HoopsHype rumors

March 10, 2013 | 08:04 PM ET Update

With Howard's free agency looming and this Lakers team that so many saw as title contenders pushing to reach the playoffs, the notion that he may not spend his next few years as an Los Angeles A-lister is stunning, considering the fanfare that surrounded his arrival. Howard, even with the Lakers' recent successful stretch in which they've won 16 of 22 games and finally reached playoff position in the Western Conference, is still taking the L.A. confidential approach in discussing his future. "The only thing that matters is right now," he says. USA Today Sports

When asked what needed to occur for him to feel good about re-signing this summer, Howard cited his most valued factor — winning — but declined to go further. As for the relationship with Bryant that has been rocky at times but appears to be improved recently, Howard insisted he can be happy in this climate where Bryant steals so much of the spotlight. "I just use everything that has happened this year as a time for me to humble myself, to see how things could be (in the future)," Howard says. "Watching Kobe, as far as like everybody (saying), 'Kobe did this. He's the greatest in the world, the best at everything.' There's nothing ever said bad about Kobe. As a player, that's what you want. USA Today Sports

The big man who was so beloved there returns Tuesday for the first time since he was traded seven months ago, this time as the villain. In an exclusive interview with USA TODAY Sports, Howard acknowledged that this script — the one that included twists and turns and battered his once-sparkling image — should have been written differently. "In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way," he said, sitting at his kitchen table. "If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media. "I really just got caught up in wanting to please everybody else. I really love that city. That was the hardest thing to do was to leave that city because I basically grew up there. That was my whole life. Orlando was it. I did not want to leave all that behind — the city, just everything about it. The fans. But I wanted a change for my life. I just felt like there was something else out there for me." USA Today Sports

"There are a lot of things about me that have changed," said Howard, the 27-year-old Atlanta native who was drafted first overall out of high school in 2004. "I'm becoming a better man because of the stuff that has happened to me this last year and a half. Everybody goes through stuff like this. Even though I'm going through it where everybody in the world can see it, I'm happy that it's happening. "If it didn't happen, I'd be stuck in my ways. I would never change, and then it would be a lot worse. For all this stuff to happen, for me to sit back and see and evaluate myself and what I could've done better and realize that I needed to make a change, I'm getting better. I'm growing up. I'm maturing." USA Today Sports

"I just felt at the time like, 'I'm not going to say anything. I'm just going to sit back and let it unfold.' By doing that, everybody was getting mixed signals. They're hearing this on TV, or I might make a quote about this and they twist it and turn it into something else. Now you've got everybody like, 'What is he doing?'… It was story after story after story start coming out saying it was me saying this and me saying that, and I'm like, 'I never said none of this stuff.' I could tell some of that stuff started to bother my teammates, but I didn't say nothing because I'm like, 'They know that I'm not saying this.' And it just kept piling on, and piling on." USA Today Sports

Corbin, whose ego took even a bigger blow than his body — "I still owe him for that," he said last week, "... I’m going to pick my chance to get him" — was enamored. "That’s the thing I respect about who he is," Corbin said, "is that he play his game all the time. ... He has an identity of who he is, he’s a big, banging physical guy, and that’s always who he’s trying to play like." Salt Lake Tribune

A new development may help explain why Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is still hesitant to return to the court. ESPN's Doris Burke spoke with the former MVP before Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers and reported that although Rose has been taking full contact in practice for well over a month, his hamstrings are "on fire" after those workouts. Rose added that he won't return to the court until he's past those issues. ESPN.com

There has been talk that commissioner David Stern would consider the idea of a World Basketball Classic, similar to baseball’s tournament. The challenge for Stern and FIBA would be getting American superstars to play. Also, the shoe companies may have to be acknowledged in such a deal. The league’s focus continues to shift overseas, with the announcement of eight more preseason games to be played in cities such as Istanbul, Beijing, and London. The Thunder will play Fenerbahce Ulker, the same club that beat the Celtics last October in Istanbul. Boston Globe

