NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Cuban a fan of Warriors being an NBA ‘villain’ of sorts — A mere two weeks ago, the Golden State Warriors pulled off perhaps the most envied free-agent signing of the summer — adding superstar and former MVP Kevin Durant to their already potent mix. Many are wondering how the Warriors will look next season with he, reigning MVP Stephen Curry and All-Stars Draymond Green and Klay Thompson in the mix. Success is all but certain to follow that group … and perhaps some disdain from non-Warriors fans who want to see this new super team beaten. As Tim McMahon of ESPN.com reports, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is a fan of the Warriors being the new villains (his word, not ours) of the NBA;
Mark Cuban believes Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Golden State Warriors will benefit the NBA from a business perspective, despite commissioner Adam Silver’s concerns about the forming of a superteam.
Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner who has never shied away from going against the grain, is confident that adding a former MVP to a recent championship team that already features two-time MVP Stephen Curry and All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will drive interest in the league.
“They become the villain,” Cuban told ESPN on Wednesday, a day after Silver indicated that changes in the collective bargaining agreement are needed to prevent similar situations from developing in the future. “Just like when LeBron James went to Miami, I loved that there was a villain. They become the villain. I’m fine with that. Everybody’s going to root for them to lose.”
Cuban’s Mavericks benefited by Durant’s decision, allowing them to add former Warriors starters Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut to the roster, with Golden State needing to let both players go to create cap space for Durant.
The Warriors declined their right to match the Mavs’ four-year, $94 million offer to Barnes, a restricted free agent who Golden State planned to keep if its recruiting pitch to Durant didn’t work. Golden State traded Bogut to Dallas in a salary-dump deal.
“It sure helped,” Cuban said of the impact Durant’s decision had on Dallas’ offseason.
Cuban also cautioned against assuming that the Warriors — who won the title in 2015 and lost in the NBA Finals this year after setting a regular-season record with 73 wins — will have an easy road to another title.
“It’s always been tough for superteams to stay super,” Cuban said. “When you congregate that much talent, one injury destroys the whole thing. They played by the rules, so it is what it is. It has always happened. It’s nothing new.”
No. 2: Report: Saric to sign with Sixers on Friday — The Philadelphia 76ers acquired the rights to European forward Dario Saric via a trade on Draft night 2014. Since then, they and their fans have been waiting … and waiting … and waiting to get him States side. After years of pining away for him, though, it appears Saric will sign with the team as soon as tomorrow, writes Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com:
The wait will be over this week.
Dario Saric will sign with the Sixers on Friday, according to a source.
The Sixers acquired Saric two years ago on draft night in a trade with the Orlando Magic, who selected him 12th overall. Since then, the 22-year-old forward from Croatia has been playing for Anadolu Efes in Istanbul.
According to international basketball reporter David Pick, the buyout for Saric’s current overseas contract — which had one year remaining — is $1.1 million. Per the CBA, the Sixers can pay up to $650,000 of it while Saric must pay the rest.
There had been uncertainty as to when Saric would join the Sixers. Given the NBA’s rookie salary scale, there are financial benefits for Saric to remain overseas for another year. But following the Olympic Qualifiers last weekend, he told reporters he intended to play in Philadelphia next season.
The Sixers have been in communication with Saric while he played in Europe. Head coach Brett Brown has been corresponding with him using WhatsApp. This past season, player development assistant Chris Babcock went to Istanbul for over a week to spend time together and monitor Saric’s workouts. In June, Brown and president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo also traveled to Istanbul to visit Saric.
“We think this is good timing for him,” Colangelo said on The Comcast Network’s Breakfast on Broad in May.
“For those who haven’t seen him play, there will be a real excitement of how versatile he is,” Brown said Tuesday on NBATV’s broadcast of the Sixers’ summer league game. “There is a toughness that the city of Philadelphia is just going to fall in love with. He’s a bull-in-a-china-shop type player. He can rebound, lead a break, he can hit threes — that’s the thing I think I’m most excited about watching the growth of his game. He just comes with a real versatility and skill package at 6-foot-10, similar to Ben [Simmons] in some ways.”
Brown has said he envisions Saric playing the “three-four.” The Sixers are loaded with bigs and Saric could fit into the three-spot with the current roster. They already have first overall pick Simmons, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Jerami Grant and Richaun Holmes in the frontcourt. Joel Embiid is expected to play next season, as well.
