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#pounditThursday, August 5, 2021

Stories by Grey Papke:

Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza agree to sign with Lakers

Dwight Howard

The Los Angeles Lakers are bringing in a pair of veterans to fortify their bench and add some key experience.

Howard’s agent confirmed Monday that the veteran center will join the Lakers for a third stint. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Ariza’s agents confirmed that his pact with the Lakers is a one-year contract.

It would have been hard to believe with how Howard’s first stint ended that he’d ever return to Los Angeles once, much less twice. It speaks to the valuable contribution he made to the team’s 2020 championship, as he averaged 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds while playing strong defense. One Lakers veteran went out of his way to recruit Howard, demonstrating that the veteran center’s contributions were not forgotten.

Ariza also has experience with the Lakers. He won a title there in 2009, producing several key contributions during that playoff year. The UCLA product averaged 11.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in the NBA Finals that year.

Depth was a big issue for the Lakers last season, especially due to injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Adding the likes of Howard and Ariza should help with that next year as they try to reclaim the NBA title.

Kyle Lowry announces he will sign with Heat

Kyle Lowry

The Miami Heat have the point guard they covet.

Kyle Lowry announced less than an hour into free agency on Monday that he would join the Heat, joining forces with Jimmy Butler.

Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports had been first to report that Lowry would sign a three-year deal and would join via a sign-and-trade with the Toronto Raptors.

Lowry leaves behind the Raptors as one of the franchise’s greatest-ever players. The Heat have been considered frontrunners for him for some time, and even looked into trading for him at the trade deadline. He’s close with Butler, and the two should lead a fantastic defensive unit in Miami.

The Heat also agreed to new contracts with Butler and Duncan Robinson on Monday, securing their core for years to come. There are rumors that they might have another big addition in mind as well.

Photo: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia via CC-by-S.A. 4.0

Lonzo Ball agrees to four-year, $85 million contract with Bulls

Lonzo Ball

The Chicago Bulls are getting their playmaking point guard in the form of Lonzo Ball.

Ball’s agent, Rich Paul, told Shams Charania of The Athletic that Ball has agreed to a four-year, $85 million contract with the Chicago Bulls. Ball is a restricted free agent, so the New Orleans Pelicans have the right to match the offer. However, they are instead closing in on a sign-and-trade that will bring back Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple.

Ball addresses a clear need for Chicago. The team leaned on the likes of Coby White and Satoransky at point guard last season, and neither seemed an ideal fit. White is also out for several months after offseason shoulder surgery, making Chicago’s need even more urgent.

The Bulls have been strongly linked to Ball for a while. The 23-year-old is coming off the best season of his career so far, averaging 14.6 points and 5.7 assists per game while shooting 37.8 percent from three-point range. He should operate in a playmaking role for both Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.

Baylor AD hilariously shades Texas over move to SEC


Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades is trying to put a brave face on as the Big 12 ponders its future. He did so by taking a pretty funny shot at Texas.

Rhoades commented on Texas’ impending move to the SEC on Monday. He acknowledged the national narrative was that it was the Longhorns’ arrogance that drove them to make the conference switch, but disputed it. In his mind, this just shows that Texas needs a bit more confidence in itself.

Well, that’s one way to look at it. It’s certainly true that Texas had a hard road to the College Football Playoff from the Big 12, but that had as much to do with their general lack of success as anything else.

The better reaction is probably this one from Steve Spurrier, which is definitely more aligned with the notion that the Longhorns are a little too high on themselves. Rhoades can think what he wants, but the fact that the Big 12’s survival is a fair question after Texas and Oklahoma leave suggests that he’s not quite correct here.

Nick Saban’s huge new Alabama contract will set a record

Nick Saban

Alabama announced the terms of Nick Saban’s new contract at the school, and the numbers are unsurprisingly eye-watering.

While Saban’s base salary remains the same, the Alabama coach’s talent fee got a big hike in his new extension, which runs through the 2028 season. In 2023-24, Saban will become the first college head coach to make eight figures annually when his salary jumps to $10.3 million. The final six years of the deal are all over $10 million, topping out at $11.5 million in 2028-29.

In total, the compensation over the life of the deal lands just shy of $85 million. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney will eventually get to $10 million annually under the terms of his current deal, but it won’t happen until 2027.

If anybody deserves it, it’s Saban, who has made the Crimson Tide program a guaranteed annual contender. He’s won six national championships at Alabama, and it would be a surprise if he doesn’t add at least a couple more before this contract expires.

The 69-year-old Saban has hinted that this new contract may end up being his last. If it is, he’ll go into retirement quite secure financially.

Report: SEC could expand to nine-game schedule with Texas and Oklahoma

SEC logo

The SEC’s eight-game conference schedule could become a thing of the past within the next few seasons.

According to Andy Staples of The Athletic, the SEC is keeping all options on the table for scheduling once Texas and Oklahoma join the conference. One option being considered is a move to a nine-game schedule. How it would work remains a question, as it could involve pods of four teams or permanent opponents.

The move is mostly financial, with a wrinkle. SEC fans have grown tired of the repetitive schedule, as there is virtually no overlap between the East and West aside from permanent opponents and teams that make the championship game. A bigger rotation of opponents would do a lot for fans and let them see teams they’re not used to facing.

The move to nine games would also please other conferences. The Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-12 have at times been rankled by the SEC’s eight-game schedule allowing them to add a weak non-conference opponent to the slate. The aforementioned three leagues all play nine-game conference slates.

Further schedule changes may be required if the SEC gets even bigger. Regardless, the upcoming conference realignment will lead to major changes even within the league.

Report: Celtics interested in bringing back Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas

It wasn’t long ago that Isaiah Thomas was one of the biggest stars on the Boston sports scene. Much has changed since then, but the Celtics might be interested in turning back the clock.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Celtics have interest in bringing Thomas back as a free agent. Celtics president Brad Stevens is said to be “one of Thomas’ biggest fans.”

Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game for the Celtics in 2016-17, battling through a hip injury and the death of his sister during a memorable playoff run. That hip injury proved to be his downfall, along with a trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving that summer. He’s only appeared in 87 regular season games since and has never come close to approaching his previous level.

Thomas’ departure from the Celtics was an emotional one that did not seem to go down well with the point guard. His feelings appear to have softened as time has passed, however, suggesting that this reunion might be plausible. How much Thomas has left in the tank is another question entirely.

Nick Foles has specific preference for new team if traded by Bears

Nick Foles

Nick Foles is currently the third-string quarterback for the Chicago Bears. That isn’t a role that sits well with the former Super Bowl MVP, but that doesn’t mean he wants to be traded to any old team.

Foles said familiarity with the offense is paramount in any trade, and he does not want to go somewhere that he isn’t familiar with the coaches, personnel, or scheme.

“I don’t want to go to someone that I don’t know,” Foles said, via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk. “When you have a great coaching staff, you have something special. Big reason we were great in Philly was we had a great coaching staff. It put us in position to succeed. . . . I don’t want to just go somewhere where I don’t know them, I don’t know the offense. I’ve gone down that road before and it’s not fun.”

Foles’ stated preference doesn’t leave him with a ton of suitors. One option may have opened up due to an injury, but the Colts may just go with Jacob Eason for now. Foles clearly wants out of Chicago, where he’s buried behind Justin Fields and Andy Dalton on the depth chart, but that’s easier said than done.