Posted on: December 12, 2010 5:17 pm
NEW YORK -- The Carmelo Anthony saga took a bold step closer to a resolution Sunday, with a person familar with the three-time All-Star's strategy confirming to CBSSports.com that he will only accept a trade to the Knicks.
ESPNNewYork.com reported after the Knicks beat Anthony's Nuggets 129-125 that Anthony has told Denver officials that he will only sign a three-year, $65 million extension if he is traded to New York. Two people familiar with the Nuggets' internal discussions with Anthony disputed the part about Anthony having informed the Nuggets of his exclusive preference for a trade to the Knicks. But one of those people, who has direct knowledge of Anthony's position, confirmed to CBSSports.com that if Anthony is traded, the Knicks are the only potential suitor with whom he'd agree to re-sign.
Anthony sidestepped questions about his future Sunday after scoring 31 points in a losing effort against his hometown team. The Brooklyn-born Anthony has declined to sign the Nuggets' extension offer for months, though he told CBSSports,com Saturday that he informed team officials last week that he hasn't ruled out re-signing with the Nuggets, who drafted him in 2003.
Sources told CBSSports.com last week that Nuggets management has all but decided to trade Anthony if he does not signal his intentions to re-sign with them before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. With the information now public that Anthony will only accept a trade to the Knicks, the situation now appears poised to enter a final critical stage that will test the Nuggets' new management regime of GM Masai Ujiri and executive Josh Kroenke.
Anthony does not have a no-trade clause in his contract, but has a certain amount of leverage to dictate the outcome because the Nuggets would obtain far fewer assets from a team Anthony won't extend with. For example, the best straight-up offer for Anthony that Denver has received so far -- Derrick Favors, Troy Murphy and two first-round picks -- has always been contingent on Anthony signing an extension to trigger the deal. Without having Melo under contract beyond this season, such an offer would be pulled off the table.
Enter the Knicks, whose assets and lack of quality first-round picks have not impressed the Nuggets' brass, according to sources. In fact, even if the Knicks were able to parlay Anthony Randolph into a first-round pick in a separate trade, sources tell CBSSports.com that it wouldn't make a difference from Denver's standpoint.
But if Anthony is successul in his effort to orchestrate a trade to the Knicks, the Nuggets would have no choice but to engage in discussions or risk losing Anthony as a free agent after the season, when he can opt out of his $18.5 million contract for the 2011-12 season.
Posted on: December 11, 2010 4:17 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2010 4:21 pm
NEW YORK – Carmelo Anthony tested his sore knee during practice Saturday on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and then gave Nuggets fans a tantalizing bit of information.
“My mind is not made up,” Anthony said after completing his first full-speed drills after missing two games leading up to Sunday’s noon ET tipoff against the Knicks, one of his suitors via a trade or free agency – whichever comes first. “My mind is just to focus on this game [Sunday]; that’s really all I’m focused on right now. My mind is not made up. Where that’s coming from, I don’t know. But my mind is not made up.”
Three times Anthony said it, perhaps to drive home the point that he hasn’t mentally checked out on Denver. Not yet, anyway. After the interview scrum at the Reebok Sports Club broke up, he told CBSSports.com that this was the precise message he delivered to Denver management about a week ago. With 2 1-2 months to go before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, Anthony said he told Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri and executive Josh Kroenke that he hasn’t ruled out signing a three-year, $65 million extension offer that has been on the table since the spring.
“I met with them last week and I told them I’d think about it,” Melo said. “Which is more than I’ve said. We’ll see. We’ve been having a lot of great conversations.”
Indecision and inertia have defined the Melo saga since his representatives at Creative Artists Agency informed Nuggets officials in September that he was seeking a trade or would strongly consider opting out of his $18.5 million contract for the 2011-12 season and become a free agent. The Nuggets, in front-office turmoil at the time, decided not to move forward with a four-team trade that would’ve sent Anthony to the Nets – who are moving to Anthony’s birthplace, Brooklyn, in a year-and-a-half.
Though Anthony has maintained frequent dialogue with Ujiri and Kroenke in the weeks and months since then, direct public comments from him on his intentions have been rare.
How this latest clue should be interpreted depends largely on the perspective or agendas of the teams and executives involved. By telling Ujiri and Kroenke that he’d “think about it,” was he trying to express a softening of his desire to orchestrate a trade to the Nets or Knicks, his two preferred destinations? Or is the fact that he's still thinking about staying in Denver for $65 million -- presumably far more than he'd get as a free agent under a new collective bargaining agreement -- only bolster the belief that he's as good as gone?
CBSSports.com reported Wednesday that Nuggets management has all but decided to trade Anthony for the best possible package of young assets if he does not signal his intentions to sign the extension before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Privately, Nuggets officials still hold out hope they can keep the three-time All-Star, and believe the team’s strong start and the way they’ve explained their plan to him represent a show of good faith on their part to move forward with him as the centerpiece of a contender.
But sources also told CBSSports.com in recent days that the Nuggets will not fall into the so-called Cleveland trap. The Cavs sacrificed plenty to surround LeBron James with players they believed could help him win a championship, only to watch James head to Miami as a free agent anyway. According to people familiar with his strategy, Ujiri is determined not to sacrifice the future by acquiring such players – aging, expensive pieces like Antawn Jamison, for example – in what might end up being a futile effort to keep Anthony.
At the same time, the Nuggets believe they need clarity from Anthony before the trade deadline so they know how and when to proceed with their plan. Anthony, however, told CBSSports.com Saturday that he doesn’t believe he needs to sign the extension before Feb. 24.
“I don’t think so,” he said.
One way or another, Anthony said Saturday he believes the situation will be resolved by Feb. 24, though he was cryptic in his explanation of how it will go down.
“I think it’ll be decided one way or the other,” Anthony said. “… We’ll have an agreement one way or another.”
