The Inbounds: Dwight Howard and the need for quiet time

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Moderation in all things.

There’s room in our discussion for NBA players to have choices about their lives and careers, to have the opportunity to decide their own fate, to express their wishes to management and not simply shut up and play, and for us not to be left with what Dwight Howard has given us. We thought LeBron’s Decision was crushing and absurd, and that seems like nothing more than a rude declaration at this point. We thought the Melodrama was the furthest application of player power, engineering a trade to the team he wanted.

But this? This Dwightmare? It’s gone beyond anything that we thought would happen. It has crossed every boundary of reasonable expectation for a player’s behavior and at this point resembles some giant-sized child, smashing houses while it screams that it wanted its birthday cake with aqua-colored icing, not blue.

Consider the latest nonsense to come trickling out, as Yahoo Sports and CBSSports.com reported late Wednesday night that the Magic center met with GM Rob Hennigan and his assistant GM along with his agent Dan Fegan and his manager, and not only reiterated his trade demand for the 700th time, but “pointedly” questioned why the Magic hadn’t traded him yet. He pushed again for the Nets in the long-term, and the Lakers in the short-term.

Wait.

Hold up.

One second.

Trade demands are nothing new, that’s a common defense of Howard from the seven people left on the planet who don’t feel he’s being a complete brat. And that’s certainly accurate. And the new standard is to demand a trade where you want to go so you can get that full five-year (or six under the previous CBA)  deal and have the market you want. OK, fine, we can even live with that. It’s a bit too much cake to eat it, too, considering it’s a deliberate attempt to hold a team hostage in order to avoid the restrictions of the available market in free agency, but fine.

But now Howard’s asking about why the Magic haven’t made this or that deal?

“I’ve held you hostage for a year, put your franchise’s ownership through an emotional rollercoaster, tortured your fans, and made your organization seem like a complete joke, and now I’m going to tell you which deal you should take in exchange for the All-Star who you had the foresight to draft, develop, and build around. Wah.”

This is the worst kind of exercising of player power. It’s not just the audacity of Howard to essentially demand that the Magic take an absolutely wretched deal (seriously, have you seen the Nets’ deal particulars?), but it’s this key element: Who do you think leaked these talks to the media?

It’s not the Magic. All it does is serve to hurt their leverage in getting a deal for Howard, something they’ve had to fight against Howard’s nonsense to get for six months. It was Howard’s camp, trying to undermine the Magic’s efforts. If they lose leverage, a deal comes faster, and may land Howard where he wants. If it doesn’t, it still hurts the Magic’s leverage and could land him in Brooklyn at the trade deadline.

As if he hasn’t done enough to this franchise.

As if last season wasn’t ruined under a cloud of drama, as if this season hasn’t already been destroyed by the impending trade. Those players know Howard’s gone, they know they will play as professionals, and yet it won’t matter. Howard has sucked two years from this franchise, and now he’s going to question which deals they take?

Howard wants to know what is taking so long, why he hasn’t been dealt yet. And the answer is because since Howard has abandoned the so-called “loyalty” he has for the franchise, their primary responsibility is not to him. It’s to themselves. Rob Hennigan still has to manage the Magic after this trade. He still has to try and get the best deal for the Magic going forward. His job is not to make Dwight Howard happy. The Magic don’t owe Howard happiness. They owe him his money, and they  owe him the courtesy of keeping him informed. There has been nothing to inform him of, so they haven’t contacted him. They don’t owe him a trade, they don’t owe him a trade where he wants, they don’t owe him a trade where he wants, when he wants. The Magic were a franchise before Dwight Howard’s goofy smile went to Florida, they will be one after.

