Alonzo Mourning on Kevin Love in Cleveland: “He’s outta there”


Chris Bosh warned everyone before the season and some fans — particularly some in Cleveland — scoffed at the notion: It was going to be hard for Kevin Love to adjust to playing with LeBron James.

Here we are with a month to go in the NBA season, and Love remains the uncomfortable fit in Cleveland’s big three. Love is averaging 16.8 points a game (down 10 from last season) on just 43 percent shooting, he’s not getting the ball where he is comfortable, and he’s been sat in the fourth quarters of recent games in favor or Tristan Thompson.

Of course, this has led to a ton of speculation that Love — who can be a free agent this summer with a player option — is going to bolt Cleveland for a team more focused around him. Love has denied this, but the NBA rumor mill will not stop churning on the topic.

Add Heat executive Alonzo Mourning to the mix. He said this in a Q&A with SLAM Magazine.

AM: Then you’ve got Kevin Love, who’s not happy at all. He’s outta there.

SLAM: Where do you think Kevin Love is going to go? LA?

AM: I think he’s probably going to go to LA. I could see that.

The Lakers, who have the money for a max salary, will certainly be making the call to Love’s agent. He’s the level of star Kobe Bryant could hand the franchise over to.

I’d be surprised if that happens this summer, however.

For two reasons. One is simply money — Love wants to be a free agent in 2016 when the salary cap will spike to around $90 million and a max contract will go up in value by a third or more as well (max salaries are a percentage of the cap space available). Love will either opt in with Cleveland or sign a deal with them allowing an opt-out in 2016 so he can cash in.

The second reason? He doesn’t want to be seen as a quitter. Fair or not. He had to have seen the backlash from some quarters (read: Lakers fans) for Dwight Howard choosing Houston, and Love knows if he leaves the Cavs LeBron’s fans will be equally passionate and vocal. The “he wasn’t tough/good enough to play with LeBron” line will be used plenty. Fair or not. So Love will give it another season at least to see if things can be worked out on the court.

Now the summer of 2016 — when Love not only can leave but numerous teams will have a sudden surge of cap space allowing them bring in a couple max guys and put players around them — that could be a different story.

Or, maybe Love is so miserable now he just wants out, like Mourning said.


Dwight Howard says he’s “really close” to returning to court


Thanks to an MVP-level run from James Harden, the Houston Rockets have gone 15-8 with Dwight Howard out with his knee surgery. They have held their place in a crowded West.

But if the Rockets are going to make a serious playoff run, they need Howard’s defense and rebounding. Houston is 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when Howard is on the court, and they are going to need every one of those in the bloodbath that will be the Western Conference playoffs.

The Rockets are about to get him back. Howard himself told the media that Wednesday, here are his words via Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle.

Howard also said he would not play in back-to-backs the rest of the way (that would be moot come the playoffs when those disappear).

With Howard are the Rockets contenders? Maybe second tier ones, along with about six other teams in the West. It’s going to come down to health and matchups. But it’s not happening without Howard. For Rockets fans this is good news.

Rockets sign 16-year-old to one-day contract


The Rockets have an MVP candidate in James Harden.

But they also need more depth.

Enter Bryson Jones, a 16-year-old battling a degenerative muscle disorder.

Jones should provide a spark against the Magic tonight.

Because Jones was not on another team’s roster March 1, he’d be eligible for Houston’s playoff roster.

Russell Westbrook does not want to talk about MVP


Stephen Curry said he’d choose himself.

LeBron James reportedly wondered why he doesn’t get more consideration.

James Harden has a general manager campaigning on his behalf (to the bemusement of Steve Kerr).

But don’t try roping Russell Westbrook into the MVP discussion.

Royce Young of ESPN:

That last answer is a gem.

Westbrook has soared with Kevin Durant sidelined, seemingly posting triple-doubles on a nightly basis.

But the Thunder point guard has already missed 15 games. If he plays the rest of the season and wins MVP, Westbrook would have played a lower percentage of games than any winner aside from Bill Walton in 1978.

It’s understandable why Westbrook’s priorities would lie elsewhere. Oklahoma City is just a half game ahead of the Pelicans and 2.5 games ahead of the Suns for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With Durant still out and Serge Ibaka also sidelined, Westbrook must do even more to keep the Thunder afloat – which should only strengthen his MVP case.

Vlade Divac: ‘Shaq wasn’t talented, he was just strong’


Vlade Divac recently said that Kobe Bryant was the best talent that he ever played with, but his words weren’t nearly as glowing when discussing the abilities of one of Bryant’s Hall of Fame caliber teammates.

Divac had many battles with Shaquille O’Neal during his playing days with the Sacramento Kings, and told me last summer that the flopping style of play he became known for was a direct result of  O’Neal’s bruising style of play.

Now in a front office role with the Kings, Divac had some harsh criticism for O’Neal’s game when talking up the current face of the Sacramento franchise, DeMarcus Cousins.

From the Associated Press:

“I’ve been in basketball a long, long time, and I have to say he’s the most talented big guy I have ever seen,” Divac said Monday. “Shaq wasn’t talented — he was just strong. I was talented, but I wasn’t strong.”

Divac went on to call O’Neal one of the most dominant players ever. O’Neal, who knocked Divac and the Kings out of the playoffs in three straight seasons from 1999-2001, is now a minority owner with the team and one of Divac’s bosses.

“He always was my boss,” Divac said.

This comes across as bitterness from Divac, and not much else.

It’s not only disingenuous to say that O’Neal wasn’t talented; it’s a flat-out lie. There are plenty of players in the league that have traded on their size and strength over the years (Dwight Howard is a current example), but few if any were ever as dominant as O’Neal was while in his prime offensively. And, the way he developed an ability to pass out of double teams to find cutters or shooters for easy looks was just as important as the powerful scoring opportunities that he converted inside.

It’s possible to describe one player’s greatness without tearing another one down in the process. Those battles with Shaq back in the day were personal as far as Divac is concerned, and remarks like these make it clear he still harbors some resentment over how things went down, even all these years later.