Tag:Carmelo Anthony
Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:10 am
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Magic want Melo-like haul for Howard

Magic executives have continued to tell teams this week they do not intend to trade Dwight Howard, but several teams came away from the conversations with a clear picture of what the club wants if it changes course: a replica of the deal Denver pulled off last February for Carmelo Anthony, multiple league sources told CBSSports.com Thursday.

If the Magic decide to trade Howard, they have “not closed any doors” on potential suitors, said a person familiar with the organization’s strategy. Teams that are on and off Howard’s list of preferred destinations – the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers – will be considered, and may the highest bidder win, sources said.

What Orlando is seeking if it makes a deal for the All-Star center is a package similar to what the Nuggets received for Anthony at the 2011 trade deadline: multiple good, young players and draft picks. Orlando executives view the Denver model as a middle ground between blowing up a contender and starting over with draft picks and reaching for veteran All-Stars whose contracts ultimately could hinder the recovery from a Howard trade.

Representatives of three teams in the mix for Howard – either on his list or among teams willing to gamble on trading for him in the hopes that he can be persuaded to stay beyond this season – told CBSSports.com Thursday that the Magic have not decided which path to pursue. Howard, 26, can opt out of his $19.5 million contract after the season and become an unrestricted free agent. His formal trade request through agent Dan Fegan of Lagadere Unlimited remains on the table and he has not given the Magic any commitment to opt in and/or re-sign after the season.

In a complicated, three-team trade for Anthony that was consummated after a five-month marathon over his desire to join the Knicks, the Nuggets came away with a treasure trove of young talent and draft picks: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and 7-footer Timofey Mozgov plus a future first-round pick and two future second-round picks. Felton has since been dealt to Portland for Andre Miller. The Nuggets recently signed Gallinari to a four-year, $42 million extension (about half what Anthony makes over the same period), and are hoping to get Chandler, a potential 20-point scorer, back after a stint in China before the season is over.

The Nuggets also received another 7-footer, Kosta Koufos, from Minnesota, which made the trade work under league cap rules by taking Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph from the Knicks along with a second-round pick from Denver.

For a variety of reasons, a similar haul isn’t realistic for Howard, despite the fact that he’s a far more valuable star than Anthony. The Knicks also got former All-Star Chauncey Billups in the deal, and the Nuggets were able to parlay interest from the Knicks, Nets and other teams Anthony had no intention of extending his contract with into a bidding war that drove the price for him through the roof.

If a player is heading out of Orlando with Howard, it is likely to be Hedo Turkoglu. Unlike Billups – a productive veteran leader with one year left on his contract – Turkuglo will be a liability in the deal due to his declining skills and the $23.4 million he is owed over the next two seasons.

Nonetheless, the revelation that Orlando wants similar assets as those Denver received for Anthony moved the needle on the Howard saga with only a week to go before the March 15 trade deadline. If the Magic decide not to trade Howard by next Thursday, they face the prospect of losing him as a free agent and receiving no assets in return.

The Mavericks and Lakers, teams loaded with high-priced veterans, do not have the kind of assets the Magic want for Howard. The Nets, with 24-year-old 7-footer Brook Lopez and promising rookie guard MarShon Brooks, come closer – though two people familiar with the Orlando strategy told CBSSports.com Thursday that none of the three teams has assets that would entice the Magic to part with Howard. Perhaps this is why Orlando officials have been more forthcoming in recent days about what they’d want in a package for Howard, and why at least one rival GM interpreted this shift in posture as an indication that Orlando understands it needs to create competition and prime the pump on the bidding war.

With the Magic determined to trade Howard to the team with the best offer if they decide to move him, a deal sending Howard to a so-called “rental” team (i.e., one he will refuse to give a long-term commitment to as part of the trade) could play right into the Nets’ hands. If, for example, Orlando traded Howard to Golden State and Howard opted out after the season, the Nets would be in a position to sign him as an unrestricted free agent without giving up any players or draft picks.

