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Steve Clifford: Dwight Howard Will Start for Hornets, Zeller to Come Off the Bench

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The new Charlotte Hornets starting lineup will look an awful lot like the one that completed last season.

Coach Steve Clifford said Friday that his projected starters, going into training camp Sept. 26 at Spectrum Center, are Kemba Walker at point guard, Nic Batum at shooting guard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward, Marvin Williams at power forward and Dwight Howard at center.

The only change from last season that would represent is the addition of Howard, who the Hornets traded for in June. He will replace Cody Zeller, who will still play extensively at center and could play some power forward in certain matchups.

That lineup means power forward Frank Kaminsky would continue to come off the bench and rookie guard Malik Monk, the 11th overall pick in June’s draft, would also be in the second unit.

Clifford said Howard, who he coached twice as an NBA assistant, isn’t as athletic as he was when the Orlando Magic drafted him No. 1 overall in 2004. But his defensive impact can still be big on a team that had little or no rim protection last season.

“Dwight is still an elite defender,” Clifford said. “He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. He’s Marvin Williams” as a traffic cop on defense.

Source: Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer

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Sources: Magic to Aggressively Shop Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton, Mario Hezonja

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It might go down as one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time: How did this Magic team start 8-4? Orlando has since gone a ghastly 4-27, which will most likely lead to a fire sale at next month’s trade deadline. Rival executives expect Jeff Weltman, Orlando’s new team president, to aggressively hunt for new homes for the likes of Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja, given that Nikola Vucevic’s broken finger is likely to preclude dealing the center.

Source: Marc Stein of the New York Times

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Nikola Mirotic: Potential Trade Has Been ‘motivation’

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Bulls forward Niko Mirotic admits that all the trade speculation surrounding his future in Chicago has been a motivating factor for him as he continues the best stretch of his NBA career. Monday marked the first day of the season on which Mirotic could be traded.

“This is kind of some motivation for me,” Mirotic said after Monday’s 119-111 win over the Miami Heat. “I know it sounds weird. But people are talking, ‘OK, Niko be gone’ and ‘Bye bye, Niko’ or whatever. But for me, it’s OK, just do what you’ve got to do. Play well and try to do your best until the last day and not be distracted. I know a lot of people were asking me before this, ‘OK, Niko, Jan. 15’s coming, what do you think?’

“No, I’m not thinking about Jan. 15. I’m thinking day by day, doing my job, being consistent, everybody’s talking about that the last couple years, and that’s my goal. Because when I focus day by day, it’s for me easier.”

“I am enjoying this moment,” Mirotic said. “The team is winning. I am playing well. That’s all I can ask … I know my name is going to be there [in trade speculation]. But I’m doing my job, I’m sure [the Bulls front office is] doing their job, and we’re both going to do what’s the best for the team.”

Source: Nick Friedell of ESPN

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Report: Miami HEAT Apply for Disabled-Player Exception

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The Miami Heat have applied to the NBA for the $5.5 million disabled-player exception that became available in the wake the decision by guard Dion Waitersto undergo surgery on his chronically troublesome left ankle.

Monday was the deadline to file for the exception, which is half of Waiters’ 2017-18 salary.

The exception is made available if an independent medical panel determines that Waiters will be sidelined at least through June 15. The part of the process has now been set in motion.

The timetable for Waiters’ recovery runs at least that long, although he would be eligible to return earlier even if the exception is spent.

The exception does not create an additional roster spot, with the Heat already at the maximum of 15 players under standard NBA contracts, in addition to the two allowable two-way contracts with the developmental league.

Source: Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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