Mac McClung signing deal with Orlando Magic, per report

The Orlando Magic are loaded with young guards and are adding another to the mix. Mac McClung has agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with the team, according to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The former Georgetown and Texas Tech standout is looking to stick with a team after logging just four NBA appearances through his first two pro seasons.

McClung only played one game for the Philadelphia 76ers last season but had plenty of success with the Delaware Blue Coats. The 2023 slam dunk champ notched 18.9 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.4 rebounds over 31 games for the 76ers’ G League affiliate. He shot 54.8 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from deep. It could be difficult for him to steal minutes from the lanky, athletic ballhandlers Orlando already has, though.

Markelle Fultz is fresh off a strong season in which he posted career highs in points (13.9) and assists (5.7) per game. Then there are Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs, who provided scoring support and much-needed defensive intensity off the bench last season. Anthony Black, the sixth overall pick from the 2023 NBA Draft, will join that trio of guards in 2023.

McClung has his work cut out for him if he wants to break into the rotation despite his success in the G League. He’s averaged 21.8 points per contest through 55 games split between the Windy City Bulls, South Bay Lakers, and Blue Coats.

Lakers’ LeBron James, USC’s Bronny James accompany Drake to the stage for concert at Arena

LeBron James has walked out of the Arena tunnel many times, but on Monday the NBA star did so with his eldest son, Bronny James, as they escorted Drake to the stage at the beginning of a concert. This was one of Bronny’s first public appearances since the incoming USC freshman suffered cardiac arrest last month.

On Saturday, Bronny also joined his dad and younger brother, Bryce James, at the LeBron James bobblehead night at Dodger Stadium.

Drake has been getting support from the entire James squad as Bryce was at a concert with his friends earlier this month in Inglewood. During Monday’s concert, the crowd cheered while Drake talked about “the gentleman that walked me to the stage.”

🦉The Boy and The King 👑
Drake walks out with LeBron and Bronny at #cryptocomarena

— Arena (@cryptocomarena) August 22, 2023
The rapper called the Los Angeles Lakers forward his “brother” and explained that LeBron has been supporting his music from the beginning.

“In 2009, when nobody believed in anything I had going on, that same guy showed up to a release party for a mixtape that was called ‘So Far Gone’… He came all the way to Toronto to support me when I was trying to figure out how to live my dreams,” Drake told the crowd. “Tonight, however many years later, it’s an honor to be inside his building.”

“In 2009, when nobody believed in anything I had going on, that same guy showed up to a release party… He came all the way to Toronto to support me… Tonight… it’s an honor to be inside his building.”

Drake on LeBron’s early support in his

— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) August 22, 2023
Bronny collapsed on the court during a practice with USC on July 24 and was taken to the Cedars-Sinai Hospital intensive care unit. He was stabilized and discharged days later, but the family has not given many updates since then.

On July 27, LeBron thanked everyone who sent love and prayers to his family, saying they will share more when they are ready. The proud father also shared a video of Bronny showing off his musical talent by playing piano for his family.

‘I’d love to convince him to stay’

Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris has weighed in on the James Harden situation. While speaking during a press conference ahead of a Washington Commanders — another team he recently purchased — preseason NFL game, Harris gave his insight on Harden’s trade request, and how he wishes to convince the All-Star guard to stay in Philadelphia.

“Listen, we’re hard at work,” Harris said. “I respect James. I want to, obviously, accommodate what he wants. At the same time, I have to think about a championship-contending team, what we can get back. I’d love to convince him to stay. I understand that that’s not what he wants to do right now.”

Harris’ remarks came a day before Harden was fined $100,000 by the NBA for comments “indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team.”

Harris’ comments echo what Sixers president Daryl Morey has said recently in wanting to get the best return if the team trades Harden. However, the timeline of that trade is certainly taking longer than Harden would like, which is what reportedly led him to call Morey “a liar.” Harden told the league office — which opened an investigation into Harden’s comments — that those comments stemmed from Morey telling him that he would be traded “quickly” after he requested the trade. That obviously hasn’t happened, which resulted in Harden saying during an event in China that he would never play for a team ran by Morey.

The Sixers and Harden are now in a standoff, with Philadelphia calling off trade talks with the Clippers with the intention of bringing the disgruntled star into training camp. But given Harden’s comments, which more recently includes saying that his relationship with the team is beyond repair, that isn’t the ideal situation for either side. Despite no trade being on the horizon at the moment, Harris said that he will work to find the best solution for everyone involved.

“I’m going to keep working to resolve it in a way that everyone can live with and is positive for everyone, whatever that resolution is,” Harris said. “… I respect him as a basketball player, and as a person. It’s back to, these are, you’re dealing with people, right? And you’ve got to be there. We’ll see where it comes out.”