If Howard really wanted this deal completed as quickly as possible? He’d think back to Kindergarten and remember quiet time. He needs to disappear from public view. No interviews, no meetings, and most importantly, no leaked meetings or feelings. Keep your camp tight, don’t talk to anyone, shut off all conversations. This thing will sort itself out. He’s made his feelings crystal clear, the Magic know who they can and can’t deal with. This thing will happen in its own time. But trying to rush it along is only going to hurt Hennigan’s leverage, which means he has to take more time to recover it. Hennigan has to give teams the indication he’s under no real hurry or pressure to trade Howard, and he only will if the deal he wants will come. He’s not going to get that if teams know that Howard’s constantly bending them and pressuring them in certain directions.

Howard’s best move is to just stop. To be quiet, and wait. This isn’t about a sentiment about players not expressing their wishes. If a player is unhappy, he should be able to express to management that he is. Howard has done that. A hundred times. A player should be able to request/demand a trade. Howard has done that. A hundred times. The Magic don’t want him around anymore anymore than he wants to be in Orlando. This is a stressful and unpleasant situation, and the Magic aren’t the ones dragging it out. Were they able to solicit offers across the market for Howard, if Howard had publicly expressed he’ll play anywhere but Orlando but privately only in a certain number of cities, Hennigan would be able to ratchet up the offers and get a better deal.

Howard is, in fact, working against himself. He’s hurting his own chances of being traded, and banking on Hennigan rolling over. As much as management and ownership in days gone by had little confidence in the intelligence or savvy of the players, now it seems the players think management will just do what they want, on their timeline, when they snap their fingers. That’s now how it works. Howard’s holding a franchise hostage, then asking why the franchise he’s holding hostage won’t let him leave.

You’re holding them hostage, man! Put the threat away and everyone can get out of this bank and go home!

But no. Not in this new era of player power gone to the extremes. For years, players have been exploited by management and ownership, taken advantage of, robbed of their ability to express their desires and play out their careers the way they want. Now we’re seeing the ugly other side of it, as a player thinks he’s standing up for himself when he’s really just acting the child.

It’s time for quiet time, Dwight. Your complaints have been duly noted. You have exerted your power and influence over the situation. Everyone respects how important you are. Now go away and let the big boys get the business of ending this disaster you’ve created done.

Report: Celtics “most likely” offer Jayson Tatum a max contract after season

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This should not be a surprise.

Jayson Tatum is a cornerstone of the Celtics now and going forward: 23.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game, an efficient 56.2 true shooting percentage, a shot creator, an athletic finisher at the rim, and a guy who shot 39.8 percent from three. Tatum was an All-Star in his third season and will draw third-team All-NBA votes (whenever those votes happen).

Tatum is eligible for an extension to his rookie contract after this season. Is he worth a full max contract? Yes, especially considering he is 22 and still improving by leaps each season.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on SportsCenter the Celtics are expected to offer Tatum the max (hat tip Bleacher Report).

“If Jayson Tatum is the superstar that they envisioned when they began this whole rebuilding process when they traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for all of those draft picks hoping to land a player like this, we could see ‘Glory Days’ for the Celtics again. But it’s very much up in the air, and I’m gonna tell ya, they’re gonna have to pay him like it because after this season ends, he is going to get most likely a max contract. They’re going to bet that he becomes that player.”

It’s fair to argue that max contracts should be reserved for true alphas, true No. 1s and maybe a few No. 2 players on a team, and that Tatum has yet to prove he is one of those. Boston would be betting he becomes that player — but right now that looks like a good bet. More importantly, last summer the Celtics locked up Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown on four-year contracts, sign Tatum and the Celtics have a core that will have them at or near the top of the East for years.

Exactly what a max contract will look like this coming off-season after the coronavirus hit to the league’s finances is another question, one nobody has an answer to right now. Under the old cap, it would have been $181 million over five years (and if he made All-NBA teams it could jump to $218 million), but those numbers don’t apply to the new reality. Even if Tatum signs the max offer this summer, he will make his $9.9 million next season then be paid whatever the max is for him starting in the 2021-22 season (and again, it’s impossible to say what the league’s finances will be at that point).

Pay the man his money.  Expect Boston to make the offer whenever the offseason arrives.

