NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Rockets ready to be busy in free agency — Last summer, the Houston Rockets shocked much of the NBA world when they were able to lure free-agent center Dwight Howard away from the Los Angeles Lakers and team him with a promising, young All-Star talent in James Harden. Could Houston be making moves to pick up one of this summer’s big names — be it LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony? Don’t put it past them, writes Sam Amick of USA Today, who explains that the Rockets’ appeal overseas and other factors could help them once again this summer:
Dwight Howard couldn’t watch.
There he was at his favorite Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant on Sunday night, the Houston Rockets big man chewing on his favorite seafood fare and trying to take in the end of the NBA Finals like the other 22.4 million people who tuned in down the stretch. But as the San Antonio Spurs pulled away and LeBron James’ Miami Heat saw their three-peat pursuit coming to a close, Howard had to pull away too.
“I started eating, and as the game started dwindling down, I was just sick,” Howard, whose 2009 trip to the Finals with the Orlando Magic was the closest he came to winning it all, told USA TODAY Sports. “I just couldn’t eat no more. I just walked up out of the restaurant and got in the car. It was tough. I saw LeBron, just how he sat on the bench. It was so tough. I’ve been there in that position where you’re watching the other team celebrate, and you worked so hard to get there and you know the other team is just clicking on all cylinders. It was really, really hard to watch.
“I was happy for Tim (Duncan). I was happy for Kawhi Leonard. But it was just extremely hard to get up there and watch, so I just had to get up and get out. I was pretty much mad for the whole night.”
James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have the ability to opt out of their Heat contracts, and Bosh would certainly be on the Rockets’ short list of targets should James decide to head elsewhere. Should Anthony opt out of his New York Knicks deal, he could take a similar path to the one chosen by Howard last July …
Daryl Morey has long been known as one of the most active executives in the league, and he has no plans to change now. This is music to the ears of players who want to know their general manager is always working to improve the roster.
“We’re always aggressive,” Morey said. “That’s just in our owner’s makeup, whether it’s adding Clyde (Drexler in 1995) to an already-championship team to adding (Charles) Barkley on a team (in 1996) that might have been just as good as their championship teams but came up short, to obviously doing moves for Tracy McGrady and then James Harden. Our owner has got aggressiveness in his DNA, and obviously I’m at the tip of his spear.”
Howard doesn’t plan on recruiting James, Anthony, or any other soon-to-be free agent personally, instead choosing to respect their personal process while they decide their respective next steps.
No. 2: Randle says NBA shouldn’t institute age rule — Draft prospect Julius Randle of Kentucky is considered by many experts to be perhaps the best power forward prospect in this year’s Draft crop. Randle, who is unlikely to fall out of the Top 10 in the 2014 Draft, played just one season as a Wildcat before declaring himself NBA-ready. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said during All-Star weekend he hopes to raise the NBA’s minimum age limit in the future, but according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin, Randle isn’t a big fan of that idea:
Randle, who averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in his freshman season while leading the Wildcats to the NCAA title game, does not believe a proposal to change the age minimum from 19 to 20 for players entering the NBA draft is in the best interests of players like him.
“I think everybody should have free choice, whether it’s [going to the NBA after] high school, college, four years of college,” Randle said after his pre-draft workout with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. “Who is going to tell the kid when he’s ready? So I think everybody should have a free choice, but I know the commissioner and he’s done a great job so far, and I think he’ll do what’s best for the league.”
Silver announced his desire to raise the league’s minimum age during All-Star Weekend in February. He has continued to stump for the change, bringing up the issue during news conferences at the NBA draft lottery last month and again while speaking to reporters before Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
For the change to be made, it has to be agreed upon by the players’ association. That negotiation has yet to occur because the NBPA has been operating without an executive director since Billy Hunter was removed from his post in February 2013.
“I sense there is a little bit of movement,” Silver said when asked about the potential rule change during the Finals. “Ron Klempner, who is the interim executive director of the union, said at a sports law forum recently that it was something that the union was willing to discuss, and certainly in individual, one-on-one conversations I have had with players as I travel around the league, my sense is that they’re willing to discuss it as well. The ongoing issue is that until we have a new executive director of the union, we’re not going to sit down and have any real serious discussions on the issue.”
Randle said he did not plan on attending Kentucky for only one year before making the jump to the pros. However, the opportunity was too good to pass up, he said.
