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.

Suns’ GM says there is “overwhelming likelihood” team keeps No. 1 pick

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It takes a rare kind of courage, an extraordinary level of organizational backing, and a special kind of draft to do what Danny Ainge did a year ago trading the No. 1 pick. While a consensus had formed around Markelle Fultz as the best player in the draft, Ainge was a Jayson Tatum guy. Doubts about the top pick are common, but that alone is far from enough to trade that pick away — most GMs don’t have the job security to know if they miss on moving the pick and sliding down they will not be let go. Ainge had that, and he had his confidence in his scouting, so he made the move to trade the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia. (While it looks good now for Ainge, it’s too early to judge how that pick plays out — Fultz has barely played, we don’t know what extra pick the Celtics will get out of this, it takes time to fully judge these kinds of moves.)

This year is different. DeAndre Ayton is more of a clear No. 1, a guy with franchise changing potential. Plus Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough may not be standing on the kind of bedrock that allows for the trade of a No. 1 pick.

Recently McDonough said he’d listen to trade offers for the pick. That’s very different from trading it, as Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic had the GM saying Friday.

Because they should do their due diligence, the Suns will look at Luka Doncic (who does have a relationship with new coach Igor Kokoskov) and Marvin Bagley III, among others. Rumors may leak, spun by agents or other teams. However, at the end of the day, good luck finding anyone around the league who thinks Phoenix will not take Ayton — who attended college in Arizona — to be the inside to Devin Booker‘s outside. It’s the smart play.

Kokoskov and the Suns have a lot of work to do to build a foundation for success with this franchise. However, that almost never starts by trading away the top pick in the draft.

Rumor: Paul George’s agent telling people client will re-sign with Thunder

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That rumor Paul George will leave the Thunder?

How about the exact opposite?

Dean Blevins of News 9:

Allegedly, apparently, Paul George plans to stay with the Thunder. I know. It’s not what people believe. But in separate conversations, I’m told P.G.’s agent has told people associated with the NBA that P.G. believes the injury loss of Andre Roberson was huge and he’s staying. Disclaimer, though: Believing everything that agents allegedly say can be dangerous to your health.

This, by Blevins’ own admission, isn’t the staunchest reporting. Nonetheless, I appreciate him sharing and contextualizing it. We can evaluate it for what it’s worth.

George is known to share his plans – though the previous example was him planning to sign with the Lakers. And he might have really believed it at the time, when he was still with the Pacers.

But throughout the season, George seemingly went out of his way to profess his affection for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder. That only raised expectations in Oklahoma City of George staying, and if he leaves after doing that, he’d be inviting even more backlash. I think he’s smart enough to understand that, which is why I thought he made those especially strong pro-Thunder comments only after deciding he’d likely stay.

On the other hand, even if my assessment was correct, conditions change. The Jazz brutally exposed Oklahoma City’s flaws, and if George re-signs and Anthony opts in, the Thunder will have minimal cap flexibility to upgrade the roster. In fact, they might take a step back with the supporting cast to keep the luxury-tax bill manageable. George could see free agency as his chance to escape that mess.

Roberson was a huge loss, and if George is focused on that, that would bode well for Oklahoma City. Though Roberson was just a role player, he was pivotal to the Thunder’s defense. And his teammates had learned how to play around his offensive shortcomings. Oklahoma City didn’t have any good replacements for him on the roster. Roberson getting healthy is the clearest way for the Thunder to improve next season.

Of course, that’s predicated on George returning, too. Will he?

One last note of caution: People often believe what they want to hear. It’s easy to see someone in Oklahoma City hearing George bemoan the loss of Roberson and elevate that to George planning to re-sign, even George wasn’t going that far.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.