NBA PM: Howard Refuses to Discuss Future
The NBA’s trade deadline is less than one month away so it’s no surprise that Dwight Howard rumors have started to surface. The Los Angeles Lakers are currently 17-24 and outside of the Western Conference’s playoff picture. This, along with the fact that Howard will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, has led to rumors and speculation that Howard may be on the move once again.
Howard is ignoring the rumors and dodging questions about his upcoming free agency, which is very similar to how the 27-year-old approached the topic of his future last year when he was with the Orlando Magic. Howard shrugged off the trade rumors after shootaround on Wednesday afternoon.
“The only reason they’re saying that is because I have an opportunity to walk away at the end of the year,” Howard said of the trade rumors. “I totally understand that. That’s my right at the end of the year, it doesn’t matter what team I’m on or whatever they decide to do. But I plan on being here for the remainder of the season. My focus and the team’s focus is what we can do to get into the playoffs and from there it’s anybody’s game.”
“I understand why they’re saying that because they feel that I have an opportunity to just walk away,” Howard said. “That is my choice at the end of the season, but right now my focus is tonight and us doing something really special here in L.A. We have that opportunity. We can’t close the door on the opportunity that we have in front of us. We can turn this thing around. We’re four games out right now, with 42 games left in the season. There’s the possibility that we can change all of this and I believe that we can. It starts with me. I have to be more of a player out there on the court and not worry about anything other than playing. Just do what I do best. We got a chance and I believe we can do it. I wholeheartedly believe that we can win. I want us to win. We all want to win. Hopefully that starts tonight.”
Every time Howard’s future in Los Angeles was brought up, the superstar center deflected the question and shifted the discussion to the current season and what the Lakers have to do to improve. After Howard admitted that he has been doing a lot of soul searching this season, he was asked if his soul is telling him to come back to the Lakers next season. Howard instantly changed the topic.
“We’re not discussing that,” Howard said. “Right now, our goal is to win. All I want to do is win. I have to put all of my energy into winning, sacrifice whatever I have to and humble myself.”
Howard made it clear that he’s trying to keep distractions such as trade rumors and free agency talk out of the locker room and away from the court because it can get in the way of winning.
“It can be tough, but we have to do our best to keep all of our frustrations and whatever out of the game,” Howard said. “We know what everybody is saying and there are rumors about everything, different people got different sources. But I’m in the right place and I have to make the best of it.”
Last week, Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni made headlines when he said that the Lakers’ season started last Sunday prior to the team’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the team is once again struggling. They have lost three straight games, which prompted Howard to say that the season is starting over once again.
“I think this will be the start of a new season for us tonight,” Howard said. “Hopefully our effort and energy is where it needs to be tonight. It starts with me. I have to bring it.”
Howard was asked how many times the Lakers can start their season over and what makes this start different from last weekend, to which he responded: “I think it’s a little bit different now. I just think it’ll be different. Our mentality might be a little bit different.”
The center took the blame for the Lakers’ struggles and vowed to step his game up.
“It starts with me,” Howard said. “I just have to go out there, dominate defensively and make it tougher for teams. I have to get back to doing that. I’m not worried about the offense. I have to do more for this team. There’s a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. I have to step up and take it. It has to be me. It has to start with me. I’m the guy that has to dominate for us to win. We’re not going to win unless I dominate.
After the Lakers’ loss to the Chicago Bulls, Howard complained about his lack of shots. He apologized for bringing up his touches after the loss, and insisted that he’s no longer worrying about statistics.
“That’s over with, can’t think about it,” Howard said about his complaints. “It was immature. I shouldn’t have done it. Today’s a new day. This is a new game.”
“People look at stats and sometimes I, myself, get caught up in stats, but stats don’t determine a game,” Howard added. “I can affect a game without even scoring the ball and I have to get back to doing that. It’s not about how many points or whatever. I’ve been immature in the past, thinking it’s all about shots because that’s what people want to see, they talk about points and how many times you scored. For me, it’s not about scoring. It’s just about dominating and that’s bigger than just scoring points.”
When a reporter mentioned the possibility of the Lakers missing the postseason, Howard interrupted and stopped just short of guaranteeing that the team would make the playoffs.
