Orlando Magic

Harris Sparked Pistons' Offense

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may think twice before committing to a contract extension with the Pistons, according to David Mayo of MLive. The third-year shooting guard will be eligible for an extension this offseason, but he may try to increase his value with another productive season and then take his chances as a restricted free agent next summer. “I think what’s important is we’ll have to have discussions and see what’s important to Kentavious and have a sense of where they’re at with the whole thing,” said GM Jeff Bower. “It’s something that doesn’t have to take place. But what does have to take place is an understanding of what’s important, what time frames are important, how he understands his place and role here.” Caldwell-Pope started all 76 games he played this season, averaging 14.3 points per night.

There’s more on the Central Division:

  • Replacing Ersan Ilyasova with Tobias Harris in a February trade helped the Pistons reach the playoffs, Mayo writes in a separate piece. Ilyasova tended to slow down the offense, while Harris displayed a willingness to pass, shoot, drive, rebound and do anything the team needed from him. Detroit’s offensive rating improved nearly three points per 100 possessions after Harris arrived. Mayo adds that the Pistons will emphasize shooting as they search the free agent market for backups at the point guard and power forward positions.
  • Tyronn Lue hasn’t signed a new contract since taking over as the Cavaliers‘ head coach in January, but he’s not interested in any of the open positions around the league, relays Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Lue was the league’s highest-paid assistant, with a four-year deal he signed in 2014 worth $6.5MM. After replacing David Blatt, Lue reached a verbal agreement worth $3MM prorated for his time as head coach this season and another $3MM for next year, along with a team option for 2017/18 at $3.5MM with a buyout. An unidentified source told ESPN the Cavs will live up to the offer and plan to finalize the deal with Lue this summer.
  • Pacers coach Frank Vogel is used to the level of criticism he received after the Game 5 loss to Toronto, which included calls for his firing on social media, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star“I don’t take it personally,” Vogel said after the Indiana blew out the Raptors in Game 6. “I hear everything. I don’t take anything personal. The passion the fans have? It isn’t as strong as mine.”

Magic Should Pass On Pursuing Dwight Howard

  • The Magic should resist sentimentality and decline to pursue center Dwight Howard this summer if the big man opts out of his deal, as he is expected to do, opines Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. While Orlando’s fans may push for the team to ink Howard in their desperation for the Magic to land a star player, the center’s lack of post game and diminishing physical skills should give the team pause when considering a reunion with the veteran, Robbins adds.

Blakely: Magic A Potential Suitor For Evan Turner

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com points to the fondness the Knicks have for the former No. 2 overall pick and suggests the Magic will come after Turner, too. Orlando has no shortage of cap space, with enough for two maximum-salary free agents, and while it shouldn’t take the max to secure Turner, he appears poised for a raise on his salary of less than $3.426MM for this season.

Dwight Howard Misses Orlando

  • Howard refused to talk about his future after Houston’s playoff elimination Wednesday night, notes Sam Amick of USA Today, who passes along noteworthy comments Howard made last month about the Magic, who’ve since emerged as an apparent co-favorite to sign him this summer“To this day man, Orlando has always been special to me,” Howard said of his original NBA home. “Each city, the city grows on me so much because, like I said, I’m a people person and I’m always out in the community. I start to develop relationships, even with people at the smallest places. The Waffle House, stuff like that. … When you leave, it’s like anything. You’re like, ‘I miss this,’ and ‘I miss that.’ And Orlando was a place that I think about all the time. I basically grew up there, and I had so many friends there and stuff like that. I just hate how the situation [his departure from Orlando] happened, just the way that it was perceived. I totally hated that.”

Magic, Bucks, Blazers, Hornets In Lead For Howard?

The Magic, Bucks, Trail Blazers and Hornets are the favorites for Dwight Howard in free agency this summer, as Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com writes within a broader piece on the Rockets, Howard’s current team. Houston has long expected Howard to turn down his $23.282MM player option for next season in search of a max deal that would pay him about $30MM next season, and Howard and fellow Rockets star James Harden have a chemistry that one team source described to Watkins as “cordially bad.”

