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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Stories by Steve DelVecchio:

Dwight Howard opens up about rumors that he is gay

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard became the focus of gossip sites and internet rumors last year when a man claimed he was in a romantic relationship with the NBA star, and Howard says he learned a lot about himself from a situation that was very difficult for him.

Howard sat down for an interview with FOX Sports 1’s “Fair Game with Kristine Leahy” this week, and he opened up about the allegations. A man named Masin Elije, now the author of a book entitled “Industry Hoe,” accused Howard of cheating on him with a transgender man. Elije provided screenshots of direct messages he claimed he exchanged with Howard, and he later said he was physically threatened by Howard’s pastor and some other people close to the eight-time NBA All-Star.

Howard told Leahy he was angry because he had no idea why someone he had never met would make up an elaborate story about him, but he said the experience “liberated me.”

“I think that liberated me, because I saw how a lot of people would feel, whether they’re gay or straight or have issues,” Howard said. “People are afraid to be who they are.

“That situation made me realize, ‘You’re not like this, so just be you. Be free.’ I’m not gay. There’s a lot of people who are, and they have to hide. There’s people who have mental issues, and they have to hide. People have different problems in life, and they have to hide and have to put on a mask every day.”

Howard said he sat at home alone for the most part over a two-month span following the rumors, thinking about “who I am, who do I want to be (and) where do I want my life to go.”

“It hurt at first to go through it. I sat at home and I’m like, ‘Man, I never want to come outside again,'” he said.

The overall message from Howard is that he is a better person for having gone through that situation. The 33-year-old recently explained some other ways in which he has changed over the past several years, so he is clearly trying to make his pitch to teams. That is likely part of the reason he agreed to the interview with Leahy.

Mike D’Antoni: Rockets’ offense ‘not changing much’ with Russell Westbrook

Mike D'Antoni

The Houston Rockets may have to make some changes now that Russell Westbrook will be sharing the floor with James Harden next season, but head coach Mike D’Antoni insists any adjustments will be minor.

D’Antoni discussed the acquisition of Westbrook in an appearance on “The Woj Pod” this week, and he said there will be no need to change Houston’s offense much with Westbrook. He noted how the Rockets had the second-best offense in the NBA behind the Golden State Warriors last season.

“We’re not changing much,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll tweak it, but to say you’ve gotta change and you can’t win that way, that’s BS.”

D’Antoni was referring to critics who say the Rockets play too much isolation ball, whereas teams like the Warriors spread it around more and never have one player dominating that side of the ball. Some think it could be even more challenging to play that style now with how ball-dominant both Harden and Westbrook are, but D’Antoni is not concerned.

“Do we sometimes go too much 1-on-1? Yeah,” the coach admitted. “Do we sometimes iso or not move enough? Yeah, we do sometimes. But I can also make the argument that sometimes teams over-pass. Sometimes they move too much or are too helter-skelter. You try to find the balance of what is best for your players.”

Westbrook and Harden obviously aren’t concerned about sharing the ball, as they may have been the ones who facilitated the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russ.

D’Antoni has been even more passionate in defending his offensive approach in the past, and we don’t expect that to change. From a pure talent standpoint, the Rockets should be much better off with Westbrook than Paul. As we know, there is often more to the story than that.

Charles Barkley has some harsh words for Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley began his Hall of Fame career with the Philadelphia 76ers, and he has never been afraid to criticize his former team just as much as — if not more than – any other team he provides analysis on. That goes for superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, too.

Barkley said during an appearance on ESPN’s “Get Up” Tuesday morning that he believes the Sixers can win the Eastern Conference next season, but he cautioned that Embiid has to “get his fat butt in shape” and Simmons has to work on his jump shot for that to happen.

Barkley said the most valuable advice he ever received in his career came from Moses Malone, who told him he was “fat and lazy.” Barkley says that inspired him to lose 50 pounds when he first got to Philadelphia. He believes someone with the 76ers needs to step up and send a similar message to Embiid.

It will probably be more difficult for Simmons to improve his shooting than it is for Embiid to work on his conditioning, but Barkley has a point with both. Staying in shape is critical for Embiid if he wants to remain healthy, though he has not been that receptive to Barkley’s advice in the past. Simmons could be an MVP candidate if he learned how to shoot, but that is a tough thing to do at this stage in a player’s career.

Tedy Bruschi still moving to bigger role at ESPN despite latest stroke

Tedy Bruschi suffered his second stroke earlier this month, but all of the updates we have heard about his health over the last two weeks have been positive. On Tuesday, ESPN provided another.

