Tristan Warkentin agreed Friday to a common-law bond th…

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December 12, 2019 | 9:50 am UTC Update
Love has been mentioned frequently, but is a question mark. There was a report that Portland is his favored destination, but I have not been able to substantiate that and, in fact, have been told by people close to him that the report is not necessarily true. And the other concern with Love – who is obviously a terrific player with championship pedigree – are his injuries. Over his last three seasons, he has played 60, 59, and 22 games. At an average salary of $30.1 million over the next three seasons, his availability is a concern.
Storyline: Kevin Love Trade?
As Woj noted, the Wolves made a heavy play for D’Angelo Russell in the offseason before he wound up in Golden State in a sign-and-trade. While Woj didn’t draw a straight line between the Wolves’ ongoing point guard pursuit and Russell, it remains a logical fit given Golden State’s struggles and that Russell is one of those players suddenly able to be dealt Sunday. “I think Minnesota out there, they wanted a point guard this summer, they went after D’Angelo Russell in free agency, he goes to Golden State in the sign-and-trade,” Woj said. “I think they’re in the market for a point guard or something that sets them up to get one in July.”
CJ talked about what Melo has brought to the team and how him passing up the Blazers in the past was “a blessing in disguise” for him. I told him ‘you going to [Oklahoma City and Houston] was a blessing in disguise for you.’ Because your understanding and appreciation for the game changed. He had time to be with his family, he got invaluable time with his son….He had a full year to workout and spend time with his kid and kind of like reflect on life, and I think his appreciation of the game shifted, it changed, the way he plays now you can see he’s excited about the game.
“His presence has been huge in the locker room, having another voice, another guy to speak up that people respect. When we on the floor, other teams respect him being out there. The balance that he’s giving us on the floor and off the floor has been great. It’s been a joy to have him on our team.” Lillard also noted that the Blazers are now a part of Anthony’s career story as the team to give him his comeback opportunity.
The Los Angeles Lakers were perplexed as to why Jared Dudley’s role in a fourth-quarter shoving match in the team’s 96-87 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night warranted an ejection. However, they were impressed he stuck up for teammate Dwight Howard nonetheless. “I mean, that’s all it takes to get ejected? These days? Little shove?” LeBron James said after the game. “I’ve seen a lot more than that. But ‘Duds’ will do whatever. He told you guys at media day his job is to come in here if somebody goes crazy, do something crazy to me or AD [Anthony Davis] or whoever on the team, he’s going to be the muscle.”
After an official’s review, Howard and Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams were called for technical fouls, while Dudley and Magic forward Wes Iwundu — who pushed Howard — were ejected. “I thought that was kind of bogus that we both got techs for showing some emotion,” Howard said. “This is the game we love, we should be allowed to show some emotions. [It’s] not like we’re out here trying to fight or do anything crazy.”
In a great interview for Spartando, the most successful European coach of all-time, Zeljko Obradovic talked about several things from his career and basketball in general but also mentioned the reason why he never joined an NBA team as a head coach. Obradovic made a pretty provocative statement saying the NBA behaves like “mafia” because it doesn’t allow European coaches to be the head coach of an NBA team. Obradovic is convinced many European coaches have enough quality and the know-how for that job.
Wayland Baptist guard J.J. Culver had a performance for the ages Tuesday night, becoming just the second player in NAIA history to score at least 100 points in a game. Culver, a 6-foot-5 senior from Lubbock, Texas, and the older brother of Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Jarrett Culver, reached the magical mark to lead his Pioneers to a 124-60 rout over Southwestern Adventist in Plainview, Texas. He was 34-for-62 from the field, including 12-for-33 from 3-point range, and 20-for-27 from the free throw line. The rest of Culver’s teammates combined to go 8-for-15 from the field and 5-for-6 from the line, while the next-highest scorer on the team was Jonathan Robinson, who finished with eight points.
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Larry Tanenbaum told Postmedia he is not worried that another NBA team is once again trying to poach Masai Ujiri from the Toronto Raptors, adding that there’s no reason to believe the successful executive won’t remain in the city once his contract expires following the 2020-21 season. “We hope so,” Tanenbaum, who is MLSE part-owner and long-time chairman, said earlier this week at the Board of Governors’ meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif. “We haven’t talked (about an extension) at this point in time, but if you ask him, his intentions are pretty clear.”
Storyline: Masai Ujiri Contract
Ask anyone who knows Stephen A. if he’s like that in real life—and they get that question endlessly—and they’ll tell you it’s not an act. That’s really him. He is not coached to have opinions he doesn’t believe in. He is not gesticulating like a Vegas magician on camera just because he’s a creature of television. Camera or no camera, he is on. A natural ham. “My mother,” says Stephen A., “said I came out of the womb talking.”
