Dwight Howard’s agent defends spin after confirming he leaked details of meeting with Magic

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“They started it!”

This is what professional business negotiations have, once again, turned into, in the NBA.

A day after David Stern outed Dwight Howard agent Dan Fegan as the source of leaks concerning Howard’s meeting with the Orlando Magic this week, Fegan hit the media again, this time with regards to why he leaked details of the meeting.

It wasn’t his fault!

The Magic started it! He swears!

From ESPN, in an email that was no doubt distributed across the board:

“On the morning prior to Wednesday’s supposedly confidential meeting between Dwight Howard and Rob Hennigan, there were media reports stating a meeting was taking place later that same day,” wrote agent Dan Fegan of LaGardere Unlimited in an email. “Prior to the actual meeting, Dwight’s business manager and I met with Rob, reminded him that we had not requested the meeting, had been reluctant to take it and were concerned that the Magic had leaked that a meeting was taking place.

“Both during and after the meeting, we continued to get communications from the media telling us that they had confirmation that the meeting was occurring and/or had taken place. After the meeting, some media requested comments on information they allegedly already had on what had taken place in the meeting. I want to stress that none of the information the reporters had about the meeting at this point came from us.

“After receiving these media inquiries, I called Rob and left several messages expressing concern that what had occurred in the meeting was not going to be accurately reported — as had happened on previous occasions — and that we were going to respond to the media inquiries to make sure that reports were accurate. To a limited extent, that is what we did.”

via Dwight Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, confirms David Stern’s accusation – ESPN Los Angeles.

Oh, he just wanted to clear things up. Just to make sure things were accurate.

Got it.

/eyebrow raise

Look, the Magic aren’t innocent in all this. They’re playing games through the media. They’ve just been substantially more quiet about it than the Nets and Howard’s team. But if Fegan’s leaking this information, the reporters are forced to report on it, because it’s a credible source. It’s his agent, who was at the meeting. The problem is that that source is transparently and emphatically trying to shift the public conversation in one direction: Dwight’s way. That’s his job. This isn’t Fegan’s fault, either. He’s doing his job to protect and serve his client.

But if one side says something happened in the meeting, and I’m sure it was “accurate” from their perspective, why not get the other side’s take? Why not get what the Magic have to say about it?

Because the Magic know they don’t gain anything by leaking that information. Even if they did leak that Howard was meeting with the team, that’s an innocuous leak. There’s no real gain for them there. “Team meets with player they have on contract.” But the details are what caused an uproar. The Magic aren’t leaking their side, they’re not leaking that they met with Howard but did not meet to try and convince him to stay, or anything about the intent of the meeting, which was something Fegan let loose which apparently they interpreted as Hennigan trying to convince Howard to stay, when he’s clearly not. The Magic aren’t leaking more harmful information about what Howard did.

It hurts their leverage. It limits their ability to trade him. It keeps them stuck in this never-ending cycle of misery everyone, including the media at this point, is trapped in.

The Magic don’t need to meet with Howard. Howard doesn’t need to meet with the Magic. No one needs to leak anything. The Magic need to work to find the deal they need, get it, trade him, and forget Dwight Howard ever happened to the franchise.

Such a shame for something that brought so many people in Florida joy for so many years.

It is kind of weird that the fourth wall has been broken with Fegan himself becoming the story. Don’t see that happen much. Then again, nothing about this process of holding a team hostage to try and force Howard’s way to Brooklyn has been normal.

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Boston, Philadelphia, Denver? (And some playoff talk)

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Will Kyrie Irving stay in Boston? If not, what is Plan B?

Is Jimmy Butler back in Philadelphia next season? If he is will Tobias Harris be back?

What are the next steps to turn Denver into a contender?

I get into all of those things with the wise Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (and Celtics Blog, and Real GM), we break down those three teams recently turned out of the playoffs. We also start off talking about teams actually in the playoffs, particularly Toronto’s comeback in the Eastern Conference Finals, and how those teams can take advantage against the Warriors with Kevin Durant out.

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.

Nikola Jokic’s All-NBA first-team selection shows his meteoric rise

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Just four years ago, Nikola Jokic was a second-round pick still playing in the Adriatic League. Just three years ago, he was battling a struggling Jusuf Nurkic to be the Nuggets’ main center.

Yesterday, Jokic made the All-NBA first team.

Jokic has risen incredibly quickly. Before this season, he had never even been an All-Star.