The other team aggressively trying to maneuver for a shot at acquiring Howard and persuading him to sign this summer is the Rockets, who need a replacement for retired center Yao Ming and who are still recovering from the voided Chris Paul trade that would’ve landed Pau Gasol from the Lakers. But a more serious contender could emerge in the coming days: the Hawks, who are dealing with disgruntled should-be All-Star Josh Smith’s own reported trade request. Smith and Al Horford would represent a coup for the Magic considering the alternative of losing Howard for nothing, and Atlanta is Howard’s hometown, where he attended Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Even with the potential of getting – and keeping – a player of Howard’s popularity and impact, questions remain about whether the Atlanta ownership group would be able to afford two max players going forward. Joe Johnson is owed $90 million over the next four years.

If nothing else, Howard’s familiarity with Atlanta would diminish the biggest impediment for another potential rental team giving up major assets to get him: Aside from it being an untenable gamble in a normal season, it’s even more so in this one. If, for example, Howard were traded against his will to Golden State, he’d play only 26 games with his new team – and only 12 home games in his new surroundings.

“That’s not a lot of games to get attached to Golden State,” one rival executive said.

Could the Warriors possibly give up Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Ekpe Udoh, etc., under those circumstances? The Magic hope so, which is why the Howard saga quietly escalated to the next phase Thursday: Orlando’s attempt to follow the Denver model by creating a bidding war and scoring a Melo-like haul of assets.

So from now until 3 p.m. on March 15, the Dwight Howard story is open for business, 24 hours a day.
Posted on: February 20, 2012 11:56 pm
 

Against Lin, D-Will restores sanity

NEW YORK – For 16 days, all Deron Williams heard about was Linsanity.

“It started on me,” Williams said Monday night.

And his personal mission was to have it end on him, too.

“We definitely had this one circled,” Williams said. “The whole team did, and I personally did because it’s been stuck on my mind. This all started on me.”

On a night when the Knicks assembled their full array of stars around amazing point guard Jeremy Lin, it was Williams, the one-man show from across the Hudson, who stole the show. Williams had a season-high 38 points, including a career-high eight 3-pointers, as the Nets beat the Knicks 100-92 to avenge a Feb. 4 loss at Madison Square Garden that spawned the incredible rise of Lin.

“Like I said, I had this one circled,” Williams said. “I don’t really watch SportsCenter. I don’t really watch too many games. But I do see Twitter. People tweet me and every three lines was, ‘Jeremy Lin destroys Deron Williams.’ So I definitely took offense to that. I had it circled.”

So did Knicks fans who were waiting to see how Carmelo Anthony, returning from a seven-game absence due to a groin injury, would fit with Lin running the offense. The best way to put it is: some good, some bad, lots to work on.

Anthony was willing to work within the flow of the offense, scoring his first basket on a pick-and-pop with Lin and then setting up Amar’e Stoudemire for two straight baskets, including and three-point play. But predictably, given Anthony’s extended absence while Linsanity gained momentum without him, the Knicks’ offense lacked its usual flow.

Lin’s 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds weren’t enough, and both Anthony (11 points, 4-for-11 shooting, six turnovers) and Stoudemire (17 points, four rebounds) struggled to pick the right times to assert themselves. Baron Davis also was ineffective in his first game of the season after missing the first 32 with a bad back, and it was J.R. Smith’s second game with the team.

“We have to get some things sorted out, and we know that,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Before we get back to Williams, who was the biggest reason for the Knicks’ struggles because he flat wore out Lin on the defensive end, here’s what you need to know about the much-publicized job of fitting Melo back into the Knicks’ offense: It can work, but everyone is going to have to adjust – including him.

Straight from a scout who has watched Anthony’s career extensively, here are the issues: Anthony and Stoudemire like to operate in the same area of the floor, and that’s something D’Antoni has to figure out regardless of who the point guard is. The way Lin has played for the first 11 games of this run, it will be easier for him to figure out than it was for any of the other point guards the Knicks have tried.

