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.

Chris Paul says players don’t really talk about money in locker room

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Locker room banter flies all over the conversational map: Clubs/restaurants to first cars to rappers to Fortnite to why Player X never has any lotion and always has to borrow someone else’s.

What doesn’t come up? Money.

That according to Chris Paul, who should know after 14 years in the league and now serving as the players’ union president. He was talking about his campaign to help players become more financially aware and said this to Clevis Murray of The Athletic.

“I think the reason why I’m so passionate about this is because I’m finishing up my 14th year in the NBA, and I’ve been around long enough to realize that guys in our league, we talk about everything in the locker room except for finance, except for money,” he said. “Nobody talks about money, because it’s one of those uncomfortable things.”

It’s a strange dynamic in an NBA locker room because everybody knows what everybody else makes, it’s very public, and that provides a certain measuring stick of worth.

Yet how does one player tell another “man, your entourage is too big, you’re blowing your money.” Players finally making money understandably want to take care of family and close friends, but other people come into their life and things can spiral fast. CP3 says he gets it, and he is working with Joe Smith — who made $60 million in NBA earnings and lost all of it — to help prepare rookies.

The stories of NBA players blowing through their money absolutely happen, but they also are not the majority, and the numbers are shrinking. More and more players are learning to be smarter with their money and set themselves up on some level for life after basketball. Not all, but guys who stick in the league a few years tend to learn. If Paul and the union can come up with ways to reach players at an earlier age and prepare them for what is to come, all the better.

Bobby Portis says watch out for underrated Knicks, they could make playoffs

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You don’t want a player on your team that heads into the season thinking, “we suck, I just hope we can get to 20 wins and not be embarrassed every night.” Even if that might be the reality for that roster.

Enter Bobby Portis of the New York Knicks. The Wizards let him walk to save money and he has ended up on a Knicks team with a lot of guys who see themselves as underrated: Elfrid Payton, Marcus Morris, and Julius Randle. Plus New York has young players with a lot to prove — especially after Summer League — in Kevin Knox, R.J. Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson.

Portis likes this underdog team, he told Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype.

I love being underrated, man. I’m an underdog. I say that every day. We’re the team that’s being counted out right now. People are looking past us. They’re talking about stars going to new teams and this and that, and that’s okay. Everybody on this team has a huge chip on their shoulder. We’re the guys who are always picked second. I think that’s going to make us close. Our practices are going to be top-notch; we’re all going to be competing and that’s going to make us better. We have a lot of dogs on this team, which will help us out as well. Collectively, we all have a chip on our shoulder – a log on our shoulder – so we’re going to go out there and play with an edge. I think that’s great for us.

So… playoffs?

Yeah, for sure, for sure. The naysayers, the haters, the people who are doubting us will say that we’re crazy as hell for saying that. But we have a bunch of guys who are coming in each and every day with that log on their shoulder and that’s going to push us to become a great team. We have a lot of pieces who can play. I think we’re loaded at every position; there are two-to-three players who could start at every position. When you have that much talent, that rises the competitiveness and improves the team as a whole.

That is exactly the attitude you want to see heading into the season.

The Knicks are going to struggle this year, talent wins out in the NBA and the Knicks don’t have enough of it. However, if the goal is to build a culture of gritty players who go play all out and are tough to play against — the cultures the Nets and Clippers developed that drew stars to them — the Knicks are on a decent road. New York didn’t pull a classic Knicks this year and overspend on a couple of second-tier stars when they struck out on the big guns, they went out and got decent players on short contracts. Stay flexible, build a culture.

We’ll see if Portis will be part of that going forward, but he has the right attitude.

Report: Lakers claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 24-year-old MVP playing in Milwaukee and heading toward a super-max decision that could have him hit 2021 unrestricted free agency.

Big-market teams are licking their chops.

That probably has something to do with the Lakers adding his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kostas Antetokounmpo was the last pick in last year’s draft. He spent the season on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, who just waived him. He’ll remain on a two-way deal with the Lakers. The 21-year-old was alright in the NBA’s minor league, but he’s not a tantalizing prospect.

Except for his connection to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. But maybe he’d change his mind if someone close to him has a positive experience there. That must be the Lakers’ hope, at least.

It’s worth a shot, and the Lakers aren’t the only team trying this angle. The Bucks also signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo this summer.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

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It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.