Posts Tagged ‘Dan Fegan’

Morning shootaround — Feb. 27

VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday night


Johnson heading to Miami | They the North | Rivers wants replay challenge system | Cuban suggests deeper 3-point line

No. 1: Johnson heading to Miami The Miami Heat are in the mix to finish in the top half of the Eastern Conference’s playoff teams, but for the most part sat out the trade deadline, not making any major moves. Instead, it appears they managed to pick up a seven-time All-Star yesterday without having to move any assets: After accepting a buyout from the Brooklyn Nets, Joe Johnson will be signing with the Miami Heat, according to multiple reports. As Ethan Skolnick writes in the Miami Herald, Johnson’s relationships with Miami’s players probably had a lot to do with his decision

Dwyane Wade made it clear. If his contemporary and friend Joe Johnson accepted a buyout from the Brooklyn Nets, Wade would be “blowing up his phone” to recruit him to Miami.

Johnson, after initial resistance, did take that buyout.

It appears that Wade got his man.

According to several league sources, Johnson, a seven-time All-Star, has chosen to join the Heat after he is expected to clears waivers Saturday night. Johnson was pursued by nearly all of the NBA’s top contenders, including LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, with James even saying “he knows we want him” while speaking to reporters at Friday’s Cavaliers shootaround in Toronto.

But, according to sources, Cleveland, with its crowded backcourt and wing rotation, wasn’t one of the finalists. Johnson narrowed his choices to Miami, Oklahoma City and Atlanta due to the possibility of greater playing time, and the chance to prove worthy of another contract this season, even after earning nearly $200 million in his career.

Also helping Miami? His relationships with many of the Heat players. That started with Wade, with whom he became close when they were U.S. teammates in the 2008 Olympics.

While Johnson isn’t quite what he was — and got off to a terrible start with the broken Nets in the 2015 portion of the 2015-16 schedule — he has played extremely well since New Year’s, averaging 13.4 points and 4.4 assists and shooting 46 percent from three-point range. Miami is last in the league, shooting 32.1 percent from three-point range, and its two most reliable three-point shooters, Chris Bosh and Tyler Johnson, might both be out for the season, Bosh with a blood clot and Johnson with a surgically-repaired shoulder.

Joe Johnson has had an odd career arc, going from underrated to overpaid to somewhat underrated again. He was the player the Heat most feared in the 2014 Eastern Conference semifinals, because of his ability to post up, catch-and-shoot, play isolation and made critical plays down the stretch.

The question wasn’t whether the Heat would be interested. It was whether Miami could make it work, while also meeting another aim — staying under the luxury tax, to avoid being classified as a “repeater” team, and dealing with the punitive tax multipliers.

To stay under the tax, when it was roughly $218,000 from the line, Miami would have needed Johnson to wait to start a new Heat contract for at least another 10 days. But, with the Johnson commitment, the team began exploring options that would allow him to come sooner, and still stay under the tax. That could include waiving a current player, such as injured point guard Beno Udrih, but it would only help if another team claimed him. Miami has also explored adding outside shooter Marcus Thornton, whom it nearly signed this summer, signing Gerald Green instead; Thornton was recently traded from Houston to Detroit but, after that trade was negated by the league, was waived by the Rockets.

There was no official update on Bosh on Friday, and he didn’t speak to the media at the team’s annual gala Thursday night. But teammates are proceeding as if he won’t return this season. But now, if he doesn’t, Miami appears to have an opportunity to remain highly competitive in the Eastern Conference, with a lineup of either Amar’e Stoudemire or Hassan Whiteside at center, Luol Deng (coming off four straight double-doubles) at power forward, and either Johnson or Justise Winslow at small forward, with Wade and Goran Dragic in the backcourt. Johnson, who is 6-foot-7, could also play some power forward in smaller lineups, or some shooting guard, occasionally pairing with Wade in the backcourt.


