Jeanie Buss says she ‘still doesn’t understand’ why Dwight Howard left the Lakers

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Jeanie Buss holds the title of president and co-owner with the Lakers, but her duties are 100 percent on the business side and have nothing to do with the team’s basketball operations.

After hearing her latest remarks on Dwight Howard, Lakers fans should be thankful that’s the case.

During an extended radio appearance on ESPN 710 in Los Angeles, Buss was open in answering all kinds of questions about the present state of the team, as well as how some things were handled in its recent past. The topic of Dwight Howard came up, and Buss really seemed to not have a clue as to why anyone would want to leave her beloved Lakers in free agency.

From Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

“I think the Lakers are a legacy franchise. I think that players know when they come here this is the ultimate platform. I really don’t think a free agent that’s going to come [will] not consider the Lakers. I’m not worried about that in any way, shape or form.”

But Dwight Howard bolted last July to sign a free-agent deal with Houston, taking substantially less money in the process.

“I still don’t understand why he left,” Buss said. “He had his own reasons. People I guess maybe would be talking [angrily] about the billboard. That really seemed to rub people the wrong way. I thought it was a good idea. It obviously didn’t mean anything to him.”

Buss was referring to the “STAY” campaign unveiled by the Lakers last summer around Los Angeles.

If Buss truly doesn’t understand why Howard left, then she should honestly consider another profession.

Just about every Lakers observer you could find understands the many reasons Howard had to want to bolt the Lakers in free agency just as soon as he had the chance. But in case you need it spelled out, here (in no particular order) are a few of the more obvious ones:

Dwight and Kobe are very different dudes. Kobe Bryant is the game’s fiercest competitor, while Howard has been known to want to have fun more than anything else. Howard and Bryant clashed from the start from a personality standpoint, and the prospect of three more years alongside Bryant before the team would truly be turned over to Howard wasn’t something he was willing to endure.

Dwight will never win a championship as a team’s best player. He had that responsibility in Orlando, and the pressure there was too much. Signing up for that role in Los Angeles for a franchise with the history that the Lakers have was of zero interest to Howard. He struggled to deal with the media scrutiny of winning alongside Bryant and Steve Nash; there was no way he was going to try to do that in L.A. all by himself. By joining the Rockets, James Harden would be the one to carry the load offensively and grab most headlines, while Howard could simply be an All-Star on both ends of the floor without having to carry the weight of the franchise and the entire city on his shoulders.

The Lakers were (and remain) a long way from a title. If Howard truly wanted to win now, then leaving the Lakers was the only option. Forgetting about the insane number of injuries L.A. has endured this season and last, the team wasn’t constructed to win a title even if everyone was healthy. With or without Howard in place, it was going to take some front office wizardry to add some additional pieces to make the Lakers ready to compete at a championship level, and Howard likely saw this as one of the more compelling reasons why he should go play somewhere else.

About that billboard campaign — here’s what I wrote about it at the time, and the same is true now. This was simply making sure the Lakers left no stone unturned in their courtship of Howard, so that they couldn’t be blamed for any missteps once he left.

The people in the know in Orlando will tell you that Dwight specifically referenced a lack of public support via billboards as a negative in his list of reasons for leaving Orlando, so the fact that the Lakers are going to these public lengths to impress Howard shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

The notion that the Lakers are too proud of a franchise to beg players to play for them in this way is sheer nonsense. If this is something a player of Dwight’s caliber requires, then the organization is doing nothing more than its due diligence in making sure that every base is covered where Howard is concerned, to the point where if he decides to leave Los Angeles, the decision will be 100 percent his, with no reason to blame the Lakers for any perceived indiscretions.

Again, Jeanie’s responsibility isn’t on the basketball side, and it’s hard to argue that from a business and a marketing perspective that the Lakers aren’t as savvy as any team in the league.

But seriously, we all know why Dwight left the Lakers; the reasons are as numerous as they are obvious.

