Mike D’Antoni didn’t mention Dwight Howard’s name once in a lengthy interview with Mike Bresnahan that appeared in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times.
But the implication of what he did actually say was unmistakable.
As you’re likely well aware by now, Howard was never a fit with the Lakers, and in hindsight, there was virtually zero chance of him re-signing to play there under a max contract that would run for the next five years.
The team had to try to retain Howard in free agency, because when healthy, he’s one of the game’s top five players and a complete game-changer on the defensive end of the floor. But now that he’s gone, D’Antoni feels that the sailing may be a bit smoother from a chemistry standpoint next season.
Addition by subtraction? The Lakers can only hope, despite their very public courting of Howard that started a mere eight weeks ago and crashed and burned barely a week later.
“We’ve definitely improved our shooting and I think the chemistry will be better just because the uncertainty has gone away,” D’Antoni said. “A lot of people will know their roles better and what’s going on on the floor better. Dealing with free agency day to day, we won’t have those problems.”
Howard was the one whose free agency was in constant question, and the topic was brought up repeatedly at various mile markers throughout the course of the season.
D’Antoni doesn’t have to mention Howard by name, because it’s obvious the Lakers will be a more harmonious unit without him next season. They won’t be as talented and there will be no championship expectations, of course. But if nothing else, the season should be among the more drama-free that we’ve seen in Los Angeles in quite some time.
After shooting down trade inquiries before the trade deadline and brushing off proposals earlier this offseason, the Spurs are reportedly hearing out offers for Kawhi Leonard.
Except from the Lakers.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
The Lakers are reportedly Leonard’s preferred destination. Of course, San Antonio isn’t obligated to send him there. But he can influence the process by stating a plan to sign with only certain team(s) in 2019 unrestricted free agency.
The Celtics and 76ers might have better assets to send the Spurs. But if only the Lakers have a commitment from Leonard to re-sign, they might offer a greater share of their assets than Boston or Philadelphia would (especially if Los Angeles believes acquiring Leonard would be the first domino in also landing LeBron James and Paul George).
Between Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and future first-round picks, the Lakers could offer roughly commensurate value for Leonard. San Antonio might not like those particular players, but a third team could always get involved. Send some combination of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Hart to a team that wants them and have that third team convey players more desirable to the Spurs.
But that takes thoughtful negotiating, and San Antonio doesn’t seem interested.
There’s a belief San Antonio won’t trade Leonard to a Western Conference team, especially another historically strong franchise like the Lakers. That sentiment seems foolish to me, but it didn’t emerge out of thin air. There are real people – and real hurt feelings – involved here. Grudges sometimes trump rationality.
Maybe the Spurs will eventually explore whether the Lakers present the best offer. But this is at least circumstantial evidence San Antonio will handle this crisis stubbornly.
It’s hard to see through all the smoke and tell if things around the 2018 NBA Draft are solidifying as we get to fewer than three hours before the Phoenix Suns go on the clock.
The Suns are a lock to take DeAndre Ayton at No. 1.
After that, the Kings more and more seem to be leaning toward taking Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, according to multiple reports of those close to the team.
At three things really open up. Atlanta is listening to trade offers but one way or another is likely to pick Luka Doncic. There are rumors that multiple teams — Dallas, Orlando, others — would then trade their pick plus some other asset (young player/future pick) to the Hawks for Doncic. Who the Hawks reportedly really want is Trae Young, but they can move down to get him.
If the Slovenian is off the board, it’s more likely that Memphis trades the No. 4 pick, according to sources. However, there are questions about whether Memphis can get what it thinks is fair value for selling the No. 4. So maybe they just take Jaren Jackson Jr.
How is it going to shake out?
That follows my final mock draft, which was put together Wednesday for the video above. It has:
1. Phoenix: DeAndre Ayton
2. Sacramento: Marvin Bagley
3. Atlanta: Luka Doncic
4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson
5. Dallas: Mo Bamba
6. Orlando: Trae Young
7. Chicago: Michael Porter Jr.
8. Cleveland: Wendell Carter Jr.
9. New York: Kevin Knox
10. Philadelphia: Mikail Bridges
11. Charlotte: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
12. LA Clippers: Robert Williams
13. LA Clippers: Collin Sexton
14. Denver: Miles Bridges
The problem with any mock draft now is accounting for trades, and those are coming.
The Spurs shot down Kawhi Leonard trade offers before the trade deadline. They brushed off Leonard trade offers earlier this offseason.
Then, the already strained situation got even worse.
Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers. He met with Gregg Popovich this week in San Diego, reportedly directly telling the president-coach he wants out.
What are the Spurs doing now?
Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:
The Lakers are in that mix.
The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.
But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.
San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.
The Magic, Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Hornets all grew tired of Dwight Howard.
The Nets did it in record time.
After acquiring Howard in a trade from Charlotte yesterday, Brooklyn is moving toward shedding him.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
In the trade, the Nets dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s $16.72 million salary for 2019-20. Now, they could get a reduction on Howard’s $23,819,725 expiring contract. Brooklyn is doing a great job of unloading bad money.
Next year, the Nets will have their own first-round pick for the first time in six years. Though he has declined considerably from his Hall of Fame peak, Howard can still play some. Brooklyn didn’t need him interfering with its tanking and culture.
Instead, the Nets can focus on developing Jarrett Allen and losing enough to secure the best draft position possible.
It’ll be interesting to see how much Howard surrenders and where he goes. Again, he can still play. But the league is moving away from traditional centers, and he’s high maintenance.