Bruschi, who has made regular appearances on “NFL Live” and other programs for the past several years, is moving to a bigger role with ESPN. The network has announced its plans for 2019 NFL pregame shows, and Bruschi is joining “Sunday NFL Countdown.” He will replace Charles Woodson.

That is obviously a great sign, as it indicates it will be business as usual for Bruschi when the 2019 season gets underway — and likely sooner. The former New England Patriots linebacker has been a huge advocate for stroke awareness since he suffered his first back in 2005, and he said he was able to get the help he needed this time by immediately identifying the signs. We’re glad to hear he is recovering well.

Kendrick Perkins warns Zion Williamson to avoid New Orleans food

Zion Williamson

One of the concerns surrounding Zion Williamson now that his NBA career has begun is his weight, and Kendrick Perkins thinks the former Duke star will have to work extra hard to avoid culinary temptations in New Orleans.

Perkins, who spent a season with the Pelicans, said there are going to be people in New Orleans offering Williamson good eats everywhere he goes. The retired big man said the Pelicans better lock Zion away if they want to keep him in shape.

Williamson is listed at 285 pounds, which is heavy for a player who is about 6-foot-6. Most of that has to do with his incredible strength, but he suffered a knee injury in his first Summer League game and also got hurt during the NCAA Tournament back in March, though that injury was more of a fluke. The Summer League injury was the result of knee-to-knee contact, so it’s hard to argue that either had to do with Williamson’s size.

Like any other star player, Williamson will have to keep an eye on his weight and conditioning. While his strength is an asset, he can’t let one too many bowls of gumbo turn his impressive stature into a liability.

Big Baller Brand selling T-shirts, hats for $5 on clearance

LaVar Ball Lakers

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that LaVar Ball and his Big Baller Brand were being relentlessly mocked for selling $500 sneakers. The ridicule still exists, but for a much different reason now.

At one of their pop-up shops over the weekend, Big Baller Brand was selling several items on clearance. Prices ranged from $5 for T-shirts and hats to $100 for a package that includes a T-shirt, hoodie, pair of shoes and pair of socks.

When the Big Baller Brand first launched, Lonzo Ball’s signatures shoes were selling for $495. Hats and T-shirts were around $50. Many people thought the prices were absurd, but LaVar Ball insisted all of the items were selling at a furious pace and his family was making money in bundles.

Not so much, anymore. Lonzo recently distanced himself from BBB, and he had a pretty good reason for doing so. That has almost certainly had a negative impact on the brand, and you have to wonder how much longer they can stay in business with clearance prices like that.

Shaq responds to Steve Kerr calling him out over Finals comment

Shaq TNT

Shaquille O’Neal has some feet to kiss after a comment he made 15 years ago has come back to haunt him, and the Hall of Famer is puckering up.

Shaq’s Los Angeles Lakers won three straight championships from 2000-2002 and then reached the NBA Finals again in 2004, and the big man declared in an interview with ESPN that reaching four Finals in five years is so difficult it would never be done again. He said if any coach pulled it off, he’d kiss his feet on the show “Fear Factor.” Steve Kerr, who reached his fifth straight Finals with the Golden State Warriors this past season, was made aware of the interview on Monday.

Shaq responded by saying he is willing to pay up, as long as the cheese is Kraft brand.

Erik Spoelstra also brought the Miami Heat to four consecutive Finals from 2011-2014, so technically Shaq has to kiss his feet, too. As long as he’s the one kissing feet and not having his nightmarish feet kissed, things shouldn’t be all that bad.

Mark Cuban fined $50K for admitting to leaking info about coaches’ challenges

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban has gotten himself fined by the NBA numerous times in the past for things he has said, but the latest is a bit different from all the others.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reports that Cuban has been fined $50,000 by the NBA after he admitted to leaking information from last week’s Board of Governor meeting to a reporter. The fine was not announced publicly, but a memo was sent to teams and Cuban made a sarcastic remark to MacMahon about it.

“I appreciate the irony of your reporting on a fine that someone should, but won’t, get fined for leaking to you,” he said.

Apparently Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive expressed concern to the league that information about owners moving to allow coaches’ challenges next season was trickling out while executives were still meeting about it. Cuban immediately admitted he was the one who leaked the info, and that’s where the fine stems from.

The $50,000 fine is nothing compared to some of the penalties Cuban has had to pay in the past, and that probably gives you an idea of how serious the violation was — or, in this case, wasn’t.