No. 2: They the North The Toronto Raptors entered this season with high expectations, fueled by last season’s 49-win team and the addition of free agent DeMarre Carroll. Yet even with Carroll missing most of the season with injuries, the Raptors have met those expectations, and entered last night’s game against the Eastern Conference champ Cleveland Cavaliers looking to make a statement. They didn’t disappoint, as Kyle Lowry was up to the challenge, scoring a career-high 43 and leading the Raptors to a come-from-behind 99-97 win. As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes, it was a much-needed win for the Raptors, who still have plenty to prove

Trying to play it cool in the wake of one of the greatest moments of his career, Kyle Lowry went straight Bill Belichick.

“We’re moving on to Detroit,” Lowry said with a straight face, in reference to the Raptors’ next game, after his Toronto Raptors upended the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-97 after a furious fourth-quarter comeback Friday night. “It’s just a win.”

The Raptors do not have a storied history or much of an inventory of unforgettable moments outside the Vince Carter early years file. As such, it was not much of a stretch to say Lowry’s 43 points, a career high, against the Cavs rank as one of the greatest shows in team history.

Lowry’s stepback jumper over Matthew Dellavedova with 3.8 seconds left, the winning points, was unequivocally one of the best moments of Lowry’s career. It was his first game winner since he tipped one in at the buzzer when he was at Villanova. It was a moment to celebrate under any circumstances. If Lowry did so, though, it was in private.

“I will maybe enjoy it for a few minutes,” Lowry said.

Here is why.

There isn’t a day or so that goes by in which the Raptors don’t remind themselves of the past two seasons. Their first-round playoff exits, despite home-court advantage, hang over them like a cloud, amplified by the two Atlantic Division banners hanging above their bench that can feel like a needless, pointless taunt.

As masterful as Lowry was Friday — his relentless attacking and aggression wore the Cavs’ defenders out — it only briefly covered up the sting of his wilting a year ago. He refuses to let the way his body betrayed him with back and leg injuries be driven from his mind. Lowry was almost helpless in his team’s four-game sweep by the Washington Wizards last year. Injuries or no, it is a black stain on his record that doesn’t easily come off.

That’s what inspired him to report to this season in tremendous shape, and it is what won’t allow him to accept February success as anything but that.

“I know this sounds boring, and you’re going to get tired of hearing it,” Lowry said. “But we have to just focus on the process. We’ve been here before.”

Lowry has twice taken down the Cavs this season. Back in November, he scored six points and had two assists in the final five minutes of a quality win. In this one, with DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph battling illness and DeMarre Carroll recovering from knee surgery, the Raptors appeared to be toast without Lowry. They were almost toast anyway; the Cavs held the lead for most of the first 44 minutes.

For the Cavs, it was infuriating to watch, with Lowry getting to the line 15 times and thoroughly outplaying Kyrie Irving, who had just 10 points and one assist.

“We’ve got to get somebody who can guard him,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.


No. 3: Rivers wants replay challenge system The Los Angeles Clippers have developed a reputation as a team unafraid to let referees know when the disagree with a call. But Clips coach Doc Rivers has an idea that might simplify the appeals process. As Marc Spears writes for Yahoo, Rivers is in favor of an NFL-style replay challenge system

While the NBA has instant replay, it currently doesn’t allow coaches to challenge a ruling on a play. Rivers said the NBA has discussed the subject of a coach’s challenge during competition committee meetings in recent years, but it has not come close to being approved. NFL coaches are allowed two challenges per game before the snap of the ball at any time before the two-minute warning of each half or overtime period.

“I would throw it out [a challenge flag] with both hands like a shot. That’s why I couldn’t shoot,” Rivers said Friday morning during the Clippers’ shootaround for the Sacramento Kings game. “It’s a tough one to me. It’s not like officials are trying to make mistakes, but they do at the end of the games.”

A controversial call during the Clippers’ 87-81 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday sparked Rivers’ call for a challenge system.

