Report: Four-team Howard deal close… unless it is not

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The Dwight Howard Tilt-A-Whirl started spinning again today and we all just want to get off.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard a complex four-team deal to ship Dwight Howard to the Lakers is “close.”

A four-team trade that would send Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers is “very close” to happening and could be agreed upon Friday, league sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard.

The teams involved include Lakers, Magic, Nuggets and 76ers. There are a lot of scenarios flying around out there, but the primary framework of the deal has Howard and Al Harrington going to the Lakers; Pau Gasol and Arron Afflalo end up in Orlando; Andre Iguodala lands with the Nuggets; and Andrew Bynum becomes a member of the 76ers.

Except that ESPN’s Ric Bucher is reporting that Pau Gasol is not part of the deal being discussed. Which is to say there are a lot of scenarios being discussed, and that’s not a sign that things are imminent.

There are plenty of other signs that this deal is not that close. Among those are reports that as of a few hours a go the agents for Bynum and Horford had not been contacted. In the case of Bynum, who would be an unrestricted free agent after next season, you can bet there will be some feeling out to see if he would sign on to stay past the end of his deal in whatever city he was shipped to.

Still, things seem to be discussions and things moving forward a little.

Of course, we’ve been here before — remember that three-team deal with the Cavaliers and Lakers that was close? Exactly.

Another reason to take these reports with a grain of salt — the Magic are not feeling pressured to make a deal just to get it done. Here is what Magic CEO Alex Martins told Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated on Tuesday. You tell me if he sounds like a guy who is impatient.

“We have very specific goals as to what we would hope to achieve if we were to trade Dwight, OK?” said Martins…. “We acknowledge and are realistic about the fact that you’re never going to get equal value in return for Dwight Howard. But if we were to trade him, we have three primary goals that we’re trying to achieve and in the end, any deal that’s proposed to us I think we’ve been very clear about the fact about the goals of what we’re trying to achieve.

“We have never delineated from that. Some may think that we have, but we have not. Clearly, when we find the right combination of pieces that we’re looking for in return, that will determine whether we make a deal or not.”

Does this deal really sound like they are getting everything they want? Pau Gasol (who would be flipped in another trade probably near the deadline) and Arron Afflalo, plus some picks and parts?

We can have a discussion of whether or not they can really reach all their goals — teams are not making huge offers now and James Dolan isn’t coming in to boost the offer at the last minute. You can argue that the deals are not going to get better for Orlando. Sure, they would love young players and picks and to get rid of Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, but asking for all of it may be too much.

There is a real deadline out there, but it is not until the trade deadline in February. It’s not that soon.

Orlando’s management really care how sick of the Tilt-A-Whirl you are, they are going to keep the ride going until they get what they want and choose to get off. On their terms.

That may or may not happen in the next few days.

Ben Simmons leaves game in first quarter, to have MRI on lower back Sunday

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Philadelphia, routed by Milwaukee on Saturday night and still starting on the road if the playoffs began today, may have another problem coming.

All-Star Ben Simmons skipped Thursday night’s game against Brooklyn with a sore lower back. He gave it a go Saturday in a nationally televised game against Milwaukee, but in the first quarter went back to the locker room not to return.

After the game, the news got more ominous.

Wojnarowski also reported, “There is some level of concern surrounding the possible nature of the injury.” That sounds ominous.

Simmons is averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, and 7.9 rebounds a game for the Sixers this season as the starting point guard. He’s also been playing All-Defensive Team level defense. If he misses extended time, it will be rough on Philadelphia.

When there is word on the MRI results, we will have it here at NBC.

Bucks pull away in second half behind 31 from Giannis Antetokounmpo, rout Sixers

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks turned a tight game with the Philadelphia 76ers into a mismatch immediately in the second half, led by the reigning league MVP.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 17 rebounds, Khris Middleton scored 25 points and the Bucks beat the 76ers 119-98 on Saturday night in a matchup of Eastern Conference rivals.

