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.

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

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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.