Tag:Orlando Magic
Posted on: February 28, 2012 6:29 pm

Report: Warriors still chasing Dwight

The Warriors reportedly continue to pursue Dwight Howard. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

The Warriors, reportedly, are not messing around.

Golden State has long been rumored to be chasing Dwight Howard, despite his exclusion of the Warriors from his team of preferred trade destinations (read: places he will consider re-signing with). What's more, Golden State has been rumored to be interested in trading for Howard without assurances he'll stay. That's the ultimate Russian Roulette gamble. If you miss out with convincing Howard, you will have traded everything you have and have nothing to show for it. Talks had died down in the din of Nets chatter that continues. But a report today from NBA.com says that the Warriors aren't done chasing the rabbit down the hole.

From Scott Howard Cooper of NBA.com on Twitter:
Warriors continuing push for Dwight Howard deal even without DH commitment to re-signing. Not backing off from risky move, source says.
via Twitter / @SHowardCooper: Warriors continuing push f ....
Biedrins has zero trade value, so GSW offer has to be 3-4 key pieces. Imagine moving Monta, Klay, others and DH walks. But Dubs staying in.
via Twitter / @SHowardCooper: Biedrins has zero trade va ....

Monta Ellis is a very good player, if not a "star" or "superstar." Klay Thompson looks to be a great rookie. They have Ekpe Udoh as a talented young big man along with Biedrins' expiring contract. The Magic have reportedly wanted to stay in the playoff hunt, which means they want talented veterans, though,and outside of Ellis, the Warriors are short on that. That's what makes the Magic request so baffling, that they wouldn't be trying to work away to get Stephen Curry, draft picks, and Udoh out of Golden State. 

And all of this for a situation in which Howard could vanish outright. It's a monstrous gamble. But let's look at the best-case, worst-case scenario here.

Best-case: Howard and Ellis/Curry click. Howard finally has a co-star worthy of his stature while he's also clearly the alpha dog. The Bay Area market allows for him to cash in on endorsements and media opportunities, while enjoying the California weather, even if it's a bit colder and ranier than southern California. Mark Jackson gets the defensive rock he covets, ownership gets a star to build everything around. Shooters plus creator plus Dwight = success. They hold his bird rights which means Howard has to walk away from the $30-million-plus afforded him in re-signing with his current team in free agency. That's a big stone to hold. 

Worst-case: Howard leaves, and the gap from the assets traded for him creates an unbalanced roster full of misfits who have to be traded off. Meanwhile, the organization clears over $15 million in cap space and has the ability to clean house on a team that has been fundamentally flawed for the past decade, cycling in the same style of players. A clean slate erupts, with the worst part being a potentially unhappy Curry/Ellis but the Warriors now have unlimited flexibility to retool their roster.

Is drastic change that bad of a worst-case scenario? If Howard and Ellis/Curry works, he could very well stay, and that's great. If it doesn't, he leaves anyway and the Warriors start over again which they've needed to do forever, and that's great. It would look bad, and would create a painful rebuilding process. But if you want to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs. A move like this would prove the new ownership really is the kind of bold leadership they say they are, unwilling to stand on the sidelines while other teams make the franchise-changing moves.

It's just a question of how brave are they, and if Orlando will finally bite the bullet for their offer.
Posted on: February 28, 2012 1:09 pm

Podcast: Greg Anthony of CBS Sports, NBATV

By Matt Moore 

On this edition of the CBSSports.com NBA Podcast, former New York Knick and CBS Sports and NBATV analyst Greg Anthony joins us to wrap up All-Star Weekend. We look back on Dwyane Wade's hard foul on Kobe Bryant, and ask whether the players actually get any rest during All-Star Weekend. 

We also discuss Dwight Howard and whether fans and the media oversimplify Dwight Howard's situation regarding a potential trade and being on the fence about leaving Orlando. Anthony talks about how many factors weigh into Dwight's decision and how fluid it can be. We tend to make the situation only about winning, or Orlando's history, or marketing, or playing with stars, or family. And in reality it's a constantly-evolving situation with no clear answer. Great conversation with Greg Anthony, check it out. 

