Author: Matt Moore

Dwight Howard

The Inbounds: Dwight Howard and the need for quiet time


Moderation in all things.

There’s room in our discussion for NBA players to have choices about their lives and careers, to have the opportunity to decide their own fate, to express their wishes to management and not simply shut up and play, and for us not to be left with what Dwight Howard has given us. We thought LeBron’s Decision was crushing and absurd, and that seems like nothing more than a rude declaration at this point. We thought the Melodrama was the furthest application of player power, engineering a trade to the team he wanted.

But this? This Dwightmare? It’s gone beyond anything that we thought would happen. It has crossed every boundary of reasonable expectation for a player’s behavior and at this point resembles some giant-sized child, smashing houses while it screams that it wanted its birthday cake with aqua-colored icing, not blue.

Consider the latest nonsense to come trickling out, as Yahoo Sports and reported late Wednesday night that the Magic center met with GM Rob Hennigan and his assistant GM along with his agent Dan Fegan and his manager, and not only reiterated his trade demand for the 700th time, but “pointedly” questioned why the Magic hadn’t traded him yet. He pushed again for the Nets in the long-term, and the Lakers in the short-term.


Hold up.

One second.

Trade demands are nothing new, that’s a common defense of Howard from the seven people left on the planet who don’t feel he’s being a complete brat. And that’s certainly accurate. And the new standard is to demand a trade where you want to go so you can get that full five-year (or six under the previous CBA)  deal and have the market you want. OK, fine, we can even live with that. It’s a bit too much cake to eat it, too, considering it’s a deliberate attempt to hold a team hostage in order to avoid the restrictions of the available market in free agency, but fine.

But now Howard’s asking about why the Magic haven’t made this or that deal?

“I’ve held you hostage for a year, put your franchise’s ownership through an emotional rollercoaster, tortured your fans, and made your organization seem like a complete joke, and now I’m going to tell you which deal you should take in exchange for the All-Star who you had the foresight to draft, develop, and build around. Wah.”

This is the worst kind of exercising of player power. It’s not just the audacity of Howard to essentially demand that the Magic take an absolutely wretched deal (seriously, have you seen the Nets’ deal particulars?), but it’s this key element: Who do you think leaked these talks to the media?

It’s not the Magic. All it does is serve to hurt their leverage in getting a deal for Howard, something they’ve had to fight against Howard’s nonsense to get for six months. It was Howard’s camp, trying to undermine the Magic’s efforts. If they lose leverage, a deal comes faster, and may land Howard where he wants. If it doesn’t, it still hurts the Magic’s leverage and could land him in Brooklyn at the trade deadline.

As if he hasn’t done enough to this franchise.

As if last season wasn’t ruined under a cloud of drama, as if this season hasn’t already been destroyed by the impending trade. Those players know Howard’s gone, they know they will play as professionals, and yet it won’t matter. Howard has sucked two years from this franchise, and now he’s going to question which deals they take?

Howard wants to know what is taking so long, why he hasn’t been dealt yet. And the answer is because since Howard has abandoned the so-called “loyalty” he has for the franchise, their primary responsibility is not to him. It’s to themselves. Rob Hennigan still has to manage the Magic after this trade. He still has to try and get the best deal for the Magic going forward. His job is not to make Dwight Howard happy. The Magic don’t owe Howard happiness. They owe him his money, and they  owe him the courtesy of keeping him informed. There has been nothing to inform him of, so they haven’t contacted him. They don’t owe him a trade, they don’t owe him a trade where he wants, they don’t owe him a trade where he wants, when he wants. The Magic were a franchise before Dwight Howard’s goofy smile went to Florida, they will be one after.

If Howard really wanted this deal completed as quickly as possible? He’d think back to Kindergarten and remember quiet time. He needs to disappear from public view. No interviews, no meetings, and most importantly, no leaked meetings or feelings. Keep your camp tight, don’t talk to anyone, shut off all conversations. This thing will sort itself out. He’s made his feelings crystal clear, the Magic know who they can and can’t deal with. This thing will happen in its own time. But trying to rush it along is only going to hurt Hennigan’s leverage, which means he has to take more time to recover it. Hennigan has to give teams the indication he’s under no real hurry or pressure to trade Howard, and he only will if the deal he wants will come. He’s not going to get that if teams know that Howard’s constantly bending them and pressuring them in certain directions.

