Report: Dwight Howard told Lakers GM he was frustrated with D’Antoni

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From the start, there was one thing most likely to keep Mike D’Antoni from returning as Lakers coach — free agent Dwight Howard.

It may not have been that direct — and it may not change who is the Lakers coach next season — but apparently Howard let Lakers management know exactly how he feels about D’Antoni.

During the Lakers exit interview after they were eliminated by the Spurs, players met with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and D’Antoni, but then had the chance to speak to Kupchak without D’Antoni in the room.

Howard took full advantage of that, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, part of the discussion between Howard and Kupchak centered around Howard’s frustration with D’Antoni — particularly how the center felt marginalized as the coach looked to Bryant and Steve for leadership and suggestions and discounted Howard’s voice….

D’Antoni chose not to retain assistant coach Chuck Person, a Howard confidant, on his staff for next season. Also, Lakers assistant coach Steve Clifford, who was with Howard in Orlando for five seasons before both of them came to L.A. last year, has become a hot head coaching candidate, interviewing with Milwaukee and receiving interest from Charlotte.

One source described the potential departure of Clifford, coupled with the loss of Person as “removing the buffers,” between Howard and D’Antoni, “which is a bad thing.”

If Howard is trying to dig out of the PR mess he created in Orlando and repair his image, this is not helping. At all. The leaks over the last week make him look petty and indecisive again. Also, if only Kupchak and Howard were in that meeting then the leak came from one of two sides here. You think it was the tight-lipped Kupchak?

When D’Antoni arrived to the Lakers he tried to fit the square pegs of the Lakers’ roster into the round holes of his offense. It didn’t work and it wasn’t pretty. The Lakers didn’t defend well for him, either, and they struggled. But by the end of the season the Lakers had moved away from what D’Antoni prefers to more traditional NBA sets. The Lakers also became more dependent on Kobe as the defacto point guard running the offense.

Is there enough frustration there for Howard to turn down $30.4 million more guaranteed? The Lakers can offer one more guaranteed year and slightly larger raises than other teams which all adds up to that sum (how much that extra guaranteed year matters to Howard only he can answer). Howard is reportedly intrigued by the Rockets and Mavericks — two teams in Texas where there is no state income tax. That can make up some of the money but Los Angeles presents more endorsement opportunities.

But is it all about money for Howard? Or was his frustration with D’Antoni, Kobe Bryant and the entire year in Los Angeles have him thinking Houston looks pretty good.

Smart money still is on Howard re-signing with the Lakers. But it is no lock.

James Harden scores 61, ties Kobe Bryant’s Madison Square Garden visitor’s record (VIDEO)

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James Harden has been on a Wilt Chamberlain-level streak the past few weeks, it’s unlike anything we have seen in the modern NBA.

Wednesday night he topped himself.

James Harden scored 61 points against the Knicks. That would be:

• Harden’s career high.
• Tied with Kobe Bryant for most points scored by an opponent in Madison Square Garden (Carmelo Anthony holds the overall record at 62).
• A Rockets’ franchise record.
• His 21st consecutive 30-point game, tying Chamberlain for fourth-longest such streak in league history.

Oh, and Harden had the seal and dunk that sealed the win.

Harden also had 15 rebounds in the game. The last player to have 60+ points and 15+ rebounds in a game? Some guy named Shaquille O’Neal back on March 6, 2000, with the Lakers.

Harden is playing like an MVP — and the banged-up Rockets need him to if they are to have a chance to win every night.

Report: Wizards not trading Bradley Beal, but if team slips Otto Porter could be available

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The Washington Wizards have won 7-of-10 and have climbed up to the nine seed, just a couple of games out of the playoffs in the East. Without John Wall, the Wizards are making a push to get into the postseason.

Which impacts whether they are willing to trade players at the deadline.

The Wizards are not trading Bradley Beal — the most coveted of their stars — but might be open to Otto Porter trades if the team slides back, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Wizards star guard Bradley Beal is not going anywhere, which Washington has made adamantly clear, league sources told The Athletic. Depending on how the next week to two weeks shape up, the Wizards could look more aggressively toward moving Otto Porter. The Utah Jazz have been an interested suitor for Porter, league sources said.

History suggests the Wizards will not be sellers. The pattern for owner Ted Leonsis and GM Ernie Grunfeld has always been to think short term and make the playoff push, even when it was not the smart thing to do. We should expect that again. Maybe Washington crawls into one of the final playoff slots in the East, but is that the smart play?

Don’t expect the Wizards to move Porter, even if they wanted to finding a team to take on his $26 million for 13 points a game this season would be difficult (although Utah would be a good fit), plus Porter is owed $27.3 million next season and has a player option he very likely will pick up for $28.5 million two seasons from now.

Pacers’ Victor Oladipo stretchered off court after scary knee injury (VIDEO)

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Let’s hope this is not as scary as it looks.

Pacers’ All-NBA, All-Star guard Victor Oladipo was trying to defend a length-of-the-court pass to Pascal Siakam when Oladipo went down with a brutal knee injury were his kneecap was clearly not in the right place. Oladipo had to be taken off the court on a stretcher. The video is below, but be warned this is not pretty.

The team’s official announcement called the injry “serious.”

Oladipo is the Pacers’ best player and was a lock to be an All-Star reserve averaging 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists a game this season in Indiana. His efficiency had dropped his season as teams game planned more for him. Beyond that, you’d be hard pressed to find a kinder, more genuine person around the NBA than Oladipo.

Quickly the NBA community rallied on social media to Oladipo.

Grizzlies franchise burning down. Literally. They had a locker room fire Wednesday.

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Things have seemed like they are burning down around the Grizzlies the past few weeks: The team has lost 12-of-13 games and now long-time franchise stars Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are on the trade block.

Now the franchise is on fire — literally. They had a locker room fire in the FedEx Forum, which fortunately was small and no one was injured.

Fortunately, there were no injuries or serious damage.

But this seems about right for the Grizzlies lately.