You can also subscribe on iTunes, if that's your kind of thing. 

Posted on: February 27, 2012 3:24 pm

Dwight Howard's mom wants him to stay with Magic

By Matt Moore 

Mama tried

Sunday night during the NBA All-Star Game, TNT's Craig Sager reported that he had spoken with Dwight Howard's mother and she had said she wants Howard to stay in Orlando. 

Meanwhile, multiple indications suggest the Nets continue to believe they are the front-runners for Howard according to multiple outlets.

So Dwight Howard is essentially torn between one of the most powerful men in Russia, and his own mother. This is like some bizarre political thriller, only with a poor hook shot and too many commercials.

Howard's mother will no doubt have an influence on his decision but there are so many factors to consider. His agent, his publicist, his teammates, his friend, his former coaches, his relationship with Stan Van Gundy, Otis Smith, and Rich DeVos are just a few of the things weighing on his mind. While family's obviously important to Dwight, ths is his decision to make. Still, it's never good to have your mom publicly come out and state what she thinks, since now it'll be known he went against her wishes if he leaves. From the Orlando Sentinel:  
Unless Dwight does an immediate about-face, takes his mother's advice (she reportedly told TNT's courtside reporter Craig Sager she wants him to stay in Orlando) and commits to signing an extension, the Magic must deal him and get something of value.

"That's my mom's opinion," Dwight said afterward when asked about Sager's report. "… I don't want to talk about that stuff right now."
via NBA All-Star Game: Orlando must turn out lights on All-Star party, Dwight Howard era - OrlandoSentinel.com.

Got to be your own man, the saying goes. But man, to have to deal with all this and now your mom? Bet this isn't how Dwigh thought All-Star Weekend would go.  
Posted on: February 26, 2012 11:02 am

Report: Williams told Mavs he wants to join

Deron Williams could be considering Dallas in free agency. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

Hold on, let me barricade this post against the Nets fans hordes who freak out when you talk about any scenario other than Dwight Howard going to Brooklyn. There. Everything has been all quiet on the Dwight Howard front this weekend at All-Star Weekend. No trade rumors, no trade demands, no explosive quotes, no late night meetings between general managers and Howard. But the New York Daily Newsreports of an indication that seems to be gaining steam with a lot of experts, including NBA.com's David Aldridge, among others, that the Mavericks are very much in the heart and mind of Deron Williams. From the Daily News (emphasis mine): 
The ultimate disaster for New Jersey would be if Williams and Howard end up playing together, but not in Brooklyn. With some roster alterations that are doable, including using their one amnesty move on Brendan Haywood, the Mavs could be set up, cap-wise, to accommodate both players.
“The Mavs want to do what Miami did and put together their own big three,’’ said another GM. “That’s their goal.”

Williams privately told members of the Mavs last June during their Finals celebration that he would love to go back home and be a part of team with Dirk Nowitzki. But he said Friday he wants to continue to be a Net. So until further notice, the Nets think they still have a good shot to move into Brooklyn with Williams and Howard.
via Dwight Howard center of attention in Orlando as March 15 deadline to ship Magic Superstar looms - NY Daily News.

You'll remember that Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported last year during All-Star Weekend that Williams had told people close to him he wanted to play in a bigger market. He denied the reports. Then he was traded a few weeks later to the Nets. Williams was indeed in the locker room during the Finals, and his body language certainly indicated a warmth and desire to be a part of the Mavericks.

Know why? They were in the Finals. It could have been Washington Generals and he would have wanted to be a part of it. The Bobcats would look good after taking a lead in the Finals 3-2. 

Williams is from Dallas, that's where all this starts. A return home would make sense. It would also make sense for Dwight Howard, who wants a big market, to compete for a title, supporting stars, and warm weather. (Howard grew up in Georgia and has played in Florida his whole life; you ever tried randomly trying to adjust from that kind of weather to anything north of the Mason-Dixon? It's a nightmare.) So to review, the Mavericks offer:

A super-active owner who often acts as GM and who has shown a committment not only to spending, but spending wisely.

