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Three Things to Know: Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen. Who ya got?

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Team LeBron vs. Team Stephen. Who ya got? I don’t think we can say this enough (if for no other reason into shaming them to do the right thing next year) — the All-Star Game player draft should have been televised. It was not because the players union pushed back, saying there was not a consensus that it should be from players who could be involved, which is about as soft as it gets. Oh no, you were picked last, you’re one of the 24 best players in the game but you’re picked last in that group. The horror. The NHL did it and the players survived somehow. The NBA started down a road with the new format it then went halfway and it sucked the fun out of it. Do better next time.

Now, on to what about the teams.

LeBron James and Stephen Curry hopped on a conference call — how exciting! — and made their picks (then both said it should have been televised).

LeBron drafted as his starters (they had to pick from that pool first) DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Kevin Durant (Golden State) and Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics). For the reserves, LeBron picked LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Kevin Love (Cleveland), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks), John Wall (Washington) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) as reserves.

Team Curry’s starters are Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) and James Harden (Houston Rockets). For reserves, Curry chose Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves), Draymond Green (Golden State), Al Horford (Boston), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto), Klay Thompson (Golden State) and Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota).

Here’s what we know: LeBron took Kevin Durant first. KD likes finally being picked No. 1.

So who ya got? How do you not choose Team LeBron — that starting five is insane. It’s the Monstars. LeBron and KD on the wings, Cousins and Davis inside (and both can hit threes), and Irving at the point? Good luck. And you have to love LeBron took Kyrie, and also reunited Durant and Westbrook. Off the bench, LeBron’s team can put out a Westbrook, Oladipo, Beal, Love, Porzingis lineup that could run and shoot with anyone.

Curry has shooting and athleticism, his starting five has Harden and the Greek Freak, and if this were the kind of game where anyone played any defense having Butler and Green on the second unit would be impressive.

In an actual seven-game series I’d take team LeBron without question. That team is dominant. In the defense-free zone that is an All-Star game, anything can happen. If Butler or Harden decide to go hard after the MVP, Curry could win the thing. But I’ll put my money on Team LeBron… and the over. Always the over in the All-Star Game.

2) De’Aaron Fox with an insane game-winning putback dunk. We haven’t had a lot of Sacramento Kings highlights in this space this season because, well, there hasn’t been a lot of Sacramento Kings highlights this season.

Thursday night, rookie De’Aaron Fox may have had the Dunk of the Year — at least the most meaningful one. Down one to Miami (in Miami) and with less than 10 seconds remaining, the Kings put the ball in the hands of Bogdan Bogdanovic in isolation at the top of the key (there was a meaningless screen by Fox in there), and he ended up with a 19-foot contested fadeaway that missed — but nobody put a body on Fox, who flew in from the weakside wing and made the play.

Damn, that’s good.

Miami has won a lot of close games this season, but those things tend to even out.

3) Russell Westbrook goes off for 46 vs. Wizards, while Kevin Durant has triple-double and Warriors drain 21 threes against Timberwolves. Some All-Stars were putting on a show Thursday night.

All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal went at it — Westbrook hat 46-6-6, while Beal dropped 41 despite getting kicked in the, um, kiwis by Steven Adams.

Westbrook was apparently motivated by the feeling he was picked last in the All-Star draft, although he was just listed last thanks to alphabetical order. Whatever the motivation, it was the full Russ on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Warriors were the Warriors against the Timberwolves. Golden State hit a season-high 21 threes, and LeBron’s No. 1 pick Durant celebrated with a triple-double of 28 points, 10 boards and 11 assists.

Report: Dwight Howard gave back $2.6 million in buyout with Memphis, what he will make in L.A.

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Dwight Howard will get his money, the full $5.6 million he opted into this summer. The man is getting paid.

The checks are just coming from two different teams.

To facilitate a move to the Lakers, Howard is giving back $2.6 million in a buyout with the Grizzlies — exactly how much he makes on a minimum contract with Los Angeles. From Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks of ESPN:

My guess is the Grizzlies will just take the cap hit this season to get Howard off the books.

This is exactly how this was expected to go down financially if Howard came to Los Angeles. The risk for Howard is he will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers — they can waive him for whatever reason, pay a small buyout fee, and Howard loses out on the $2.6 million.

That’s motivation for him to follow through on what he promised the team.

 

Former NBA, ABA coach Tom Nissalke dead at 87

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Tom Nissalke, who won coach of the year honors in the NBA and ABA, has died. He was 87.

Nissalke passed away at his home in Salt Lake City on Thursday after facing a “series of health-related problems” in recent years, according to the Deseret News.

He was the first coach of the Utah Jazz after the franchise relocated from New Orleans in 1979.

Nissalke was also an NBA head coach in Seattle, Houston, and Cleveland.

Nissalke got his start in the pro ranks as an assistant with Milwaukee and helped guide a team featuring Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to an NBA title in 1971. His work with the Bucks landed him a head coaching gig with the ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals. He led them to a 42-42 record in his first season and was named the league’s top coach.

He was hired the next season in Seattle but was fired after a 13-32 start. Nissalke then coached the Utah Stars and San Antonio before returning to the NBA with the Rockets. He won 124 games in three seasons with Houston, twice taking the team to the playoffs and the 1977 Eastern Conference finals.

Nissalke was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year after going 49-33 in 1976-77.

After retiring, he was active with the YMCA and worked as a radio analyst.