Here’s the other, and perhaps more important issue: Anthony likes to set up and call for the ball in an area that is between the low block and the 3-point line, a little wider than most mid-post isolation scorers want the ball. Anthony has been effective his entire career from that area, because he has so many options from there. But he also takes up a lot of space, thus killing the corner 3-pointer – so crucial to D’Antoni’s style – on that side of the floor, and also crowding out the pick-and-roll and wing penetration. One game is a little soon to call it a failure, though I’m sure that won’t stop it from happening.

“We are not in panic mode,” Lin said. Now, back to the real star of the show.

Back to D-Willsanity. After one night of well-deserved satisfaction, Williams goes back to his reality of playing for a 10-24 team that is quite obviously in the Knicks’ shadow for the time being. At his locker in the visiting room Monday night, Williams called this “definitely the toughest year of my career and one of the toughest years of my life.”

“I’ve never lost at any level going back to middle school,” Williams said. “It’s definitely been a struggle, but I’m learning to fight through things and trying to lead guys even though it’s not the best situation all the time. We’re playing better as it goes and learning how to play and we’re developing guys. So it’s still a fun process. I just hope it’s not an extended process.”

Which brings us to Williams’ future, the options he has before him with an opt-out after the season and whether he’ll be chastened in his desire to team up with stars – in Brooklyn or somewhere else next season – when he sees that it isn’t always easy to make it all fit.

“We still need to get some guys in here, there’s no doubt about that, if we want to be a better team,” Williams said. “We’re 10-24 right now. We’ve got to get some players.”

Asked how he feels about the Nets’ plan to make that happen, Williams said, “I’m very comfortable right now. There’s not much I can really do besides play basketball. And that’s what I said I was going to do from the beginning of the season: play basketball and let everything work itself out, and at the end of the season, assess where things are. I’m sure I’ll have a conversation with Billy (King, the Nets’ president), with ownership and go from there.”

On Wednesday night, the Nets’ last game before the All-Star break, Williams will see his friend and foe (for now), Dwight Howard, when the Nets host the Magic. The fortunes of so many are tied up in what happens with Howard between now and the March 15 trade deadline – and with both of them after that, on July 1.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the fans are going to react,” Williams said. “I’m sure it’ll be pretty crazy. I kind of look forward to the game. I like playing against him, so it should be fun.”

Enduring the worst season of his professional life, D-Will deserves to have some fun. And putting a speed bump in front of Linsanity, which started on his watch, was well worth the trip back across the river.
Posted on: February 17, 2012 11:56 pm
 

For Knicks, ideal ending to Linsanity

NEW YORK -- Linsanity was going to end some time. For the Knicks, this was the ideal script.

After seven straight wins over nearly two weeks, fueled by outlandish statistical production, a 38-point performance against the Lakers, a Hollywood buzzer-beater in Toronto and a team-wide revival of chemistry and good times, there had to be an ending. A return to normalcy.

A loss.

All of those things arrived Friday night for Lin and the Knicks, who lost to the previously six-win New Orleans Hornets 89-85. Lin provided glimpses of his lead-guard artistry, but also coughed up nine turnovers to go with his 26 points and five assists. The Knicks committed 21 turnovers resulting in 28 points, shot 4-for-24 from 3-point range and 19-for-29 from the foul line and trailed by as many as 14 points and held the opponent under 20 points.

So why is his good, that only one game after climbing all the way back to .500 after being 8-15 when Lin first got significant floor time on Feb. 4 against the Nets?

Because Carmelo Anthony, in all likelihood, returns Sunday afternoon at home against the Mavericks. And thus, the end of this magical ride with the undrafted, Asian-American point guard from Harvard can't be his fault.

"I don't think this is good because I hate losing," Lin said. "But I know what you're saying in terms of everything dying down a little bit. It may help me, it may help the team a little bit in terms of having everything off the court cool down."