A Hall of Fame power forward scoring machine who should be able to keep playing for three-to-four more years at a high level.

A large market that attracts a lot of attention from sponsors and benefits as the economic center of a state which is essentially its own country.

A favorable tax situation.

Warm weather.

A return home for Deron Williams.

An organization that has won a championship in the past 14 months.

That's a pretty solid package.

And yet, the Nets remain in the lead for the services of both. It comes down to convenience. The Nets have movable pieces. Even if their trade assets aren't as impressive as some, they can still move them. The Mavericks' are all older players and unproven guys. They have no prime components to send Orlando. Howard is willing to wait till this summer to make his decision. But if he gets it settled sooner, all the better as long as it's the right decision. The Nets have the best chance at getting him between now and the trade deadline, and they believe they have the deal.

But if this thing goes to the summer, if it's a free ageny tour between Brooklyn and Dallas for both players, things could get very interesting. The Nets would do well to make sure Mr. Cuban doesn't get a shot in the competition.

(HT: IAmAGM.com
Posted on: February 24, 2012 2:48 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 3:03 pm

Dwight Howard dodges trade talk, hides behind Lin

Posted by Ben Golliver  
Magic center Dwight Howard faced a huge media crowd on All-Star Friday. (Sergio Gonzalez)

ORLANDO -- Dwight Howard did his best to dodge the trade talk, but when the questions kept coming, he took cover behind the only NBA story bigger than his future with the Orlando Magic: Linsanity.

"The situation right now is All-Star Weekend," Howard said, when asked for the latest on impending free agency and trade demand. "That's the only thing that matters right now. This is the moment -- this is All-Star Weekend. We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves. All that stuff can go on after All-Star Weekend."

Howard drew by far the largest media crowd on All-Star Friday, with more than a dozen cameras and dozens of reporters crowded together to hear the latest updates regarding his happiness with the city, his relationship with the city's fans, and everything else. Sizing up the scene, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who dealt with the media's obsessesion with "Melodrama" during the 2011 All-Star Weekend, shook his head and shouted to Howard, "Thanks."

The questions kept coming, and, after picking Jeremy Evans to win the Slam Dunk Contest and teammate Ryan Anderson to win the Three-Point Contest, Howard didn't wait very long to pull out his ace card.

"Right now, my focus is on having a great time and being a great host with all these great players around us. This is Jeremy Lin's first All-Star. I'm going to make sure I get with him and have some fun with Jeremy Lin."

The tactic worked fairly well, as the floodgate of Lin inquiries opened wide. The NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year said that he's been impressed with the play of the Knicks' sensational guard, but made it clear he is relishing the opportunity to bring him back down to Eath.

"I think it's one of the best stories... It's crazy," Howard said. "He's all over the place. Every time you turn on the TV it's something about Lin, which is great. I'm happy for him. He's been playing great basketball. The Knicks are winning so a lot of people are happy. He hasn't went up against the Great Wall of Orlando yet. We'll see what happens then."

Despite Howard's best efforts, the questions kept popping back up, although the scene was more conversational than confrontational as Howard played the "host" card, talked up the Magic's playoff chances, and complimented Magic fans many times. Howard said the Magic have "an opportunity just like every other team in the NBA to win a championship" and pointed out that Orlando has the NBA's fifth best record. 

"I don't care about none of the other stuff that's being said," Howard repeated. "We're going to have fun this weekend. We're going to show everybody our city. All the other stuff can wait."

Asked again about his contract situation, Howard put down his fist. "We're not going to talk about it."

Howard appeared relaxed, but tired, and said he was operating on three hours of sleep. He noted that he's hosting parties in Orlando all weekend long and joked to one reporter that he didn't meet the appropriate height requirement to be invited and that he looked like a character from Jersey Shore.

The joking was a bit off-key and not met with the hearty laughs that the charismatic Howard often receives. Perhaps the subtext of tension between Howard and the media that has covered him like a blanket this season was trickling in. Howard made a point of mentioning that media accounts of a stressed relationship with Magic fans are not representative of his day-to-day interactions around Orlando, which he also referred to as "my city."