Report: Isaiah Thomas could return to Nuggets right before All-Star break

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The Denver Nuggets have shown off their depth this season. Three starters — Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap — have missed a chunk of time and yet until a few days ago the Nuggets were the top seed in the West, and they are still a clear second.

And all of that without Isaiah Thomas, their biggest name reserve. He has been recovering from hip surgery last March.

The Nuggets are hoping Thomas will make his debut next month, right before the All-Star Break, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Thomas has been gathering momentum in his rehabilitation process from hip surgery in March, and there’s hope among Thomas and the Nuggets organization he could return as soon as a Feb. 11-13 homestand against Miami and Sacramento, sources said.

There’s strong confidence that he will return no later than the first game after the All Star break on Feb. 22 in Dallas, league sources said….

The final hurdle for Thomas remains playing full 5-on-5 scrimmages. He is expected to start that process soon.

Thomas was playing well and playing through pain in Boston, becoming a fan favorite and pulling that team into the postseason, before his hip injury caught up with him. He tried to recover without surgery playing for the Cavaliers and Lakers last season, but that never really worked like he hoped. He had the surgery and signed a one-year deal with the Nuggets.

Thomas could provide a playmaking guard off the bench, although Monte Morris has filled that role for the Nuggets so well he gets mentioned as a most improved player candidate. Coach Mike Malone will need to finesse the minutes to get both of them touches and involved. How much Thomas can help the Nuggets in the playoffs depends on how he recovers (he has always been a defensive liability because of his size, which factors in as well).

If Thomas can show he would have value as a bench player he will have teams calling next July about a much bigger contract. He has motivation, and he’s popular around the league — people want to see him succeed. But is he fully healthy and does he still have the lateral explosiveness that made him so hard to stop on drives to the rim? We should find out the final couple months of the season.

Report: Kings’ Buddy Hield in 3-point contest

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Players who’ve attempted more than seven 3-pointers per game while making more than 40% of them this season:

Sharing company with only the greatest shooter of all-time will earn Hield a spot in the 3-point contest.

Carmichael Dave of KHTK Sports 1140:

Sacramento getting three players into the Rising Stars Challenge for the second straight year speaks to the team’s nice collection of young talent. Bogdan Bogdanovic (who won MVP last year) and De'Aaron Fox return to the game. No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III replaces Hield, who ages out.

Hield has a chance in the 3-point contest, though the league is better from beyond the arc than ever. He’ll certainly have plenty of competition.

PBT Extra: Five players to watch heading into the NBA’s trade deadline

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It’s going to be a slow NBA trade deadline this year.

The reason it will be relatively quiet on Feb. 7 (the deadline day) this year is reflected in the five players to watch talked about in this PBT Extra. The bottom line: There are far more buyers than sellers.

Take Trevor Ariza in Washington, for example. A number of playoff teams are looking for wings on expiring contracts to help them out — the Rockets and Lakers are at the front of that line — but Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said the team the team will not tank, so is Ariza even available.

Or, what about Terrence Ross in Orlando? Another wing a lot of teams have interest in, but is Orlando selling?

And while the Dallas Mavericks have made public overtures about reconciliation with Dennis Smith Jr., sources tell me the plan on both sides is still to find a trade, it’s just right now the offers are lowball ones (because the Mavs have no leverage and there will be good young point guards such as Terry Rozier and D'Angelo Russell available in July as restricted free agents, and teams like them better).

Still, there will be trades. These are the guys to watch.

Report: Hornets rookie Miles Bridges to compete in dunk contest

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Want to see more dunks like this and this?

Watch the dunk contest during All-Star weekend.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Miles Bridges, the No. 12 pick in last year’s draft, has quickly proven himself as belonging in the Hornets’ rotation. He’s active, capable of getting to the rim and picks up defensive concepts quickly.

But like most rookies picked in the middle of the first round, he hasn’t yet earned a national profile.

The dunk contest will be his opportunity to change that.