Dwight Howard keeping candy away from Rockets teammates

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Dwight Howard improved after after the All-Star break last season – before All-Star break: 16.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game; after All-Star break: 18.4 points and 13.6 rebounds per game – and the reason is no secret: His back got healthier.

But that wasn’t the only factor.

Howard told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com he also started eating healthier around the season’s mid-point. He reduced the amount of sugar he was consuming – candy, Gatorade and even fruit – and focused on better foods.

Now, he wants the Rockets to join him.

Howard in a Q&A with Berger:

Q: Since you’ve been here, have your teammates been curious about what you’re doing and wanted to try it? Or do they think you’re crazy?

A: They think I’m crazy. They’re young and they want to have the candy and stuff like that. But I just tell them, ‘You might not feel it now. But once you get a little bit older, stuff is not going to work like you want it to work. You’re not going to be able to just come in the gym and be loose and stuff like that. So you’ve got to start doing little things now that will prolong your career.’ They were more receptive to that. But they hated the fact that there was no candy on the plane. I just tell them I’m just trying to look out for their well being because I don’t want them to get injured and have to sit out, miss games or miss a season or miss a summer because of an injury. So if they can kind of tackle that problem early, they’ll be fine.

Q: So you’ve had an influence on what kind of food is available on the plane and in the locker room and hotel?

A: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Q: How so? How did you get that done?

A: I just talked to the trainers and also talked to the GM about it, making sure that guys eat healthy. They might not feel it now during the season, but when the playoffs come and they’re eating healthy, the more they eat the stronger their bodies will get. And that’s when they’re going to feel the difference. When other teams are tired, we’ll be able to go that extra mile because we have that extra energy that’s been stored by eating the right food.

Here’s a tip for Howard. Want to motivate your teammates to eat better? Bring up money. It won’t resonate with every teammate, but there’s no better way to motivate as many of them as possible.

Howard was going to get a max contract this offseason no matter what. It didn’t matter whether or not he played better while eating healthier. Even a Howard with poor eating habits was more valuable than a max contract.

But he did play better while eating healthier, and that distinction matters for most players. For most players, when they play better, they make more money.

There’s a lot that goes into being a successful NBA player, but physical tools are a huge part of the equation. The players who keep their bodies in prime shape earn more and earn for longer.

Everyone faces good reasons to eat better, and everyone has unique motivations. But for NBA players, money is an especially relevant factor.

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.