Howard’s best move is to just stop. To be quiet, and wait. This isn’t about a sentiment about players not expressing their wishes. If a player is unhappy, he should be able to express to management that he is. Howard has done that. A hundred times. A player should be able to request/demand a trade. Howard has done that. A hundred times. The Magic don’t want him around anymore anymore than he wants to be in Orlando. This is a stressful and unpleasant situation, and the Magic aren’t the ones dragging it out. Were they able to solicit offers across the market for Howard, if Howard had publicly expressed he’ll play anywhere but Orlando but privately only in a certain number of cities, Hennigan would be able to ratchet up the offers and get a better deal.

Howard is, in fact, working against himself. He’s hurting his own chances of being traded, and banking on Hennigan rolling over. As much as management and ownership in days gone by had little confidence in the intelligence or savvy of the players, now it seems the players think management will just do what they want, on their timeline, when they snap their fingers. That’s now how it works. Howard’s holding a franchise hostage, then asking why the franchise he’s holding hostage won’t let him leave.

You’re holding them hostage, man! Put the threat away and everyone can get out of this bank and go home!

But no. Not in this new era of player power gone to the extremes. For years, players have been exploited by management and ownership, taken advantage of, robbed of their ability to express their desires and play out their careers the way they want. Now we’re seeing the ugly other side of it, as a player thinks he’s standing up for himself when he’s really just acting the child.

It’s time for quiet time, Dwight. Your complaints have been duly noted. You have exerted your power and influence over the situation. Everyone respects how important you are. Now go away and let the big boys get the business of ending this disaster you’ve created done.

The Inbounds: A Hive In Construction; How to Protect Anthony Davis With Robin Lopez

Draft Hornets Basketball

Hang on to your monitors, I’m going to get through the rest of this column without mentioning the busted CP3-to-the-Lakers trade. You ready? Break!

When the Hornets agreed to terms with the Suns and Wolves in a three-way trade Sunday night, it wasn’t anything that was going to be bust over Ichiro Hamel’s new deal A-Rod breaking his hand. It was a minor deal. But it was yet another example of what has become the modus operandi of Dell Demps this offseason. It’s an understated move with positional variability which sacrifices neither cap space or crucial assets.

Here’s how quickly these things shift. Had the Suns just recommitted the money to Robin Lopez, who has never established himself as the center Phoenix needs, but has consistently scraped the ceiling of legitimacy enough to keep people interested, it probably would have been panned. Now, the Hornets reached good value on Lopez at three-years, $15 million according to Yahoo Sports, but part of that value is inherently due to what a legit center means for New Orleans, versus what it means for Phoenix.

The Suns, with Marcin Gortat, didn’t need to overpay for Lopez. (After all, they’d already overpaid for Michael Beasley, badum-ching.) They needed a little extra money going forward and to dump Hakim Warrick’s deal. It would have been a better move had they not already gone on a spending spree to try and remake the team immediately after Steve Nash’s departure and been more patient, but moving dead money long-term for short-term dead money (Brad Miller’s retired contract) isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good thing.

But the Hornets? They needed Lopez. They needed a center, and they needed to not overpay for a center. Lopez gives them everything they need. He’s a fill-in, a decent starter for a lottery team, a player who could surprise everyone and make the leap but if he doesn’t, you’re not drowning at that position. Long-term, there have to be upgrades at every spot but shooting guard and power forward for the Hornets. And that’s fine. They’ve got time. But the biggest key to next season for the Hornets is cohesiveness and the development of Anthony Davis.