Lin blamed himself for the loss, saying, "If everyone wants to credit me for the last seven games, then I definitely deserve this one on my shoulders. That's fine with me. ... Just a lackluster effort on my part. Nine turnovers is obviously not going to get it done from your primary ballhandler."

The teammate who will need broad shoulders once he's back was the guy warming up hours earlier before the game on the Madison Square Garden court, testing his strained groin and launching jumpers with his iPod playing in his ears. Anthony, who will try to practice Saturday with the goal of returning to the lineup Sunday, has heard day after day of pre-emptive criticism that his ball-stopping, isolation-oriented offensive style would derail the chemistry Lin has inspired and bog down the Knicks' offense.

So maybe it will be prudent to allow Anthony to actually come back and play with his new point guard before deciding that it can't work.

"I don't think it'll change from my standpoint, my approach to the game," Lin said. "I think I'm going to come in with the same mentality, to attack and be aggressive, maybe run (fewer) pick-and-rolls and hopefully be more efficient. Obviously, it's always a good thing when you have more weapons, more play-makers -- not that we don't have enough right now. But somebody with Melo's capabilities, you don't get that every day from anybody."

Also coming on board soon will be newly signed shooting guard J.R. Smith, who is expected to arrive in New York Saturday night -- though he's unlikely to play Sunday without having practiced with the team. Smith brings some baggage with him, but presumably he will put it down long enough to knock down 3-pointers in bunches, something the Knicks could not do Friday night.

Before all the changes and adjustments that will come with them, the end of Linsanity -- or at least, the return to normalcy -- is out of the way. And for the Knicks, that might just be for the best. 
Posted on: February 14, 2012 10:38 pm
 

Lin uses his jumper, just like he was coached

Long before Linsanity took off, Jeremy Lin was alone with his trainer in a 24-Hour Fitness in Pleasanton, Calif. He was working on a lot of things -- balance, upper-body strength to absorb contact and still finish the play, and most impressively, his jump shot.

"I'd like to see him use that jumper a little more," his personal trainer, E.J. Costello, was saying on the phone earlier Tuesday. "He can drive to the hoop and kick, but he’s got a good jumper and I’d like to see him use it."

Costello, who spent a couple of hours a day with Lin, four days a week from May through September in the Bay Area during the lockout, got his wish Tuesday night.

Despite eight turnovers from Lin, despite trailing by as many as 17 points, the Knicks and their fearless point-guard savior would not go away. Lin took the advice of his strength coach on the final possession in Toronto, confidently stepping into a game-winning 3-point shot with 0.5 seconds left to give the Knicks their sixth straight victory, 90-87 over the Raptors.

"It was a good shot for me," Lin said.

The way things are going for him now -- 5-0 as a starter, and 6-0 if you count his 27-point debut off the bench 10 days ago against the Nets -- any shot is a good shot. Nearly every play results in the right decision.

Not always the best result, but almost always. And nobody is quibbling with the historic results.

"I'm just glad it went like this so we can calm the Linsanity down a little bit," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters in Toronto, his postgame comments beamed back to New York on the Madison Square Garden Networks.

"He held it til five-tenths of a second left," D'Antoni said. "He was confident that shot was going in, no rebound or nothing. That thing was getting buried."

Yes it was, just like the hundreds of jumpers a day Lin was taking in the gym with Costello during the lockout.

"He’s money when it comes to shooting," Costello said. "And he just has to carry that onto the court."

After leading the Knicks to victories in his first four starts, being named Eastern Conference player of the week and becoming the first player in NBA history to total at least 20 points and seven assists in his first four starts, Lin did it again Tuesday night. He had 27 points (9-for-20 shooting), 11 assists and yes, eight turnovers. He was torched defensively by Jose Calderon and Leandro Barbosa at times in the game, and later said, "That's on me."

