Report: Lakers have “dropped” on Dwight Howard’s list

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First off, if you’re a Magic fan, stop reading this. You’re only going to get frustrated and angry that the big mean media is once again making up stories about Dwight Howard when he clearly wants to re-sign in Orlando. After all, he said he loves the city! And who says that and then leaves? So you should just stop and go check out StayDwight.com instead. You’ll be happier and I won’t have to feel like a heel for pushing material that clearly could not be more untrue to you which will only worry you. So long, Magic fans!

(They gone? Okay, back to reality.)

It really is possible Howard stays in Orlando, I wasn’t just making that up. The guy’s been there a long time, the Magic have always been aggressive in trying to build around him, and a possible franchise tag could lock him up against his will. But the noise out of Howard’s camp isn’t fabricated, despite what Magic fans may want to believe, and there’s enough of it to buy into the idea there’s something going on, especially when combined with what we know of his personality and branding, which, let’s be honest, portrays an image of  a guy who wouldn’t marry the camera, but might give it a promise ring.

The big assumption has been that the Lakers with all their flashbulb opportunities would be where Howard lands, but ESPN’s Ric Bucher said in a chat Friday that doesn’t look like the case at the moment.

Lakers have slipped on Dwight’s list for reasons beyond (Bynum being “untouchable”). I’d rank his preferences in this order: Orlando, Dallas, NJ, Lakers. But for Orlando to keep him, they’re going to have to make some serious deals, ones that I’m really doubtful they can pull off.

via Chat: Chat with Ric Bucher – SportsNation – ESPN.

That second city on the list is going to raise some eyebrows. The Mavericks will have expiring contracts, young talent, draft picks (they’re one of the few teams who haven’t completely mortgaged their long-term prospects to improve), and a market big enough to contain Howard’s ego while putting him next to a Hall of Famer. Obviously how the Mavericks fair in the Finals might affect this decision but that’s an intriguing prospect. The Nets remain an option with Brooklyn on the horizon, despite their continual “Knick-ing” of themselves (defined as “removing all long-term prospects and assets in a fruitless pursuit of immediate and significant improvement”).

The hometown team is still first, just like Toronto and Cleveland were still first on the other’s lists. Dwight’s not either of those players, but he’s also experienced just as much frustration. Derrick Rose winning the MVP over him despite Howard’s very arguable superior season, in a landslide, has to make Howard wonder where the lack of respect is coming from and what role markets played into it.

Howard staying would be the best thing for everyone. He would have an opportunity to man up and be the guy for the franchise, Orlando wouldn’t lose yet another superstar to brighter lights of a bigger city, the tied would be stemmed on the mass migration of stars to the five top markets, and Otis Smith would still have a job. And it could happen.

It just doesn’t feel like it.

Nets hire Hawks’ Peterson as assistant general manager

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired Jeff Peterson as their assistant general manager.

Peterson replaces Trajan Langdon, who was hired as the New Orleans Pelicans’ GM.

Peterson spent seven seasons in the front office of the Atlanta Hawks, the last three as assistant general manager. He worked there with Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant to coach Mike Budenholzer.

Nets general manager Sean Marks says Saturday that Peterson is an “innovative basketball executive” whose “extensive scouting and front office experience” will be assets to a Nets team that lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Warriors open as big betting favorites to win NBA title over Raptors

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Kevin Durant is going to be out to start the series, with no exact timetable on his return.

The Toronto Raptors were very impressive — with Kawhi Leonard leading the way and a fantastic halfcourt defense — in eliminating the Milwaukee Bucks.

None of that changes the overall picture — the Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA Finals.

The Warriors are -320 to win the NBA title, the Raptors +260 at the Ceasars Palace sportsbook. What that means for non-gamblers is you have to bet $320 to win $100 on the Warriors, while a $100 bet on the Raptors wins $260.

The Warriors are also 1.5 point favorites to win Game 1 on the road without Durant and coming off a nine-day layoff where rust is to be expected.

Toronto won both regular season meetings between these teams, but both games also were before Christmas.

These lines are the respect the Warriors have earned with two straight titles, three in four years, and a sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers. The Warriors are a dynasty led by Stephen Curry, the Raptors in their first finals, these betting lines were to be expected, and they will follow general public sentiment.

Charles Barkley, on the other hand, picks the Raptors in an upset. Do with that information what you will.

Giannis Antetokounmpo walked out on his postgame press conference

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Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to win, wants to make the NBA Finals. Badly. As in he could walk if the Bucks don’t do that in the next couple of years.

Antetokounmpo already showed he was willing to walk — he did so right out of his postgame press conference Saturday night after the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs by the Raptors.

Khris Middleton‘s “you just leaving me here” face is the best part of this video.

Chalk that up to frustration, on a couple of levels. The question is legitimate — how much this experience helps the Bucks grow and fuels their offseason will say a lot about where they are as a team in a year — but it’s also understandable that in the moment the Greek Freak doesn’t want to talk about it. Or, really, in that spot have the perspective to do the question justice. Middleton went on to say, “hopefully, we learn from this.”

The other part of this is that the reporter, Malika Andrews, wrote a story at ESPN about how Antetokounmpo making the Finals would play a big role in if he stays or not in Milwaukee past this contract. That is not the narrative Antetokounmpo wants out there about him, and sometimes this is how players deal with reporters who write things they don’t like.

Antetokounmpo is one of the league’s good guys, don’t expect this to become a trend.

Report: Making 2020 NBA Finals could swing whether Giannis Antetokounmpo signs super-max extension with Bucks

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The honeymoon between Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks is over.

Milwaukee’s superb season ended tonight with a Game 6 loss to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. Already, attention is turning to the 2020 offseason, when Antetokounmpo can sign a five-year super-max extension that projects to be worth $250 million. If he doesn’t, the pressure will turn way up as he approaches unrestricted free agency in 2021.

Antetokounmpo is already applying some.

Malika Andrews of ESPN:

a source close to Antetokounmpo said that getting to the NBA Finals is not just an ambition, it could tip the scales as he weighs his contractual future.

And if they can reach the NBA Finals next season, the Bucks can improve their chances of signing Antetokounmpo to the supermax in the summer of 2020.

Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon will be free agents this summer. It’s unclear how much luxury tax Milwaukee is willing to pay.

This leak could be Antetokounmpo trying to convince the Bucks to pay to keep this team intact.

Would he actually leave Milwaukee? At every turn, he has praised the city and organization. But the Bucks have also been on an upward trajectory for years. As they get closer to the top, it becomes more difficult to maintain that positive momentum. They’re now entering a crucial season with the clear goal of a conference title. That doesn’t leave much room for error.

The Lakers are rumored to be plotting to get Antetokounmpo. If there are signs he’ll actually become available, many other teams will line up just for a chance to sign him. Antetokounmpo is a special player, a superstar at age 24.

He also needed this loss. Having never advanced past the first round before this year, he didn’t fully grasp the high level of play and intensity this deep into playoffs. He hadn’t felt the heartache of coming so close and falling short, a highly effective motivator. Raptors like Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol had already faced these tests, and that had a lot to do with Toronto winning.

I have no doubt this experience will make Antetokounmpo even better.

Antetokounmpo wants to ensure the Bucks match his desire to win. If they do, he and Milwaukee will remain committed to each other. The honeymoon isn’t the end.

But this is when it gets real.