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.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

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There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

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What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.

Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half

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It happened just five minutes into the game — Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Jayson Tatum banged heads.

Love was in the midpost and part of his job was to set a screen for George Hill, who was racing out to the arc. In doing so, Love and Tatum banged heads and it wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and has not returned to the game.

Tatum did not leave the game.

There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.

And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.

NBA Finals schedule drops, Game 1 Thursday, May 31

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We don’t know where the NBA Finals will be played, but we know when.

Next Thursday the eyes of the NBA world could be focused on Oakland or Houston, and the following Wednesday that may shift to Boston or Cleveland. All four of those teams still have a chance to make the NBA Finals.

What we know is the dates for the games. Here is the schedule:

Game 1, Thursday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 2, Sunday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 3, Wednesday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 4, Friday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 5, Monday, June 11, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 6, Thursday, June 14, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 7, Sunday, June 17, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Games 5, 6, and 7 are if necessary. All games will be broadcast on ABC.

There were no surprises here. The date of the start of the NBA Finals has been set since before the season started (it always is, to help broadcast partners and international media plan). The game pattern follows the same as last year, when the NBA changed it to make sure there was at least one day off in addition to travel days when the venue switches cities.