Since the Hornets liquidated Emeka Okafor along with Trevor Ariza in the deal to clear cap space in a move for buyout-able Rashard Lewis, there has been talk about what it means for Davis’ positional future. Even in an NBA that is hurtling towards positional liquidity like the big-boned kid off the diving board, you can’t simply expect any player to be any position. They still have to have the ability to succeed at any given position’s set of requirements. In the case of center, Davis fails several smell tests. He’s incredibly long, but razor thin, it’s going to take years for his frame to catch up with his length, and there’s no guarantee that will happen at all, though muscle training will only make him more versatile and dangerous. I like to put this in perspective by saying that Michael Kidd Gilchrist has a substantial weight advantage on Davis. Think about that.

This isn’t to question Davis’ ability to succeed, far from it. We’re on the verge of seeing one of the truly most unique and impactful defensive players of the past ten years make his debut, I believe, and Davis’ talents can make up fora great many physical mass issues. But it’s crucial that the Hornets put him in a position to succeed right away, and depending on him to handle guys with considerably more muscle weight. It’s fine to speak to the lack of talent at the center position, but if you give a big guy the ball in the post with someone he can slam his shoulder into and create separation, there’s going to be scoring. More importantly, though, there’s going to be damage to the smaller player as the impact alone will wear on and injure a player like Davis having to play down in position to that degree.

It’s best put this way. The Lopez move, along with re-signing Jason Smith, adding Ryan Anderson and throwing in Hakim Warrick means that Davis won’t be slotted at the five, and will be best placed in a position to use his singular talents, as I always felt were best expressed here:


With Davis as unstoppable pterodactyl, there are a great many things Monty Williams can employ with Lopez along. While the rest of the league is gearing small-ball line-ups, the Hornets can throw out a big lineup with Ryan Anderson, Davis, and Lopez that doesn’t surrender much in the way of pick-and-roll containment or perimeter length. Anderson’s defense needs help defenders behind him, and Lopez will require double-team help if faced against a post player who can dribble and chew gum at the same time, and absolutely, there will be times when Davis is just a rookie getting schooled.

But it puts Davis in the best position to succeed.

It’s not that Davis can’t spend time at the five. He should. It’ll be good for him to learn about post position in the NBA, challenging guys on-ball with frame advantages that prevent him from being able to block it, and will allow him to give weak-side help off that previously-mentioned weak center class, where he should be electric. But it’s important that Davis not be faced with covering for the roster issues of a team in a rebuild. The Hornets will have positional weakness, but they have to protect Davis from those. Some tough love is good for him. Breaking his spirit and body with a set of positional demands that put too much physical and emotional strain on him is not a good plan for development.

The Hornets will still run plenty of small-ball lineups. Anderson and Davis should see substantial time on the floor together, and should a center come available wherever the Hornets draft next year, you have to imagine they’ll be examining that player, along with the best available point guard (Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon on the same team is a whole other boondoggle). You can expect to see Davis and Warrick, Davis and Smith, Anderson and Smith, and a more traditional Anderson and Lopez, which gives them an opening night rotation down low if Davis isn’t ready yet. But Lopez is going to get the job done next to Davis, and on the list of players who you look at and think they may be able to take a leap in production, he’s on there. He could wind up being a steal for the Hornets. A hidden element in the NBA as of late has been the development timelines at different positions. Point guards blossom early, wings sometime around 24 to 25, and bigs closer to 27. Lopez will be 26 in the last year of his deal, and may be giving the team an idea of what he can do. He fits both as a place-holder and a possible long-term investment.

Like I said, subtle, quiet, and important, the Dell Demps offseason.

Now about where the Hornets would be if Stern hadn’t blocked that trade…

The Inbounds: Dallas’ Improv High-Wire Act

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) reacts after hitting a three point shot during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz  in Salt Lake City, Utah

Welcome to The Inbounds, touching on a big idea of the day. It could be news, it could be history, it could be a tangent, it could be love. OK, it’s probably not love. Enjoy.

Dallas had the worst offseason. Dallas had the best offseason. Two sides, one coin.

Usually when you whiff on a perennial All-Star with hometown ties to your city then lose your starting point guard and long-time bench scorer, you tend to lick your wounds and return to fight another day. But the Mavericks elected to instead immediately initiate Plan B.

And for a Plan B, it’s not bad.

Here’s a cool little example of how perception, standards, and expectations can shift.