The basketball eyes of New York are on the Knicks, who have turned their season around with 11 wins in 12 games heading into Sunday’s matinee with Melo. Anthony, a native New Yorker, agreed that it’s good for the game when the Knicks are good and even took some credit for a pep talk he had with Amar’e Stoudemire when the Knicks – struggling badly at the time – played in Denver last month.
“Obviously what I said to him in Denver has really crept in on him, has really sunk in," Anthony said. "He’s doing everything I told him to do."
“To get them boys on track, to do what he’s got to do,” Anthony said. “At that time, they had lost a lot of games in a row and were on a little losing streak. So I just told him to get everybody together and lead that team.”
The wild card in the equation is whether Anthony would agree to an extension with New Jersey as part of a trade to the Nets. Sources say the best trade proposal Denver has received remains the offer from New Jersey centered around No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors and two first-round picks. Anthony provided no clues on that front Saturday, and he counted himself among those who are curious as to whether the Nets can rise to prominence in the same city with the Knicks when they move to Brooklyn in time for the 2012-13 season.
“We shall see,” Anthony said. “Man, I think that’s what a lot of people are waiting for, for that team to move to Brooklyn and see how it’s going to turn out -- if it’s going to be a Lakers-Clippers type of situation or what. I think a lot of people are anticipating that move.”
And Anthony himself? What does he think?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m one of the guys that are waiting to see how that’s going to turn out.”
Spoken like a much-sought-after superstar who remains undecided on a lot of issues that will determine his future.
Posted on: December 8, 2010 7:51 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 11:03 pm
After weeks of speculation and despite a strong start by the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony's last days in Denver may finally have arrived.
The Nuggets have all but decided to trade Anthony if he does not sign an extension with the team by the trade deadline, and Denver's management team believes Anthony is fully prepared to play out the season and become a free agent, multiple sources told CBSSports.com.
The Nuggets’ strong start, coupled with George Karl’s inspirational return from cancer treatment and positive discussions about a contract extension for the soon-to-be-1,000-win coach, have the organization feeling they've done everything possible to persuade Anthony to stay. But according to people with knowledge of the team’s strategy, if Anthony doesn’t agree to sign the three-year, $65 million extension by the Feb. 24 trade deadline, the wheels are all but certain to be put in motion to part ways with the three-time All-Star rather than lose him as a free agent and get nothing in return.
According to people in contact with the Nuggets’ management team, there is far more clarity today about what the team is seeking in a potential Anthony trade than there was in September, when new GM Masai Ujiri was thrust into the tempest in his initial days and weeks on the job. Executives believe the Nuggets have decided they would like to receive the best possible package of young players and are not interested in stopgap options that would hamper their flexibility. Acquiring a high-priced veteran player -- such as Andre Iguodala, whose talent the Nuggets value but not his contract -- would only hurt the team’s ability to build around youth while maintaining payroll flexibility into the uncertainty of a new collective bargaining agreement.
The Nets’ package of 2010 No. 3 pick Derrick Favors, guard Devin Harris, the expiring contract of Kris Humphries and two first-round picks remains the most attractive option to the Nuggets, sources say. Additional trade partners such as Charlotte and Utah are not eager to get involved in the discussions again, but wouldn’t necessarily be needed this time.
The wild card remains Anthony’s desire to sign an extension with the Nets, who obviously would not be willing to offer the same package without such a guarantee. While rival executives continue to doubt that Anthony would be willing to spend the next season-and-a-half in Newark, N.J., sources who have been in close contact with the power brokers in Anthony’s camp -- William Wesley and Leon Rose -- say the Nets remain an option for Anthony.
Anthony and the Nuggets will play Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, which remain his top choice via a trade or free agency -- even though the latter option could cost him millions depending on how successful owners are at imposing salary reductions in the new collective bargaining agreement. Sources say Anthony is so fixated on winding up with the Knicks that Denver management has become convinced that he will tempt fate and the new CBA by playing out the entire season in Denver and signing with the Knicks as a free agent on July 1 – or after the lockout. The only way that scenario could be positive for Denver would be in a sign-and-trade deal. But such an arrangement – like the pennies-on-the-dollar deals that sent LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami – would not be nearly as beneficial as what the Nets are offering now.
The Knicks, playing their best basketball in years with free-agent acquisition Amar’e Stoudemire, have believed that their best chance of landing Melo was for the process to play out slowly – and they’ve gotten their wish so far. But the Nuggets, sources say, are not sold on the young players New York could offer such as Anthony Randolph, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Point guard Raymond Felton -- who has been on an offensive tear since gaining chemistry with Stoudemire and who becomes trade-eligible on Dec. 15 -- also does not interest the Nuggets, who view him as a halfcourt player who wouldn't fit their style.
Nuggets officials are said to be coming around to the idea that Harris could play in the backcourt with Chauncey Billups, who often played shooting guard this past summer with Team USA. But if Anthony is traded, sources say management also wants to show Billups -- who came to the Nuggets not just to come home, but to win -- the proper respect by engaging him in conversations about whether he'd prefer to be traded.
Other than hoping to persuade Anthony to sign the extension and stay in Denver, the biggest variable for the Nuggets is the sliding scale of quality on the Nets’ own first-round pick they’d convey in the trade. (They also would include Golden State’s protected 2012 first-rounder). The sooner the Nuggets trade Melo to New Jersey, the better the Nets get and the worse the pick gets. But that is a matter of timing and patience. As far as willingness to deal, it appears that the Nuggets are finally open for business.
And so are we in the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:
• With the Trail Blazers' obvious struggles and the health challenges (that's putting it mildly) of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, two people with knowledge of the team's strategy told CBSSports.com that Portland management is contemplating trading older players and going young. The obvious targets for such a purge would be Marcus Camby (36), Andre Miller (34), and Joel Przybilla (31). Roy isn’t old, but his knees are -- though one of the sources said Portland would find no takers for the five years and $82.3 million remaining on Roy's contract, given the state of his meniscus-less knees. Przybilla ($7.4 million expiring contract) and Miller (whose $7.8 million salary in 2011-12 is fully non-guaranteed) are eminently moveable. Another candidate to be dealt, though not because of age or health, is Rudy Fernandez, who has wanted out of Portland for some time. Sources caution that the Blazers have engaged in only internal conversations about this strategy, and it is contingent upon the team (10-11) continuing to struggle. But the writing certainly is on the wall for major changes in Portland.
