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Tag:Chauncey Billups
Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:02 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Clippers still resisting CP3 deal

UPDATED 12:01 p.m. ET

The Clippers were still resisting overtures for a Chris Paul trade Tuesday after the talks were revived for the second time in 24 hours under pressure from the league office to reach a resolution, sources told CBSSports.com.

Having claimed veteran point guard Chauncey Billups off amnesty waivers as a possible precursor to the deal, the Clippers nonetheless were under no pressure to dive back into the talks. The league office, which is assisting the Hornets in the trade discussions in its role as the de factor owner of the team, already has nixed a trade that would've sent Paul to the Lakers. The Knicks used what few assets and cap maneuverability they had to get free-agent center Tyson Chandler, and Paul has not indicated a willingness to give a long-term commitment as part of a trade to the Golden State Warriors.

"They have no choice" but to make sure Paul is traded to the Clippers, a person on the periphery of the talks said Monday night.

The talks that would never die were revived Monday night, with a twist that was enraging some rival general managers. The Clippers' winning waiver claim on Billups allowed them to include point guard Eric Bledsoe in the deal, which observers believed could push it over the finish line, league sources told CBSSports.com.

By claiming Billups for about $2 million, the Clippers were able to solve the dilemma of not having another point guard on the roster -- Mo Williams likely slides into the Jason Terry sixth man role, if he isn't included in the trade or waived with amnesty. Thus, L.A. could responsibly include Bledsoe in a blockbuster package for Paul.

The fact that Paul is dictating the terms by limiting the teams he'd agree to stay at least two years with to those that reside in L.A., Clippers GM Neil Olshey has plenty of leverage. So Olshey's resistance to including Bledsoe, sharpshooting guard Eric Gordon and the Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round pick is no longer an issue. The deal, if finally consummated, will be better than what the league was demanding earlier in the day, when the Clippers wisely walked away from the talks.

Nonetheless, the Clippers were signaling to rival teams that they've "moved on" from the Paul saga and already had reached out to Billups in an effort to assure him his status as a leader and intergral part of the team were secure, sources said. Another person tied to the talks said he does not believe the league wants Paul traded out of New Orleans, where prospective owners are being sought to rescue the troubled franchise.

"Seems like a charade to me," the person said.

That set up a fascinating duel of who has the leverage and whether the franchise would be more valuable with or without Paul. In rejecting the three-team trade with the Lakers and Rockets, the league office obviously was saying that the franchise would be better off keeping Paul than trading him for veteran players Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, plus draft picks. A package from the Clippers including Chris Kaman's expiring $12 million contract, Al-Farouq Aminu, Bledsoe and either Eric Gordon or the Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round pick would seem to allow the Hornets to rebuild with prospects and picks -- which certainly would be preferable to Paul leaving as a free agent after the season with the Hornets getting nothing in return.

Paul's options, however, would be somewhat limited since the major-market teams he prefers are mostly capped out next summer, starting with his preferred destination, the Knicks. Paul would, however, have the option of going to Dallas, or to Brooklyn if Deron Williams opted out and decided to sign with his hometown Mavericks. Both players would have to take one year and about $25 million less than their current teams would be able to offer them under the new collective bargaining agreement.

The Paul negotiations were declared dead earlier Monday, after which Olshey spoke with the Los Angeles media and said, "We felt it was in the best interest of the team to keep this roster intact." But rival executives were circulating this conspiracy theory Monday night: Was it a coincidence that the Clippers were able to get Billups for $2 million when they were negotiating a related trade with the league office, which knew the competing bids?  The salacious banter was perpetuated by the conflict of interest inherent in the NBA's handling of the trade for the Hornets, who were taken over by the league in December 2010. 

A previous deal sending Paul to the Lakers was nixed by the league office in its role as overseer for the Hornets' personnel moves when commissioner David Stern and executives Joel Litvin and Stu Jackson determined that the package of players New Orleans was getting from the Lakers and Rockets wasn't acceptable. While rival GMs saw little problem with a package of Odom, Scola, Martin, Dragic and draft picks, the league wanted younger prospects and draft picks instead -- a package closer to what the Clippers have to offer, which would be more attractive to prospective buyers.

While it was understood that Paul would gladly sign a new five-year, $100 million contract next July with the Lakers if traded there, his commitment to the Clippers would only be for two years. As part of the deal, Paul would not promise to sign a new contract, only that he would not opt out of his current one after the season, sources said. That, and the league's limited options for trade partners, compressed the list of assets the Clippers were willing to give up.