Nissalke is survived by a daughter, Holly, son Thomas Jr, and two grandchildren. His wife, Nancy, died in 2006.

 

How Dwight Howard convinced the Lakers to take a chance on him

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Laker fans Friday sounded like your friends after an ugly relationship and breakup, when you suddenly consider taking that person back. Laker nation took to Twitter screaming “ARE YOU SERIOUS? What are you thinking? Are you even thinking?”

The Lakers, however, are entering a second relationship with Dwight Howard with their eyes wide open — he will sign a non-guaranteed contract to be the team’s center (sharing duties with Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee). Howard will have to prove himself, on and off the court. The Lakers have leverage and can waive Howard and move on to Joakim Noah or someone else quickly if things do not pan out.

But how did it even get to this point? How did Howard — who did his annual summer media tour saying “I have changed, I am taking the game and my conditioning seriously, I just want a chance” and league observers shrugged because they have heard the same thing for years — convince the Lakers to roll the dice on him again? Shams Charania of The Athletic laid it all out.

Howard’s message to [Laker assistant coach Jason] Kidd and the Lakers was the same one he delivered to The Athletic in July from NBA summer league: He’s learned from the past several seasons, learned that, at age 33, he is simply one of the guys now. Howard believes he can contribute at a high level for any NBA team, but the eight-time All-Star also understands he has to focus on rebounding, defense, blocking shots, finishing around the rim and simply playing whenever he is asked… Kidd became convinced about Howard’s newfound awakening…

The Lakers then began setting workouts for free agents, and Howard traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Wednesday. His meeting and workout with the Lakers was set for Thursday, but Howard went to the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Wednesday afternoon for his own training session. The Lakers were surprised to see him, sources said, and many key decision makers were in attendance…

League sources said Howard had a convincing and emotional meeting with the players and Lakers officials, explaining how he had reached rock bottom a season ago and needed to find a new mindset in his life. On and off the floor. He was not the teammate he needed to be in playing for three teams in the past three years. He did not take the game seriously enough, he did not understand what was needed to turn the corner.

Howard has said all that before. Multiple times. To multiple teams and teammates. Maybe this time he has genuinely figured things out, but whatever he did and said was enough to convince the Lakers to buy in…

To a point.

One could argue — and I would make the case — that Noah would be a better fit on the court for the Lakers’ needs in terms of passing and defense, but he comes with plenty of risks as well (health, getting along with LeBron James, and how much he liked the nightlife as a Knick in New York and what that would mean in L.A.). At least with Howard, the Lakers mitigated that risk with the non-guaranteed contract. If Howard will not accept his role and is disruptive (as he has been in recent stops), if he is still eating candy like a bingeing 10-year-old on Halloween night, if he can’t stay healthy, the Lakers can waive Howard and move on. If the Lakers brought in Noah, they would have been smart to have the same non-guaranteed contract (if Noah would have signed that kind of deal).

For now the Lakers have their man, but he’s basically on probation. Howard has to prove in deeds everything he has said in words.

Report: Dwight Howard agrees to buyout with Grizzlies, will join Lakers on non-guaranteed deal

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Once again, the Lakers are betting that Dwight Howard and his back are healthy. However, this time the Lakers have hedged that bet.

After a workout this week in front of Lakers’ coaches and front office staff, Howard’s agent has worked out a buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies, and Howard will sign with Los Angeles, filling the role that had belonged to DeMarcus Cousins before he tore his ACL this summer. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added vital details.

There’s a segment of Lakers’ fans — a large, vocal segment — that is going to hate this move because of the history. The Lakers get that, but the coaches and staff also know this: If he’s healthy, and if he’s willing to accept a role on the court, if he’s willing to adapt how he is in the locker room and with the staff and front office (there are reasons Howard has bounced from team to team to team in recent years), Howard is the best fit for the Lakers on the court.

Last time Howard was a Laker back issues limited him on the court, and his not taking the game or his conditioning very seriously (Howard has a legendary candy-eating habit) rubbed Kobe Bryant the wrong way. To put it mildly. LeBron James is going to bring that same work ethic and attitude, but now the Lakers have some leverage on Howard with the non-guaranteed contract.

The Lakers had planned to lean heavily on Cousins this season. The Lakers have arguably the best center in the game today in Anthony Davis, but he does he want to play 30+ minutes a night banging away down in the post (nor is he physically built for that). Cousins was going to be the center much of the game, with Davis sliding over to the five for key stretches. But Cousins is almost certainly lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Howard was the best potential fit to replace Cousins on the court, or at least do so in combination with JaVale McGee (it’s going to take both of them to soak up all the minutes at the five the Lakers need). For three seasons, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, Howard averaged 13+ points and 12 rebounds a night, was a big body on defense, and played at least 71 games in averaging 30 minutes a night. Exactly the kind of player the Lakers could use. The problem was Howard was never happy just playing that role and doing those things, which led to disruptions as he pushed for a larger role.

There are two key concerns bringing in Howard. Health is one, Howard played just nine games for the Wizards last season following another back surgery and some hamstring issues. The other is Will Howard accept the role he is given, play hard, and not be a distraction?

If Howard doesn’t fit, the Lakers also worked out Joakim Noah — who impressed a lot of people around the league with his solid 41 games for Memphis the second half of last season — and Mo Speights. They will have other options.

But for now, the Lakers are betting on Howard.