Antetokounmpo scored Milwaukee’s first 11 points in the third quarter as the Bucks took advantage of the absence of Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid, who went to the bench less a minute into the period after picking up his fourth foul, and quickly put the game out of reach.

“We came out the third quarter and played fast,” Antetokounmpo said. “We were able to rebound the ball and just attack them. Joel had four fouls. That worked in our favor. We tried to be aggressive in the third quarter and set the tone.”

Antetokounmpo added eight assists as Milwaukee won for the 16th time in its last 18 games to improve its NBA-best record to 48-8.

The Bucks led 56-50 at the half before Antetokounmpo’s scoring outburst put the Bucks in control. Milwaukee would go on to outscore the 76ers 37-23 in the period.

Embiid, coming off a 39-point performance on Thursday night, had 17 points and 11 rebounds but shot just 5 for 18. Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton also scored 17 points apiece for the 76ers, who fell to 9-20 on the road.

“I liked what I was seeing in the first half, and the death knock was Joel sitting,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “We just didn’t respond well to Milwaukee playing their tails off, and they shot the heck out of the ball.”

Philadelphia lost All-Star point guard Ben Simmons early in the first quarter. Simmons, who missed the 76ers’ previous game with lower back tightness, headed to the locker room after making consecutive driving layups, the second with a little more than 7 minutes left in the opening quarter. He didn’t return after the injured flared up.

“We never got in a rhythm. Losing Ben, then foul trouble, not making shots and some calls that could have gone a different way,” Embiid said. “But it’s on us.”

The 76ers shot just 35%, while the Bucks connected on 53% of their shots.

The Bucks got off to a scorching start, taking a 12-2 lead sparked by seven points from Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee led by as many as 11 in the quarter and held a 31-21 lead at the end.

Philadelphia pulled within 37-36 in the second before the Bucks used a 10-2 spurt to push the lead back to double digits.

Watch Dwyane Wade have his number retired by Heat

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Dwyane Wade is the greatest Miami Heat player ever.

He was at the heart of every championship the Heat won, he was active and beloved in the community, he was the face of the franchise.

Now his legacy is forever part of the American Airlines Arena — the Heat have retired his number.

Wade is a three-time champion, and 8-time All-NBA player, a 13-time All-Star, and a Finals MVP who averaged 22 points a game over his 16 year NBA career.

Next stop: Hall of Fame.

Stephen Curry cleared for contact, goes through full scrimmage with Warriors

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Stephen Curry is not sitting out the rest of the season. He wants back on the court — he’s targeting the first week of March — and the Warriors are not holding him out.

That got a step closer on Saturday when Curry went through a full scrimmage with the Warriors. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said this after practice, via NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Yeah he scrimmaged today, first day of scrimmaging,” Kerr told reporters at the Chase Center practice facility. “We only had seven other healthy players, so there were two coaches out there scrimmaging too, it was not pretty, but Steph looked great.”

The March return for Curry seems on track. Klay Thompson will not return to the court this season.

The Warriors are not playoff bound, but there is no reason to sit out Curry and tank, either.

First, that’s not the kind of culture the Warriors have built, coming off three titles in five years. Second, the fan base could use the boost of watching Curry drain deep threes after a disheartening season to this point. Third, and maybe most important, what exactly would they need to tank for, better draft position? This is a down draft to begin with, so anyone the Warriors select likely can’t help them much next season anyway (which is why there’s a lot of speculation the Warriors may try to trade the pick). Also, with the flattened out lottery odds, they don’t gain much anyway. The Warriors have the worst record in the NBA, but the three worst teams all have a 14 percent chance at the top pick, and the fourth worst is at 12.5 percent, fifth is 10.5 percent. Curry’s return for a month isn’t lifting the Warriors to the point teams will not want the pick.

We could all use to be reminded just how special Curry is as a player. Hopefully, we get to see that in a couple of weeks.