"A lot of the fans here are just, 'Whatever you decide to do we're behind you 100 percent.' They've been great despite what people may say or think. The fans here have always been great to me. I really appreciate it. They've shown me nothing but love since day one. I've done the same thing. The city means a lot to me."

Those comments probably make fans in Cleveland cringe, after hearing a similar refrain from LeBron James before he left to team up with fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat during the Summer of 2010. Howard didn't totally distance himself from James, who was seated nearby with less than half of the media attention that Howard received. 

"LeBron did it his way, he did what was best for him," Howard concluded. "I will do what's best for Dwight."
Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:42 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 1:05 pm

Eye on Basketball Midseason Awards

LeBron James is having one of the best seasons of his career and is the midseason NBA MVP. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore

The 2012 NBA All-Star break begins this week as this season continues to fly by on a shortened lockout schedule. Already we've seen an incredible year, even in the midst of some ugly, ugly, ugly basketball. The Heat look better than ever, the Bulls are still dominant through injury, the Sixers are impressively complete. The Dwight Howard saga drags on. The Lakers and Celtics are struggling to find their dominant gear. The Thunder are blistering offensively, the Timberwolves surprising and of course, Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lin all the time. 

With that, here are the 2012 NBA Midseason Awards, based on where we stand on February 20th, 2012. 

Eastern Conference Most Valuable Player: LeBron James

When CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel wrote that LeBron was different this year, he was spot-on. James has talked about how he spent the summer re-discovering his love of basketball, getting away from all the criticism, and getting back to the person he wants to be. He and the Heat have admitted that the resounding backlash to "The Decision" played a large part in their mental approach to last season. In short, James is not comfortable being bitter, angry, resentful. He's at his best when driven by a simple love of the game. That's the dichotomy with James. He is inarguably the single most arrogant and out-of-touch player in the Association, and yet he does possess a genuine love of basketball. It's always playing at his home. It's something he lights up when he gets to talk about instead of storylines. Basketball came easily to James athletically, but it's also something he works obsessively at. History teaches that you have to hate your opponent, have to be driven by anger and resentment. James is simply not built that way. In reality, he may be too goofy, too fun-loving to ever reach the kind of iconic play that is necessary to be considered one of the best, to have the killer instinct that so many criticize him for lacking, which he himself has admitted he may lack.

None of this changes the fact that there are only three things which can stop James from earning his third MVP this season, should he continue to play as he has for the first half of the year. The first is largely the same reason he failed to win it last season: vengeance. Voters showed their disapproval of James by not truly considering him for the award. Whether it was a distaste for the arrogance of James' approach to leaving Cleveland on national television, a disgust at the preseason championship comments at the presser with the smoke and fireworks, or disappointment with James seeking to team up with two great players instead of winning on his own (an element neither Carmelo Anthony nor Chris Paul have received criticism for), James was shut out, when by most measures, he simply played better than Derrick Rose. Rose was a phenomenal player last season and a wonderful story, well-worthy of the award. However, James was better. Those sentiments have cooled this season, but if voters decide to maintain their teeth-grinding disapproval of James, that could cost him. The second is simple injury. James has only missed a small handful of games, but that can always derail a player's path. And the third is the most likely impediment: minutes.

The Heat did not take the tactic of prioritizing homecourt last season. It wouldn't have mattered, the Bulls were simply better in every way during the course of the regular season. But the Heat were clearly more focused on being healthy for the playoffs than capturing homecourt. And it's likely to be the same this year. The Heat have managed to handle the compact schedule well, outside of some Dwyane Wade bumps and bruises as to be expected. But when March rolls around, this team will start looking for rest, and that means James could sit out several games. The Heat will happily trade in April wins, provided they have a top four seed, for rest. James could lose momentum in that case as he watches from the sideline and another worthy candidate pushes his way to the finish line.