With 30.4 seconds left and the Clippers down 85-81, Los Angeles forward Jeff Green was called for an offensive foul on a made basket after driving into defender Danilo Gallinari. The NBA admitted on its “NBA Officiating Last Two Minute Report” on Thursday that the referee made a mistake on the offensive foul call on Green. Green potentially could have had a made basket with a free throw. Rivers described it as a “horrible call, which the league acknowledged.”

“I’ve been pushing for a [challenge] flag for a year now,” Rivers said. “We should have a challenge flag. That is the third time this year [against the Clippers] that [the NBA] has come back and said it was a bad call. It doesn’t do anything for us.”

One of the games Rivers noted was a 100-99 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 21 that he said included three missed calls late in the contest. The Clippers (37-20) are in fourth place in the Western Conference standings and 3 ½ games behind the third-place Thunder (41-17).

“The league has done a great job of transparency and that has been phenomenal,” Rivers told Yahoo Sports. “But the problem with it is you don’t get anything from it if you’re the [losing] team. … The one thing I keep saying and make the point of is the refs are trying to make it right, too. It’s not like we’re mad at refs. We just want to get it right.”


No. 4: Cuban suggests deeper 3-point line Shooting a 3-pointer used to be something of a novel concept around the NBA, a high-risk, high-reward chance at a bonus point on a field goal attempt. But these days some teams (e.g. the Warriors) throw up threes like they’re layups, and as ESPN’s Tim McMahon writes, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wonders if perhaps moving back the 3-point line would open up the floor even more …

Mark Cuban has a suggestion to reintroduce the midrange shot to the NBA game: Move back the 3-point arc.

“It’s getting too close,” the Dallas Mavericks owner said Friday night of the 3-point arc, which is 23 feet, 9 inches at the crest and 22 feet in the corners, where there is no room to move it back. “Guys are shooting a foot behind it anyways. … That’s something we should look at. It’s worth looking at.

“I don’t think the number of shots would decline, but I think it would reward skill and open up the court some more. So guys would still take [3-point] shots if it’s seven inches back or whatever, but at the same time, it opens up the court for more drives, more midrange game.”

The midrange jumper has become an endangered species of sorts, while NBA players are firing 3-pointers at record rates. The single-season record for 3s is 55,137; according to ESPN Stats & Information, teams are on pace to hit 58,477 this season.

Cuban thinks moving back the 3-point arc is an idea the NBA should consider, not to discourage the deep ball, but to improve the spacing of the game.

“I think it’d open it up more so guys with different skill sets could play,” Cuban said. “It would open up play for more drives. Guys with midrange games would be rewarded and that would stay in the game. There would be more diversity of offensive action in the game.

“You’d see a little bit of decline in the 3. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that we shoot so many 3s, but it’s worth it in the D-League to see what happens [with a deeper 3-point line].”

Cuban quickly dismissed a question about whether the NBA would benefit from adding a 4-point line, perhaps 30 feet from the basket.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jerry Colangelo says it’s too soon to come to any conclusions about the 76ers … Is Gregg Popovich mellowing? … Dwight Howard has parted ways with his longtime agent Dan FeganTiago Splitter had successful hip surgery … Vince Carter’s eponymous restaurant is closing

Report: DeAndre Jordan parts ways with agents

VIDEO: DeAndre Jordan has reportedly parted ways with his representatives at Relativity Sports

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — DeAndre Jordan‘s summer of change is not over. After causing a stir with his free agent decision to leave for Dallas only to change his mind days later and stay with the Los Angeles Clippers last month, now comes word, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, that Jordan is parting ways with Dan Fegan and Jarin Akana, his representatives at Relativity Sports.

It’s the next logical step for Jordan during a summer in which he and his representatives were in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons during the opening days of free agency.

No one wants to relive the emoji battle waged by Mavericks swingman and chief recruiter Chandler Parsons and a Clippers contingent led by All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and shooting guard J.J. Redick. But Jordan was torn between his loyalty to the Clippers and the new opportunities the Mavericks presented.

Doc Rivers and the Clippers won out in the end, keeping Jordan in the fold and remaining among the Western Conference elite with a strong summer haul that also included adding Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson to their ranks.