Co-workers praise Stephen A. as compassionate and caring (when coordinating producer Antoine Lewis experienced sudden heart failure last year, one of the first people he saw when he opened his eyes in the hospital was Stephen A.). But it will not shock you to learn that Stephen A. Smith is not an easygoing fella. His armor stays on at all times, particularly when he’s got a reporter like myself throwing a hodgepodge of intrusive questions at him. He knows how this works, so he is very forthright about what he will and will not be forthright about. And he is far too shrewd to be caught off guard. He is wickedly evasive.
You might think traffic is of little concern to Stephen A., that maybe he has a personal driver. You would be wrong. Stephen A. Smith drives. Always. Twenty-seven years ago, Stephen A.’s older brother died in a car accident. Basil Smith was 33 years old at the time. “He was a traveling salesman and fifteen people were in the passenger van with him. He was the only one that died, because he was asleep.” He continues: “Everyone else was awake. They were able to brace themselves. He got thrown from the van and he was killed. And so I prefer to drive myself. Period.”
One of those people who didn’t see the truck coming was one of his own co-workers. Back in May, ESPN writer Baxter Holmes (who respectfully passed on commenting for this story) published a deep dive on Magic Johnson’s time as then president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. He found that Johnson was a ruthless dilettante who went out of his way to constantly remind subordinates that they were expendable. That story dropped the same day Magic was due to appear with Stephen A. on a SportsCenter NBA Finals special. Stephen A. was not at all happy about the timing of Holmes’s story, and said so publicly. He wanted a heads-up that the story was firing, and when that heads-up never came, he “was ticked off,” says Stephen A. “I’m not going to sit around and feel disrespected.” In fact, Stephen A. tells me that Magic was, by all accounts, right to be a cruel overlord, and that anyone complaining about it is too soft to handle living in an unfair world.
During the Magic affair, Stephen A. was letting his Crunch Berries hang out for all to see. Henry Abbott witnessed it. Abbott, whose TrueHoop blog was purchased by ESPN in 2007, and then more recently relaunched as an independent newsletter, told me, “I feel like Stephen has moved to this other place where he’s like, I’m friends with Magic Johnson. It’s personally inconvenient for me for Baxter’s story to come out. So let’s just pretend it doesn’t exist. I’m like, Where’s the guy who was working the back hallways trying to reach Aaron McKie in 2000? That guy worked his ass off.” He adds, “The enemy of truth is power, right? He has a lot of power.” Abbott has felt the sting of that power himself. “He was always mad at me, like when I wrote shit about Kobe.” When I ask Abbott if he felt like Stephen A. was bullying him by openly expressing displeasure with his work, he replies, “I felt he did, yeah.”
That whole statement got Stephen A. suspended by Skipper for a week, a suspension Stephen A. still feels was unjust. “Let me be very, very clear,” he says to me—a warning sign that he might not necessarily be clear. “I apologized because of how things were interpreted. I have never felt that I deserved to be suspended; that was the wrong damn decision. My words were very, very simple, and people tried to interpret it being different than what it is, because that’s the world we’re living in. I have never hit a woman in my life. I never would.”
As with many other powerful men, Stephen A. can point to his own career successes to validate his own worldview. He is baffled that others lack his work ethic and believes they shouldn’t be surprised when they find themselves in a rut because they failed to work eighteen hours a day. If he takes a day off, he tells me, “it’s almost like a catastrophe.” He has said many times that he feels as if he’s never arrived. I ask him why he feels that way. “If I’m asleep, somebody else is awake. If I’m off, somebody else is working,” he says. “And if those things are happening, they think they can take me, which means that at some point in time they’re going to confront me to test and see if I’m ready. And at that point I will annihilate them to show them that they were never ready at all.”
December 12, 2019 | 3:04 am UTC Update
Dwight Howard: “That’s how — I’m sorry — That’s how I look at it. I’ve let a lot of things go in my heart, things that have kind of held me down. Things that I had towards the Magic and just how the situation ended. How I was treated by the fans and stuff like that. But I had to let that bitterness go. There’s no need to hold onto it. When I let it go, it just made my life a lot better. Just more free.”
“I got blessed to come back and play with the Lakers, and I’m in a really good situation,” Howard said. “I’m pretty sure there were a lot of people here who were super hurt and disappointed that I left. And I’m sorry for that. You know, I apologize if they felt that way. But I never would have been the person I am today if I would have stayed here. So I’m very thankful that everything that has transpired has transpired and it’s made me the best version of Dwight Howard.”
December 12, 2019 | 2:47 am UTC Update
December 12, 2019 | 2:28 am UTC Update
December 12, 2019 | 1:57 am UTC Update
December 11, 2019 | 11:58 pm UTC Update
A source said last week that Mills and Perry are under significant pressure following the firing of head coach David Fizdale. If Mills is let go the Knicks will likely turn their attention to Toronto exec Masai Ujiri. Sam Presti also has fans within the organization. If Mills was let go in season, the expectation is that Perry would take over for the remainder of the year.