Dwight Howard says he wants to stay, finish season with Magic

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Do the Orlando Magic feel like gambling?

After the Orlando Magic came up with a dramatic 104-98 win over the Miami Heat, Dwight Howard said he wants to play the rest of the season with Orlando. Not sign an extension and stay — he wants the Orlando Magic to “roll the dice” on him.

Here is his exact quote.

“Well, I told those guys, I’ve been telling them for the past two or three weeks now that I want to stay and finish the season,” Howard said.

“I told them I feel we have a great opportunity to win and I told them that I want to be here and I want to bring a championship here. I told them they’ve got to give me that chance. They didn’t trade me at the beginning of the season and I told them I’d go out and play as hard as I could every night to put our team in a position to win….

“We’ve been talking for a while,” he said. “I told them that I want to finish this season out and give our team and our fans some hope for the future. I feel they have to roll their dice. It might be tough, but I feel like we have a great opportunity. They’ve got to roll it.”

However, Howard would not discuss anything beyond this moment. He would not talk extension or future plans.

That’s a heck of bet on the roll of the dice — if Orlando keeps him past the trade deadline Howard can opt out of his deal next summer and walk away and the Magic will get nothing. They will be in the same boat as Cleveland after LeBron James and Toronto after Chris Bosh. Maybe worse.

Keeping him seems to be the way the Magic are leaning, with the orders coming from owner Rich DeVos himself.

I think that’s just what Howard wants — he wants the ability to leave as a free agent this summer.

Howard saw what happened to the New York Knicks when the roster was gutted to make way for Carmelo Anthony. Howard wants to win titles and if the Nets get to keep Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, a couple first round picks and whatever else might be thrown in a trade package they are a lot closer to the Heat and Bulls than they are without them. Lopez and those picks might be traded to round out the roster, but you have assets.

Howard is not so sinister as to be plotting to screw over the Magic and their fans, he just wants to keep all his best options open. This does that. It also makes it easier for him to leave without damaging where he lands.

I’m not alone thinking this. Here is what Adrian Wojnarowski wrote earlier at Yahoo.

“Dwight’s gone, and [Magic CEO] Alex Martins is the only person who doesn’t believe that,” a league source with knowledge of Howard’s intentions told Yahoo! Sports….

Said another official, who has been involved in deal talks with Orlando, New Jersey and the agents in the process: “Dwight is going to [expletive] them, and that will be especially true if he doesn’t even ask for the sign-and-trade on July 1, because he wants Brooklyn to keep assets.”

Ken Berger at CBSSports.com wrote the Magic’s plan is to try and trade for players to go with Howard and make him want to stay, then if they can’t make a deal along those lines decide on Thursday their plans. However, with the win over the Heat and Howard asking to stay, the owner may well roll the dice on Howard.

It’s a big gamble, one where it could come up craps for the Magic in July.

Do the Magic feel lucky?

Rumor: Raptors trying to trade up in draft for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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The Raptors have major problems in the playoffs annually.

Is a coaching change enough to fix them?

Toronto already fired Dwane Casey and promoted assistant Nick Nurse after a highly successful regular season. Perhaps, major roster turnover could follow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander projects to be a late lottery pick. The Raptors have no selections in this draft. So, acquiring one high enough to pick the Kentucky point guard would take plenty.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are stars. Toronto’s bench is stocked with solid young players. O.G. Anunoby is very promising.

So, the Raptors have pieces to move. The only question how much they’d package for a draft pick.

Toronto already has Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright at point guard. But Lowry is 32, and VanVleet will be a restricted free agent this summer. If they really believe in Gilgeous-Alexander, the Raptors should try to get him.

All that said, this is the time of year rumors – both credible and not – fly. So, it’s worth remaining skeptical while still considering the validity of what reputable reporters like Stein convey.

Luka Doncic, Donte DiVincenzo, Jerome Robinson among NBA draft invitees

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Of course DeAndre Ayton will attend Thursday’s NBA draft. The Suns will likely draft him No. 1 overall.

But what about more marginal first-round prospects?

The NBA’s draft invite list is an important tool in judging their stock. The league wants to avoid players sitting in agony until their names are called. So, the NBA works to invite only the prospects most likely to get picked high in the draft.

The full list of invited players (which the league notes is subject to change):

Luka Doncic will go high in the draft, and though how high is still uncertain, his inclusion on this list says nothing about his stock. It just speaks to whether we’ll see him Thursday night. His attendance will depend at least on when Real Madrid’s season ends, though the NBA is apparently confident enough to list him.

Jerome Robinson has climbed draft boards since the season ended. He must be impressing in workouts and interviews.

Donte DiVincenzo is a bit of a surprise selection, as he’s not widely viewed as a first-round lock. Perhaps, the league is looking to capitalize on his popularity stemming from a breakout NCAA tournament championship game.

This will only reinforce the idea Chandler Hutchinson received a promise. Otherwise, he’s a surprise invitee.

Among the top players not attending: Kevin Huerter (Maryland), Jacob Evans (Cincinnati), Troy Brown (Oregon) and Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech). Though they could go higher than players listed here, that says something about Huerter’s Evans’, Browns’ and Okogie’s stock, too.

Report: Rudy Gay opting out of Spurs contract

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Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants to leave the Spurs, but he’s at their whims.

This doesn’t mean Rudy Gay will depart San Antonio, but he’s taking control of his future.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Gay’s option-year salary was $8,826,300.

I doubt Gay, who turns 32 this summer, will draw such a high starting salary on his next contract – though I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. He could likely get a multi-year deal with a higher total value.

Or he could chase a ring elsewhere.

Remember, Gay gave up money to leave the Kings last summer. No matter how much the Leonard situation should make us rethink the Spurs’ culture, San Antonio probably isn’t “basketball hell.” Still, the Spurs clearly don’t look as appealing as they once did, and Gay has shown how much he values team quality.

Gay is coming off a nice season, and San Antonio might try to re-sign him. Danny Green has a $10 million player option for next season, which will swing whether the Spurs have the flexibility for a bigger move this summer.

Report: LeBron James’ camp likes Collin Sexton

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In 2014, LeBron James tweeted his fondness for Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier. The Heat traded up to get Napier in the draft, but LeBron left for the Cavaliers that summer, anyway.

Could history repeat itself, this time in Cleveland?

LeBron has already talked up Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, but maybe LeBron and his camp want the Cavs to take a different point guard – Alabama’s Collin Sexton – with the No. 8 pick.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, via Jordan Zirm of ESPN Cleveland:

The Cavaliers should take the best prospect available. Worrying about what LeBron might want makes a mistake only more likely.

LeBron might stay in Cleveland, but as 2014 showed, it won’t be because of a draft pick. If he stays, it very well could be by opting into the final year of his contract. His player-option salary ($35,607,968) is slightly higher than his projected max salary as a free agent (about $35.35 million). If LeBron opts in, the best chance of keeping him long-term is building a better team around him.

That means taking the best prospect at No. 8 or trading the pick for someone who can help LeBron win now. If the top prospect is Sexton, that’s fine. But the Cavs are fare more likely to appease LeBron by getting the pick right in the long run rather than choosing the prospect he wants now.