Zion Williamson’s attorneys work to avoid him answering questions about improper benefits at Duke

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MIAMI (AP) — Attorneys for NBA rookie Zion Williamson seek to block his former marketing agent’s effort to have the ex-Duke star answer questions about whether he received improper benefits before playing for the Blue Devils.

In a Florida court filing last week, Williamson’s attorneys say those questions are “nothing more than a fishing expedition aimed at tarnishing Williamson’s reputation” and designed to “maximize potential embarrassment and media coverage in an attempt to improperly gain settlement leverage.”

“Plaintiffs’ irrelevant and invasive requests are designed to harass and not calculated to lead to discovery of relevant evidence,” Friday’s filing states.

It is the latest exchange in the fight over the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick’s endorsement potential.

Prime Sports Marketing and company president Gina Ford filed her lawsuit last summer in Florida, accusing Williamson and the agency now representing him of breach of contract. Williamson filed his own lawsuit a week earlier in North Carolina to terminate a five-year contract with Prime Sports after moving to Creative Artists Agency LLC.

Ford’s attorneys had submitted questions this month asking whether the New Orleans Pelicans rookie or anyone on his behalf sought or accepted “money, benefits, favors or things of value” to sign with Duke. Those filings – offering no evidence of wrongdoing by Williamson or his family – sought answers within 30 days to establish facts under oath in the pretrial discovery process.

Williamson’s attorneys seek a stay while appealing the December denial of their motion to dismiss the Florida case based on lack of jurisdiction, or a protective order as an alternative.

At the heart of the dueling lawsuits over Williamson’s marketing rights is this: Williamson says the contract he signed with Prime Sports is illegal under North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act (UAAA) because Ford was not registered with North Carolina to negotiate with amateur athletes (which Zion was at the time, having just played for Duke). Ford and Prime dispute that, saying this was a legal and binding negotiation.

One key reason NBA may return with 22 teams: Players want regular-season games

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Nothing is set in stone about an NBA return — at least not until next Thursday — but momentum seems to be building behind a plan that would bring 22 teams to the Orlando bubble.

That plan brings every team within six games of the playoffs when the season was halted into the competition, a total of 22 teams (13 from the West and nine from the East, the playoff teams plus Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Washington). There would be some regular-season games played, likely five to eight, followed by a play-in tournament for the final playoff seeds, then the playoffs with full seven-game series each round. Exactly what that play-in tournament would look and if the NBA would stick with the conference playoff alignment or seed 1-16 is up in the air (although the conference alignment seems to have more backing).

Why that plan? For one, it gets more cities and more fan bases involved — and it happens to bring Zion Williamson and the Pelicans into the mix, a big television draw. It also could help a few teams reach a 70-game broadcast threshold with local broadcasters.

Mostly, however, the players want it because they get some games under them before the playoffs start, something Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported on at ESPN.

Regardless of how many teams are ultimately included in the playoffs, the National Basketball Players Association has consistently stressed that it wants several regular-season games to be played prior to the start of the playoffs, sources said. That has been a prevailing sentiment among several contending teams that prefer a tuneup before beginning the postseason, sources said.

A lot of players — influential players — have pushed for some regular season or meaningful games before the playoffs start. It’s about health, as trainers told us at NBC Sports, go from zero to 100 jumping straight into the playoffs and teams are asking for injuries. Players understand that.

Maybe only 20 teams end up in Orlando, that plan is on the table as well, but either way expect some regular-season games before the playoffs start. If the powerful players want it to happen, it will.

PBT Podcast: 2020 NBA Mock Draft crossover podcast, Part Deux

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We’re back at it… and not just drinking beer during a podcast. Although we do that, too.

For the third consecutive season, Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk and I collaborated for a first-round mock draft. Rob knows the prospects better than anyone; I provide some knowledge about what the teams might be looking for. The result is a unique listening experience breaking down who will be picked where based on fit.

The first ten picks can be found over on the College Basketball Talk feed.

Here we finish off the lottery and run through the entire rest of the first round.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.