Howard would prefer to re-sign with the Rockets but would entertain the idea of returning to the Magic, his first NBA team, as Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher heard. Howard told Bucks play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson he wanted the Rockets to trade him to Milwaukee at the February deadline this year, Johnson said. The Hornets and Rockets had exploratory trade talks about Howard before the deadline, and Howard played under Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford when he was an assistant. This is the first reported link between Howard and Portland this year.

The 30-year-old former All-Star is known for indecisiveness regarding contract matters in the past, so it would be no shock if this list of front-runners undergoes drastic changes between now and July, when he can sign a contract with a new team. Howard was a client of agent Dan Fegan during his split with the Magic and one-year Lakers tenure, but earlier this year he dropped Fegan in favor of Perry Rogers, Shaquille O’Neal’s rep.

Chandler Parsons publicly campaigned Tuesday for Howard to join him on the Mavericks, but the Mavericks don’t want to give Howard a deal approaching the max, and Dirk Nowitzki, who’s spoken openly about potential free agents in the past, declined comment when asked about the possibility of Howard in Dallas, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com.

The Magic are in line to have no shortage of cap room this summer, with enough flexibility to sign two max free agents. Portland doesn’t have quite that much but still has more than enough flexibility to afford a max contract for Howard, even with Damian Lillard‘s max extension kicking in. The Bucks would likely have to perform some cap gymnastics to accommodate Howard, since they already have close to $62MM in guaranteed salary committed against a projected $92MM cap. Charlotte only has about $46MM on the books, but that doesn’t include any money for soon-to-be free agents Al Jefferson, whom Howard would likely replace if he were to sign with the Hornets, or Nicolas Batum.

Regardless, it appears Howard would face a difficult atmosphere if he were to return to Houston next season. One source close to the Rockets told Watkins that Howard lost the respect of his teammates, though a Rockets player who spoke with Watkins offered a dissenting view. Harden and Howard have spoken about their on-court issues and Harden paid for Howard’s birthday dinner earlier this season, but the high-scoring guard feels Howard is too distracted and doesn’t demand the ball enough, according to Watkins. Howard doesn’t feel Harden respects him and solicits the opinions of former teammates about what he can do to fix that, as Watkins details.

What’s your best guess as to where Howard ends up? Leave a comment to share your idea.

Jameer Nelson Contemplates Asking For Trade

Jameer Nelson would prefer to remain with the Nuggets, but if it appears he won’t see more playing time than he received down the stretch this season, he won’t hesitate to have agent Steve Mountain ask Denver to trade him, reports Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Nelson signed a three-year, $13.622MM contract with the Nuggets just this past summer and began the season as the primary backup to Emmanuel Mudiay, averaging 27.6 minutes per game through January 15th. Nelson appeared for only one seven-minute stint after January 30th, though that was initially because of a wrist injury that at one point threatened to prematurely end his season.

The 34-year-old Nelson returned to the active list after the wrist caused an eight-game absence in February, but while he was out, Denver traded for D.J. Augustin, who played well enough to convince coach Michael Malone to drop Nelson to third on the depth chart, as Dempsey details. Malone is clearly fond of Augustin, calling him the team’s “security blanket,” and Augustin has said he’d love to re-sign with the Nuggets when he hits free agency this summer.

“Like I said we’ll figure it out and see what’s going on,” Nelson said, according to Dempsey. “I would love to come back here. That’s the reason why I signed a three-year deal. But it’s just one of those things that, it’s a business. It’s a business, and we have to figure it out.”

Nelson had sincere doubts about Denver when the Nuggets acquired him via trade during the 2014/15 season, but he praised the organization this past fall, saying the team delivered on its promise that it had a role in mind for him, and he organized a summertime bonding session with teammates. He was a fan, like most Nuggets, of Melvin Hunt, the team’s interim coach for the spring of 2015, and while he opted out last summer and said the team’s choice of a new coach would be a determining factor as he thought about whether to re-sign, he followed through and signed his new contract with the Nuggets after they hired Malone.