He passed one test, getting superstar Amar'e Stoudemire back Tuesday night and still winning despite an off-night from Stoudemire -- understandable, considering his absence due to the loss of his brother. Carmelo Anthony, the other star whose game may or may not fit with the way the Knicks are playing under Lin's leadership, will be back later in the week.

Of teammate Iman Shumpert, who slowed Calderon down in the fourth and made Lin's game-winner possible when he stole the ball from Calderon and drove for a run-out dunk that cut the Raptors' lead to 87-84 with 1:28 left, Lin said, "He just bailed me out tonight."

The way Lin has bailed the Knicks out of what had been a dismal season that saw them lose 11 of 13 on their way to an 8-15 record before Linsanity began. The Knicks (14-15) can climb back to .500 Wednesday night in New York against the Kings as they start a five-game homestand that promises to be the most electrifying in at least a decade.

"I don't know when there's an ending," D'Antoni said. "Maybe there won't [be]."

As the basketball world tries to digest and comprehend Lin's improbably sudden rise to stardom, you could see Tuesday night two of the key aspects of his game that he worked so hard on during the summer and early fall. After Shumpert's steal and dunk, Lin drove the lane, absorbed contact and converted the basket and three-point play to tie the score at 87-87 with 1:05 left. As Costello has watched from afar as Lin has made plays like this during the six-game winning streak, he couldn't help but think back to those long days at the gym when they worked so hard to make him strong enough to absorb contact and finish plays.

"He uses his body really well," Costello said. "His upper body has gotten so much better and stronger, and his ability to control his body really speaks to what we did in the offseason. We killed his upper body. You can see a massive bruise on his right arm, and I talked to him and he said, 'My body is beat up right now.' But as he gets in shape, he’s only going to get better."

Better?

OK. Who's going to dispute that now?

In the postgame news conference, Lin was asked, "Can you believe this is happening to you?"

"No," he said. "But I believe in an all-powerful and all-knowing God who does miracles."


Posted on: February 5, 2012 12:39 am
 

Jeremy Lin: From teammate's couch to career night

NEW YORK – This was partly about Jeremy Lin and his own personal party at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. It was about Lin, the first NBA player from Harvard in 58 years and only the fourth American-born Asian to play in the league, putting on a show with 25 points, seven assists with the crowd chanting his name.

And then Pearl Jam singing his name over the PA system as thousands stayed in their seats for the on-court TV interview.

He had toiled in the D-League, been tossed aside by the Warriors and Rockets, and wasn’t sure he’d be long for this part of the basketball world, either. How unsure was he? Lin had been crashing at his brother’s place when coming home late from road games, as the Knicks did after a crushing loss in Boston Friday night. But there was no room at the inn – his brother had ample house guests, Lin said – so he slept on teammate Landry Fields’ couch the night before the best game of his life.

“I think I may just go move in with him,” Lin said.

Or get his own place. It’s only one game, but it was precisely the spark the Knicks needed after losing 11 of their previous 13 with an offense predicated on quality point-guard play “grasping at straws” without one, coach Mike D’Antoni said.

“The biggest thing is, he’s got a point guard mentality,” D’Antoni said. “He has a rhyme or reason to what he’s doing and players can kind of play off that. Whereas when you don’t know, you’re just grasping at straws. He gives us a good feel. Again, it’s one game, so let’s not get too excited. But he gives us what we sorely need.”

And this is where the story of Lin having a career night turns into a story that is really about something else. Having a point-guard play the way Lin did Saturday night – attacking and beating pick-and-roll double teams, aggressively getting into the paint and scoring – only underscored how lost the Knicks were without that.

And how lost they will continue to be if they don’t keep getting it.

“We’ve got to make sure we continue to keep the floor spaced and move the ball,” said Amar’e Stoudemire, limited to 17 points and in foul trouble in the Knicks’ third game in as many nights. “We’ve got to continue to do that consistently. We can’t do it one game and then the next game go back to what we’ve been trying not to do.”