“If you want a guy that gives a 100 percent every time, he’s such a hard worker and he wants to play on both ends of the floor,” Saric’s former teammate Stephane Lasme told CSNPhilly.com at Las Vegas summer league. “He wants to play hard on defense, so hard on offense, and he tries to get every rebound.”
No. 3: Howard ready for challenge of playing in hometown — Just 12 years ago, Dwight Howard was an Atlanta-area prep phenom who was taken No. 1 overall in the 2004 Draft by the Orlando Magic. Fast-forward to the present and Howard has amassed a bevy of NBA accolades, but he has also seen some of the luster on his career come off after leaving the Magic to play for the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets. Howard signed with his hometown Hawks this week and was re-introduced to the locals yesterday. Our Sekou Smith, one of the most plugged-in Hawks observers around, has more on what this move home means not just to Howard, but to his parents and family, too:
The conversation happened four or five years ago, Dwight Howard Sr. wasn’t sure of the exact day and time, but he remembers the words that were spoken between he and his son.
“I told him this and we prayed about it,” Howard Sr. said he told his son, “you’re going to come home. You can fight it. But it’s done. And it’s come to pass.”
It became official late Tuesday night when the hometown Atlanta Hawks officially announced that Dwight Howard Jr. had signed his three-year deal to come home and serve as the face of the franchise, a role he hasn’t played since he left Orlando in 2012 as one of the biggest stars on the planet.
But it didn’t sink in until this morning, when an emotional Howard looked out at the sea of people at the William Walker Recreational Center off of Fairburn Road in southwest Atlanta, where the Howards crafted and nurtured young Dwight’s NBA dreams all those years ago.
His parents and older sister sat front and center and when Howard stared at them and began to acknowledge that this was the homecoming, the fresh start he’s been searching for, he teared up and struggled to get the words out.
“I’m just happy to be home,” Howard said repeatedly. “Being back in this building brings back chills.”
The term “locker room cancer” was tossed around often, far too frequently for the Howards. Even in the midst of a run to the Western Conference finals with the Rockets in 2015, Howard couldn’t enjoy the ride, not with all of the ridicule about his fading game and the belief that his days as the league’s most dominant big man were all but over.
But his father believes those trials and tribulations are ultimately what led to the tears of joy on display this day, from all involved.
“All of that gave him the understanding of why this is important,” the elder Howard said. “If he had not gone through L.A. and Houston, then he might not appreciate this as much. You can go through something, but you’ve got to be able to go back and appreciate it and say, ‘Okay, I know this is a better place.’ And then home has disadvantages also. But God has given him 12 years to kind of mature in that and realize that this is not just a rest stop. [He realizes] I’m a business man, a professional basketball player. And I have friends and there is a time for all of that. I really believe this is going to be great for him.”…
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is a believer. He tried to pitch Howard on coming home three years ago, when he chose Houston instead. He thinks a player with Howard’s skill-set, even at 30, has exactly what the Hawks need to continue among the playoff elite.
“Offensively, I think having a guy that can put pressure on the rim is big,” Budenholzer said. “The way we run motion, the four and five are interchangeable. But it’s great to have someone that can roll and put pressure on the rim and have shooting around him. So I think it’s going to work well. In a lot to ways we’ve adjusted well to who have had the first three years here. And in some ways it’ll be going back to what I know maybe even better and maybe even more comfortable with in having somebody that can put that kind of pressure on the rim.”
Howard said he wasn’t mature enough to handle coming home three years ago. He wasn’t ready for all that comes with that, with the pressure of trying to resurrect his image and career under the watchful eye of all the family and friends that would no doubt be in his mix.
He’s convinced this is the right time. He admitted to being in a “totally different place now, physically, mentally and spiritually.” And he said all it took was his meeting with Budenholzer, a scheduled 10-minute session that lasted two hours, to push the Hawks over the top in his mind.
Well, that, and the chance to come home.
There are plans to dig in around the community, to rebuild both a career and a legacy in the place where it all started for both father and son, on the track behind the recreational center during those 4 a.m. jogging sessions and shooting and footwork drills before school.
“It’s like a great man once said,” Howard said, looking his father in the eye from the stage as he spoke, “if you want to get back to the top, you have to go back to your roots.”
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