What makes James worthy of the award this year? Pick one. The Heat are the best team in the East, and you may claim that Dwyane Wade is still the focal point of the offense, metrics be damned, and that's fine, but James' overall work on both ends of the floor still takes the notch. Without resorting to statistics, you see James take over games as if he's a one-man army. He's seemingly everywhere, interrupting passes, working in the post, snatching rebounds, blocking shots, lobbing to Wade, dishing to Chalmers, attacking the rim over and over again. It's awe-inspiring basketball. You don't need metrics to see he's the best player in the game this season. This is all factoring in the fact he's taken a step back defensively. He's turned it on the past five or six games, but this hasn't been a season of his usual defensive dominance... and he's still been this good overall.

But if you want them, they bear it out as well. James is enjoying a career high (tied) in points per 36 minutes, rebounds per game and 36 minutes, field goal percentage, True Shooting percentage (factoring 3-point shooting and free throws), and of course PER. The confusion with PER most often is that it somehow measures value, that it establishes how good a player is. Instead, it's just what it's defined as. Player Efficiency Rating. It establishes who produces the most per minute, considering how many possessions they use in doing so. And right now, James is doing the most of any player in history in that department.

So that's fun.

James may not win MVP this year, for a variety of reasons. But there is absolutely no question at this season's halfway mark, that he's the best player in the league, and most valuable.

Western Conference Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant

If you prefer the classic mold of the MVP, AKA a scoring machine, Kevin Durant fits pretty well. He's a jump-shooter shooting 52 percent from the field. Think about that. The league average is 36 percent. Durant is hitting 15 more shots for every 100 attempts from the hardest place on the floor to knock them down. That's ridiculous. That's just absurd. He is the best pure-scoring machine in the league. Kobe Bryant may topple him for the scoring crown, but he'll need five to six more attempts to do so. The cherry on Durant's Sunday has to be his 51-point explosion Sunday night. He managed 51 points on 28 shots.

And really quietly, Durant's become an elite defender. He's allowing just 26 percent from the field in ISO situations according to Synergy Sports. Defense was a huge weakness in Durant's game over the past few seasons and he's really hit his stride this season. The Thunder aren't even that great defensively, Durant has just been individually incredible.

For him to catch James, he would need for the Thunder to continue their impressive winning percentage. He would need to top the league in scoring, and for his impressive uptick in rebounding rates to continue. It's a tall order, but there's no question he's within range. Durant has become the most impressive offensive force in the league.

He is 23 years of age.

Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving

Ricky Rubio is dazzling. He's a phenom. He changes the course of games and wows you with the eyes. No rookie has impressed more than Rubio, who has silenced all his critics, of which I was very much one, regarding his ability translate his game to the NBA level. Rubio is honestly poetry in motion, and the feel he has for the game is joy-inspiring more than awe-inspiring. It is such a fluid and spectacular range of abilities, it makes the Timberwolves so much fun to watch.

And Kyre Irving is a better player.

It's not really close.

Get past the fact that Irving has been shooting at historic levels, that his overall production is in line with some of the all-time greats in this league in their first years. Irving has a mastery of the game that Rubio does not, even after so many more years of playing professionally. Irving can run an offense more completely and calmly, and is a superb crunch time scorer (Rubio is brilliant in that area in his own right). But if you want numbers, it's simple. Rubio's a 38 percent shooter. Irving is a 48 percent shooter. You can talk about how you would prefer your point guard pass than score, but Irving's numbers are truncated by a lack of talent on the Cavaliers, while Rubio has Kevin Love, Michael Beasley (a scorer for all his faults), an emerging Nikolai Pekovic and Derrick Williams.

Rubio would be a fine choice. He's the most exciting rookie. Maybe even the most impactful rookie.

Kyrie Irving is the Rookie of the Year, halfway through. This one will be tight to the finish.

Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Iguodala

I know. It's always Dwight Howard! It has to be Dwight Howard! But here's the thing. Howard's effort hasn't been as consistent this season. Whether it's the trade talk, the lockout schedule effect, coaching, whatever, it hasn't been there. His rebound rate is there, it's the highest of his career. He actually is allowing fewer points per possession than he did last year, but if we consider the lockout effects on all shooting percentages, Howard has slipped from the 96th percentile to the 77th percentile in rank on points per possession. Howard is maybe the most impactful defensive player in the league. But his performance hasn't been worthy of the award this year.