The two-year period would give Paul time to survey the landscape in Clipperland and determine what notoriously penny-pinching owner Donald Sterling would do in two years with an $11 million center (DeAndre Jordan, whose four-year, $43 million offer sheet from Golden State was matched Monday); a 30 percent max player under the new rules in Blake Griffin; a close-to-max player in Gordon, if he stays; and himself. Those are a lot of big bills for the Donald, and Paul would need assurances that the Clippers are going to fully capitalize on their unique position of talent and cap flexibility and stop being second-class citizens to the Lakers at Staples Center.

As for Billups, a proud champion who'd warned teams not to claim him so he could pick his own team as an unrestricted free agent, does it make sense for him to spend perhaps the final year of his career on the Clippers' bench, watching Paul dribble between his legs and throw alley-oop passes to Griffin?

"That is not the league's concern," said a rival executive who is upset about the arrangement.

In finding the Billups solution to getting the Paul deal a chance to be completed, the league also sent a letter to Billups' agent, Andy Miller, warning him that there could be consequences if Billups caused problems for a team that claimed him off waivers, Yahoo Sports reported. Billups was waived with the amnesty provision by the Knicks to create room for a sign-and-trade arrangement that landed free-agent center Tyson Chandler in New York. Billups' $14.2 million salary came off the Knicks' books for cap and tax purposes, and the actual financial obligation to New York is offset by the $2 million that will be paid by the Clippers.

In a cruel double-whammy, Billups would become a pawn in delivering a superstar to a major market for the secod time in 10 months if the Paul-to-Clippers deal went down. In February, Billups was a necessary piece that facilitated the trade of Carmelo Anthony from Denver to the Knicks in another saga in which a star player threatened to bolt as a free agent if he wasn't traded to the team of his choice.

"I'm tired of being viewed as the good guy," Billups told Yahoo Saturday. "After a while, you just kind of get taken advantage of in these situations."
Posted on: December 6, 2011 6:38 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 10:32 pm
 

Hornets engaged in serious CP3 talks

The Hornets began to seriously engage in trade discussions for superstar Chris Paul Tuesday, with the Celtics, Clippers, Warriors and Mavericks among the most serious suitors, sources told CBSSports.com.

UPDATE: The Clippers' opening salvo was an offer that included restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan and Minnesota's unprotected first-round pick, with L.A. hoping that the prospect of playing with electrifying forward Blake Griffin and the big stage of Los Angeles would be enticing enough to Paul that he would eventually commit to the team long term. Eric Gordon is not in the deal "at this time," a source said, though it is understood that any deal that would include a commitment from Paul would have to include the sharpshooting guard.

The details of offers surrounding talks with Dallas and Golden State weren't known, though Yahoo Sports reported that the Warriors' offer centered around Stephen Curry and rookie Klay Thompson. But the Celtics stepped forward with an offer that would not have to come with any commitment from Paul that he'd re-sign with Boston after the season. According to a person familiar with the discussions, the Celtics offered Rajon Rondo, two future first-round picks, and restricted free agent Jeff Green in a sign-and-trade for Paul.

The impetus behind the Celtics' potential rental offer for Paul was intriguing: Come to Boston, take a shot at winning a title with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett while the window is still open, and then have enough room to entice Dwight Howard to come on board as an unrestricted free agent next summer. Garnett and Allen come off the books July 1, leaving the Celtics with only $30.4 million in committed salary for next season, when Howard can opt out of his contract with Orlando.

Though Paul has never expressed a desire to play in Boston, if he liked his new surroundings and the Celtics' chances of luring Howard, he would be in a championship-contending situation and could get his max deal of five years, $100 million six months after the trade.

Independent of the Paul situation, the Warriors are among the teams with the most serious interest in free-agent center Tyson Chandler, and the interest is mutual. Paul reportedly has let it be known that a team like the Warriors or Clippers signing Chandler, his former teammate in New Orleans, would enhance its chances of getting a long-term commitment from him -- a scenario confirmed by front office executives Tuesday.

The Hornets also are open to the idea of sending out free-agent power forward David West in a sign-and-trade, possibly as part of a trade package for Paul, sources said. It was New Orleans' interest in Jordan that prompted the Clippers to step forward Tuesday with a reported five-year, $40 million offer for their restricted free agent -- though a person close to Jordan said he is intent on remaining in L.A.

The Knicks also were said to be trying to engage New Orleans in conversations, given that Paul has long coveted the chance to join his friends Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire in New York. But the best the Knicks can offer at the moment is Chauncey Billups' expiring $14 million contract, Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert and center Jerome Jordan, a solid prospect who has yet to play a minute in the NBA.

The "other" L.A. team, the Lakers, also have a strong hand in their efforts to try to land Paul, Howard, or in a dream world, both. The Lakers have no chance of clearing the cap space necessary to lure Paul next summer, so their best chance is their deep stockpile of assets, including Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.

