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.

Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan finally buried the hatchet

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Deron Williams or Chris Paul? That was the conversation in the NBA just a decade ago, a conversation that now seems practically ridiculous. I never personally thought it was very close between the two, being an adamant Paul supporter. Now, CP3 is with the Houston Rockets and Williams is out of the league, despite Paul being just 200 days younger than the former Utah Jazz star (but having played more games).

Williams was part of a two-man attack, along with Carlos Boozer, that helped fuel the Jazz during the first decade of this century as they churned through the Western Conference. But Williams played just five-and-a-half seasons in Salt Lake City, traded after a blow-up with former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

Things were unsteady between the two during the 2010-11 season, and Sloan famously decided to retire after a game in February of 2011 in which the Jazz lost to the Chicago Bulls. During halftime of that game, there was a disagreement between Sloan and Williams that apparently pushed the legendary head coach to his tipping point.

Sloan retired and Williams was traded on February 23rd.

Now, it appears that the two have at least made amends. In a story of appearing on UtahJazz.com, Williams recently went to Sloan’s house to talk about the divide between the two and what happened some seven years ago.

Via UtahJazz.com:

“He doesn’t forget a lot of things, instances where I pissed him off, things I did to upset him,” Williams said. “He definitely told me about that—and rightfully so. He was great about some other things. It was kind of typical Coach Sloan, really. If you know him, he’s never been one to shy away from telling you the truth and how he feels.”

“Eventually, I think Jerry came around,” [Jazz CEO Greg] Miller said. “He never really said, ‘Let’s put it behind us’ or anything, but maybe in Sloan speak he did.”

“Two strong men said what they needed to say, shook hands and are now moving forward,” [Jazz president Steve] Starks said.

Sloan, 76, is living with Parkinson’s and reportedly not in the best of health. It’s good to hear that Williams was remorseful about how he acted, and that the two great sportsmen were able to come together and at least see each other’s point of view as a sort of armistice.

Masai Ujiri on Kawhi Leonard: ‘He is happy. There is no maintenance with him’

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No doubt there are big expectations for the Toronto Raptors this year after trading franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan for disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. Ever an enigma (and coming off of one of the worst-managed exits from a team in recent memory) Leonard has fans in Ontario biting their nails about whether he will return healthy this season, and happy for the next.

According to Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, Leonard is giving them every indication that he is ready to go heading into the 2018-19 NBA season. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Ujiri said that Leonard is happy.

Via Sportsnet:

“He is happy. From what everybody has told me he is healthy. He spends a lot of time with our coaches,” said Ujiri. “He went to L.A. to meet our guys out there. He will be here shortly.”

“He is just quiet … that’s his nature. We can’t all be the same kind of people. But he is as engaging as he would want to be and he’s very interesting. There is no maintenance with him. There’s nothing. It’s remarkable … His (focus) is on basketball which is what you want. He is a basketball junkie … once you just start to talk about basketball his eyes change.”

We have heard rumors that Leonard has purchased a home in Toronto instead of merely renting. We’ve also seen photos of Leonard happy and working out with players like Kobe Bryant, nearly even smiling. And Ujiri is doing his part here, trying to ease any sentiment around Leonard.

The PR machine is in sixth gear in Toronto, but you can’t really blame them. It’s the first good public relations move we’ve seen from Leonard’s enclave in more than a year, and it helps bolster the team if things go south.

Do I believe anything that is reported about Leonard anymore? No. Not after last season. Unfortunately, the issue with Leonard remains the fact that we will have to simply sit to wait and see what he chooses to do next year.

Raptors fans, who are dedicated and passionate, should be hoping that they finally make a Finals run this year. Just in case.

Report: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith expected to return around Christmas

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76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.

A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.

But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.

Kevin Love launches “Love Fund” to bring more focus to mental health issues

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The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.

In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.

Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.

Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.