• Multiple NBA team executives told CBSSports.com this week they believe a significant number of college underclassmen will stay in school rather than risk losing a year of development (and pay) in a lockout. College coaches making the pitch to underclassman to stay in school will have more leverage than ever before. “They’ll have the hammer,” one exec said. “To lose a year of development at that stage of your career, that’s huge.” This could have a dramatic impact on a team like No. 4 Kansas, which in an ordinary year would have as many as three first-round picks: freshman Josh Selby (serving a nine-game NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits); and juniors Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor. Sophomore Thomas Robinson also impressed NBA execs scouting the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
• Speaking of Madison Square Garden, rival execs agree that New York would be a logical landing spot for Andre Iguodala, and they believe the Sixers will be more than open to discussing trades for the dynamic but high-priced swingman as the Feb. 24 deadline approaches. The Knicks, one of the few teams in a position to absorb salary in the uncertain labor environment, also would be looking for an attractive piece to pair with Stoudemire in the event the Nuggets follow through with an Anthony trade prior to the deadline. Team president Donnie Walsh would have to decide if, short of Anthony, Iguodala is the best option that will be available to him between now and 2011 free agency -- if and when that happens. And also, if Iguodala is worth giving up the cap flexibility he's toiled three years to create. Pricetag notwithstanding -- the 26-year-old is due $56.5 million over the next four years -- Iguodala would be an excellent fit for Mike D'Antoni's high-octane offense and would instantly become the best defender on the roster by a mile.
• With details of the National Basketball Players Association's July proposal finally becoming fully public Wednesday, the question of how prepared the union is for a lockout is naturally going to come up. According to sources familiar with the union's financial documents, the NBPA currently has just shy of $100 million in liquid assets in its war chest in the event of a lockout. The funds have been accumulated largely through players agreeing to put aside licensing money they receive from the league -- something they are doing again this season to the tune of about $30 million. If you add non-liquid assets, such as property, the union will have about $175 million on hand. This is a lot of money to you and me, but not to 450 NBA players. Consider that the players' salaries (without benefits) last season totaled about $2.3 billion -- with a "b." Now consider that players are paid 12 times during the season -- twice a month for six months. That means the NBPA's total war chest is enough to cover the players' first paychecks during a lockout in the 2011-12 season.
• With trade discussions typically heating up around the 20-game mark -- and also around Dec. 15, when summer free agents become trade-eligible -- execs league-wide are curious to learn what sort of trade climate will exist in light of the labor uncertainty. Many predict that teams that have typically been willing to take on salary between December and the trade deadline (Feb. 24) will be less willing (or unwilling) to do so in this environment. Similarly, teams performing below management's internal expectations (Houston, the Clippers, the Blazers) have a tough decision to make. They could try to fix their problems now, but without knowing what the rules will be under the new agreement, they don't know what conditions they’re planning for. Of the aforementioned teams, the Blazers are in the best position to dump salary because of the attractiveness of the contracts they'd be moving. Plus, Miller's value is not only in his contract, but in his ability to push a contending team in need of a steadying point-guard presence over the top. Full disclosure: this is my idea, not anybody else's, but Orlando would be the perfect landing spot for Miller depending on what the Magic would be willing to send back.
Tags: 76ers, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Anthony Randolph, Berger's Post-Ups, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, CBA, Chauncey Billups, Clippers, Danilo Gallinari, Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Donnie Walsh, George Karl, Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, Knicks, Kris Humphries, lockout, Magic, Marcus Camby, Masai Ujiri, Nets, Nuggets, Raymond Felton, Rockets, Rudy Fernandez, Sixers, Trail Blazers, Wilson Chandler
Posted on: December 1, 2010 2:53 pm
When LeBron James struts to the scorer's table in Cleveland Thursday night and tosses his customary talc in the air -- to a vicious chorus of boos or derisive laughter -- all eyes will be on how the prodigal son responds to being a pariah on the court he used to own.
That's fine. It's a story -- a big one by NBA regular season standards -- and one that will be examined ad nauseum during the relentless news cycle that follows.
I happen to have some context when it comes to Cleveland sports misery, and also boiling Cleveland sports bile. As a writer for the Associated Press, I sat in the press box at then-Jacobs Field for former Indians hero Albert Belle's return after signing a free-agent contract with the White Sox. The atmosphere was venomous, to say the least. I was also on hand for a much sadder, more poignant moment when the contents of doomed Municipal Stadium were auctioned to teary-eyed fans after Art Modell hijacked the beloved Browns and schlepped them to Baltimore. Among the items up for bidding that day, appropriately enough, was the commode from Modell's office.
Not to bore you with my life story, but I was also in the press box in Miami when Jose Mesa vomited away what would've been Cleveland's first pro sports championship in four decades in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Visions of Edgar Renteria and Craig Counsell dance in my head to this day.
I don't come from Cleveland; I only lived there for two of the best years of my life as a sports writer. But I think I can safely speak for the good people of Northeast Ohio when I say that James leaving the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat was worse than all of the above.
There is vibrant debate in the LeBron-o-sphere about how Cleveland fans should treat him Thursday night. Gregg Doyel, a proud Ohioan, pleads for Clevelanders to comport themselves with dignity and not make LeBron the victim. Point well-taken. Others say screw that ; give the traitor all the venom that he's got coming to him. Knowing how much sports heartache that city has endured over the decades, I can understand that point, too.