Hornets GM Dell Demps has indicated a strong desire to reach a swift resolution to the Paul drama and not allow it to linger for months the way the Nuggets were held hostage last season by the Anthony saga. Denver, of course, was able to get a better deal from the Knicks at the February trade deadline than would've been available before the season. But that was largely due to two key provisions that have been muted in the new collective bargaining agreement: the same length and dollars in an extend-and-trade that Anthony could've received had he simply resigned with Denver, and the fallback option of a sign-and-trade.

Paul can get only one year added to his contract in an extend-and-trade, and he'd get the same money via a sign-and-trade next summer that he would get simply by leaving outright as a free agent for a team with room: four years and approximately $74 million, as opposed to the five-year, $100 million deal New Orleans could offer he he played out the season. Paul also could get a five-year max deal from a new team following a six-month window from the date he was traded.

But front office executives who've been in touch with Demps say that New Orleans has no appetite for a protracted and potentially ugly trade saga with Paul. Yahoo Sports reported that Demps may push for final offers and a resolution by the time training camps and free agency open Friday.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 11:45 pm
 

Players sue NBA for antitrust violations

NEW YORK -- NBA players sued the league alleging antitrust violations Tuesday, in part using commissioner David Stern's own words against him in making their case that the lockout is illegal.

With two antitrust actions -- one in California naming superstars Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant among five plaintiffs, and another in Minnesota naming four plaintiffs -- the players are seeking summary judgment and treble damages totaling three times the players' lost wages due to what lead attorney David Boies referred to as an illegal group boycott.

"There's one reason and one reason only that the season is in jeopardy," Boies told reporters at the Harlem headquarters of the former players' union, which was dissolved Monday and reformed as a trade association to pave the way for the lawsuits. "And that is because the owners have locked out the players and have maintained that lockout for several months. ... The players are willing to start playing tomorrow if (the owners) end the boycott."

The California case, filed Tuesday night in the Northern District, named plaintiffs who represent a wide array of players: Anthony, Durant and Chauncey Billups (high-paid stars); Leon Powe (a mid-level veteran); and Kawhi Leonard (a rookie). The plaintiffs in a similar case filed in Minnesota are Caron Butler, Ben Gordon, Anthony Tolliver and Derrick Williams.

Boies said there could be other lawsuits, and at some point, they could be combined.

It is possible, Boies said, that the players could get a summary judgment before the NBA cancels the entire season -- essentially a two-month timeframe. By that point, with the clock starting on potential damages Tuesday -- which was supposed to have been the first pay day of the season for the majority of players -- treble damages could amount to $2.4 billion.

"We would hope that it's not necessary to go to trial and get huge damages to bring them to a point where they are prepared to abide by the law," Boies said.

A statement released by the league office Tuesday night, spokesman Tim Frank said: "We haven't seen Mr. Boies' complaint yet, but it's a shame that the players have chosen to litigate instead of negotiate. They warned us from the early days of these negotiations that they would sue us if we didn't satisfy them at the bargaining table, and they appear to have followed through on their threats."

Earlier, Boies seemed to have anticipated this response, noting that the NBA's lawsuit in the Southern District of New York -- in which the league sought a declaratory judgment pre-emptively shooting down an eventual dissolution of the union -- came first.

"The litigation was started by the owners," Boies said. "... This case was started months ago when the NBA brought it there."

The crux of the players' argument is that, absent a union relationship to shield them from antitrust law, the 30 NBA owners are engaging in a group boycott that eliminates a market and competition for players' services and are in breach of contract and violation of antitrust law. The players are seeking to be compensated for three times their lost wages as permitted by law, plus legal fees and any other relieft the court deems necessary and appropriate.

One of the many issues to be resolved is where the lawsuits ultimately will be heard. The NBA almost certainly will file a motion seeking that the players' complaints be moved to the Southern District, which is in the more employer-friendly 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Northern District in California is in the more employee-friendly 9th Circuit, while the Minnesota case was filed in the district residing in the 8th Circuit, where the NFL players ultimately fell short in their quest for a permanent injunction lifting the lockout.

The NBA players are not seeking a permanent injunction; rather, Boies said they are pursuing the more expeditious and fact-based summary judgment, which could save months of legal wrangling.

UPDATE: Boies asserted that the plaintiffs have the right to choose which appropriate court has jurisdiction over their lawsuit, and that the NBA's lawsuit in New York was premature -- since the NBA players had never before in their history of union representation since the 1950s disclaimed interest or decertified until Monday. In contrast to the NBA's argument that dissolution of the union and an antitrust action were the players' goals all along, the lawsuit laid out that the players participated in bargaining with the league for more than four years after they were first allegedly threatened with massive rollbacks of salaries and competition for their services. Boies said the players had continued to bargain for months while locked out, offering a series of economic concessions totaling hundreds of millions of dollars until they finally reached the owners' desired 50-50 split in the final days of negotiations.