“We’re going to accomplish our goals,” Howard said. “We just have to dominate. Like I said, it starts with me. We can do it.”
“It’s not difficult,” Howard added. “It’s not difficult at all. We can do everything. We’re built for that. We know how to win. We just have to do it and be consistent with it. Like I said, I have to do a better job for this team if we want to win. I have to be more aggressive on both ends, but especially on the defensive end. Everybody is frustrated. Our energy and effort has to be there. I have to bring it.”
After all of the soul searching and humbling experiences, Howard insists that he’s no longer the selfish, immature player that he used to be. However, dodging questions and refusing to discuss the future is all too familiar. Once again, his future is up in the air and he’s refusing to talk about it, which will only fuel the rumors and speculation.
Wallace Discusses Grizzlies’ Trade
Yesterday, the Memphis Grizzlies traded Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a future first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Jon Leuer. The deal was essentially a salary dump that gets the Grizzlies out of the luxury tax, putting them approximately $2.2 million under the threshold.
Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace admitted that there were financial motivations behind the trade, and also explained why Memphis pulled the trigger on this trade now.
“There are financial ramifications for the deal – the luxury tax territory isn’t something that any team takes lightly or wants to get into,” Wallace said. “Every year you’re a taxpayer and then eventually there’s a repeater tax down the road so you want to get out whenever you can. The deal also gives us more flexibility in the future in terms of the trade [exceptions] that we picked up. We picked up an [exception] for every player – Speights, Ellington and Selby – which allows us to do more in a trade. There are some potential basketball benefits.”
“We considered all options, every team does, but this was a deal that we felt was very favorable for us,” Wallace added. “You can’t count on this type of situation still being there later on closer to the trade deadline because Cleveland is a team with cap room and not every team has that.”
Now that the Grizzlies are no longer in the luxury tax, where does the team go from here? Will they make another trade, one possibly involving Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph? Wallace said that the team is no longer in a position where they feel like they have to make a trade, but also admitted that it really depends on what offers the team receives over the next several weeks.
“We don’t feel compelled to make a deal,” Wallace said. “Obviously we don’t know what is going to come our way between now and the third Thursday in February at the trade deadline. But again, we don’t have to do something. Every team in the league is going to be active over these next three weeks and change. It’s that time of the year on the NBA management calendar. I’ve learned in 26 years in this league, you just don’t know what the next phone call is going to bring you. You can’t say that nothing is going to happen, but you can’t say we’re definitely going to make a deal either. It’s a very fluid situation.”
When asked if this trade with Cleveland means that Gay will remain in Memphis, Wallace wouldn’t guarantee that. He made it clear that any player on the roster could be traded because that’s just the nature of this business.
“Well, Rudy is still here with us today,” Wallace said when asked about Gay’s future. “Again, like I said, we’re not going out there and trying to necessarily get out from certain players or anything. We value him. He’s one of the elite scoring small forwards in the league. He’s been here for his entire career. As I tell all of the players, I can’t guarantee that anyone won’t be traded, when you consider the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett have been traded. Wilt Chamberlain got traded at one time. The vast majority of players who will be in the NBA with longevity are going to get traded. Again, we don’t know what’s going to come our way as far as opportunities. But we value Rudy greatly. This is the franchise that gave him the current contract that he’s with and we think he’s one of the elite young players in the league. We’re very happy with Rudy’s work here.”
Wallace also praised Leuer and said that he believes he can become a contributor in Memphis.
“Jon Leuer is a player who caught every NBA team’s eye during his days at Wisconsin,” Wallace said. “He was a second-round pick and some had good games, particularly with the Milwaukee Bucks, before he went on to Cleveland. He’s also been very productive in the D-League over the last two years so we’re interested to see what he can do eventually.”
The good news for the Grizzlies is that they no longer have to focus on the luxury tax. If they do make a move, it will be because it makes the team better, not simply to shed salary.
“[Yesterday’s trade] takes us under the luxury tax so that’s no longer an issue right now,” Wallace said. “Obviously you can focus more on deals that are strictly basketball deals and that don’t have any financial ramifications.”