Time will tell if Harris is able to change Harden’s mind, but right now it doesn’t seem like he wants to go down that route. But with training camp opening Oct. 3, the Sixers still have a good chunk of time to resolve this situation before things get really uncomfortable.

James Harden fined $100K by NBA after public comments about 76ers trade request, NBPA to challenge ruling

James Harden has been fined $100,000 by the NBA for his “public comments on August 14 and 17 indicating that he would not perform the services called for under his player contract unless traded to another team,” the NBA announced on Tuesday.

“The league’s investigation, which included an interview of Harden, confirmed that these comments referenced Harden’s belief that the 76ers would not accommodate his request to be traded,” the league’s statement concluded.

Later on Tuesday, the National Basketball Players Association issued a statement disagreeing with the ruling and promising to challenge it.

“We respectfully disagree with the league’s decision to discipline James Harden for recent comments he made, which we believe do not violate the rule against public trade demands,” the players’ union’s statement said. “We intend to file a grievance and have the matter heard by our Arbitrator.”

For reference, here is what Harden said at an event in China on Aug. 14.

“Daryl Morey is a liar, and I will never be part of an organization that he’s a part of,” Harden said to a room full of people in a video obtained by Shams Charania. “Let me say that again: Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be part of an organization that he’s a part of.”

It would appear that the part of that comment that really got Harden in trouble, even more so than calling Morey a liar, was when he followed up by saying “will never be a part of an organization that [Morey is] a part of.”

Translation, unless Morey is fired, Harden won’t play for the Philadelphia 76ers — which is interesting considering the fact that in June he willingly opted in to his $35.6 million player option for the 2023-24 season with … the Philadelphia 76ers.

Here is the language from the CBA.

The rule is new and $100K is the maximum allowed.

The maximum player fine that may be imposed for (1) conduct or statements prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball, the NBA, or a team, or (2) violations of the tampering…

— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 22, 2023
You might recall that Kevin Durant was reported to have told the Brooklyn Nets that the only way he would play for them, even though he was under contract, was if they got rid of their head coach at the time, Steve Nash, and GM Sean Marks. But Durant never said this publicly.

When Ben Simmons basically refused to play for the Sixers, he cited mental health. He didn’t just flat out say he wouldn’t play in Philadelphia.

Stuff likes this goes on behind the scenes a lot. Business is dirty, and the NBA is a business. Damian Lillard has made it pretty clear he wants a trade out of Portland, where he’s under contract for the next four years, and that specifically he wants to go to Miami, but he hasn’t stepped out and said this publicly.

That’s where Harden went wrong. You can’t stand up on a global platform, effectively grab a megaphone, and start refusing to play for the team with which you are under contract. The NBA has to get at least somewhat of a handle on this. Player empowerment is one thing; complete manipulation and outright refusal to honor contracts is a whole other issue that certainly falls within the language of “statements detrimental to basketball, the NBA or a team.”

Subsequently, the NBA launched an investigation into Harden’s comments and whether his calling Morey a liar potentially referenced a handshake agreement between the two when Harden took a lower salary last summer. Did Morey tell Harden he would make it up to him this summer with a long-term deal? If so, this would qualify as something of a wink-wink salary cap circumvention.

Instead, what emerged from the investigation was Harden confirming that his liar comment was in reference to Morey “telling Harden he will trade him quickly following the $35.6 million opt-in for the 2023-24 season,” per The Athletic.

So Harden believed he was only opting in to be traded, and the Sixers’ stance now is that they dont intend to trade him. For Harden, such are the breaks when nobody out there — notably the Clippers — wants you enough to present Morey with a reasonable trade offer.

Never mind the hypocrisy of a guy who has bailed, or is in the process of trying to bail, on three different teams with whom he was under contract calling somebody else a liar. When Harden signed those deals, that’s a pretty clear agreement to give your all to that team. Did he keep his word?

He would tell you that circumstances changed from the time he signed those deals. Well, circumstances have changed for the Sixers, too.

Harden’s value is in the tank, pretty simply. He can walk after this season. He flamed out (again) when the Sixers needed him most in Games 6 and 7 of the conference semifinals against Boston last year. He very clearly is always a threat to up and force his way out of a contract and turn your team into a mess, as he has now done three times — first in Houston, then Brooklyn, and now Philadelphia.

Oh, and he’s about to turn 34 years old and isn’t anywhere near the player he once was. He doesn’t have the leverage he thinks he does, or certainly that he used to have. His best bet is to swallow his pride, come back to the Sixers and give them 100% for one more season. If he plays well, and isn’t a problem, he can perhaps restore some of his value and have his agent start sweeping the landscape for creative deals next summer to land him with one more long-term deal.