Jordan has had three different agents in seven years and will be free to pick his next one in 15 days.

Report: Kings, Karl inch closer to deal

You might think that Vivek Ranadive, owner of the Sacramento Kings, would trust his basketball executives, learn from the team’s recent history and just get on with it. Firing Mike Malone as head coach two months ago hasn’t exactly worked the way Ranadive intended so a big step back by the owner would seem overdue.

You might hope that DeMarcus Cousins and his so-called “camp” would welcome anything that might pull the Kings out of their dreary nosedive since Thanksgiving. The Kings, after winning nine of their first 14 games, have won just nine of their last 36 and only twice in the past 29 days.

And you might expect George Karl, if he truly is as close to being hired by the Kings to replace Tyrone Corbin as reports Monday afternoon made it seem, would stop pushing for every last dollar and contract concession if his life’s desire at age 63 truly is to get his hands on one more NBA team with games to be won.

The bottom line to all this, of course, was that the Karl-to-the-Kings story that gained momentum rapidly Monday was in the sausage-making stage. While the actual event had moved into its third day, the back stories were dominating, with none of the constituents looking particularly good in the wrangling.

There was a lot more smoke than hire as NBA action tipped off Monday evening. The most authoritative came from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Others tracked the unfolding events, as the sides inched closer:

Even those who relate to Karl as a two-time cancer survivor were watching and waiting for an actual resolution to the coach’s and the team’s slow-paced dance, with the Twitter account Cancer Daily @Cancrdaily providing updates.

The Yahoo! report offered the most specifics, while reminding readers that Ranadive hadn’t done a lot for his credibility – already frayed when he talked of using 4-on-5 defensive strategies to station cherry-pickers at the other end of the floor for fantasy easy baskets – when he insisted that Malone be fired. The Kings were 11-13 when the second-year coach was sent packing, to the chagrin of multiple players. They have gone 7-19 under Corbin heading into Tuesday’s game in Chicago.

Karl, after basically campaigning for another opportunity, looked to be on the verge of adding to his 1,131-756 NBA coaching record (with 22 playoff appearances in Cleveland, Golden State, Seattle, Milwaukee and Denver). So he would seem to have his priorities jumbled if he was going to let the dollars in the deal, or the disposition of the contract’s final year (team option vs. guaranteed), get in the way of what he claims he really wants to do again.

As for Cousins, any resistance to any particular coach would seem to be a grave mistake. The Yahoo! piece reported that the Sacramento center’s agents – Dan Fegan and Jarin Akana – primarily were concerned that the Kings, what with all these coaching changes, pick a direction and stick to it. And that’s fine. But any suggestion that Cousins might disapprove of Karl specifically – lest he be asked to work hard or take some criticism – would reflect poorly on the player, who still has potential to be tapped.

Bottom line: This is a deal that make sense for all involved, and the sooner Ranadive, GM Pete D’Allessandro, Cousins, the agents and Karl all get that through their heads – and do whatever’s necessary to get on with the business of basketball rather than business – the better off they’ll all be.

Howard Picks Houston!


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Dwight Howard will chase his championships in Houston, not Los Angeles, Dallas or anywhere else the prized free-agent center was rumored to be headed in recent weeks.

The word came down Friday evening, first reported by Sam Amick of USA Today Sports. Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports Sports that his client was in still finalizing his decision and “He hopes to finalize his decision tonight or tomorrow morning.”

But two sources familiar with the situation confirmed to that Houston is indeed Howard’s choice. This ends a nearly two-year drama for Howard, who would sign a four-year, $89 million deal with the Rockets on July 10. Howard could have signed a five-year, $118 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, the only team that could offer him that fifth year and extra $30 million.

Late Friday night, after a face-to-face meeting with Howard, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak confirmed it for anyone thinking there was a chance Howard would change his mind:

The Rockets made the first presentation to Howard, just minutes after free agency began at 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1. The Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and the incumbent Lakers followed up that presentation over the course of the next two days.

