Dwight Howard says he left Lakers because he had to do what was right for Dwight

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Personally, I’ve moved on from what Dwight Howard did last summer. What I want to know is if he has grown from two years of turbulence around him (turbulence largely caused by him), if he is healthy, if he can take the steps he needs to if he plans to lead Houston to a title. I will add this: It’s been just a few preseason games but he is moving well and playing with an edge we have not seen from him in a while.

Still, his past lingers.

He forced his way out of Orlando and burned bridges, only to land in Los Angeles where he didn’t get along with Kobe Bryant and was frustrated that management hired Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson (it’s the one thing Howard and Lakers fans largely agreed on).

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel asked Howard about all those moves and his public perception, and Howard said he had to do what made him happy.

“Everybody’s saying I was a ‘coward’ for leaving [the Lakers], and I knew I was going to get that,” Howard said Tuesday. “But I think with the situation I had to do what was best for Dwight.

“I know when I wanted to leave Orlando, and I decided to stay, I wasn’t happy on the inside. I wanted to please everybody else and ended up hurting a lot of people by doing it the way I did. So, this time it’s like I had a second chance.

“I said, ‘You know what? People are going to hate me for whatever reason, so I can’t allow that to stop me from making my decision.’ I thought that my decision took a lot of guts because everybody’s saying, ‘How could you leave the Lakers and six billion fans?’ But I don’t care about being an outcast or about being somebody that may look bad. All I’ve got to do is win now, and I’m in the right situation.”

Howard went on to say he had “no regrets” about how things ultimately turned out in Orlando.

As I’ve said before, winning cures a lot of ills in American society. Howard’s image was bad, but so were the images of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James at points. I’m not sure that Kobe ever cared what others thought but LeBron was able to mature and move past it, then both led their respective teams to multiple titles. With that they won over the casual fans and earned begrudging respect from their critics.

It will be the same with Howard. Win and he can really sell he made the right basketball move, he can rehab that image. But to win he’s going to have to overcome the kind of adversity that he has shied away from in the past, he’s going to have to adapt his game to fit the team and not be about himself. Do that and the Rockets can win.

Do that and Howard will have showed he matured.

Heat fine Dion Waiters for postgame expletive-laden comments

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BIRMINGHAM, Michigan (AP) The Miami Heat have fined Dion Waiters an undisclosed amount for his expletive-laden comments about playing time earlier this week.

Waiters made the comments to reporters from two South Florida newspapers after Miami’s lopsided loss in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. The Heat were off Wednesday and announced the fine Thursday.

“We fined him and we addressed it as a team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Waiters has played in five games this season, all as a reserve. He missed just over a full year while recovering from surgery to repair a long-problematic ankle, and has repeatedly said that being patient throughout the process is a challenge for him.

“Look, this is going to be very difficult for Dion,” Spoelstra said. “I have empathy for everything he’s gone through in the last year to get back to where he is right now. But this is not about him. This is only about the team and it’s about winning.”

Miami is 21-21 this season, going into its game Friday at Detroit.

Waiters appeared in 76 games in his first two seasons with the Heat, starting 73 of those. He’s averaged 16.1 points for Miami as a starter, 7.0 points for the Heat as a reserve. And he’s trying to get minutes now with Miami having a slew of wings already in the rotation, including Dwyane Wade, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder and Tyler Johnson.

Even Wayne Ellington, who set a Heat franchise record for 3-pointers made in a season a year ago, has fallen out of the rotation this year in large part because of Miami’s depth at the wing.

Spoelstra said no one is going to volunteer their minutes for Waiters.

“We value him. We need him,” Spoelstra said. “It won’t be on his terms. It’ll be on the team’s terms.”

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Adam Silver backs Knicks center Enes Kanter’s decision to skip London trip

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LONDON (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the safety and security of players will always be paramount for the league after New York Knicks center Enes Kanter did not travel to London for his team’s game against the Washington Wizards.

Kanter said he feared he could be attacked or killed over his opposition to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he were to travel to London. Istanbul-based newspaper Daily Sabah reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Kanter by Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday.

Silver, speaking ahead of Thursday’s game, says “it was never a suggestion from the league that (Kanter) was not welcome on this trip.”

“There are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to those issues as well,” Silver says.

Kanter, who has frequently criticized Erdogan, had his Turkish passport revoked in 2017.

Wizards beat Knicks with game-winning goaltending call in London Game

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The good people of England could use a break from the dumpster fire that is Brexit, so the NBA came to town to entertain with their very best… their biggest stars… the teams that were willing to go, the Knicks and the Wizards.

But the Londoners got to see one unusual ending.

The Knicks were up 100-99 thanks to a Noah Vonleh hook shot, but the Wizards had three seconds to try to get off a game winner. Scott Brooks designed an interesting play, with Bradley Beal starting in the backcourt and sprinting into the frontcourt, and when the defense moved to him as the likely shooter he passed to Thomas Bryant rolling down the lane, he put up the finger roll and…

That was a goaltend by Allonzo Trier to my eyes — the ball is just starting its downward trajectory, and it may have been over the cylinder (in an NBA arena there would have been an above-basket camera with a better angle on if it was over the rim, but that did not seem to be available in London).

The Wizards — who owner Ted Leonsis said will never tank, so forget about them trading away assets at the deadline — have won 3-of-4 and are 6-4 since John Wall was sidelined with his foot injury, with a +3 net rating in those games. Washington is now just two games out of the playoffs in the East and GM Ernie Grunfeld does not believe in tanking, so expect them to make a push.

Which is why wins like this matter.

PBT Extra: DeMarcus Cousins’ return will be big boost for Warriors. Maybe.

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The Golden State Warriors — the two-time defending NBA champs, the team on top of the Western Conference with the best offense in the NBA — are about to get a whole lot better.

Maybe.

Nobody really knows.

What we know is DeMarcus Cousins is scheduled to make his return to the court on Friday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Cousins missed the end of last season and all of this season recovering from a ruptured Achilles.

I get into all of it in this PBT Extra.

As NBC’s Tom Haberstroh pointed out, the history of big men bouncing back from this injury does not bode well for Cousins. On the other side, Cousins was so skilled, if the Warriors can get 75 percent of the old Cousins it will be an upgrade over Kevon Looney and give Golden State a guy who can exploit mismatches.

On paper, the Warriors should get better with Cousins in the lineup. But nobody really knows.