There's a movement afoot to have 20,000 people laugh hysterically at LeBron when he's introduced, and various chants have been scripted for when he touches the ball, checks into the game, or steps to the foul line. Kudos for creativity on those. But here's what I'd like to see. Here's what I think would be the appropriate response: When the Heat are introduced, and specifically when LeBron is introduced, turn your backs on the court and don't make a sound. Not even a whisper. The silent treatment and reverse ovation will be spookier than any alternative, and would haunt your former hero for at least 48 minutes and maybe months. Then, turn around and enjoy the game. Even in a place that has, um, witnessed its share of disappointments, it is still just a game, after all.
And with that, we move on to the rest of this week's Post-Ups:
* Lost in all the hysteria over LeBump and LeCoup attempt on coach Erik Spoelstra this week is the question of what Spoelstra can do with his lineups to improve Miami's performance on the floor. With help from adjusted plus-minus guru Wayne Winston , I dug into the lineups Spoelstra has used this season and came to some interesting conclusions.
The problem doesn't appear to be LeBron and Wade playing together; it's who's on the floor with them that makes a difference. In lineups with both LeBron and Wade, the Heat have outscored the opponent by 61 points. With LeBron only, they're plus-38, and with Wade only they're plus-21. (They're minus-14 with neither, for what it's worth.)
Spoelstra's most frequently used lineup -- the starting lineup of Wade, James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony and Carlos Arroyo-- has outscored the opponent by 36 points over 133 minutes. According to Winston, that lineup plays 14.55 points better than average. In other words, those five players would beat an average NBA lineup by 14 points over 48 minutes.
When Spoelstra subs Zydrunas Ilgauskas for Anthony in his second-most used lineup, that number goes down to 2.65 points better than average and Miami is plus-6. What happens when the Heat play without a point guard proves the point I've been harping on all along: Whether he likes it or not, LeBron needs to be the point guard on this team.
By far, Miami's best lineup with James and Wade (and with at least 30 appearances) is one without a true point guard. The Supertwins plus Bosh, Udonis Haslem (currently injured), and James Jones is 44.19 points better than average and outscoring opponents by 29 points in 43 minutes. If anything, Spoelstra should have been using that lineup more often; despite the assumption that Jones' suspect defense is an issue, that lineup is comparable defensively to the starting unit featuring Arroyo and Anthony instead of Jones and Haslem.
Without Haslem, Spoelstra still has an effective option with James and Wade and no true point guard on the floor. But to this point, he's only used this combination 13 times for a total of 17 minutes: James, Wade, Bosh, Ilgauskas and Jones are 45.81 points better than average and plus-15.
The point-guard problem is underscored when Spoelstra uses another point guard other than Arroyo. For example, of the four lineups Spoelstra has used with James, Wade and Eddie House, three of them are awful -- the worst being a lineup of James, Wade, Haslem, Ilgauskas and House, which is 46.99 points worse than average and minus-8.
The bottom line: Aside from using LeBron as a point guard more frequently, you can't really argue too much with the combinations Spoelstra has used most often. LeBron is the one player capable of tailoring his game to the needs of the team, and if he does, that will help Wade emerge from his funk and get the Heat playing like a Super Team instead of a Blooper Team.
* Brendan Haywood's agent, Andy Miller, told CBSSports.com that his client's one-game suspension enforced Friday against the Spurs was for "an isolated incident. ... It's over, and we're moving forward." One person familiar with the situation called it a "flare-up" and a "misunderstanding" between Haywood and coach Rick Carlisle that did not involve minutes or playing time. The relationship between Haywood and Carlisle is not in need of being addressed further, the source said. Haywood logged only 7:58 against Miami in his return Saturday night, but got more than 21 minutes Monday night against Houston -- the Mavericks' sixth straight win.
* As we touched on during preseason , Magic GM Otis Smith was presented a trade proposal involving Gilbert Arenas and Vince Carter this past summer, and despite Smith's close relationship with Arenas, he turned it down. Sources have continued to believe that the Wizards would only be able to trade Arenas if and when he proved he was healthy and in a positive place emotionally after the ruinous 50-game suspension he incurred last season. To the Wizards' delight, that has finally happened. Since being reinserted into the starting lineup eight games ago, Arenas has been consistently exceeding 30 minutes a night and has scored at least 20 points in five of those games. While the Magic have let it be known that they're willing to make a big deal if it involves trading anyone except Dwight Howard, sources say there has been no movement on the Arenas front since the aforementioned discussions fell apart.
* The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Tuesday that an attendance clause believed to have lapsed in the team's arena lease with the state actually still exists . That means the Hornets, currently 25th in the NBA in attendance despite their 12-5 start, would be permitted to start the relocation wheels spinning by breaking their lease unless they average at least 14,213 for the next 13 games. Team president Hugh Weber reaffirmed the team's commitment to New Orleans in the article, but stopped short of unequivocally stating that the team would not use the clause to break the lease. One reason: It would cost the team $10 million. Another: New ownership would be wise to consider such a move. If the Hornets are struggling now, with inspired play from Chris Paul and a giant-killer mentality instilled by new coach Monty Williams, just imagine how bad the attendance would be if the team was forced to trade Paul after a lockout.
* As we close in on Dec. 15, when numerous free agents signed over the summer become trade-eligible, rival executives have privately started wondering if the Heat would consider parting with one of their Big Three if it meant fielding a more complete team. The face-saving option to trade and the most easily obtainable, executives say, would be Chris Bosh. In fact, one executive speaking on condition of anonymity wondered how it would alter Denver's reluctance to trade Carmelo Anthony if the Heat offered a package centered around Bosh. The Nuggets, according to the executive, might prefer an established star in the low post as opposed to Derrick Favors, an unproven rookie. It's fun speculation, but highly unlikely. Aside from the embarrassment associated with breaking up the ballyhooed Big Three in Miami, the rub would be cost; executives continue to believe that if Denver deals Anthony and/or Chauncey Billups before the February deadline, it will be in a major cost-cutting deal.