Howard’s lone season with the Lakers got off to a tumultuous start, head coach Mike Brown was fired five games into the season and replaced by Mike D’Antoni, who never seemed to find common ground with Howard. A summer that began with so much promise, the acquisitions of both Howard and two-time MVP Steve Nash to go along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, bottomed out into a seventh-seed in the Western Conference playoff chase and first-round elimination at the hands of the eventual Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs.

Howard was coming off of back surgery and didn’t appear to get back into regular form until late in the season, but long after the Lakers’ championship dreams had faded. Bryant’s season-ending Achilles injury just before the playoffs began was the final dagger.

The Rockets won the recruiting battle for Howard and now they have to finish their summer work, the next piece of business being their pursuit and acquisition of Howard’s long-time friend and fellow Atlanta native Josh Smith, who is mulling over his free-agent options right now as well.

Smith, who conducted his own round of in-face meetings with teams in Los Angeles earlier this week as well, is believed to be favoring the Detroit Pistons, whose plans for the combo forward were laid out before he and his representatives met with the Rockets. But the Hawks have interest in Houston center Omer Asik, who one source told would be the linchpin to any potential sign-and-trade deal between the two teams.

With Howard, a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and the league’s reigning rebounding champ, and potentially Smith alongside All-Star shooting James Harden, versatile swingman Chandler Parsons and point guard Jeremy Lin, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will have assembled a core group capable of challenging the Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers and Warriors for supremacy in the Western Conference in 2013-14 and beyond.

“That’s a team that competes for championships, if not right away, certainly in the next two or three years,” said an Eastern Conference executive after hearing of Howard’s choice. “It didn’t work out with the Lakers and that group they had. But he’ll have a coach that will do wonders for him in Kevin McHale and group around him that will make things extremely difficult on anyone that focuses on Dwight in the paint. They’re going to give people fits.”

Howard On The Move In China, While His Q Score In Orlando Continues To Drop

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Just when you think Dwight Howard‘s Q score in Orlando couldn’t sink any lower comes news that the former Magic and now Lakers big man is in China  on a shoe company-sponsored promotional tour. And this comes two weeks after he didn’t make it to Orlando for a basketball camp for kids in Orlando, as the Orlando Sentinel was quick to point out.

We’re not going to judge, since we don’t know what sort of doctor’s orders Howard was operating on in either instance. But strictly from a perception standpoint, this one stings, especially for the kids still heartbroken that their favorite player bolted town and blew off their camp in the same two-week stretch.

A few more details from Josh Robbins of the Sentinel:

Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, deferred to adidas officials when asked why Howard flew overseas but did not appear two weeks earlier at his Orlando day camp. In a statement issued to the Orlando Sentinel, adidas officials said Howard was cleared to travel “just last week.”

In the statement, adidas officials said: “Since Dwight’s injury our focus has been on his recovery. His health has continued to improve and just last week he was cleared to travel. We are excited that Dwight is now able to participate in fan and community events as he continues to prepare for the NBA season. Dwight is an amazing athlete and outstanding partner with fans around the world.”

To be sure, Howard had remained in Southern California almost all summer after spending large portions of the 2011 offseason traveling to such locations as China, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Spain and Tanzania.

This trip is supposed to be shorter than Howard’s prior trips to the Far East. Also, Gregg Darbyshire, the chief executive of ProCamps Worldwide, the company that runs Howard’s camps, said that, as far as he knows, Howard’s previously scheduled camp for kids in China has been canceled.

Granted, Howard savaged his Q score all last season with the foolishness that was his trade request (and the obligatory denials of said request, all 15 of them) and the eight months of nonsense that revolved around that circus.

Honestly, we can’t think of a whole lot Howard can do to improve his image until the next high-profile superstar — pick anyone — forces his way out of  town. Or  the Lakers win a title.

The Dwightmare Continues

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In the wonderful world that is the never-ending Dwight Howard drama, the news one day can be debunked the very next day.