March 10, 2013 | 05:11 PM ET Update

Still, he stands by his assertion that he deserves a top-level contract, and he will find out in the coming months whether any team feels the same way. “I didn’t just come up and make the statement that I was [a maximum player] — it was a question that I was asked,” he said. “I gave an honest answer. It’s not added pressure. I’m not going around just stating that. It was definitely a question. “I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to look ahead. I focus on the present. As long as we do special things during the season or during the postseason, I don’t look into the future. I’ll think about [free agency] when it gets here.” Boston Globe

Atlanta can re-sign him. Dallas has enough cap space. Houston might be in the mix. The Nets, however, left the picture at the trade deadline. “That’s a pretty good team,” Smith said about Brooklyn. “They have a lot of talent. The organization has definitely been turned around by the owner they have. They’re a good team. We’re a good team too. Who knows what would have happened, but it didn’t happen. I’m here. So I just have to focus on what I can do in order for us to keep succeeding and keep getting better.” New York Daily News

A maximum deal would start at five years and about $90 million, which scared Ferry, who, like several league executives, doesn’t believe Smith is worth that. But Ferry decided to keep Smith, who is now potentially in his final days as a Hawk, trying to push the rather insignificant franchise to a top-division playoff seed. “It was total chaos, for two or three weeks,” said Smith. “It’s good just to concentrate, knowing where I’m at, at least until the end of the season, and now we can focus on what we can do to make a playoff push and jockeying for position, knowing that it’s a real tight race. It’s good to be able to focus on basketball.” Boston Globe

The Utah Jazz's year-long standoff with guard Raja Bell came to an end Sunday when they waived the 36-year-old. The move opens up a roster spot for the Jazz, which according to a league source they will use to sign D-League All-Star Game MVP Travis Leslie to a 10-day contract. The Jazz's interest in Leslie was first reported on Friday by Yahoo! Sports. Salt Lake Tribune

The need to declare that the Celtics were Rondo's team was a curious phenomenon from the start. It was hard to imagine that future Hall of Famers Pierce and Garnett ever completely bought into that, although they were happy to play along for public consumption. "I don't know if they did or not," said Rivers, "but all I know is those two guys are talking more. When Rondo comes back, Paul and Kevin need to continue to lead the way they are now. Because, honestly, I don't buy into the 'Whose team is it?' I think that's the silliest damn stuff. I don't care whose team it is. Just go play together." ESPN.com

Oklahoma City represents yet another contending playoff team with superior athleticism. The Celtics' recent success has left them in a tie with Atlanta for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, yet few are prepared to coin them championship material. "Anything is possible," said Pierce. "We match up really well with Miami, and we've beaten Indiana twice. We match up well with New York, Brooklyn. So you're talking about the top-four teams in the East right there. "Ask around. I don't think anyone is going to want to play us." ESPN.com

Some coaches might have pulled Howard off the court to give the Lakers four or five shooters. Instead, D'Antoni said he'll live and die with Howard on the floor. "I'm not taking Dwight out. He's too valuable. You take him out, like when they did hack-a-Shaq at the end ... then defensively we can't stop anybody," said D'Antoni. "He'll make his foul shots. I've got faith in him. If everybody plays hard and if that's how we go down, then we'll go down that way." On plays where the team needs a three, D'Antoni isn't concerned about Howard getting caught with the ball — and sent to the free-throw line. "We know how to get around that," he said. "That's not a big deal." Los Angeles Times

"I'm a big thinker," Howard said during a wide-ranging, candid interview after the Los Angeles Lakers practiced Saturday afternoon. "So I just stayed in the hotel and thought about the first half of the season and how I could do better for our team. "And I just told myself, 'I'm going to commit myself to being better for the second half of the season.' " ESPN.com

Haiti Prime Minister called on a group of retired NBA players to invest in Haiti Saturday during a philanthropic summit in Miami. The event at the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, was additionally attended by former US President Bill Clinton, who traveled to Haiti on Sunday. Lamothe addressed a group of attendees including former NBA stars including Glen Rice, Penny Hardaway and Haitian-born Olden Polynice, who was recently named a goodwill ambassador by Haiti President Michel Martelly. Caribbean Journal

