Dwight Howard

Lakers Notes: Waiters, LeBron, Howard

After waiving Troy Daniels on Sunday to free up a roster spot, the Lakers went ahead and reached a deal with guard Dion Waiters for the remainder of the 2019/20 season

Waiters worked out for the team earlier this week and reportedly made a good impression during his visit. The 28-year-old veteran shooter should give the Lakers a solid perimeter scoring option off of the bench. 

Before Los Angeles decided on signing Waiters, the team also worked out J.R. Smith earlier this week. Additionally, former Lakers guard Nick Young injected himself into the conversation, commenting on an Instagram post to say that L.A. should sign him instead.

Young spent four seasons in Los Angeles (2013-17), where he averaged 13.1 PPG and shot 37.7% from three-point range. After his tenure with the Lakers, he spent the 2017/18 season with the Warriors and four games last season with the Nuggets.

Here’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • All-Star forward Anthony Davis put on a show for the Staples Center crowd on Tuesday in the Lakers’ 120-107 win over the 76ers, recording 37 points, 13 rebounds, four steals, two assists, and two blocks. That type of performance is why LeBron James wanted to get him to L.A. last year, as he tells Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “It’s everything I expected and more,James said of Davis. “Obviously, that’s why I wanted him here. When you get a generational talent like that, and you got an opportunity to get him, you just try to do whatever you can to get him.”
  • There’s something different about how James has approached this season with Los Angeles, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Windhorst takes a closer look at James’ adjustment to the point guard position, his in-season strategy, and his front office relationship with the Lakers.
  • Earlier this week, Lakers team owner Jeanie Buss was asked about why Dwight Howard‘s first stint was not a success in 2013. She didn’t mince words, placing blame on former Lakers and current Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. Howard was asked about this on Wednesday night and took a different approach. “I don’t want to dig up anything from the past,” Howard said (Twitter link via McMenamin). “… I love Coach D’Antoni. The system that he had, he thought that was going to work for us. So we bought into it. I just didn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen.”

Western Notes: Conley, Turner, Howard, Suns

After a long, successful run with the Grizzlies, Mike Conley was viewed heading into this season as the player who was going to help turn the Jazz from a solid playoff team into a bona fide contender. However, it has been an up-and-down first season in Utah for Conley, who is averaging just 13.5 PPG on 39.8% shooting.

Speaking to Tony Jones of The Athletic, Conley admitted he hasn’t been able to entirely block out the criticism he has faced this season, and that he understands that criticism.

“Nobody is more frustrated than me,” Conley said. “Not the fans, not the media, not my teammates. I’m not a guy who runs from looking in the mirror. But, at this point, I have to control what I can control. I have to stay locked in. I have to focus on what I can handle. I know what’s being said. But in a big way, it’s not in my control what people may think.”

As Conley gears up for the home stretch and looks to become a consistent, reliable contributor for the Jazz, let’s round up a few more notes from around the Western Conference…

  • The Timberwolves and Evan Turner “came close” to reaching a buyout agreement by Sunday night, but couldn’t finalize a deal, tweets Darren Wolfson of SKOR North. According to Wolfson, Turner would still like to play this season, but that seems unlikely to happen with the Wolves, who are prioritizing the players they expect to be longer-term pieces.
  • Discussing Dwight Howard‘s initial stint with the Lakers, team owner Jeanie Buss singled out former Lakers – and current Rockets – head coach Mike D’Antoni as a reason why the veteran center didn’t succeed and chose to leave in free agency. “We hired a coach that didn’t respect his game and wasn’t going to put him in a position to succeed,” Buss said (video link via The Los Angeles Times).
  • Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic examines how Jordan McRae could fit with the Suns this season and potentially beyond. Phoenix reportedly intends to place a waiver claim on McRae, but there’s a possibility Detroit will do so as well, and the Pistons would have the higher priority.
  • NBA fans interested in the league’s salary cap minutiae will enjoy Jeff Siegel’s latest article at Early Bird Rights, which details the unusual case of the Kings‘ buyout agreement with Anthony Tolliver and explains why it could indirectly cost the Trail Blazers a little money.

Western Notes: Harkless, Lakers, Winslow

If New York buys out Maurice Harkless, the Lakers may be interested in signing the wing, Sam Amick of The Athletic said on The Sedano Show earlier today (h/t The Lakers Review). The Lakers, who missed out on Reggie Jackson to their L.A. rivals, are monitoring the Harkless’ situation.