Or he can being stubborn and try to become such a headache that Morey capitulates. I wouldn’t count on that happening. Morey showed with the Simmons saga that he can stay locked into a staring contest with the best of them. In other words, stay tuned.

Stan Van Gundy called it ‘ridiculous’ that Dwight Howard didn’t make NBA’s Top-75 team, and he’s right

When the NBA announced the top 75 players of all time, which actually became the top 76 players as there was a tie in voting, for the league’s 75th anniversary in October of 2021, some notable names did not make the cut.

Among them: Adrian Dantley. Klay Thompson, Tony Parker, Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Alex English, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter, to name a few. But in many people’s eyes, the biggest top-75 snub was Dwight Howard.

You can count Howard’s former coach Stan Van Gundy among those who found Howard’s absence on the list to be “absolutely ridiculous.”

“The time I was [in Orlando], to me, the only two guys you could even talk about in [Howard’s] league at that time were LeBron, and Kobe was still playing. That was it. There was no on else to talk about in my opinion,” Van Gundy said on the Knuckleheads podcast back in March. “Because you’re talking about both ends of the floor. He was three straight years of Defensive Player of the Year. And then on offense, he’s still getting you 20 plus, and we didn’t even go to him. We weren’t throwing him the ball all the time to let him get numbers. But everything revolved around him. He would roll, and at that time suck in the entire defense, and then we had shooters around him.

“Look, for him to not be in the top 75, that was just a personality thing,” Van Gundy continued. “There’s no way. Like, I think Anthony Davis is great, but at the time the selected [the top 75], you’re selecting it on the careers they had had up to that point. I mean come on. It’s not close.

“Like, you can think a guy is better. That’s fine. That’s a subjective thing,” Van Gundy went on. “Like, I was arguing with people the other day. It’s fine if you want to tell me that Michael Jordan is a better basketball player than LeBron James. That’s fine. You can make a case for that. What you can’t make a case for is that Michael Jordan had a better career than LeBron James. You can’t make a case for that.

“And when you’re going top 75, you cannot make a case — and I’m only bringing out one guy, there’s a lot more — but you cannot make a case that Anthony Davis, when they picked that team, or even now, had a better career than Dwight Howard,” Van Gundy concluded. “That’s absolutely ridiculous.”

This is from the Knuckleheads Podcast. Check out the full interview here:

— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) August 21, 2023
Van Gundy — who, by the way, is known to have not always had the best relationship with Howard — is right on here. Howard not being named a top 75 player of all time is ridiculous. Personally, I believe that on top of his clownish, at times diva personality that rubbed a lot of people wrong, the fact is by the time that all-time team was selected, Howard was coming out of his 17th season and heading into the last of his career while Davis had played just nine seasons.

The simple truth is that by that time, a lot of people had forgotten just how dominant Howard was over the first nine years of his career; especially the eight he spent with Orlando. Like Van Gundy says, there are more than a few players you can cite as being less deserving of a spot on the all-time team than Howard, but just to make it easy, let’s go ahead and make the direct Anthony Davis comparison based on the first nine years of their respective careers.

As you can see, the first nine years of Howard’s career were pretty clearly superior to the first nine of Davis’. Even the All-Star appearances even out at eight apiece when you include Howard’s 10th season in Houston, and all told, Howard has been to the playoffs 12 times. When he was the clear-cut best player on the team, Howard led his team to the Finals. Davis never got out of the second round.

It’s true, Davis was a much bigger part of the title that both won in 2020 with the Lakers, but Howard was an important component of that big-ball team as well. Bottom line, both benefitted from playing alongside LeBron James. There is nothing to suggest Anthony Davis would have a ring as the best player on a team.

If you go advanced stats, Howard tops Davis in average win shares (10.3 to 9.6) over their first nine years. Davis has the higher average PER. Howard led the league in rebounds five times; Davis zero. Davis led the league in blocks three times; Howard twice. Davis was, and is, clearly the better offensive player, but like Van Gundy said, Howard was the epicenter of what those Magic teams did as well and was a 20-point scorer despite not being a go-to guy.

There’s just no way to say Davis had had a better career than Howard up to 2021. His peak was not higher. Howard should have been named to that team, if not over Davis, then over someone. Russell Westbrook. Damian Lillard. Carmelo Anthony. Even if we just keep it to the modern guys, at least those three players shouldn’t have made it over Howard, who was as dominant a big man as we’ve seen in the post-2000s game this side of Shaquille O’Neal.