March 10, 2013 | 12:32 PM ET Update

With 12 games in the books since Bill Cartwright took over as the Osaka Evessa’s new head coach, his message at the gym, wherever practices and games are held, has been simple and constant. Cartwright preaches “defense, defense, defense,” Evessa big man Rick Rickert told Hoop Scoop in a recent telephone interview. The Evessa are very much a work in progress, but at 6-6 (entering this weekend) since Cartwright became the second former NBA head coach to lead a bj-league team — ex-Tokyo Apache bench boss Bob Hill was the first — there are some positive signs to build off. After all, the Evessa were in complete disarray throughout most of their first 24 games (19 defeats). Japan Times

March 10, 2013 | 10:40 AM ET Update

The Mavericks will probably sign a young player out of the D-League, rather than bring in a re-tread such as Mike Bibby, Earl Boykins, Michael Redd or Baron Davis. Among the possibilities is point guard Chris Wright, who has averaged 15.5 points and seven assists for Iowa of the D-League. Also, Texas Legends point guards Justin Dentmon and Sean Singletary are on the Mavericks’ radar. Dallas Morning News

Gigi Datome, captain and star of Virtus Roma, may sign in the NBA next season. The forward of the Italian National team is having his best season in Serie A, where he scores 17.8ppg with 5.8rpg shooting with 53.9% from two and 46.1% from the arc in 21 games played. Datome, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, is drawing interest from at least three NBA teams and one of them are the Boston Celtics. Sportando

Recently, Datome changed also his agent moving from Side by Side (owned by Toto Ricciotti, former agent of Andrea Bargnani) to Sigma Sports of Matteo Comellini. 'I am sure he can have a future in the NBA' said his teammate in Roma, Jordan Taylor. 'He is a great shooter and player. Several teams may need a player like him' added former Wisconsin PG in an interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Taylor also has NBA goals and one of his targets is to be at the NBA Summer League in July. Taylor is averaging 11.5ppg with 2.7rpg and 2.5apg. At the same time, Virtus Roma started as well negotiations with Taylor to keep him in the team for one more season. Sportando

Cavs center Marreese Speights is expected to opt out of his contract at the end of the season. I don’t believe the Cavs will go out of their way to try to sign him in free agency. Here’s why. Anderson Varejao will be the starting center, flanked by Thompson at power forward, on next year’s team. Tyler Zeller will move back to his role as third big — the first big man off the bench. I believe the Cavs will try to add one of the talented big men with their high first-round pick in the 2013 NBA draft. Then, if they are able to sign Greg Oden, they’d be fortified in the frontcourt. The 7-foot Oden could eventually be worked into the rotation. If he excels, the Cavs would have talent and depth. If he fails to regain his edge, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Morning Journal

Though the Jazz haven't confirmed a potential move, Leslie tweeted this from his personal account (@FlightLeslie23) after reports hit the Internet on Friday: "Glad to be given this opportunity. Couldn't be here without the man above #GodIsGood." Asked if he addressed his team about possible lineup changes, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said the squad has to focus on who's currently on the team and the task at hand. "We can't worry about any changes," Corbin said. "We are where we are. Whatever happens, happens." Deseret News

To bring on a new player like Leslie, the Jazz would have to cut one player because the team's roster sits at an NBA maximum of 15. But the most likely candidate to be cut, Raja Bell, remains on the team's roster and payroll, continuing to get $3.48 million worth of paychecks for staying away from the squad. Asked multiple times Friday, Bell's agent, Herb Rudoy, said the exiled Jazz guard's camp did not hear from the organization about the situation. Deseret News

D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph were on the team flight here Saturday, a strong indication that the Celtics will re-sign them to 10-day contracts. White’s initial 10-day contract was set to expire at midnight Saturday and Randolph’s is set to expire at midnight Sunday. Boston Globe

The Mavericks are in the market for another player after waiving Dominique Jones on Saturday because of a buildup of indiscretions off the court combined with ineffective play. The former first-round pick (25th overall in 2010) had slipped out of the playing rotation. Since Jan. 1, he had played in just five games, totaling only 29 minutes, 39 seconds of playing time. Dallas Morning News

He also had failed to show attention to detail, which had become distracting. At Detroit on Friday, Jones left the floor before the game started and did not reach the bench area again until more than two minutes had elapsed off the first-quarter clock. That wasn’t the first such episode, but it was the one that triggered the decision to jettison the 6-4 guard. Dallas Morning News