Orlando, where Nelson spent the majority of his career, maintains a place in his heart, Nelson said this season, and Magic GM Rob Hennigan has spoken openly of his desire to have more veterans on the team. The Magic will have plenty of cap room available to absorb Nelson’s salary of close to $4.541MM for next season without sending salary in return, if necessary.

Magic Should Consider Trading First-Rounder

  • Given that their 2016 first-round selection is likely to fall outside the top 10, the Magic should strongly consider trading the pick for a player who can contribute immediately, opines Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders. With this year’s draft extremely top-heavy in terms of depth, adding another player who’s years away from contributing makes little sense for Orlando, Taylor adds.

Magic Notes: Fournier, Veterans, Hezonja

The Magic wants to re-sign Evan Fournier, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel writes. “One of our biggest, if not our biggest, priorit[ies] is to make sure Evan stays with us,” Magic GM Rob Hennigan said, “and we’re confident we’ll be able to do that.” Orlando intends to pursue targeted free agents aggressive this summer but won’t overspend out of desperation if it doesn’t land one of its top targets, Robbins adds.

Here’s more out of Orlando:

  • The Magic would likely benefit from adding difference-making veterans this offseason, Robbins details in a separate pieceJason Smith and C.J. Watson are the Magic’s most-tenured players, but they’re role players, Robbins writes. To add more experienced players, the Magic have up to $45MM in cap space for free agents, as Robbins points out.
  • Orlando does not have a star returning and its chances of landing one this summer are slim, but the Celtics and Hornets have proven that the Magic can still experience a winning season, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel opines.
  • Mario Hezonja figures to have a critical role for the Magic going forward and he will stay busy this summer by playing for Croatia in an Olympic Qualifying Tournament from July 4th through July 9th in Italy, Robbins writes in another piece. The summer between a player’s first and second seasons typically is a crucial time in a player’s career, as Robbins notes, so it will be interesting to see how Hezonja responds.

Magic Will Look To Add Experience This Offseason

  • Magic GM Rob Hennigan noted that it was a priority for the team to sign players with experience in the league this offseason, a sentiment that was echoed by many on Orlando’s current roster, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel relays (Twitter links).

Harris Trade Came Together Late

Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld was disappointed by the failure to make the playoffs but insists his team has a strong foundation for the future, according to Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. Washington fired coach Randy Wittman shortly after the 41-41 season came to a close. “The players tell you what to do, and I thought we were very inconsistent this year,” Grunfeld said. “That’s probably the only consistent thing about us: We went up and down. And there was no sense of urgency. I don’t think we played with the type of energy on a nightly basis that you need to achieve the kind of goals that we had. We had high expectations internally and externally.” Grunfeld will lead the search for the Wizards’ next coach and says he has already heard from agents for several interested applicants.

There’s more tonight from the Eastern Conference:

  • The trade that brought Tobias Harris to the Pistons emerged right before the deadline, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News“His name wasn’t even out there for us until two days before we did the deal,” said coach/executive Stan Van Gundy. “We were really surprised.” Harris averaged 16.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game after arriving from Orlando, helping Detroit secure its first playoff spot since 2009 and the first of Harris’ career.
  • Center Miles Plumlee is looking forward to next year after the late-season surge that made him a key part of the Bucks‘ rotation, writes Charles F. Gardner of The Journal Sentinel“I’m just really thankful for the opportunity to get out there and play,” Plumlee said. “I love the game. I love the team here. I think we’re building something really special and I hope to continue to be a part of it.” Plumlee completed his four-year rookie scale contract and will enter restricted free agency this summer.
  • Sean Marks started fining players for showing up late after taking over as Nets GM, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Several players confirmed to Lewis that frequent lateness was a problem with the team.

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