Let’s say the Mavericks didn’t win the title in 2011. Let’s say the Blazers got another few 40-point barrages from Brandon Roy in an even bigger blaze of glory, or the Thunder had gotten their defense together enough to topple Dallas, or the Lakers…. yeah, no, that wasn’t happening. But let’s say either way that Dallas doesn’t win the title. This kind of a retool not only makes sense, it’s likely lauded as a smart initiative to rebuild. Instead of allowing the team to stagnate, Cuban went forward, instead of plugging in long-term, expensive contracts to players past their prime, Cuban and Nelson opted to acquire young players entering their prime on reasonable contracts and taking advantage of the amnesty wire, while developing the talent they have.

The franchise may not be held in as high regard as it is now, but the free agency decisions would have been received better.

Instead? “How could you let Dirk’s last year pass like this?! How could you dismantle a title team in just two years down to rubble?! Why would you downgrade?! Why aren’t you shooting for the title?! Loud noises posed as questions?!”

That’s just how perception shifts after a title. You’re elite, and staying elite is more important than looking out for the future.

This isn’t to say that the Mavs haven’t made mistakes. They had a shot at Deron Williams, setting them up for contention past the end of Dirk’s career, and were beaten because the Nets got Joe Johnson. Johnson is a severely underrated player, but if you can’t convince a player that his better shot at a title is with Dirk Nowitzki than Joe Johnson,then you haven’t done a great pitch job. (Note: I imagine the $25 million Dallas couldn’t offer in the fifth year was part of it, but whatever.) They not only missed out on Steve Nash, but they allowed the Lakers to get him in part thanks to the very trade they made to get Lamar Odom, who did nothing for them. They traded for Lamar Odom and all they got out of it was the Lakers getting Steve Nash. Oops.

But look at the roster they’ve managed to cobble together.

Darren Collison, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo, Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones, Elton Brand, Brandan Wright.

That’s five former All-Stars, three role players with upside, a quality playoff starter, and a quality playoff reserve. That’s not bad for cobbling together something last minute. And it’s not so much about the guys that they got, it’s about the re-sale value of these players and the long-term flexibility. Mayo’s short-term deal, Collison’s contract, Marion, Carter, everything is movable both as an asset and as a short-term contract. It’s not about this year for the Mavericks, and it’s not about next year or any one particular year. It’s about putting the franchise in the best position to compete this year and get better later. That’s a delicate line to walk, and the Mavericks are managing to do it.

Is there any reason to believe this team won’t win 45-50 games, provided that a full offseason helps Nowitzki get back to form?

And they’ll be able to do it and still make moves to improve the team or take a stab at a superstar later. They’ll be in position to make whatever moves they want. They’ve transitioned to a younger team, let the older components go, and maintained cap management that can facilitate a total rebuild in three years.

It’s the same kind of model that both Houston and Denver to a degree have adopted. Consider what Cuban told over the weekend.

“We’ve always been good at making trades and being willing to take on money,” Cuban said. “Now we can do it again starting next year. We can keep a big chunk of our current team, pay them and be in a position to take someone in a sign-and-trade, where all of the other teams that are supposedly luxury destinations, they can’t.”

“You can draft your Big Three,” Cuban said. “You can trade for youngs and turn them into a Big Three. You can do like Houston’s done and hopefully you have enough cap room and have three come together. But you can’t do the progressive trading like we used to. Those days are gone.”

via While CBA cramps some teams, Cuban learns how to rebuild Mavericks – NBA – News, Scores, Stats, Fantasy Advice.

It’s becoming more about assembling different cores and then rotating them out. Piece by piece is getting more difficult with shorter deals and stricter rules. So the Mavericks have put themselves in a position to make the playoffs this year and to get a big pickup if one comes available. It’s an example of the misunderstanding of Dallas that has gone on over a decade. They don’t spend recklessly. They don’t just throw money out there. They pay for assets they want and they think they need, and they manipulate what they can manipulate.

The Mavericks aren’t a title team next season. But they’re in a position to keep their success going forward. There may not be contact with the bottom of the well for Dallas. Just constant reconfiguration, constant manipulation, constant maintenance and opportunism.

And as it turns out, improvisation.