Stoudemire was a factor only sporadically due to foul trouble and the grueling stretch of games. Carmelo Anthony was 3-for-15 for 11 points. In the Knicks’ third consecutive game against the kind of elite point guard they lack – Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams – somehow Lin was the best player on the floor. If you’d told Stoudemire before the game that Lin would’ve had almost as many points as Stoudemire and Anthony combined Saturday night, “I would’ve woken up from a bad dream,” he said.

Was it a fluke that Lin made 13 of 19 from the field – jumpers, floaters, reverse layups – on his dream night? Yeah, that’s not going to happen again. But the way Lin directed the Knicks’ directionless offense? The way he gave it purpose and an actual method of attack? Having seen him a time or two in the D-League, where he was the best player on the floor of every game I’ve seen in person, Lin can do that.

But the fact that D’Antoni already said he was thinking seriously about starting Lin Monday night against the Jazz? That speaks more to the Knicks’ state of desperation than anything else. They’re going nowhere without a point guard to run the offense, and who knows when Baron Davis is going to be ready. And when he’s ready, who knows how much of Baron Davis is going to show up.

So for now, for this snapshot in time, the Knicks have a point guard. Dare I say it was the best a point guard has played for D’Antoni since a gentleman named Steve Nash was doing stuff like this every night for him. So Jeremy Lin saved the Knicks from their 12th loss in 14 games, saved D’Antoni from another day of speculation that he’ll be fired, and generally just took a tense, desperate situation and let everyone breathe a little.

“I’m just thankful to be here right now for this team,” Lin said.

Believe me, the team feels the same way.
Posted on: January 31, 2012 11:23 pm
 

Melo, Pistons get Knicks back on track

NEW YORK -- Something changed for the Knicks Tuesday night. The ball moved. The players moved. The Knicks got good, open shots and made them. Sixty percent of them, to be exact.

What changed? Carmelo Anthony returned from a two-game absence to rest his ankle and wrist, and found his shooting stroke -- and his passing instincts.

What else? The Knicks were playing the Pistons.

The Knicks ended a three-game losing streak and a stretch in which they'd lost nine of 10 with an ego-boosting, problem-solving 113-86 victory over the Pistons.

"I got my pop back and I felt pretty good for the most part," Anthony said.

"We know the system works," said Amar'e Stoudemire, who had 15 points. "We just need to keep playing the way we did tonight and we will be fine."

But is it over? Are the problems gone? Hardly. New York begins a stretch of three games in three nights Thursday night at home against the Bulls, then goes to Boston and back home to face New Jersey. Even after a 25-point performance in which he made 9 of 14 shots from the field and also dished out six assists, Anthony didn't want to think about the upcoming back-to-back-to-back.

"It's the schedule," he said at his locker afterward. "We have to play it. It is what it is. ... I'm not sure, so we'll see. Right now sitting here talking to you guys, I feel fine. Tomorrow may be a different story."

With two days off since their most recent loss in Houston, the Knicks got to load up on two rare commodities in this lockout-compressed sprint of a regular season: rest and practice.

"That really helped us," Tyson Chandler said.

So did the Pistons, who allowed their opponent to shoot more than 50 percent from the field for the fourth time during their current six-game losing streak. The Knicks shot 42-for-70 including 9-for-18 from 3-point range. The Pistons (4-19) have allowed their opponents to shoot 52 percent on 3-pointers (50-97) during the losing streak.

"It's embarrassing for all of us when teams can shoot what they've been shooting over the past five or six games," coach Lawrence Frank said.

Sometimes, one team's embarrassment is another team's elixir.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 11:36 pm
 

'Uptight' Knicks get burned by Bargnani

NEW YORK -- According to Tyson Chandler, the Knicks were "uptight" Monday night in their first home game since their Christmas Day victory over the Celtics. Playing without Amar'e Stoudemire will do that to you.

But on the two possessions that doomed them against the Toronto Raptors, the Knicks weren't uptight. They were just at the mercy of Andrea Bargnani.