* Meanwhile, as the Melo turns, executives are becoming more convinced that Anthony would not agree to an extension with the Nets -- a stance that could kill New Jersey's months-long bid for the superstar once and for all. Having attended a recent Nets game in Newark, which might as well be Russia as far as native New Yorker Anthony is concerned, I concur. Melo is interested in starring in a Broadway show -- or a nearby, off-Broadway equivalent. Had the Nets' move to Brooklyn not been sabotaged by lawsuits and New York City government paralysis, that would've made a huge difference. But Newark is Newark, and I believe Melo is headed elsewhere.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 1:14 pm
Their three-game winning streak and 22-gun salute from the 3-point line against the Lakers notwithstanding, these are delicate times for the Phoenix Suns. So delicate, in fact, that a speculative riff on an NBA writer’s podcast last week sparked a flurry of trade rumors surrounding Steve Nash.
Such is life in the NBA blogosmear, but there’s an element of truth to the speculation. Watching Nash play without Amar’e Stoudemire, and Stoudemire without Nash, is a classic lesson in being careful what you wish for. The Suns, like many NBA teams, were hesitant to lavish five guaranteed years on Stoudemire given the uninsurable state of his knees. The Knicks, boxed out of the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sweepstakes, were in the rare position of being open to Stoudemire’s in-person overtures back in July. It was a match made in Desperadoville.
The Knicks were in Denver Tuesday night to face the Nuggets and the latest apple of their eyes, Carmelo Anthony. They arrived in a tailspin, having lost five in a row, and left with a 120-118 loss, a six-game losing streak, and much of the hopelessness inspired by Knicks teams of the past decade. No fewer than 15 power forwards playing at least 25 minutes per game are ahead of Stoudemire in efficiency rating, according to Hoopdata.com. Among them are Michael Beasley, Charlie Villanueva and Hakim Warrick – who replaced Stoudemire in Phoenix. You don’t need data to see that Stoudemire is struggling in his new home. Watching him search in vain for someone who knows how to run a pick-and-roll is evidence enough.
Despite Warrick’s statistical accomplishments, things aren’t much better for Nash and the Suns. Lost in the Suns’ unconscious shooting exploits in a 121-116 victory over the Lakers Sunday night was the ongoing horror show of watching Nash dribble around desperately in search of someone to set a capable screen and roll to the basket. Both Nash and Stoudemire have lost something irreplaceable in each other.
While the Knicks plan to do their due diligence and inquire as to Nash’s availability, the Suns haven’t gotten to the point of entertaining offers, according to an executive familiar with their strategy. Coach Alvin Gentry already has made it clear publicly that the Suns aren’t trading Nash, and the executive familiar with the team’s posture characterized the flurry of rumors as “random” and “not factual.” But in Phoenix, as with many revenue-challenged NBA cities, basketball sense doesn’t always align with financial reality.
Without Stoudemire – and assuming they can’t make 20-plus 3-pointers a night for the rest of the season – the Suns will be struggling to get a whiff of the eighth seed come April. They’re the worst rebounding team in the league in terms of defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding differential, and the loss of center Robin Lopez to a sprained knee certainly won’t help.
“We’ve got to be a little bit more scrappy than we’ve been in the past,” said Jared Dudley, a key member of the superior bench that made the Suns such a threat to the Lakers in the conference finals last spring.
But Suns owner Robert Sarver, whose non-basketball businesses in the banking and real estate sectors have been hammered by the recession, isn’t paying $63 million for a scrappy, barely .500 team. The Suns are comfortably below the $70.3 million luxury-tax threshold, so there’s no urgency there. However, Sarver has been one of the most vocal in a new wave of owners in the collective bargaining fight, and rival executives believe he’ll be on a rampage at the trade deadline if the Suns are out of the playoff hunt. That’s an eventuality the Suns hope to prevent, and despite their current upswing, it will prove to be a difficult fight.
“Hopefully we can get a couple of wins in a row so we can get those rumors away,” Dudley said of the Nash speculation. “You don’t want your franchise player to go. He makes everybody better here and he’s the face of Phoenix. If you think the transition is big with Amar’e, I can only imagine. It would be a journey having [Nash] leave.”
Which brings us to the next step in our journey, to the rest of the Post-Ups:
• With Jermaine O’Neal out several weeks with a sore left knee, you and I both know what name comes to mind as a free-agent replacement: Rasheed Wallace. While ‘Sheed’s agent, Bill Strickland, wouldn’t completely rule it out, it doesn’t sound like Wallace is even contemplating the possibility of coming out of retirement – for the Celtics or anybody else. “I have not talked to Danny [Ainge, the Celtics’ president] or Rasheed about that, but I think Rasheed is through,” Strickland said. Wallace, 36, isn’t believed to be working out on the court in any capacity in the event a team might be interested in his services. And while it’s hard to imagine Wallace coming back with the NBA’s tech-happy mandate to the referees, it’s more of a physical issue. As far back as when Wallace was still with the Pistons, he was known to sometimes leave his shoes on between games in order to keep playing. If he’d removed them, his ankles would’ve swelled up so badly that he wouldn’t have been able to get them back on.
• Leave it to the Zen Master to decode the mystery of Utah’s amazing string of double-digit road comebacks last week. Lakers coach Phil Jackson pointed out that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is perhaps the only NBA coach who elects to have his team play offense in front of his bench in the second half. Most coaches prefer to have their team in front of them on defense down the stretch of road games. Lo and behold, the Jazz reeled off double-digit road comebacks against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte by pouring on the offense in the second half. Visiting coaches choose which basket to defend in which half. “You can generate a lot of points in front of your bench,” Jackson said. “Defensively, a lot of coaches like their team to be in front of the bench in the second half on the road, because you can call stuff and give eyes to the players with their back to the basket. They’re the only team in the NBA that does it the other way.”