Harkless came to the Knicks in the Marcus Morris deal at the trade deadline and it’s unclear whether he’ll reach a buyout agreement with the team. Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson may be angling for a sign-and-trade this summer and the Lakers would be a good fit for his services, as I wrote for Heavy.com. The team doesn’t have a long-term option at the center position and Thompson would be a nice partner to Anthony Davis in the frontcourt.
  • The Grizzlies traded for Justise Winslow to be in the team’s starting lineup eventually, Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian writes. Winslow is still recovering from a back injury, so Memphis is expected to bring him along slowly.
  • Bill Oram of The Athletic chronicles Dwight Howard‘s redemption story with the Lakers. “He’s been a guy that’s always put up great numbers,” former teammate J.J. Redick said, “but I think he’s having an impact in a really meaningful way defensively on the boards, screening, rolling to the boards.”

Poll: Who Will Win 2020 Slam Dunk Contest?

Bulls guard Zach LaVine, a two-time Slam Dunk Contest winner, flirted with the idea of taking part in this year’s event in his home arena. However, after suggesting that he’d only participate if he was named to the All-Star team, LaVine has stuck to that stance. That means fans in Chicago this weekend won’t get the opportunity to see a rematch of the 2016 final, which pitted LaVine against Aaron Gordon in perhaps the most memorable Dunk Contest of the decade.

Gordon will participate though, and he’ll be one of the most experienced dunkers on the court this Saturday night. Besides finishing as the runner-up to LaVine in 2016, Gordon also took part in 2017’s contest. Having fallen short twice before, the Magic forward is confident the third time will be the charm, telling Josh Robbins of The Athletic, “I’m gonna win.”

However, it’s Dwight Howard – not Gordon – who has the most Dunk Contest experience of any of this year’s participants. This will be Howard’s fourth time taking part in the event, and he even has a win under his belt.

That win came in 2008 though, and the Lakers center hasn’t participated in a Dunk Contest since 2009, more than a decade ago. A win this year for the 34-year-old Howard would be unprecedented in an event that’s typically a young man’s game. Dominique Wilkins, who had just turned 30 when he won 1990’s contest, is the oldest all-time winner. The second-oldest? Nate Robinson, who was 26 when he beat Howard in 2009.

If you believe that youth will win out in 2020, you’ll have to consider Bucks wing Pat Connaughton an underdog as well. The 27-year-old will be participating in his first NBA Dunk Contest, and is flying under the radar as Saturday’s festivities near — something he says is just fine with him.

No one’s worried about me and hopefully Saturday night they’ll be like, ‘Damn, I should have been worried about him,'” Connaughton said this week, per Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The fourth contestant this year will be Heat swingman Derrick Jones Jr., who will also be celebrating his birthday on Saturday, as he turns 23. Jones finished as the runner-up to Glenn Robinson III in 2017’s event and will likely have some new tricks up his sleeve this time around.

What do you think? Will Howard defy the odds and win his second Dunk Contest? Will Gordon or Jones get over the hump after placing second in past competitions? Will the first-time Connaughton make a name for himself with a win on Saturday?

Vote below our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

USA Basketball Announces 44 Finalists For 2020 Olympic Roster

USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.

Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Rockets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
  22. Dwight Howard (Lakers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Lakers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
  36. Chris Paul (Thunder)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  38. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  41. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  42. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  43. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
  44. Derrick White (Spurs)

Lakers Notes: Kuzma, LeBron, Howard, KCP

It’s too early to declare that Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma can’t be effective alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, writes Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. He notes that Kuzma missed training camp because of a foot injury he suffered with Team USA and didn’t get a chance to develop chemistry with his All-Star teammates. Kuzma has been mentioned as a possible trade option, but coach Frank Vogel says his value to the team is increasing.

“His rhythm is growing, with our offense, with his new teammates, with the defensive schemes,” Vogel said. “All those things when they change frequently for a young player, it can be a challenge. But I think he is coming around … he has got to make the right plays. Sometimes that means you don’t take as many shots because the defense is rotating to you or double teaming you. That’s something we preach to the whole team … it’s not different with Kyle. Some nights he is going to facilitate more, some nights he is going to be the recipient more.”

Mannix believes the Lakers will decide to keep Kuzma and hope he becomes a consistent third scoring option. He points out that Kuzma is only 24 and is trying to find his role on a team that has undergone considerable changes in the last two offseasons.