Clinging to a one-point lead in the final minute, the Raptors went to Bargnani on high pick-and-rolls on two straight possessions, anticipating that the Knicks would stick with their game-long approach to switching on the Toronto big man and leaving a smaller defender on him. Earlier in the game, when the screens had been set closer to the elbow, Bargnani got the ball in the mid-post against smaller defenders like Landry Fields and Toney Douglas and made them pay.

Both times at the end of the game, the Knicks switched and left Fields to defend Bargnani on the perimeter instead of Chandler. Both times, Bargnani delivered -- first with a 17-footer, and then with two free throws after Fields fouled him. The Raptors led by as many as 18 and beat the Knicks 90-85.

"It worked out for Andrea," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "One of the things he's doing is learning how to play against switches. That's the same thing Dirk (Nowitzki) went through, and so I was talking to him about that -- how we're using some of the same sets we used for Dirk against switches."

After Bargnani's 17-footer gave Toronto an 86-83 lead, Carmelo Anthony passed to Chandler for a dunk on a pick-and-roll to again cut it to one, 86-85, with 34.6 seconds left. The Raptors ran the same play and baited Fields into a foul, leading to two free throws and an 88-85 Raptors lead with 17.7 seconds left. The Knicks elected to go for a quick 3-point attempt from Anthony, which fell short.

"The play was for me to go quick," Anthony said. "We were down three with 17 seconds left. If I made it, we tied the game up. If I missed it, we had a chance to get the rebound."

Neither happened, leaving the Knicks to dwell on their defensive approach to guarding Bargnani (21 points) on the two most important possessions of the game. Switching on high pick-and-rolls is vintage Mike Woodson, the Knicks' defensive assistant who had a reputation for switching everything in Atlanta because he had so many long, quick athletes.

"I thought it was good that we switched it," Chandler said. "I definitely thought it was the right play. I just think we weren't aggressive enough with it. The play was for us to switch immediately and keep him more on the perimeter where the guard should have the advantage. The only time he's going to have the advantage is when he's more up on the elbow where he can be more comfortable with his shot and just kind of stand flat-footed and just shoot over the guy. Everything we do, we just have to be a little more aggressive with it."

After beating the Kings in Sacramento Saturday without Stoudemire (ankle), the Knicks are hopeful he'll return Wednesday night against Charlotte.

"We're not too concerned," said Anthony, who had 35 points but missed nine of his 13 shots in the second and third quarters. "We need him out there at 100 percent, not 70 percent."

In the meantime, the Knicks (2-3) need to "let go and play," Chandler said.

"Right now, it seems like we're a little uptight, and there's no reason to be," Chandler said.

Not yet, anyway.

 
Posted on: December 25, 2011 4:05 pm
 

'Relieved' Stern vows new CBA will work

DALLAS -- While admitting that he was "a little bit relieved" to be presiding over an opening day that almost didn't happen, NBA commisssioner David Stern vowed Sunday that the new labor agreement reached last month is "going to work over time" to create a competitively balanced league.

"We think we're going to come out of this pretty well," Stern said before his first opening-day stop, the NBA Finals rematch between the Heat and Mavericks. Afterward, Stern was set to make his way to Oklahoma City to watch the Magic and Thunder.

"We're beginning to see shorter contacts already under the collective bargaining agreement as teams cast a wary eye on two years from now, when the enhanced tax gets to be considerably higher and you have to be mindful of that," Stern said.

Of course, this being the NBA -- which has endured a rocky transition to the start of a 66-game season after a contentious, five-month labor fight -- some unresolved issues remain.

First, Stern addressed the fact that the owners of the two teams he was about to watch, Miami's Micky Arison and Dallas' Mark Cuban, were among the five who voted against the new labor deal. Arison has acknowledged that his no-vote was registered in protest, presumably over elements of the revenue-sharing plan that was a major sticking point for owners.