A Thursday report that suggested Howard was warming up to the idea of potentially signing a long-term extension with the Lakers, if traded there, is being refuted today by Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, who told ESPN The Magazine‘s Ric Bucher something that totally contradicts that stance.

According to this latest report, Howard will not sign an extension anywhere, and that includes Brooklyn, the one team he has said all along was his required destination:

“Dwight’s position has remained unchanged since the end of this past season,” said Dan Fegan of LaGardere Unlimited. “He fully intends to explore free agency at the end of next season, regardless of what team trades for him, including Brooklyn.”

A source said the Nets never insisted Howard commit to an extension as a prerequisite for acquiring him, which Nets president Billy King confirmed in a text message.

Howard told the Magic, according to GM Rob Hennigan, he would like to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets above any other team. The Nets made concerted efforts to strike a deal for Howard earlier this month, but were forced to stop when the Charlotte Bobcats threatened to sign their restricted free agent center, Brook Lopez, to an offer sheet.


Twilight Zone Orlando: Yet Another Trade Request From Dwight Howard?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As if things couldn’t get any crazier for Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic this year, the start of free agency brought the latest and most bizarre twist to their saga (and that’s saying a lot when you consider where this story has been since December).

According to multiple reports, Howard has asked the Magic for a trade to Brooklyn, the second time he’s asked to be traded since training camp. And per ESPN The Magazine‘s Chris Broussard, that’s just a part of an increasingly outrageous rift between Howard and the Magic:

Dwight Howard met with new Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan on Friday and told him he wants to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Howard and Hennigan sat down face to face in Los Angeles, meeting for the first time since Hennigan became Orlando’s GM nearly two weeks ago.

Hennigan was noncommital when Howard told him he wants to be traded to Brooklyn, sources said.

Hennigan did not tell Howard whether he would trade him. His intentions were merely to hear the thoughts of the Magic superstar.


Report: Back Surgery Will Sideline Magic’s Howard For Rest Of Season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The lasting image of All-Star center Dwight Howard from this season might very well be that scene at shootaround practice where he and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy did their “what did he say” tango.

Howard’s season has reportedly come to an end due to back surgery. The word came down just minutes ago, from ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher:

…  Howard will undergo back surgery Friday morning in Los Angeles to repair a herniated disk, effectively ending his season and eliminating him from participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics, Howard’s agent said Thursday night.

Howard has been complaining of back problems since early March, but it wasn’t until Los Angeles-based spine surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins examined him last week that the herniated disk was discovered.

Howard received an epidural to alleviate the pain at that time and the plan was that he’d rest and rehabilitate his back for 10-14 days before deciding if he could return to play or further treatment might be necessary.

But his back has worsened and both Watkins and the Magic’s medical staff determined that surgery is necessary.

Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, said he hopes this development debunks any thoughts that Howard’s back problem was not serious and that he was utilizing it as an excuse not to play.

A report out of Orlando said that Howard told Magic owner Rich DeVos in a recent phone call that he did not intend to play again for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who put Howard in an awkward situation by announcing that management informed him his All-Star center had asked that he be fired. Fegan, along with other sources, have disputed that report.

As devastating as Howard’s loss is for the Magic, who have already clinched a playoff berth, it’s just as devastating for the Olympic team. There are other options at center, but no one on Howard’s level and with his experience playing with the national team.

Stay tuned for more details …

Trade Chatter: Trying To Make Sense Of The Annual Trade Deadline Mess

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’re getting close to crunch time, trade deadline style.

The amount of faulty information that permeates every corner of the basketball universe this time of year is off the charts and has been known to infect even the most responsible of observers.

And that means more names, more rumors and in turn, more foolishness for us all to sort through.

Hawks forward Josh Smith was added to the list of players that have gone on record as asking for a trade request, joining his good friend and the best man in his wedding, Dwight Howard (he was last season destroying the Chicago Bulls on TNT last night). Another member of Smith’s wedding party, groomsman Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics, has also seen his name surface, disappear and resurface again in trade talks at least a dozen different times this season.

