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Daryl Morey dodges question about re-signing Dwight Howard


The fact Houston Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey was speaking on a panel at the 2016 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference is about as surprising as violence at a Trump rally.

But things did get a little interesting when the name of Dwight Howard came up.

Howard is widely expected to exercise his opt-out this summer and become a free agent, which leads to the question “will the Rockets re-sign him?” The better questions are at what price and for how long? Morey tried to dodge all of them when pressed at Sloan, reports Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated.

During the front office panel, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, who was moderating, asked Morey about re-signing Dwight Howard. Morey immediately replied: “Uh oh.” MacMullan pressed the Rockets GM on negotiations. He responded that the NBA’s max salary threshold keeps things simple. MacMullan asked, So you’re re-signing him? To which Morey responded: “I just said they had the concept.”

Howard is going to want a max salary, which will likely start in the $30 million range (depending on the final salary cap number). If your first reaction is “I wouldn’t give him that much” you’re not alone, there are plenty of people in NBA front offices who will say the same thing. But it only takes one to say yes — one who likely struck out on other high-profile targets. Howard will get paid. And Howard still has a lot more value than his detractors give him credit for — 14.8 points per game on 61.7 percent shooting this season, 12.1 rebounds a game, he’s still a strong defender in the paint, and he’s got an All-Star level PER of 20. He shouldn’t want all the post touches he demands, but he still has value.

That said, Howard has a long injury history as well, and the toughest question is how many years do teams want to give Howard because of it? Also, the years is an issue because he may not mesh in their locker room, as has happened with the stars in his last couple stops. The Rockets in theory could offer five years, other teams four. My guess is teams will want a team option or cheap buyout in that final season (or, ideally, two seasons).

We’ll see what kind of offer Morey makes this summer. But he doesn’t sound enthusiastic.

Andrew Bogut with as bad a free throw attempt as you’ll ever see (VIDEO)

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Andrew Bogut isn’t THAT bad a free throw shooter.

But Damn Daniel, that is ugly.

I’m going to give Bogut the benefit of the doubt and say the ball slipped out of his hands, he is a career 55 percent free throw shooter (although below 50 percent this season). This was just ugly.

Later Bogut did show some range draining a three up against the shot clock — his first three of the season.

Could Phil Jackson coach Knicks home games next season? Don’t bet on it.

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The main point Ramona Shelburne’s fantastic article at ESPN on Phil Jackson and the Knicks future is simple:

Jackson senses the urgency and is becoming more hands-on with the team. Kurt Rambis as coach is letting that happen in a way that Derek Fisher didn’t.

But could this lead to Jackson coaching the Knicks’ home games next season?

Those close to him say Jackson seems more energized these days. He has lost about 20 pounds of the 30 he gained during his first two years on the job. Even Kobe Bryant noticed, remarking after Sunday’s game in Los Angeles that, “He looks great. Physically he looks good. I’m happy for him.”

There’s even talk Jackson could offer to coach home games next season, with Rambis coaching the road games. It’s an offer the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss once flatly rejected, but it could be an interesting compromise to hiring Rambis as the head coach next season.

Up to this point, Jackson has flatly shot down any suggestion of his return to the bench, and he talked even this week about enjoying spending part of the winter in Los Angeles. He splits time between there and New York and up to this point has been almost more consultant than hands-on team president at times.

Maybe that is about to change — but a step onto the bench is another matter.

As Carmelo Anthony said earlier this season: “He’s not coming down. He’s not sitting on that sideline. Those days are long gone.”

Logistically, it would be a nightmare. As close as Jackson and Rambis are, splitting time with them being two coaches feels like it will be as successful as the vast majority of two quarterback systems in college football. Teams need consistency, and despite their closeness, Jackson and Rambis do things differently. Even if the rotations remained similar the styles both in game and in preparations for the games would be different. And if you’re an assistant coach for the Knicks, how does the idea of rotating bosses judging your work sound?

Jerry Buss shot down the idea with good reason. If this is broached with him, James Dolan should do the same. Teams should have just one coach, just one voice.

But the fact Jackson has talked with Carmelo Anthony about the future and is becoming more hands-on is a good thing.

Just remember, Jackson has a summer of 2017 opt-out of his deal with New York. And much more than a return to the bench, that remains in play.

Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Warriors just keep on winning, now fastest to 60


Here’s what you missed Monday night while putting a business suit on a horse….

1) Another milestone as Golden State becomes fastest to 60 wins, remains undefeated at home. The injury to Andre Iguodala — out a few weeks with an ankle sprain — gave a lot of pause to the “Golden State will get to 73 wins” bandwagon. He’s a Sixth Man of the Year candidate because he stabilizes their second unit, and he’s a vital part of their “death line up” when they go small with Draymond Green at the five, providing great defense on the wing plus another ball handler and scorer. With three games against the Spurs, some other tough matchups, and a few back-to-backs still to come, going 14-3 the rest of the way was not going to be easy.

Make that 13-3 now as the Warriors steamrolled a struggling New Orleans team 125-107 Monday night. That has the Warriors at 60-6 on the season, they are the fastest team to 60 wins in NBA history and remain ahead of the Bulls’ pace.

Stephen Curry had 27 points on 16 shots, on a night he drained threes but also continues to finish in the paint (6-of-7). Klay Thompson added 18, while both Draymond Green and Marreese Speights had 14.

2) East playoff chase: Good night for the Bulls, not for Detroit. Chicago started the night out of the playoffs looking in, while Detroit held down the eighth seed in the East. The Bulls also had the daunting task of facing a good Raptors team and doing it without Pau Gasol — but with the return of Jimmy Butler and a huge 29-point night from Doug McDermott, Chicago got the upset win over Toronto, 107-105. That despite Drake getting in Justin Holiday‘s ear and forcing a five-second violation.

Detroit was facing the Washington Wizards, a team two games back of them and this was a chance for the Pistons to slam the door on the Wizards. Instead, Washington owned the game winning 124-81.

That puts Chicago back in the eight seed but in a virtual tie still with Detroit (Chicago is one game up in the loss column), and the Wizards are looming two games back still. Statistical site fivethirtyeight.com still gives the Pistons a 56 percent chance of making the playoffs, Chicago is at 35 percent, and the Wizards are hanging on at 17 percent.

3) West playoff chase: Good win for Mavericks, better one for Jazz.The Dallas Mavericks entered the night two games ahead of the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot in the West, but entering a brutal stretch of their schedule — the next six games are a gauntlet, and it started with the red-hot Hornets. But Dallas went into Charlotte and picked up the 107-96 upset win behind 24 points from Chandler Parsons (he’s played well of late) and 23 from Dirk Nowitzki. It’s the kind of win that improves a team’s odds of making the playoffs, and gives Dallas confidence heading into the next stretch.

Then Utah went out later that night on national television, without its leading scorer Gordon Hayward, and beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 94-85. That is a huge win for the Jazz. Both teams were on the second night of a back-to-back, but on the fourth game of a road trip the Cavaliers’ legs seem tired, and they shot 10-of-42 from three — and against the massive front line of Utah it’s tough to make up for those buckets by driving the lane and scoring. Rodney Hood stepped up and had 28 points for Utah.

Because of Dallas’ brutal schedule the rest of the way, statistical site fivethirtyeight.com still has it as a 71 percent chance the Jazz catch and pass the Mavericks to get the final playoff spot in the West. But Dallas is not going to make that easy if they get more wins like this one.

4) Russell Westbrook with 12th triple-double of the season in Thunder win. Just another day at the office for Russell Westbrook: 17 points, 16 assists, and 10 rebounds as the Thunder handled the Trail Blazers 128-94. That is Westbrook’s 12th triple-double of the season, and he did it in 21 minutes of playing time.

5) Andrew Bogut with as bad a free throw as you’re going to see. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say the ball slipped out of his hands because Bogut is a career 55 percent free throw shooter — not good, but not this bad.

Later Bogut did show some range draining a three up against the shot clock.

LeBron James finishes J.R. Smith alley-oop with authority (VIDEO)


LeBron James is still a beast in transition.

Tyronn Lue is trying to get the Cavaliers to run more and when they do it can be impressive. On this play, J.R. Smith throws a rainbow alley-oop that LeBron gets up and just powers down.

It was not enough; the Jazz upset the Cavaliers 94-85 in a game that is a boost for Utah’s playoff dreams.