• Brandon Roy’s future with bone-on-bone in both knees bears watching, given that his game is based on getting to the basket and he’s only 26 – with a lot of mileage theoretically ahead of him. But Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and former consultant to the Philadelphia 76ers, said it depends on the extent of the damage and where it is. After his latest bout with knee swelling and pain last week, Roy learned that surgery was not an option because he has no meniscus left in either knee. DiNubile said Roy’s fate will be determined by whether he lacks cartilage, too. “It would be extremely unlikely at that age to have no meniscus and no cartilage,” DiNubile said. Whether the bone-on-bone condition is occurring in the actual knee joint (bad) or under the kneecap (still bad, but better) also is important. If the bone-on-bone situation is where the tibia meets the femur, “You’re kind of doomed,” DiNubile said. “That’s not compatible with up-and-down playing. If he were to have bone-on-bone in the main part of his knee, his career’s going to be limited one way or the other.” If the condition exists in the kneecap, DiNubile said athletes “can do surprisingly well.”
• As more than an innocent bystander in the Carmelo Anthony saga, Nuggets coach George Karl is more than doing his part by using his considerable powers of persuasion to try to keep Melo in Denver. But it’s impossible to evaluate Karl’s efforts on that front without noting his own pursuit of a contract extension. Two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that the Nuggets view Karl as part of their future, regardless of whether Anthony stays. Whether Karl wants to remain in Denver if he winds up with a rebuilding team post-Anthony – that’s another matter. But despite Karl’s disenchantment with the ouster of his friends Mark Warkentien and Tim Grgurich, the lines of communication between Karl, GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke, and team president Paul Andrews are very much open. And weighing on the matter more than Anthony’s future is Karl’s health. Karl, 59, has several more hurdles to clear in his heroic efforts to beat throat and neck cancer, and wants to be sure he remains cancer-free before asking the Nuggets to commit to him beyond this season. Everyone in the NBA, including the Denver front office, is rooting for him.
• Tayshaun Prince’s repeated blowups, with coach John Kuester giving as good as he’s getting, aren’t expected to play a major role in the Pistons’ decision on whether to trade the swingman and his $11.1 million expiring contract. A person with knowledge of Prince’s thinking told CBSSports.com that his frustration isn’t fully directed at Kuester; losing, after his time as a member of the formerly contending Pistons, is a bigger issue. But the biggest issue in the decision on whether to move him is the impending ownership change in Detroit. Trading an expiring deal, by definition, involves taking on future money – which is difficult, at best, to do when a new owner is entering the picture.
• Kevin Love’s 31-point, 31-rebound game – an incredible performance and the first of its kind since Moses Malone in 1982 – was a quiet victory for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. Rambis had been trying to prove a point to Love by limiting his minutes: If you don’t play both ends of the floor, you’re not going to play. Rambis’ message finally got through, and the result was an example of what Love is capable of when he puts his mind to it. But this isn’t the end of the dysfunction in Minnesota, by any stretch. Just because Love performed in an historic way doesn’t mean he’s buying Rambis’ message long-term. And a person familiar with the Wolves’ locker room dynamics isn’t convinced it’s smooth sailing from here. “The team is a disaster,” the person said. Depending on who you ask, the issue is either lack of communication from Rambis, or an unwillingness to listen on the part of Love and others who are disenchanted with minutes. It’s going to take more time to sort it all out.
Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire, Berger's Post-Ups, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, Celtics, George Karl, Jared Dudley, Jazz, Jermaine O'Neal, Jerry Sloan, John Kuester, Kevin Love, Knicks, Kurt Rambis, Lakers, Nuggets, Phil Jackson, Pistons, Rasheed Wallace, Robert Sarver, Steve Nash, Suns, Tayshaun Prince, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers
Posted on: November 12, 2010 3:15 am
DENVER – In two different locker rooms, separated by about 50 yards and five championships, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony assessed the night’s developments in the NBA as we now know it.
The end of the Lakers’ 8-0 start. A significant victory by the Nuggets, who bounced back from consecutive losses that included an embarrassing meltdown in Indiana. The latest, ever-so-subtle shift in the Melodrama, with Anthony saying after the Nuggets’ 118-112 victory over the two-time defending champs, “I’m content with my situation.”
Across the continent, the Miami Heat lost again to the Celtics and fell to 5-4 – while the Cavaliers, LeBron James’ former team, are 4-4.
“Oh, ____,” Bryant said with a smile after being informed of the delicious irony. “That’ll make for a good story in Cleveland in November. But come April, I don’t think that’ll be much of a story.”
Somehow all the stories were intertwined Thursday night at the Pepsi Center. The best team in the league took one on the chin, giving up a 33-point fourth quarter to the small-ball Nuggets, who can do nothing more than view Anthony’s fragile future as a day-to-day proposition. The team the Lakers beat in the Finals, Boston, made mince meat of the mighty Heat – a 112-107 victory that, for now, has changed everyone’s perspective about how good this free-agent fabrication will be.
It is knee-jerk reaction time, because it is November in the NBA. Hours earlier, Bryant was sitting in a courtside seat at the Pepsi Center after shootaround, deflecting questions about whether the Lakers could win 70 games. Two weeks ago, everyone wanted to know if the Heat could win 73, eclipsing the NBA record established by Phil Jackson’s 1995-96 Bulls.
“You guys never stop that stuff,” Bryant said after the game, his knees wrapped in ice and a black, boxer-style robe draped over his shoulders. When asked if there’s too much dissection of the early returns, Bryant stood up and said, “What else are you guys going to do? Talk about Miami all the time?”
If nothing else, Thursday night, Nov. 11, was a turning point in this season of anticipation and unprecedented interest. It was the night when doubts about the Heat were driven home, and when the world exhaled with the knowledge that, no, the Lakers will not go undefeated. It seemed fitting that it all came together on a night when the old-guard Celtics humbled the new-look Heat – and when the young star of the league whom Bryant relates with the best showed why he belongs in the conversation about the top of the pecking order in pro basketball.
