Dwight Howard reportedly adds Hawks and Warriors to his free agent list

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As the Dwight Howard free agency news cycle rolls on, the latest report has him expanding the list of teams he’ll consider signing with this summer.

It’s been previously reported that Howard is most intrigued by the Houston Rockets, thanks in no small part to a young star already in place there in the form of James Harden. Any situation where Howard won’t be the team’s best player is one he’s likely to consider — not only because it will mean he’s on a team that can contend for a championship, but also because Howard isn’t well-suited from a personality standpoint to handle the pressure of winning all by himself.

Another team that makes sense for Howard to pursue is the Dallas Mavericks, for some of the same reasons. Dirk Nowitzki still has a couple of All-Star caliber seasons left in him, and with the pay cut he’ll be taking in his next contract, the Mavs would have a ton of salary cap space to go out and sign even more top talent for the 2014-15 season and beyond.

Houston and Dallas were obvious choices, given the existing talent and salary cap situations of those respective teams. The latest two that Howard has reportedly expressed interest in, however, seem a little less realistic.

From Mark Medina of the Long Beach Press-Telegram:

A source familiar with Howard’s thinking says he plans to test free agency and has considered the Lakers, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Golden State.

Nothing remains binding, though. The source added Howard’s main concern involves “what team he feels has the best chance to win championships, has the best team and system around him.” The source also stressed Howard has not and will not ask the Lakers to make any moves on his behalf.

Howard is from Atlanta, but it has been a constant from his camp since his last season in Orlando that he wasn’t interested in playing for his hometown team. If that has changed and Howard is now truly considering the Hawks, they certainly have the cap space to make it happen, with less than $20 million on the books for next season if they exercise all options. That includes having Al Horford in place at $12 million per year for the next three seasons.

That would give Atlanta the chance to bring in plenty of additional talent besides Howard, but it’s also a team currently without much of an identity, and one that’s likely to begin next season with a new head coach.

As for the Warriors, that’s simply not going to happen. Golden State has close to $75 million in committed contracts for next season, including the one-year player options from Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins that are likely to be exercised. Things clear up considerably for the Warriors the following year, when the contract of Andrew Bogut comes off the books and the team would have in the neighborhood of just $25 million committed to the strong core of Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes.

It would be tough to see Howard signing somewhere for one year just to wait out the opportunity with the Warriors, although with his track record of indecisiveness throughout this process dating back to his final season in Orlando, anything is possible.

Still, the smart money remains on him staying with the Lakers, with the Rockets and the Mavericks likely not too far behind on his list of potential destinations.

At least one team is off Khris Middleton’s free agency list already (VIDEO)

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Milwaukee Bucks star Khris Middleton has a player option next season that allows him to become a free agent this summer. Milwaukee, currently the best team in the Eastern Conference, would no doubt like to keep one of their top players.

But several suitors will come calling for Middleton, who would like to secure his long-term future at age 27. The Bucks will have some serious thinking to do, especially because their cap situation gets a little less fluid if bidding gets high on Middleton. How much do they really want to go near the luxury tax to keep him around?

In any case, Middleton is starting to gather a list of places he wants to play next year. That’ll include Milwaukee, but Middleton will listen to offers from other suitors. The way teams have paid to add second or third stars to their roster, the Bucks guard could get expensive.

One place Middleton isn’t looking to go? The Cleveland Cavaliers.

Speaking with Kristine Leahy, Middleton said that he wasn’t likely looking at Northeast Ohio this summer.

Then again, whether Middleton returns to Milwaukee is a real question. The Bucks have some cap space to spare, but need to decide what to do with Eric Bledsoe and Nikola Mirotic. They also have just $1 million guaranteed to George Hill, so flexibility is there if they want it.

At this moment, Milwaukee’s ownership appears positioned to try and come in a bit low on Middleton. In a feature published by Zach Lowe on Thursday, owner Marc Lasry said that it’s unlikely Middleton gives the Bucks a discount to stay.

The Bucks know they might have to pay $30 million per season to keep Middleton. “Does he love Milwaukee enough to re-sign?” Lasry asks. “Yes. Enough to give us a real discount? No.”

Milwaukee is a popular choice to make it out of the Eastern Conference right now, which is interesting in and of itself. But things could get even more curious come summer.

Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday will play reduced minutes rest of season

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The Anthony Davis Saga with the New Orleans Pelicans has been one of the oddest, most missed managed trade request in recent NBA history. And that’s including whatever happened with Kawhi Leonard last season with the San Antonio Spurs.

Davis made himself one of the focal points of NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte after leaving at halftime of the final Pelicans game before the break. Davis has issued several statements since then, including a bit of a meltdown at Saturday practice availability in North Carolina.

Of course it’s just a matter of time before Davis plays for another team, but we will have to wait until summer for that to happen. In the meantime, both sides are at sort of an impasse with Davis clearly not wanting to play in New Orleans anymore. The Pelicans, naturally, don’t want their asset to become injured and therefore reduced in value.

But Davis is going to play, and according to the team and interim general manager Danny Ferry, both Davis and Jrue Holiday‘s minutes will be reduced from here on out.

Via Twitter:

This makes sense sort of no matter what. New Orleans is no longer a playoff bubble team, and so a reduction in minutes for their top stars this season makes sense anyway.

Hopefully we don’t have to hear much about this moving forward. If we can get through the rest of the year without dealing with more weird Anthony Davis talk, I think we will be better for it.

Meanwhile, let the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks try to gather up their best offers to snake him away from the Los Angeles Lakers. No doubt something crazy will happen this summer with Davis just given how it’s already gone so far.

Paul George says he talked to Nike about his shoes after Zion Williamson injury (VIDEO)

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The basketball community lost its collective mind on Wednesday night when Duke Blue Devils star Zion Williamson was injured after blowing out a pair of Nike basketball shoes in a rivalry game against the University of North Carolina.

Williamson’s injury was such that shares of Nike actually fell come Thursday. Meanwhile, the debate about whether Williamson should continue to play for free in the NCAA raged on all day.

Of course Williamson was wearing Paul George‘s signature shoe when he experienced the blowout, which apparently prompted the Oklahoma City Thunder star to contact Nike about it.

Via Twitter:

George’s shoes are very popular across basketball, and he told reporters that this had never happened to his knowledge.

I do wonder if players will be more reticent to wear one of the more popular shoes in the NBA. Then again, Williamson is a freak of nature in of himself so it’s not likely that the forces created by his power would be exerted by a normal player in the league.

Zion Williamson’s sprained knee became bad day for Nike

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When presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson went to the ground, his knee twisting, early in Duke’s game against North Carolina Wednesday night, the basketball world collectively gasped.

Former President Barack Obama was there and quickly recognized the problem:

It did, unquestionably. The  6-foot-7, 284 pound Williamson was wearing the  PG 2.5 PEs (the Paul George signature line of Nikes), and when he made a hard cut the shoe gave out and Williamson went to the ground in a heap. The television cameras closed in on the busted Nike.

That’s not good press.

Fortunately, Williams suffered only a mild, Grade 1 knee sprain, and is day-to-day.

Nike released a statement to multiple media outlets that said, “We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery. The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”

Nike stock dropped one percent on Thursday, although that level of fluctuation is not serious.

Bottom line, if this remains an isolated incident, Nike’s reputation — and position as the dominant force in basketball shoes — is not in danger. Fans and players will forgive one random incident. Have it happen again to a high-profile player and… Nike doesn’t want to find out.