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • After James passed Kobe Bryant last night to move into third place on the career scoring list, the all-time record now seems attainable, states Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. James remains at the top of his game at age 35 and is averaging more than 25 PPG for the 16th straight season. He needs 4,733 points to catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which would mean averaging about 20 PPG for three more years.
  • Sean Deveney of Heavy examines whether the Lakers are willing to pay Dwight Howard enough to keep him when he becomes a free agent this summer. A rival executive tells Deveney that Howard should be able to demand “a good part” of L.A.’s $9.7MM mid-level exception. “I am very happy here,” Howard said of L.A. “I like being here, I am having fun being here. I don’t know what is going to happen in the future, but I know I can’t think about that or focus on it. I am just focused on being here.”
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has overcome a rough start to become an important contributor, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. He has also quieted the boos at Staples Center that were frequent when his shot was misfiring early in the season. “He trusts his talent,” assistant coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s done what we’ve asked him to do, from coming off the bench to starting, to coming off again. That’s a true pro.”

Western Notes: Vanderbilt, Burks, Drummond, Howard

Nuggets reserve forwards Jarred Vanderbilt and Vlatko Cancar could be the beneficiaries of Mason Plumlee‘s misfortune, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Plumlee will be out 2-4 weeks with a foot injury. Vanderbilt, a 2018 second-round pick, had played in 13 G League games and four with the NBA club this season. Cancar had appeared in seven Nuggets games entering Wednesday’s action.

“Just find ways, that’s our biggest challenge right now,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of Plumlee’s injury. “Don’t waste an ounce of energy on the guys that can’t play, let’s figure out who can play and go out there, fight and give ourselves a chance.”

We have more Western Conference news:

  • Alec Burks is the Warriors’ most valuable trade chip and the team is likely to make at least one deal before February’s deadline, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area relays. The versatile wing, who scored 33 points on Monday, is making just $2.32MM this season. Several teams in recent weeks have expressed interest in Burks, according to Poole.
  • Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Sacramento’s Nemanja Bjelica, Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love and San Antonio’s Jakob Poeltl are potential trade targets for the Mavericks, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News writes. The Mavs are seeking help in the wake of Dwight Powell‘s season-ending injury.
  • In an unusual decision for a player of his age, Dwight Howard has decided to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend, according to a league press release. Howard, who has turned into a valuable member of the Lakers’ bench, participated in three previous dunk contests early in his career but hasn’t been in one since 2009.

Los Angeles Notes: Howard, Kawhi, Trades, China

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t surprised by Dwight Howard‘s turnaround season with the Lakers, praising the veteran for his commitment to Los Angeles and the work he’s put in.

“Dwight’s a very talented basketball player,” D’Antoni said, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “If he is happy and willing to do it, which obviously he is, there’s no reason he wouldn’t be successful.”

Howard has happily accepted his role off the bench this season, posting averages of 7.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in just 20 minutes per contest. His production behind the likes of Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee has helped propel the Lakers to a 34-8 record.

“It’s impressive, it also shows, when everything’s right, a person’s talents come through and he is a talented guy,” D’Antoni said of Howard.

“You’re talking about the NBA. Anything is possible. Nothing surprises me. There’s no reason not to. I don’t think he left on bad terms. It was a tough year on everybody. A little bit (surprised) but not (a great deal.) Same with Melo (Carmelo Anthony) shows up in Portland and (is) having a great year. The NBA is all about finding an opportunity and making the most of it.”

Here are some other notes out of Los Angeles tonight:

  • Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has been pouring it on during the team’s latest five-game surge, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. Leonard has scored 180 points in his last five games, good for an average of 36 per contest. “He’s an All-Star, man,” teammate Montrezl Harrell said of Leonard. “He’s done it in this league for a number of years. He doesn’t get a lot of credit just because of how quiet that he is, but I don’t think he looks for it. He’s a guy who comes to work and just comes looking to do his job, day in and day out.”
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report examines the potential trades for the Clippers ahead of this season’s Feb. 6 deadline, with the team not quite dominating the way most envisioned through the first half of the season. The team holds a 30-13 record despite facing various injuries. “They just haven’t had their guys. George and Pat (Beverley) have been hurt, Kawhi has his load management,” one Eastern Conference executive told Pincus. “We’ve seen what they can do at full strength against the Lakers on Christmas.”
  • The Lakers expressed no interest in commenting on the Rockets-China conflict that emerged roughly three months ago, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Los Angeles defeated Houston 124-115 on Saturday. “That has nothing to do with me or with the Lakers – I’m going to stay away from that,” Howard said when asked about the situation. “Stay away from China questions. … No offense.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Pacific Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southwest Division:

Dwight Howard, Lakers, 34, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2019
Skepticism was rampant when the Lakers brought Howard back. That included the team’s front office, who gave him a non-guaranteed veteran’s minimum deal. Instead of quickly wearing out his welcome, Howard has been wearing out second-unit centers. In the last three games, Howard has averaged 14 PPG and 15 RPG. Injuries limited Howard to nine games with Washington last season but the future Hall-of-Famer has proven he can accept a bench role and still have a major impact on a contending team. He’ll get significantly more than the veteran’s minimum this summer.