“We’re both brutally honest,” Bryant said. “I think that’s the thing. We don’t pull punches. We don’t sugarcoat how we feel. That’s what attracted me to him, and I think vice versa. We don’t pull punches. We hang out all the time and we can be harsh with one another, and it’s fun.
“He and I are like that all the time, and I’m like that with everybody,” Bryant said. “We rip each other pretty good back and forth. Obviously, I pull a little bit more weight because I’ve won a little bit more than him so I can talk a little bit more. We really just have a great relationship. We hit it off in Beijing and we’ve been tight ever since.”
After Anthony put up 32 points on 14-for-25 shooting from the field with 13 rebounds, Bryant hugged him and told him something.
“Just, ‘Good win,’” Melo said. “‘Keep it up.’”
Anthony is in the same position Bryant was in three years ago, wanting to find greener pastures. Bryant found them at home, in L.A., because the Lakers got lucky and got him Pau Gasol. They’ve been to the Finals three times and won two titles since then.
Melo said he isn’t looking ahead too far ahead, that he can’t see what December, February, or June have in store.
"I see the Phoenix Suns Monday night,” he said. “That’s what I see. … I’m content with my situation right now.”
It turns out there is an NBA beyond South Beach, and on Thursday night, Bryant and Melo were basking in it. Bryant, chasing his sixth title to equal the great Michael Jordan, was unusually jovial after a loss. Anthony, Bryant’s partner in brutal honesty, said he was “proud of my team” for the way it bounced back. And he promised to keep answering all the questions that result from his decision to leave his options open by refusing to sign a three-year, $65 million extension – a decision that has given the Nuggets no choice but to continue exploring what they can get for him in a trade. Because if Anthony doesn’t sign that extension by the February trade deadline, it will no longer a question of whether they trade Anthony, but what they get for him.
“I’m looking forward to just playing basketball, man,” Anthony said. “I’m not concerned about anything else right now. The only thing on my mind right now is winning, playing games, getting my guys back healthy and getting them back out there on the court. Everything else is irrelevant to me right now.
Down the hall, Bryant had just finished regaling his postgame audience with stories of why he respects Anthony so much – why, of all the stars on the 2008 Olympic team, he gravitated toward Anthony. For one thing, the elbows Bryant always makes a point of throwing at the new guys didn’t cause Anthony to recoil when he came into the league.
“He welcomed it,” Bryant said. “He just kept coming and coming and coming, so I respected that about him.”
Bryant respects his honesty, too, and can relate because he was once sitting in the same seat. The only advice Bryant said he’s given his friend is to make sure he’s sure about what he wants.
“Like I tell him, he’s got some catching up to do,” Bryant said. “It’s a long, rocky mountain to climb.”
Posted on: November 9, 2010 3:04 pm
The ouster of adviser Bret Bearup from the Nuggets' basketball operations was a long time coming, according to rival executives who have dealt with the team's dysfunctional front-office structure for years. But the real question is: How will the latest shakeup in Denver affect Carmelo Anthony?
Answer: Too early to tell, but it certainly doesn't make it more likely that he'll be traded.
Let me explain.
Bearup, an unofficial adviser to outgoing owner Stan Kroenke, is said to have been a proponent of trading Anthony rather than losing him as a free agent after the season and getting nothing in return. So Bearup has been an active voice in trade discussions, sources said, seeking out potential suitors and scenarios even as newly hired GM Masai Ujiri was preaching patience.
So it's significant that Stan Kroenke's son, Josh, who has been handed nearly complete control of the organization, was able to move Bearup out of the picture. Sources say rival executives had been told in recent days that Bearup was no longer authorized to discuss the team's personnel decisions, a stunning development to teams that had become accustomed to Bearup wielding significant power due to his close relationship with Stan Kroenke.
When I caught up with Stan Kroenke in September after a Board of Governors meeting in New York and asked him for his thoughts on trading Anthony, he said, "That's going to be Josh's decision." The fact that Stan had handed that much responsibility to Josh at such a critical juncture for the organization may have been the first sign that Bearup was on the outs.
"I think with Josh taking over, he was able to start with a clean slate," said one executive who has dealt with the Nuggets on personnel issues in the past.
But will this shakeup, first reported Tuesday by Yahoo! Sports , ultimately determine whether Anthony is traded or not? That's a stretch. One thing for sure is that the Nuggets' brass will now operate more secretively and from a unified power source, which has not been the case in recent years. The lack of clarity rival executives ran into this past summer in communicating with Denver officials was nothing new; it dated back to the awkward duo of Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman, who did not get along and were ultimately let go in the first phase of this purge.
One thing to remember in all of this: Ujiri was stung by Chris Bosh's departure from Toronto as a free agent and clearly wants to avoid a similar situation with Melo. Whatever the Nuggets do, they're likely to be more transparent about it than they have in the past. If nothing else, when GMs call Denver now, they'll at least be able to figure out who's making the decisions.
Posted on: November 1, 2010 8:54 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 12:45 am
By not completing a trade for Carmelo Anthony before the start of the season, the Nets knew they were faced with a calculated risk. What could’ve been a coup for them – the Nuggets being awful out of the gate and Anthony making the situation untenable for coach George Karl – hasn’t happened. But something else has gone the Nets’ way as they’ve continued to keep the trade talks alive.
Derrick Favors, the centerpiece of a four-team deal sending Melo to New Jersey that fell apart last month, has shaken off a poor preseason and made important strides toward proving that he’s worthy of inclusion in a franchise-shaping transaction like the one Denver is considering. It’s only three games, but the No. 4 overall pick is shooting 58 percent from the field while averaging 10.3 points, 10 rebounds and only one turnover per game. His talent is raw, and his defensive instincts are nonexistent. But at the very least, Favors hasn’t done anything in this ridiculously small sample size to infect the Denver front office with any serious doubts.
One executive who has watched Favors went so far as to say, “His stock as skyrocketed,” which is true any way you look at it. (After the up-and-down preseason Favors had, one way to look at it is this: There was nowhere to go but up.) The Nuggets, according to sources, are still in wait-and-see mode. And they’ll be seeing plenty before the key date in this saga, Dec. 15, when summer free agents become trade-eligible.