“My biggest thing was I wanted to be a college student and enjoy college,” Randle said. “I loved Kentucky. Of course, you’re going to love the basketball, but just the state, the people, my academics. I loved it. I miss it, of course, seeing everybody go back to school, and I just kind of miss that brotherhood that I had with those guys. But I knew that the next step was what’s best for me and my family.”
No. 3: Parker to skip FIBA World Cup; Ginobili undecided— France will have to take its shot at winning the inaugural World Cup this summer without its best player. According to Reuters, Spurs star Tony Parker says he’s going to sit out the World Cup after a grueling playoff and championship run with San Antonio:
San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker will not take part in this year’s World Cup with France as he needs to rest, the French Basketball Federation (FFBB) said on Friday.
Parker, a three-time NBA champion, led France to their first continental title last year and was named 2013 European Player of the year.
“Tony Parker is not in the squad. (Coach) Vincent Collet and I want him to take some rest after many demanding campaigns with France and demanding seasons with his club,” the national technical director Patrick Beesley said in a statement.
Parker’s teammate in San Antonio, Manu Ginobili, is still weighing whether or not to take part in the World Cup himself, writes Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News:
The 2012 Olympics were thought to have been Manu Ginobili’s international swan song with Argentina and the so-called “Golden Generation” he led to gold at the 2004 games.
And yet, even with his 40s rapidly approaching and another NBA championship to bask in, Ginobili said he’s still weighing whether to play at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
“I know it’s something I’m going to have to do soon,” he said after the Spurs’ annual joint exit meeting on Tuesday. “I want to be respectful of the coach. Practices start in a month. I want him to know exactly what he’s going to have. I actually feel uneasy, because I usually don’t do this. I usually say it in March. But this year I wasn’t ready, because every year it’s a little harder to decide. Things go on, family matters, physically too. I’ll try to make a decision by the end of the week.”
It promises to be a difficult decision for Ginobili, who cherishes the success he’s had with the Argentine team. He said he’s spoken throughout the season with long-time teammate/countryman Luis Scola, who of course wants him on board.
“We talk often,” Ginobili said. “They know how I feel about the national team. Everybody at this point knows how I feel. They’ve got my back. They understand whatever I decide. When I think about that, I feel so incredibly lucky having been part of those two sort of teams. It’s incredible how lucky I have been. I’m a very, very lucky man.”
No. 4: Dirk discusses Spurs’ title run, free agency — Just the other day, Dallas Mavericks superstar/franchise icon Dirk Nowitzki said he’s open to having Carmelo Anthony join him in Texas. But in case you somehow forgot, Nowitzki himself is a free agent this summer … although he doesn’t expect to go anywhere. Nowiztki talked about his contact future and shared some thoughts on San Antonio’s championship run, too, in an interview with a Dallas radio station:
Is there any jealousy about the way that San Antonio has been able to keep everybody together?
Dirk Nowitzki: Yeah, it started way before Tyson (Chandler). When I first got here it was Fin, Nash and myself. The way it was going, we were starting to get better and better; we made the playoffs every year. I literally figured we were going to stay together the rest of our careers and have fun doing it and hopefully win some championships. But you learn pretty quick that it’s a business in this league as well. We couldn’t keep Steve, or we didn’t want to keep Steve, and I think Fin was gone I think a year or two after that. You gotta admit that San Antonio, what they’ve been doing over such a long period of time, is pretty impressive. They’re amazing.
On his contract situation
Dirk Nowitzki: We’ll get together here pretty quick. Cubes knows I don’t want to go anywhere and he doesn’t want me to go anywhere. We’re guessing that will be over pretty quick and then we can focus on making this franchise even better. I got hit up on Twitter left and right (after the report the Rockets would make a run at Dirk). I was like, ‘what just happened?’ I didn’t say anything about the Rockets. The chances of that happening are slim to none. We all know that Cuban took care of me for a long team. This deal is not going to be about squeezing out the last dollar. We’ll just have to wait and see what the years and the final number is, but I’m sure it will be respectable for both sides.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski is looking forward to seeing Derrick Rose at the team’s camp in July … The Heat reportedly have interest in signing Raptors star guard Kyle Lowry … The Sixers apologized to the media for treating them badly while Andrew Wiggins is in town working out … Wizards star John Wall sits down for an offseason chat … Is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers interested in some kind of investment role with the Bucks? …