Iguodala, on the other hand, is the star defender on the league's best defense (Philly is tops in defensive efficiency, points per 100 possessions), and is most often given the toughest assignment night in and night out in this league. He is tasked with stopping the best perimeter threat on offense each game, and in doing so, has limited opponents to 35 percent shooting. He is able to body up larger opponents, stick with smaller ones, switch, shift, deter, block, steal, cajole, harass and otherwise make his opponent's life miserable and has done so for the majority of the season.

A close second on this list is Luol Deng, who actually has better marks via Synergy. But a combination of Deng's missed time due to injury, and the Bulls' reliance on help defense under Tom Thibodeau's system barely, and I mean barely, gives Iguodala the edge here. Dwight Howard will wind up winning this award, but ask yourself, is it more difficult to shut down perimeter elite scorers in this league or to stop the awful, horrible batch of big men currently roaming the lanes?

6th Man of the Year: James Harden

Harden should be starting. By any and all accounts, he is a much better player than Thabo Seofolosha, or Daequan Cook, or whoever you want to start at two-guard for the best offense in the land. Harden should be the starter, he plays starters minutes, he finishes like a starter, he's close with the starters, he's a star in his own right. And yet, he's much better off the bench. He provides the Thunder with not only a scorer off the pine, but an offensive creator, maybe his best asset. Harden can run the offense, he facilitates, and can make a play go even off-ball. He's a capable if not excellent defender, and his decision making and effort is often times the difference in close wins and losses for OKC.

This award has been wrapped up for a good long time.

Coach of the Year: Doug Collins

The Philadelphia 76ers have the third seed in the East as of this writing, with signature wins over the Lakers, Bulls, Magic, and just about everyone not from South Beach. Doug Collins has managed to turn a team without a central star, without an Isolation scoring threat, without a dominant big man or an all-world point guard (no offense to the brilliant Jrue Holiday) into a powerhouse that overwhelms teams with defense, savvy, bench scoring, team play, and fortitude.

The players genuinely love to play for Collins and he's gotten through to them to a man. Spencer Hawes is playing well, for crying out loud. Elton Brand is producing. Iguodala is having the best overall season of his career by the eye test. They have the best defense, the best bench, the best record in a tough division. Collins has done an incredible job and is every bit deserving of this award as much for his process as the results it has garnered.

Most Improved Player: Jeremy Lin

What were you expecting? Usually second-year players are exempt in my eyes. They're supposed to develop and improve in their second season. But Lin is a special case. Lost in the Linsanity and all the great storylines surround him is the fact he has talked a lot about what the D-League did for him. This league too often doesn't allow players to develop, simply shreds them through and only the strong survive. Lin is a testament to the idea that players can develop, can improve, can learn this game and get better to the point of success. He's improved the most simply by making himself relevant, let alone raising New York from the dead for 15 percent of the season.
Posted on: February 15, 2012 2:36 pm

Magic the leading suitor for J.R. Smith?

Are the Magic the top suitor for Smith right now? (Getty Images)
Posted by Royce Young

J.R. Smith will be returning to the United States sometime this week and he's already eyeing a few teams. Smith changed his Twitter bio to say, "NYK? LAL? LAC? CHI? ORL? IND?" recently so that should give you an indication the directions he's looking.

But according to HoopsWorld, The Magic might have the inside track to get the erratic scorer. The report says Smith is looking for more than a veteran minimum deal and that the Pacers are not interested back in Smith. And if Smith wants more money, that would eliminate the Clippers and Lakers as well as they can't offer more than the vet minimum.

That puts the Knicks with the ability to offer the $2.5 mini-mid-level deal and the Bulls who can offer a $1.9 bi-annual exception. The Magic though can offer the most -- about $4.9 million -- but don't necessarily have a spot for Smith, especially if he wants to start. Orlando already has Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick while Smith could likely start for the Clippers, Bulls (depending Richard Hamilton's health) or Knicks.

