In case you needed it, more proof Dwight’s decision making Wednesday night was absurd

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I’m about to share with you a few paragraphs from a must-read piece on the Dwight Howard debacle of this week by ESPN”s Michael Wallace, and then we’re going to talk about it for a minute.

But 86-year-old Magic owner Rich DeVos confirmed Friday that an 11th-hour conference call he had with Howard on Wednesday night played a role in keeping the league’s best center in Orlando. It was during that call, as the Magic were in San Antonio to play the Spurs, when as many as 17 people were on the line. That group included DeVos’ grandchildren, one as young as age 16, who weighed in on the ordeal.

Orlando’s front-office executives also participated. It was during a 15-minute segment of the call when DeVos finally informed Howard that unless he was willing to stay through next season, he would otherwise be traded in the next few hours.

“I think that’s when he realized,” DeVos, bound to a wheelchair, said of the conversation while sitting in the locker room after Friday’s win. “He wanted to talk to each and every one of us. He talked to everybody in the family. That’s the way he’s always been.”

Howard conceded that the conference call did sway his decision. By the time the Magic’s chartered plane landed in Orlando in the wee hours Thursday, Howard had informed the team he would bypass the early termination option in his contract.

via Conference call made Howard’s decision a dunk – ESPN.

Wait, what?

A 16-year-old is weighing in on a decision that has monstrous impacts on the future of Howard’s life? The Magic are bringing in the owners’ grandkids to talk to Howard about this deal? Did Mickey get to say his peace? When Pinocchio said that Dwight could win a title with Glen Davis and Jason Richardson making that much money, did his nose grow? Is this thing airing on ABC Family or are we going low-budget feature film release?

And he listened! This is his thought process!

Don’t get all bent out of shape on my reaction here. Howard staying is a good thing. Kind of. I like it when players reveal they at least care a little bit about the organizations who have pretty much bent their entire lives backwards for their star players. Howard was genuinely hurt at the perception that he doesn’t care about the Magic organization and the DeVos family. That’s a good thing. He deserves credit for his loyalty.

(Side note: Howard said at his presser, and again after the Magic’s win over the hapless Nets that he’s glad it’s over. What is over, exactly? Dude, you’re still entering free agency, you’re not re-signing the contract, this thing could just go on another year. I understand you think everyone’s going to leave you alone about it now, but, um, unless you sign the extension, that’s not happening.)

My point is just that on top of the back and forth, back and forth, back, then back again nature of his decision making between Wednesday and Thursday, this is how the Magic organization handled it, this is how Dwight chose to handle it. It’s a weird story of family and business overlapping. The more we learn about this process the more it becomes clear this wasn’t about business and sponsorships and jerseys, for Howard or for the DeVos family. This was emotional. The problem is that when you make business decisions from a place of emotion?

That rarely works out well.

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

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Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

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Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

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The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.

NBA referee Brent Barnaky explains standing for the national anthem

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Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.

Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.

For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.

But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.

The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.

It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.

Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.