Dwight Howard/Nets trade rumor shot down. True or not, consider Howard rumor season open.

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The point here is not the specific rumor itself but what it signifies.

This morning there was a report on Real GM that seemed to sweep across twitter and the Internet like a buffalo stampede — the Nets had interest in acquiring disgruntled Laker Dwight Howard. (I’m calling him disgruntled because I watched him play the last couple games.) The rumor comes from Jared Rudolph, who has shown in the past he has sources tied into Howard’s camp. The rumor called for a three-way trade that would send Howard to Brooklyn, Brook Lopez to Minnesota and Kevin Love to the Lakers. Rudolph says the idea died when Love broke his hand, needed surgery and was out a couple of months.

I’ll say the rumor was dead long before that. As in it never really existed in a viable way. For one the Timberwolves were never called, but if you were them would you trade Love for Lopez? Also:

• The Nets quickly shot the rumor down. Here is what is reported at Nets Daily.

In an email, received minutes after NetsDaily reported on the rumor, the source wrote, “Total BS, Jarrod What ever His Name Is just fabricated a story.” The response was extraordinary and unprecedented in its speed and aggressiveness.

Later, a second Nets source said simply of the report, “Not true.”

• The Lakers got Howard with an eye toward the long term and while he has struggled and looked disinterested of late, that’s a long way from the Lakers bailing on their plan of making him the future. Of course, he’s had a rough half a season so some impatient Lakers fans are ready to trade him for Sasha Vujacic and a rack of shoot around basketballs, but management is not so eager.

But here’s why the rumor matters:

Rudolph’s sources are close to Howard’s camp. If there are people in Howard’s camp thinking he may choose not to re-sign with the Lakers then Los Angeles has to consider options for him as other offers come in around the deadline. And after watching how unhappy he seemed of late, you can bet teams will try to pick the Lakers apart on a deal.

You also can bet the Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak will ask Howard and his agent about whether or not he plans to sign. Not that he will get a direct yes or no, but he can start to gauge intentions.

I would be very surprised if Los Angeles pull the trigger on any deal for Howard. He remains the guy they want to bring back this summer and lead them into the post Kobe era. I don’t these 41 games changed that. And despite everything I’m not sure Howard thinks the grass will be greener elsewhere (and remember the Lakers have his Bird rights and can pay more than anyone else).

But the rumor suggests that an idea that seemed unthinkable — the Lakers and Howard parting ways soon — is moving into people’s thought process. And you can bet teams will inquire about it what it might cost to get Howard.

Let the rumors begin.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.