Nemanja Bjelica, Kings, 31, PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $20.5MM deal in 2018
When Bjelica gets rolling, he can be an offensive force. Orlando learned that lesson on Monday when he erupted for 34 points. He’s also had 27- and 30-point games for the Kings this season. Bjelica started regularly for Sacramento last season but he’s turned it up a notch in his second season there, averaging career highs in points (12.2 PPG), rebounds (6.6 RPG) and assists (2.5 APG) while making 43.4% of his long-range attempts. The Kings can retain Bjelica’s services by guaranteeing his $7.15MM salary prior to free agency. He’s making that an easy decision.

Maurice Harkless, Clippers, 26, SF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $42MM deal in 2016
Being the fifth option on the court, especially on a team loaded with scorers like the Clippers, can be tough for many players to accept. Harkless embraces that role, which is why he’s a steady presence in the rotation. He’s averaging 5.5 PPG while playing 22.8 MPG due to his limited opportunities. Harkless’ defensive rating has jumped this season, why is why Doc Rivers keeps calling his number. Harkless is making $11MM this season prior to unrestricted free agency. He’ll have to take a pay cut this summer but he’ll find a second-unit job in the open market.

Dario Saric, Suns, 25, PF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $10.75MM deal in 2016
Saric’s NBA career has gone south after a promising second season in Philadelphia in which he averaged 14.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG while making 39.3% of his 3-pointers. Saric was included in the Jimmy Butler deal with Minnesota last season and was later sent to Phoenix in a draft-night trade. His playing time has fallen substantially this month, including a couple of games in which he barely left the bench. Phoenix can make him a restricted free agent by extending a $4.79MM qualifying offer. It’s likely the Suns will seek an upgrade at power foward and allow Saric to move on.

Alec Burks, Warriors, 28, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.32MM deal in 2019
Burks scored 25 points in an overtime loss to the Nuggets on Thursday after shooting 27.7% from the field and 29.2% from 3-point range in his previous five games. He’s averaging 15.9 PPG but that’s mainly a product of opportunity on a bad team. He’s taking a career-high 12.4 shots per game, including 4.5 from long range. On the flip side, Burks settled for a veteran’s minimum contract last season. He’s done enough to get a better offer as a second-unit scorer, though he’s not going to make $10MM-plus as he did the previous three seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Rondo, Kuzma, Dudley

The Lakers haven’t missed a beat with Anthony Davis out of their lineup for the last three games, beating Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Cleveland by an average margin of nearly 20 points per contest as the star big man recovers from a lower back injury. As Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times writes, the team’s success prompted Davis to joke today that the Lakers don’t actually need him, but head coach Frank Vogel wasn’t quite ready to make light of the situation.

“This is L.A., you know everything I say will be quoted out of context,” Vogel said. “So I was gonna make a joke, but I’m not gonna joke because we definitely need Anthony Davis.”

As for when Davis might return to the Lakers’ lineup, the team isn’t ready to offer a specific timeline, once again listing AD as questionable for Wednesday’s game vs. Orlando. For his part, Davis said he feels much better, but hasn’t yet taken any contact or sprinted, per Ganguli.

“When I feel like I’m able to get back to my old self and do the moves I’ve always done and be successful at it, that’s when I’ll be able to get back on the floor,” Davis said.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Rajon Rondo missed Monday’s game due to a fracture in his right ring finger and is expected to be sidelined for a few more days, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. The veteran point guard has been ruled out for Wednesday, while his status for Saturday’s game in Houston remains up in the air.
  • Despite Kyle Kuzma‘s strong recent play, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report makes the case that newly-promoted head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka has to do his due diligence to see if the Lakers can upgrade their roster by moving the third-year forward, since the team doesn’t have many other draft assets or prospects to offer.
  • He wasn’t one of the Lakers’ most noteworthy offseason signees, but Jared Dudley has proven his value to the franchise. As Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet relays (via Twitter), LeBron James referred to the veteran forward as “one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”
  • In contrast to the first go-round, Dwight Howard‘s second stint with the Lakers has been “pure joy” for both sides, Helene Elliott writes in a column for The Los Angeles Times.