"That doesn't send any signal whatsoever," Stern said of the formal disapproval registered by Arison and Cuban, saying the revenue-sharing plan will amount to close to $200 million by the third year of the CBA -- giving "all teams the opportunity to compete," he said.

"The shorter contracts will make more free agents available on the market, and the enhanced tax system will make it more difficult for teams to use their resources simply to get a competitive advantage," Stern said.

But while Stern said the new agreement continues to embrace the concept of free agency, he solicited suggestions from the media audience as to how to address a more burning issue: the practice of players who are not yet free agents trying to force their way to the team of their choice, as Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have done, and as Dwight Howard is in the process of doing.

"I'm an avid reader of many of your rants ... so what would you suggest?" Stern said to me when I asked him about the topic

"For example, a franchise tag," I said.

Stern pointed to a new measure in the CBA that allows a team to extend a star player by paying him 30 percent of the salary cap, as the Bulls recently did to retain reigning MVP Derrick Rose.

"After that, when a player has played a number of years in the league -- seven or eight -- and says, 'I don't want to re-sign in this particular city, I have a different choice,' it doesnt concern us at all that he has that option," Stern said. "This league has embraced free agency ... and has for decades. And that's fine."

Stern also pointed out that if a team decides to call an impending free agent's bluff and "try to persuade him" to stay after the season, there is a "strong incentive" in the form of the five-year contract with 7.5 percent raises that the home team can offer as opposed to a four-year deal with 4.5 percent raises that other suitors have available, he said.

"The difference at the max end is going to approach $30 million," Stern said. "So we'll be watching some interesting situations play out, whether players will forgo that difference."

Stern said the concept of players pushing to be traded to a team of his choice "goes back to Wilt (Chamberlain) and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar). It's well-grounded in all sports, actually. And in fact, the NFL hasn't had to use its franchise player designation a lot. Either the player wants to stay or he doesn't want to stay, so I don't think we need it."

Among the other topics Stern addressed on opening day in Dallas before heading to Oklahoma City:

* On the trend set by the Heat with the formation of their Big Three last summer: "I don't think it's a slippery slope at all. I think the fact that players are able to move from team to team, having played under their contracts -- their rookie extension, whatever it is -- and find a team that is managed well enough so they are under the cap and they can acquire more than one player, we think that's fine. The ultimate for the league will be whether that's an interesting and fun team, and the Heat are an interesting and fun team."

* On the rising cost of stockpiling stars: "I don't think that free agency should be looked askance at because that's what players are entitled to do. It will get expensive over time for teams to acquire players with increasing contracts and the like, but it will have a way of working itself out. And I would say to you that this is going to be a system that is more likely than not to be here 10 years from now."

* On his role in the Chris Paul trade debacle: "I don't think it affected the integrity of the league. But I do think I could have done a better communications job."

* On the new CBA's impact on small-market teams: "A team that goes into the tax for a $20 million player in Year Three is going to pay $45M in tax money. We'll see who does that. And the way this is going to help the small team is that there will be more free agents available over time, playing out their four-year contracts and shorter -- because contracts are getting shorter. ... I hate to use the term 'small market,' because three of the smallest markets in our league are Oklahoma City, New Orleans and San Antonio. Don't cry for any of them, but they're small markets."

* On how and why the labor deal finally got done: "This process got speeded up because we sat down with the players and we agreed that Christmas Day was a wonderful magnet. If we were going to be able to play 66 games -- a 20 percent reduction, a 20 percent reduction in pay, etc. -- let's do it this weekend or we'll see you whenever. And whenever was going to be a very contentious whenever."

* On Cuban's criticism of Stern vetoing Paul's trade to the Lakers: "In the middle of this criticism of me throwing him under the bus, he managed to pick up Lamar Odom. Not bad."

* On what would've happened if the league had not taken over the Hornets: "We thought the team was gone. That would've been it. We wanted to give the team a chance in New Orleans, and we thought they could succeed there."
 
 
 
 
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