Earlier in the week via ESPN LA, Chris Paul said he likes the Clippers' chances of nabbing Smith.

"I think our chances are very high," Paul said Monday night after the Clippers' 96-92 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.


"Who knows J.R. better than me?" Paul said of Smith, his teammate for two seasons with the Hornets.

Referring to Kenyon Martin and Billups, both of whom played with Smith in Denver, Paul attributes his optimism to "my relationship with J.R., Kenyon's relationship with him and Chauncey's relationship with him."

"Also he knows he'll have the opportunity to play here," Paul said. "He can only make us better."

Acquiring Smith really could almost be like a good deadline trade, but without having to give up anything. He's going to make an impact on the court, but it's just a matter of where he chooses. He's got teams ready for him, but it's up to Smith to go for money, a contender or a prominant role. There really isn't an ideal fit in that regard right now, at least in terms of teams Smith is interested in.

But a decision should be coming soon. So hang tight.
Posted on: February 12, 2012 3:17 pm

Dwight Howard wants the ball in the fourth

If Howard wants the ball in the fourth, he's going to need to do better than 49 percent at the free throw line. (Getty Images)
Posted by Royce Young

There's often a trend with pretty much every Orlando Magic game. Dwight Howard dominates for three quarters and then fades in the fourth taking only two or three shots.

Why? Because defenses clamp down, clog the paint, foul him when he gets it near the basket and he doesn't have teammates that can create good opportunities for him. It's not like someone like LeBron disappearing. Howard can't really help it. He doesn't handle the ball, can't create for himself and in general, has to be set up with opportunities.

But he wants the ball. He wants to be a fourth quarter player. He wants to start shouldering that load, on his very oddly wide shoulders. Via FoxSports.com:

"I do want the ball more in the fourth quarter," a frustrated Howard told FOX Sports exclusively after the game.

"I want to become a closer. The only way you get there is by getting the ball and have coach have the confidence in giving me the ball.

"That’s how Kobe (Bryant) and the rest of the great fourth-quarter players got that way. It’s trial and error. When Kobe first got in the league, it took him a while to become the killer he is in the fourth quarter now. That’s because he went through that phase where he had to learn what shots to take and just get confidence in taking shots in the fourth quarter.

"That’s one thing that I want for myself, so I can become the guy who finishes games for my team. I want to be that guy whose team wants him to close games out for them. Coach just needs to have confidence in me."

Obviously the Magic would love for him to be that closer too, but as I mentioned above, there are obstacles. The most obvious one being Howard has to do better at the free throw line. He's shooting just 49 percent from the stripe this season (a career-low, by a longshot) and hasn't ever shown the ability to be a consistent back-to-the-basket scorer. He gets a lot from lobs, putbacks and just overpowering his defender.

Howard doesn't care though. He wants the ball.
"Just run plays through me, so I can be comfortable in being the guy and have confidence in getting the ball late in the game and scoring," Howard said.

"That’s what I’m worth. I want to be that guy who controls games. As a kid, that’s what you dream about in the NBA, taking that shot. I want to do that.

"I’m the leader of the team. Ride my back. I’ll lead. I don’t care if I miss every single shot, I’m going to continue to play hard. Just get on my back.

"That’s why they call me Superman."

Actually, I'm not sure THAT'S why. I'm pretty sure it has more to do with you putting on a cape and calling yourself that, but whatever. Not the point.

It's such a challenge to do that with a post player though. It's so difficult to rely on a guy on the block to hit a crucial late game shot. Shaq was sort of an exception, but still, he faced challenges of Hack-a-Shaq and Kobe getting him the ball.

The Magic have always been most dangerous when they play inside-out with Howard drawing extra defenders and then kicking out to a shooter or to someone who can penetrate a rotating defense and then dish again. They've never really succeeded just dumping the ball to Howard and letting him go to work. He doesn't have the footwork or touch to really do that.

But he wants the shot. And at this point with his future in the air with Orlando, it might be best to just give him what he wants.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com