in some college basketball now and again, and enjoying time with family and friends. Does he suddenly want to give that up to go through the physical grind of the NBA season at age 41?

He may be considering it — and he likes the way he might fit with the Warriors — reports Chris Broussard of ESPN.

Ray Allen, one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, is considering making a comeback, according to league sources.

Allen’s representatives reached out to the Golden State Warriors recently about the possibility of Allen joining the Western Conference champions….

Allen, who will turn 41 on July 20, is also not absolutely sure he wants to return after sitting out the past two seasons. But he is intrigued by the possibility of playing for another championship, and in addition to the Warriors, he would consider joining the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers, sources said.

If he wants a ring I’m not sure the Clippers are the call. Sorry Clipper fans.

Allen was always one of the best-conditioned athletes in the league, a guy who ate right and worked out religiously. Obviously, his ability to hit the three pointer has value in today’s game. He’d be great in the locker room.

No doubt Allen still feels a pull to play — every retired player does — but that is very different from actually taking the steps to make it happen. Is Allen ready to put himself through the physical grind of a minimum (or near minimum) contract, even if he thinks he can win a ring?

I’m not saying it won’t happen, but I’m saying I’ll believe it when I see it.

Kevin Durant to Golden State could change tone of 2017 CBA negotiations

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The NBA lockout of 2011 was fueled by LeBron James teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami — small and medium market owners hated this (even though Miami is a mid-sized market itself, just better managed than others). They didn’t want talent clustering on one team, they wanted to see it spread out throughout the league in a misguided effort at parity.

On top of the winning a larger percentage of basketball revenue in the 2011 CBA, the owners also put a harsh, punitive luxury tax on top of the salary cap. Combine that with a draft, very favorable rookie-scale contracts, and Bird rights and smaller market teams were supposed to be able to keep their talent, and that talent would be more evenly distributed around the league. Commissioner Adam Silver has even said in recent years it seemed to be working.

Then Kevin Durant bolted from a small market to join Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green in Golden State. Another “superteam” was formed.

How do owners and team executives feel about this? From Howard Beck of Bleacher Report.

“The system is f–ked up,” said a longtime team executive from a large market…

“The small markets can’t survive in this new [environment],” said another team executive in a top-five market.

Owners will almost certainly be clamoring for a harder cap, or a franchise tag, or perhaps the creation of a supermax contract to deter future superteams from being built.

By this December, either the players or owners can opt out of the CBA and force a renegotiation — both sides probably will, and both parties are already negotiating changes. Credit to them, the league and players’ union have done a good job of keeping a lid on those talks and not negotiating through the media (a positive sign for progress). There is a sense around the league that everyone is making so much money with the new television deal — not just players, remember half that money goes straight to the owners’ bottom lines, and their non-player salary costs are more fixed — that nobody wants to see games lost. Don’t risk killing the golden goose.

The Durant move could change the tone of those talks.

Some owners pushed for an NFL-style hard cap in 2011, but if you are looking for something where the players will draw a line in the sand and not cross it, the hard cap is it. It’s not about money — each year 50 percent (give or take) of league “basketball related income” goes to the players regardless — as much as freedom of player movement. The players want the ability to change teams — if Durant wants out of Oklahoma City and he’s honored his contract, why shouldn’t he be free to move on from his employer just like you or I could?

The same idea can be applied to the franchise tag — it restricts player movement. Again, if Durant has played nine seasons in one market and wants to move on, the players don’t want a system that tells him he can’t because he got tagged by a team that doesn’t want to lose him. It’s not about money, it’s about options. And they’re right. (Yes the NFL has franchise tags, but the NFL’s player’s union may not be the model to follow for doing right by its membership in negotiations.)

The one idea that could find agreement: Supermax contracts. Or, just do away with the concept of a max contract all together while keeping the same cap/tax system in place. How much is Durant worth on the open market? Not just on the court with points and wins, but to a franchise in terms of ticket sales, sponsorship money, local television ratings, money from streaming games, jersey sales, and the rest? Durant would likely pull down $45 million or more.

If a superstar takes up half the cap space a team has, there is no way to put four stars on the floor. Nobody could afford two at that price and round out the roster. By capping max salaries at 25-35 percent of the salary cap (how much depends on years of service), it makes it possible for these super teams to form.

It took a lot of other fluke things to happen to clear the path for Durant to bolt Oklahoma City, from the $24 million spike in the salary cap this season, to the Thunder blowing a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. There was a lot more in between. The circumstances that brought KD to Golden State are not going to be repeated anytime soon.

But that doesn’t mean the move isn’t going to make the 2017 negotiations more contentious.