The Inbounds: The vanishing trade offer for Dwight Howard act

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Welcome to The Inbounds, touching on a big idea of the day. It could be news, it could be history, it could be a tangent, it could be love. OK, it’s probably not love. Enjoy.

If one were to really want to, you could find out what exactly the Magic were offered for Dwight Howard for themselves.

If you’re smart, crafty, lucky, and persistent, you can drag out enough information from someone surround the situation to get you an answer. And that answer will satisfy the requirement of knowing “what the Magic could have had for Howard.”

It doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

There are reporters who know. I’m not one of them. But there are some. A few have the entire story, I’m sure, but can’t report on the details due to circumstances. So instead we get half and quarter-truths. But the one thing that seems more and more apparent is that if there were better offers still on the table for the Magic when they pulled the trigger, they were not cognizant those offers were legitimate. And in that situation, that’s a failure of the trade partners to convey their offers.

On Wednesday, SI.com reported that sources outside the Rockets had a drastically different perception of what was available for Howard from Houston than what has been reported in regards to their offer. The “pick two” of Jeremy Lamb-Terrence Jones-Royce White component along with the three draft picks was off the table.

That shfit in perception damages a pretty popular argument that was made after the trade Friday. “They could have had a better offer and they just turned it down for this!”

As if Rob Hennigan is purposefully going to reject a better offer. These types of things aren’t rocket science. It’s establishing what the best package is with players, picks, and contracts. If Brook Lopez were on his rookie deal, it would have bee done months ago, even if the Nets had tampered with Orlando.

But that’s the perception. It was an impossible trade, and when teams started to bail and prepare for the season, something had to be done to get out from under the knife of dealing with Howard once the season started. That situation was untenable. Not for the front office, they knew they were doomed. But it’s not fair to a roster of players to have them train for camp not knowing if they were going to be on the team, going to be training for the playoffs, or just training.

The truth is, in all this he-said-he-said, both sides walked away from the deal with the perception they couldn’t get what they wanted. Both sides were right, at one point or another. But these talks shift moment to moment, and when the opportunity for a legimate deal comes through that accomplishes the Magic’s goals, it has to be taken. And if you have a better offer? It is your job to put away the efforts to establish leverage and to make it clear that no deal should be consummated without first checking with you. The stakes are too high. You should make it clear you want a chance to respond. But the posturing is always more important than the tactics.

Everyone’s always talking to everyone. There are very few secrets, but ther’s also very little real news. If your job was to improve the trade wth talk, wouldn’t you do a fair amount of talking?

The Houston and Brooklyn deals are the most often cited as alternatives to what the Magic walked away with. But the offers cited are never given dates, or if they are, they’re not reported as the “last available offer.” Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez had to agree to sign-and-trades had the offer been accepted by the Magic, who were tired of being jerked around by the Nets and Howard.

The Magic were never going to win in this trade. It was an impossibility. But they moved some salary, got some players they can build around or trade again. They picked up a wider selection of picks, which is crucial to judging this. Houston offered the Raptors and their own pick, yes. But with the Raptors possibly leaping into the playoffs with the possible fall of the Hawks and Magic, and the Rockets likely getting into the playoffs with Howard, the upgrade there is limited. Moreso, the picks would all be in one season, vs. the package Orlando did take, which spreads them out, giving them time to establish a plan and then take advantage of the extra picks.

Mostly, though, this is more about agendas than anything, though. There are agendas at work to make it seem like the Magic didn’t take the best available option. And as has been consistent throughout the process, the Magic have been largely quiet outside of a conversation between Hennigan and SI.com. They know they can’t win anything by revealing what offers they got and setting the record straight. So instead, they’ll simply deal with the jokes and accusations.

But somewhere in all this, the lines of communication broke down, somewhere in this, teams pushed back to try and get the best deal too much. And the result was the Magic simply relenting and getting it over with. So, yes, you can go find out what happened. But ask someone else, you’ll get a different answer. There is no one answer to “What could the Magic have had instead for Dwight Howard.” There is only what is.

Trade offers are liquid, and if nothing is there to catch them, they slip into the cracks and disappear forever, even as their creators cry that they are right there to deal the water they can’t see.

Watch Jerry West’s emotional memories of trading for/his relationship with Kobe Bryant

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Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.

If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.

For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.

What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.

West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.

Joel Embiid returns to Philadelphia rotation after nine-game absence

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When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.

Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.

He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.

Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.

Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.

However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.

When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.

Victor Oladipo returns to Pacers Wednesday, likely off bench with minutes limit

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Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.

Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.

Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.

While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Wizards (shoulder)

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to repeat as Most Valuable Player.

So, any game he misses is notable.

Bucks:

Expect to see more Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson. With the trade deadline approaching, this could even be a showcase game for Wilson.

Milwaukee is still favored over the Wizards. The Bucks have outscored opponents by 7.8 points per possession without Antetokounmpo this season. They’re deep.

Of course, anything can happen. It’s only one game in a long NBA regular season.

Which might something to do with Antetokounmpo sitting. Even if he plays in Milwaukee’s next game, vs. the Nuggets on Friday, he’ll get six straight days off. That’s a nice break.