That makes Jokic the first non-rookie in NBA history to make an All-NBA first team without a prior All-Star season (including ABA All-Stars).

The No. 41 pick in the 2014 draft, Jokic is just the fourth second-rounder to make an All-NBA first team since the NBA-ABA merger. The others: DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol and Marc Price.

For most players not immediately deemed to hold first-round talent, it takes a while to build stature in the NBA. Jokic made the All-NBA first team in just his fourth season. That’s way sooner than Gasol (seventh season), Price (seventh season) and Jordan (eighth season):

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The Nuggets didn’t wait for this honor to make Jokic their franchise player. They gave him a near-max contract last summer, and by leading them into the second round of the playoffs, he triggered incentives to reach a max salary.

Denver has built a young supporting cast – mainly Jamal Murray and Gary Harris – to grow with Jokic. The Nuggets also signed veteran Paul Millsap, whose defense complements Jokic’s offensive-minded game.

So much is coming together so quickly for Denver, and Jokic’s honor is just the latest example.

Report: Trail Blazers sign president Neil Olshey to contract extension

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Just after a rumor emerged about the Wizards trying to hire Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

It’s nice to be wanted. It always adds leverage in contract negotiations.

Olshey has done well in Portland, building a winner around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after LaMarcus Aldridge left. But Olshey’s job will get harder now.

Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless each have another season on the expensive contracts Olshey gave them in the wild summer of 2016. That’ll inhibit flexibility this offseason.

Then, Lillard is set to sign a super-max extension that will take effect in 2021. As great as Lillard is, it’ll be difficult building a contender around someone projected to earn $43 million, $46 million, $50 million and $53 million from ages 31-34. There’s so little margin for error, especially if ownership is less willing to pay the luxury tax than the late Paul Allen was.

But Olshey has earned a chance to handle these dilemmas.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert hits super-max criteria for extension projected to be worth $250 million over five years

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Anthony Davis signed a max rookie-scale contract extension in 2015, between his third and fourth seasons. Based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time, the extension called for him to earn a higher salary if he was twice voted an All-Star starter or made two All-NBA teams during his first four seasons. Davis was voted an All-Star starter and made the All-NBA first team in his third season.

Unfortunately for Davis, he missed both honors his fourth year. The All-NBA and All-Star-starter tracks ran independently. Davis couldn’t qualify for a higher max salary by earning one of each.

That cost him $19,683,908 over the four pre-player-option seasons of his extension, which will end next year.

The current CBA’s more significant adjustments to super-max eligibility – changing the years for qualification, using Defensive Player of the Year instead of All-Star starter – obscured a minor tweak. The tracks now run together. A player can qualify with one Defensive Player of the Year and one All-NBA selection. He needn’t achieve two of one category.

So, Jazz center Rudy Gobert – who won won Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and made All-NBA this year – quietly became eligible to sign a super-max extension in the 2020 offseason. The extension’s highest-allowable value projects to be $250 million over five years. The first four years would follow the structure of the super-max Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are set to sign.

Newsflash: Gobert isn’t Lillard.

Gobert is elite defensively and underrated offensively. But paying him $50 million per year from ages 30-34 in a league overflowing with good centers? That’s a recipe for disaster for Utah.

But Gobert earned eligibility. That makes it harder for the Jazz to tell him they don’t deem him worthy. That tension is an unintended consequence of the super-max rules.

There is room for negotiation. In this case, Gobert’s designated-veteran-player extension must be for five seasons and have a starting salary between 30% and 35% of the 2021-22 salary cap. But his salary can increase or decrease annually by up to 8% of his first-year salary. The deal can be partially guaranteed.

Still, the lowest possible designated-veteran-player extension for Gobert projects to be $155 million over five years. If fully guaranteed, that’d be expensive for a player of his age. If not fully guaranteed, the Jazz would get savings only by waiving him, and that’d mean dropping the cheaper latter years.

Because he doesn’t have enough experience to qualify, Gobert can’t sign a super-max extension until the 2020 offseason. He met the award criteria, but a player must have seven or eight years of experience. Gobert just finished his sixth year. He’s also under contract for two more seasons – locked into salaries of $24,758,427 next season and $26,275,281 the following year.

So, there’s time to figure this out.

But this is the most uneasy super-max situation so far – unless Gobert just doesn’t insist on the money. Good luck with that.