One of the aspects of this decision that GM Masai Ujiri is evaluating is how competitive his team will be with Melo on board. The next two weeks will be telling, with five games against teams that made the playoffs in the West last season – Dallas (twice), the Lakers, Suns and Trail Blazers. Rival executives have speculated that in some ways, Ujiri’s job becomes more difficult if the Nuggets get off to a strong start. If that happens, it will be exponentially more difficult to sell an Anthony trade to the paying customers. Given that Anthony left no doubt that he’s leaving Denver one way or another when he told Yahoo! Sports last week, “It’s time for a change,” a catastrophic start to the season would’ve been a far easier environment in which to justify trading him.
Until then, the Nuggets, Nets and Knicks – Anthony’s preferred destination – are in limbo until more tradable assets flood the market in six weeks. Which gives us a chance to flood the market with the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:
• As interesting as it will be to watch the first head-to-head matchup between John Wall and Evan Turner, the top two picks in the 2010 draft, the more intriguing figure in the Wizards’ backcourt hasn’t played a minute yet this season: Gilbert Arenas. The artist formerly known as Agent Zero is likely a no-go against the Sixers Tuesday night as he prepares to undergo further tests on his injured right ankle. He’s already seen foot-and-ankle specialist Mark Myerson in Baltimore. While the Wizards hold out hope of making a Wall-Arenas backcourt work, the scant hope that Arenas and the $80 million he’s owed can be moved before the trade deadline requires Arenas to return to the court, be productive, show signs that his All-Star talent remains intact, and prove that he’s no longer a locker-room risk. None of that can happen until teams see a significant sample size of Arenas on the court.
• A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Denver’s interest in Portland swingman Nicolas Batum in a potential Anthony trade, but those overtures have fallen on deaf ears among the Trail Blazers’ brass. Portland isn’t about to include the talented, versatile Batum in a deal unless they’re getting Melo, which isn’t happening. Having said that, the Blazers have a tremendous asset in Batum if and when they get involved in any trade discussions as the deadline nears. Batum is not only affordable – he’s still on his rookie contract – but his value is much greater to faster-paced teams. With their grind-it-out style, the Blazers understand that they don’t take full advantage of Batum’s open-court abilities.
• Commissioner David Stern went easy on the Knicks over the Isiah Thomas fiasco, allowing Thomas and then the Knicks to announce the death of their failed attempt at a reunion via a blatantly illegal consulting arrangement. Stern could’ve really embarrassed Garden chairman James Dolan on that one, but elected to allow the Knicks and Thomas to clean up the mess themselves and then say there was no need for the league office to take action. Pending the outcome of a league investigation of alleged illegal workouts with draft prospects – some perpetrated under the Thomas regime as team president, according to Yahoo! Sports – the NBA office is not likely to be so kind this time around. While there is no precedent for forfeited draft picks for such violations, those alleged to have been committed by the Knicks in the Yahoo! report would be the most extensive and persistent on record. The league has hired outside counsel to investigate the allegations, and the Knicks plan to cooperate fully. All of this was simply another lesson that re-hiring Thomas in any capacity was a bad idea whether it was against NBA rules or not.
• I am justifiably puzzled by the Heat’s apparent pursuit of a point guard to get Miami’s offense running more smoothly until floor-spacer Mike Miller returns from injury. I could see the usefulness of a Derek Fisher-type in that role, but short of that, the Heat’s offense would run just fine with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James acting as interchangeable wings initiating the offense. Coach Erik Spoelstra could play that way now, if he wanted to, by benching Carlos Arroyo for James Jones – who would fill Miller’s role as the shooter until Miller returns. The problem with Jones is his lack of defense, but the rest of Miami’s defense is so smothering, I’m not sure Jones-for-Arroyo wouldn’t be worth examining. Something tells me the Heat will eventually realize that they don’t need a point guard, simply because they’ve already got two of them: Wade and LeBron. Besides, after signing the top three free agents on the market and turning the NBA upside-down this summer, it strikes me as gluttonous for the Heat to be out on the market pursuing more pieces. Dear Coach Riley: I think you’ve got enough.
UPDATED 12:45 a.m.
• Though most 2007 draft picks were not getting extensions by the midnight Tuesday ET deadline, the Suns agreed to a five-year, $22.5 million deal with Jared Dudley, said his agent, Mark Bartelstein. ESPN the Magazine reported that the Grizzlies signed Mike Conley to a five-year, $45 million deal. With hours to go before the deadline, only Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Dudley and Conley had received extensions amid uncertainty over a new collective bargaining agreement that makes it difficult to assess such players’ value.
• It cannot be overstated that the public truce between the Blazers and Rudy Fernandez is no indication that the Spanish star is happy spending this season – and next, now that his fourth-year option has been picked up – in Portland. While sources say Fernandez is resigned to the fact that he’s a Blazer for the foreseeable future, efforts by Fernandez and his agent, Andy Miller, to tone down the rhetoric will go a long way toward making the situation more fertile for a trade. If nothing else, the fact that Fernandez now has two years left on his contract makes him far less of a flight risk if he’s traded. The Blazers remain steadfastly opposed to giving Fernandez his wish and releasing him from his contract so he can return to Spain. So for now, Fernandez appears content to accept his minutes and role while allowing trade inquiries from other teams to progress naturally.
Tags: Al Horford, Berger's Post-Ups, Bulls, Carlos Arroyo, Carmelo Anthony, David Stern, Derrick Favors, Dwyane Wade, Evan Turner, Gilbert Arenas, Hawks, Heat, Isiah Thomas, James Jones, Jared Dudley, Joakim Noah, John Wall, Kevin Durant, Knicks, LeBron James, Mike Miller, Nets, Nicolas Batum, Nuggets, Rudy Fernandez, Thunder, Trail Blazers