We’re guessing the person at the Orlando Sentinel‘s ad department laughed it off as a crank call at first. We’d like to place an ad for Dwight Howard thanking Orlando. Ha ha, yeah right but I have to get back to work. But no, this was very real and very surreal. The money for the full-page ad in Sunday’s edition of the newspaper has probably already been cashed, but we’re of the thinking the supposed empathy behind the move would bounce like a bad check. Howard might still claim residence in Florida because of the whole no-income tax thing, but he did not want to play there anymore. He made that very, very clear. The gesture of the ad, festooned with photos of Howard in the community helping kids, is about as sweet as the candy we all know Howard loves, but it’s also just as corrosive. In fact, that shit has to eat away at a Magic fan’s insides like nothing else to see him and his people write stuff like this: “Words cannot express the love that I have for Orlando. … Although my career with the Magic has come to a close, my love for the city and the people that make it beautiful will never end.” Howard’s on the next line and wants to apologize? Ha ha. We have to get back to things that are real. … The Spurs have added to their braintrust with Scott Layden‘s hire as assistant GM, Yahoo reported this weekend. Layden’s the former GM of the Jazz from 1992-99 when of course, they went to the NBA Finals twice. Here’s where it gets interesting and why this isn’t some boring old executive note. He went to the Knicks from 1999-03 where it wasn’t quite as successful and he was behind trading away icon Patrick Ewing in 2000 to the Sonics in a trade so involved it makes Howard’s three-team deal out of Orlando look like something thrown together casually over beers. Let’s just take a second to reminisce about that 12-player, five-draft pick, four-team deal. The very best player to come out of that deal was future draft choice Jamaal Tinsley or maybe Glen Rice. Vernon Maxwell was past his prime in the deal’s timing. Wait, let’s revise that — his biggest transaction (easily the most bizarre) was trading away his COACH, Jeff Van Gundy, to Houston for, wait for it, Dijon Thompson. That’s an example of truth being stranger than fiction. But it also led to JVG leaving coaching after Houston and entering broadcasting and now we all benefit from his random asides to Mike Breen. All of that aside, Layden’s a capable guy to handle San Antonio’s scouting department. It doesn’t sound like a sexy title but SA’s scouts are responsible for some of the best drafting in the past 15 years. It’s like heading up the CIA or something, another shadowy place that gets deals done. … Read more to hear about how anonymous Brandon Knight felt.
The story starts off like any motivational speaker’s dream: Brandon Knight stands among a group of awed children, ready to deliver his message — and some prizes, too. The seventh-graders are about to hear from an NBA point guard on the cusp of big things and they’re rapt in attention. The Sun-Sentinel had this story about the Piston point guard’s trip to a Coral Springs, Florida, middle school. These kids are seventh-graders, mind you, at an age when most NBA fans can rattle off starters for most of the league. This is where the speaker’s dream unravels into public speaking terror: No one knew Knight’s college or any of his teammates or any Piston ever. Crickets. Maybe it’s too small a sample size but damn, that can’t be easy to hear kids guess he went to Harvard, Florida, and even Nova Southeastern (first we’ve heard of it, too). OK, so he asked them to guess a teammate and some kid guessed Brandon Knight. Um, no. Apparently they got the signed balls for guessing his age and high school. What do we know from this? The gap between on-the-cusp and making it is still pretty wide by some observers. Knight had a pretty nice first season but making the Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Knight mixture work isn’t easy, and neither will Knight’s path to becoming a top-10 point guard. … The other thing we learned from that is despite the hype around hoops in South Florida because of the Heat, hoops hasn’t exactly taken hold among the masses. … We already spent a lot of quality time discussing Rajon Rondo and his prediction in Hong Kong that the Celtics can beat the Heat next year. Actually, not can, but will. And that’s why we love Rondo and why he can be so hard to stomach for the haters. He just doesn’t care. He could easily be on the 2016 Olympic team but when he was left off the Worlds team, something clicked in him that said, screw you Colangelo. And now he’s getting a full-time sidekick who’s just entering his prime in Avery Bradley? We aren’t going to go as far as Rondo’s prediction but the Celtics’ intriguing offseason makes them one of the most interesting teams to watch. As if you needed another reason, check out this dynamic duo video of the two together. … Speaking of Boston, Magic Johnson told the Boston Globe that he believes the wave of having the league’s best, traditional markets healthy will float all boats a little higher. “The league is in for a special year, because you need the Lakers and Celtics to be good and be competitive.” Wasn’t sneaking in parity what the CBA discussion was all about last year at this time? … We’re out like Dwight’s empathy.
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