While team shops him, Dwight Howard tells Magic “take a chance” on me

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It’s actions, not words that matter.

Dwight Howard told the Magic Wednesday night to take a chance on him again, like they did when he was 18. Trust him.

“They took a chance on me at 18,” Howard said (transcribed from the Orlando Sentinel’s postgame video). “And what did I do? I gave them everything I had for eight years. Take a chance again.”

But Magic ownership sees a guy that earlier that day told his teammates and members of the front office that he would opt-in and spend another year with the Magic — then hours later said he would not give up his right to terminate his contract this summer. He would not give up his rights to walk away after this season and leave the Magic empty handed. Ownership sees a Howard that wants his cake and to eat it to — to make a playoff run with a good Magic team then test free agency.

Even as late as 1:30 am Thursday morning came a report from Jarrod N Rudolph of RealGM that in an exclusive interview Howard told him again he would opt-in for next season. That he would send the paperwork in Thursday morning.

The Magic will believe it when they see it. As they should — actions not words. In the short term they feel they have no choice — Magic officials are burning up the phones talking to other teams, looking to move Howard before the 3 p.m. Thursday trade deadline, according to multiple sources such as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

The Nets — Howard’s preferred destination — have a package centered around Brook Lopez and a couple first round picks, along with other players. The Rockets and Lakers, both long time suitors of Howard, are making a push. The Magic are reaching out to teams like the Knicks to see if a package involving Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler is a possibility. They are talking to everyone.

But Howard really doesn’t want to be traded. Here is what he said following the Magic’s loss to the Spurs Wednesday night (transcribed from the Orlando Sentinel’s video of his postgame remarks).

“They know how I feel,” Howard said. “I’ve expressed that to my teammates. I’ve expressed that to ownership, and it’s on them now. I’ve done my job. I haven’t changed. And despite whatever is being said, I’m still the same person. If you want to scrutinize me for taking care of Dwight, then that’s fine….

“I’ve sat down with them on numerous occasions about what we can do together, but I can’t do it all myself. I want them to help. I want them to be involved in changing Orlando. That’s always been my goal. And if that don’t know what to do. But I want to continue to play…

“They took a chance on me at 18. And what did I do? I gave them everything I had for eight years. Take a chance again. I go out every night and play hard. If I didn’t want to win I would have dogged it, but I can’t do that. That’s not who I am. And look where we are. We’re in a great position. All I said was take a chance. They took a chance on me at 18 when everybody else said ‘no, don’t do it.’ It looked stupid at first, but look now. It’s the same situation. That’s it. I understand their situation “

If he really understands their situation, he’ll understand why they have to trade him. They can’t trust him not to walk away at the end of the season now. He lost that. Because of his actions.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.

Report: LeBron James not planning to sit for elaborate pitch meetings in free agency

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LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.

But maybe once is enough.

Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.

If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.

This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Nikola Jokic to five-year max after declining team option

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.

But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.

Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.

That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.

Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.

As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.

Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.