Howard revealed he's also shown more appreciation for Kobe Bryant's brutally honest feedback and devotion to his craft. Howard followed Bryant's advice to shoot 1,000 jumpers a day to assuage his fear of missing. "He doesn't care about nothing but going out there and playing hard," Howard said. "I'm sure when he first got to L.A., that was something that really got to him. But he just got in the gym and worked at it." Long Beach Press-Telegram

Those numbers actually are a decrease to his similar average (16.2 points on 57.4 percent shooting, 12.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game). But Howard has shown improvement in his conditioning, defense and pick-and-roll execution. His progress since the All-Star break three weeks ago starts with his diet. He's stripped away candy in favor of Whole Foods. "All the sugar is bad for us," Howard said. "It causes us to get fatigued." Howard said he changed his pregame preparation. "You go home and, despite playing video games, I just thought about what we're trying to accomplish as a team," Howard said. "I really want to win a championship. That's the reason why I'm in L.A. Me and the trainers talked about ways I could get myself into better shape." Long Beach Press-Telegram

Stuckey's lackluster play earned him a first-half benching by assistant coach Brian Hill, which extended Stuckey's streak to three games without a field goal. It has been nine days since Stuckey last made a basket from the field, when he scored six points on 3-for-7 shooting March 1 at New Orleans. "I probably wasn't being aggressive," Stuckey said softly about his benching. "We did a good job of picking up the slack in the second half. We came in with some good energy defensively. We came down there knocking down shots as well, so we almost had a chance to win the game." Detroit Free Press

Jordan Crawford has blended into the Celtics nicely since joining the team Feb. 21 after a trade with Washington. “He does have a pretty good role: be aggressive and shoot the ball,” said Rivers. “That’s a sweet role to have for anybody. But he’s doing the other things. He’s playing defense and he’s making the right passes.” Crawford’s averaging 5.6 points in 13.6 minutes since joining the team. “It’s important for the coach to let me play my game,” Crawford said. “I’m glad he shows faith in me.” Boston Globe

In 10 games following the All-Star break, No. 13 has connected on a blistering 45.2 percent from downtown, sinking a career-high four triples against Phoenix on Friday. “I just try to shoot the same every time,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym working hard and it’s been paying off, and now I just have to keep shooting the same way.” While Kings Head Coach Keith Smart has witnessed the daily extra work Evans has put in to improve his mid- and long-range game since training camp, he admits to being pleasantly surprised by the Memphis product’s steady outside accuracy. “I think everyone is surprised – I think he’s surprised,” said Smart. “But I think sometimes when you work on a certain skill over the summer, you don’t see the immediate payoff. It may be a little (longer) time coming, but you just have to stay diligent to what you’re doing.” The Kings Blog

Carl Landry posted up Mike Dunleavy twice Saturday night and couldn't back him down. Dunleavy told me his secret afterward: "I played with Cliff Robinson, one of the best post defenders ever, my first couple of years in the league. Skinny as I was, I was getting posted up all the time by pretty much everyone. One day after practice he showed me a few techniques and ever since, it's been a little better." He added, somewhat jokingly, "You get over 30 years you get some old-man strength, too." Both Landry and Dunleavy are listed as 6'9", but Landry is 248 pounds while Dunleavy is 220. Watching Dunleavy work, Robinson taught him about leverage -- keeping his upper body straight up, but utilizing his legs at an angle, like tipping a chair against a door. Sulia

Now, Maravich was a scorer, but to the casual fan, he's best known for his circus passes. He would speed down the court, his long hair flapping, before he whisked some acrobatic pass that lit up the grainy footage. That's how Rubio does it, and he entered the weekend averaging 7.2 assists, along with 8.9 points for the Timberwolves. "I actually think Rubio's a better passer (than Maravich)," said Nuggets coach George Karl, who played against Maravich. "I think Pistol Pete was a flamboyant passer but more of a scorer, where I see Rubio as a true point guard, a true playmaker. "His length, his flash, there's no question that there are situations that he actually looks like him on film. He's got that long gait, and then the ability to handle the ball at a high efficiency level and also a high dribbling level, that's more Pistol Pete than anybody I've seen." Denver Post