This notion that Smith and Rondo could be swapped for each other is laughable, when you consider that they played together their senior season at Oak Hill Academy and have been tight ever since. If anything, it makes sense for them to be lobbying to play together (in Boston?) as opposed to being traded for one another.

But that’s just more fuel for the trade-deadline rumor fire.

One thing is clear, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard probably won’t be teammates anywhere else but All-Star weekend (provided Howard remains in the Eastern Conference) and at the Olympics.

They both expressed their opinions on the trade deadline drama. Rose has had enough of it all, by the way, telling the Chicago Tribune:

“It definitely is getting old,” Rose said of being asked about Howard. “I’m sick and tired of hearing it. Chicago, marketing-wise is a great city. If someone chooses to come here, they definitely could.

“But I’m cool with the teammates I have. We have a winning record. It ain’t like we need to change anything. It’s not up to me. It’s up to the front office.”

There are zero indications Howard will add the Bulls to his list of teams with which he would sign an extension or that the Bulls are pursuing him.

“If it’s not about the Bulls, I really couldn’t care less about it,” Rose said.

Howard sounded off as well, citing the weather and other issues as to why Chicago isn’t on his preferred list, telling the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Nah, it’s pretty cold here,’’ Howard said when asked about the Bulls rumors.

Nothing says warrior-poet like a player who doesn’t want to chase a ring because of lake-effect snow.

As far as playing alongside the league’s 2010-11 MVP, Howard again couldn’t help but let his true colors shine through.

“I don’t think there’s a player in the NBA who wants to be a nobody,’’ Howard said. “I think everybody wants to be that guy to take the last shot, be that guy that everybody is leaning on for whatever reason, and I don’t think there’s any problem with wanting to be that guy. I’ve been that guy for this team since I’ve been here.’’

Well, that takes care of that!


How Does Lopez Injury Affect Howard?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Deron Williams scored an NBA season-high 57 points Sunday night in Charlotte, but the bigger story coming out of the Nets’ win was an injury to Brook Lopez, who would be the centerpiece of a trade for Dwight Howard.

The Nets said Monday that Lopez suffered a sprained right ankle and will be out for three weeks. The bad news is that the trade deadline is in just 10 days, and after playing every single game in his first three seasons, Lopez has suffered two injuries with his team’s sights set on Howard.

The good news is that the injury, though it’s the same foot, is unrelated to the broken bone that forced Lopez to miss the first 32 games of the season. No injuries are good, but this one isn’t too bad.

So does it affect the Nets’ ability to acquire Howard before the deadline? Not really.

Whether or not Howard gets traded still comes down to Magic owner Rich DeVos and president Alex Martins. If they decide in the next 10 days that they can convince Howard to stay in Orlando beyond this season, they’re not going to trade for Lopez, healthy or not.

But if the Magic realize that Howard’s time in Orlando is definitely coming to an end, they have no choice but to make a deal, so that they can get what they can (players, picks and cap relief) for their star. And if Howard and agent Dan Fegan make it clear that Howard will be playing in Brooklyn no matter what next season, the Magic have little choice but to make a deal with the Nets.

Even with Lopez hobbled, the Nets can still offer a decent package. In addition to Lopez (there’s no restriction on trading for an injured player), they have rookie MarShon Brooks, a bevy of first-round picks, and enough expiring contracts to absorb the contract of Hedo Turkoglu (owed at least $17.8 million after this season) or Glen Davis ($19.4 million) in a trade. The ability to offer Orlando salary relief is an asset in itself, one that New Jersey has been sure to maintain as it has struggled through a 12-26 season.

If Orlando decides to keep Howard, the Nets will wait, hoping to sign him as a free agent in July, an option that would allow them to keep Lopez and their other assets. But they’d surely jump at the chance to trade for Howard in the next 10 days.

Lopez’s latest injury shouldn’t really affect that scenario, because the possibility of a trade is really about what the Magic believe regarding Howard’s long-term intentions, and not about Lopez’s short-term health.