It’s not a stretch to think that Stoudemire might have played his final game for the Knicks, even with two more years on his contract. The more he plays, the more he keeps breaking down. This time, it’s his right knee that needs a debridement procedure, a thorough cleaning out of the knee. Back in training camp, it was his left knee and that kept him out until Jan. 1. “It’s a loss, a major loss to what we’re trying to do,” said Mike Woodson, who wore an appropriately long face when the news on Stoudemire was revealed before his Knicks embarrassed Utah Jazz, 113-84, at the Garden on Saturday night. “I feel for him because of what he went through in camp. But we can’t sit and sulk and be upset about it.” New York Daily News

The Hawks played without Zaza Pachulia for a fourth consecutive game Saturday. A sore right Achilles has bothered the center for a month and a half. Pachulia has missed 10 of the past 21 games with the issue. The team lists Pachulia as day-to-day, although there is no clear timetable on when he might return. “He has seen doctors,” coach Larry Drew said. “Right now we are waiting to see how he progresses. It won’t be anything that we rush. We’ll wait on whenever he feels he can come back, or if he can come back. Right now, he’s just day-to-day.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution

We’ve discussed the issues that will determine whether or not the Sacramento Kings stay in California’s capitol or go to Seattle, including the impact of public subsidy support in both cities, the race between the two cities for an arena deal, and what lawsuits pending in Seattle mean to the process. Next we take a look at markets, attendance, and ownership groups for both locations. Sources with knowledge of the league’s thinking tell PBT that neither city will have a discernible advantage in these areas heading into meetings with the Board of Governors joint committees on April 3. NBCSports.com

Should Seattle secure both an NBA and NHL team they will fall to No. 15 on Hansen’s report. If you add the successful Seattle Sounders MLS franchise to the metrics as Hansen’s group does, then Seattle falls to No. 21 assuming they land two new pro sports franchises. League sources say the TV Homes per team metric is one of the reasons small-to-mid markets like Orlando, Sacramento, and Seattle are coveted by the league. Networks understand the competitive impact of multiple sports teams in a region that steal away eyeballs and ratings, and they include such analysis in their bids for rights packages and the like. NBCSports.com

Yet, at the same time, the team has struggled to draw viewers for its Fox Sports Florida broadcasts. Nielsen ratings show that the regional sports network has drawn an average of 14,784 households per game, a decrease of about 54 percent from last year's broadcasts on Fox Sports Florida and Sun Sports. "In my opinion, and most data reflects this, that of all the components of our business, television ratings are most affected by wins and losses," Martins said. Orlando Sentinel

The team has tried to boost viewership by using its Twitter account — at almost 1.1 million, the second-largest team account in North American pro sports — sometimes tweeting out in the second half links to spectacular plays from that game's first half. Martins is optimistic that the team will reach an agreement with Fox to extend the current television deal. It wouldn't be the first major business deal the team has reached recently. Orlando Sentinel

Renaldo apologized on Twitter, but the fact is, this will stay with him forever. The whole Balkman saga is a shame. He made a name for himself in college with his hustle and intangibles, and then, once he got paid in the NBA, he lost his focus, didn't learn the plays and basically just got in the way. It's a shame, because players such as Balkman — at his best — have a place in this league. One wonders if he will ever be back. Denver Post

Jalen Rose explains to Bill Simmons and David Jacoby how he gets inside NBA information before everyone else does and offers a cryptic answer to Bill’s question about whether Michael Jordan’s famous flu game was a “flu game or hangover game.” YouTube

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the prestigious MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, where a senior executive of the Dallas Mavericks told me the following when I asked him about the famous "flu game": "The fact that Jordan wasn't sick that afternoon is an open secret in the NBA. Flu is a smokescreen that gives value to what he did. It's much better to say that someone is playing under the weather that saying he's feeling weak because he had few drinks the night before. (...) what Bill Simmons did with Jalen Rose, it's a question to which they both know the answer, but it is a question nobody asks. Simmons, asking that question in a network like ESPN shows why he is the best sports writer out there. (...) It is not surprising that this has not come to light before. There are certain sports brands and sponsors that don't want this to come to light. There is big money at stake. That's why the media is not giving this story any shine. The Jordan brand is worth so much. The media knows it and don't want to take risks, and Jordan's sponsors are going to protect him." Marca.com

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