Unlike the NFL Players' Association's failed disclaimer of interest and antitrust action, in which the players' case was harmed by the lack of certainty over whether the collective bargaining process had ended, Boies said there was no disputing that bargaining talks had concluded in the NBA -- and that Stern himself had ended them by presenting a series of ultimatums and "take-it-or-leave-it" offers that the players could not accept.

"They had an opportunity to start playing with enormous concessions from the players," Boies said. "That wasn’t enough for them. If the fans want basketball, there’s only one group of people that they can get it from, OK? And that’s the owners, because the players are prepared to play right now."

The NBA undoubtedly will argue that it was the players who ended bargaining when their union disclaimed, and that the disclaimer is a sham, or a negotiating tactic as opposed to a legitimate dissolution.

The lawsuits came one day after the players rejected the league's latest ultimatum to accept their bargaining proposal or be forced to negotiate from a far worse one. The National Basketball Players Association at that point disclaimed interest in representing the players any longer in collective bargaining with the league after failing to reach an agreement during the 4 1-2 month lockout that was imposed by owners July 1.

In the California case, Boies, his partner, Jonathan Schiller, and players' attorney Jeffrey Kessler laid out a meticulous case that the collective bargaining process had been ended by the owners and that the players had no choice but to dissolve the union and pursue their case via antitrust law. They laid out a series of concessions the players made in an effort to reach a deal, including a "massive reduction in compensation" and "severe system changes that would destroy competition for players."

The lawsuit quoted Stern's own demands when he issued two ultimatums to the union during the final week of talks, threatening the players both times to accept the offer (with a 50-50 revenue split and various restrictions on trades and player salaries) or be furnished a worse offer in which the players' salaries would have been derived from 47 percent of revenues in a system that included a hard team salary cap and rollbacks of existing contracts -- all deal points the two sides had long since negotiated past and abandoned.

Asked if Stern made a mistake issuing the ultimatums that ended the talks, Boies said, "If you're in a poker game and you bluff, and the bluff works, you're a hero. Somebody calls your bluff, you lose. I think the owners overplayed their hand."

In the California lawsuit, the players' attorneys alleged that the owners' bargaining strategy was hatched during a meeting between league and union negotiators in June 2007. In that meeting, the lawsuit alleged, "Stern demanded that the players agree to a reduction in the players' BRI percentage from 57 percent to 50 percent," plus a more restrictive cap system. Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver told Hunter, according to the lawsuit, that if the players did not accept their terms, the NBA was "prepared to lock out the players for two years to get everything." Stern and Silver assured Hunter in the meeting that "the deal would get worse after the lockout," the lawsuit alleged.

The threats of getting a worse deal after the lockout if the players didn't accept the owners' terms were repeated in a letter to the union dated April 25, 2011, according to the lawsuit -- which then laid out the contentious, sometimes bizarre, and almost indisputably one-sided negotiation that transpired over the next few months.

"I will give the devil their due," Boies said. "They did a terrific job of taking a very hard line and pushing the players to make concession after concession after concession. Greed is not only a terrible thing, it's a dangerous thing. By overplaying their hand, by pushing the players beyond any line of reason, I think they caused this."

Boies said it was in neither side's best interests for the action to proceed to trial, which could take years and multiply the threat of damages against NBA owners. Even in their current capacity as members of a trade association, the players could have a settlement negotiated on their behalf among the attorneys for both sides. The settlement could then take the form of a collective bargaining agreement, but only after the majority of players agreed to reform the union and the owners agreed to recognize it.

Another option would be for a federal judge to require both sides to participate in mediation under the auspices of a federal magistrate; attendance would be required, though the results wouldn't be binding.

"There's lots of ways to get started, but it takes two to tango," said Boies, who once sued Microsoft in an antitrust case and represented Al Gore in his failed 2000 presidential bid based on a disputed vote count in Florida.

"If you've got somebody on the other side who is saying, 'It's my way or the highway, it's take it or leave it, this is our last and final offer and you will not see negotiation,' you can't resolve this," Boies said. "That, I will predict, that will stop, OK? There will come a time when the league faces the reality of the exposure that they face under the antitrust laws, the exposure that they face because of fan dissatisfaction with their unilateral lockout, the exposure they face by having other people in the business of professional basketball. And they will believe it is in their best interests to resolve this case.

"I can't tell you when that will happen," Boies said. "But I will tell you that it will happen, because those forces are too strong for anybody to resist indefinitely."





Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:07 am
 

Knicks considering two-year extension for Walsh

NEW YORK -- The Knicks are considering a two-year extension for team president Donnie Walsh, with the matter expected to be resolved in the next two weeks, a person familiar with the organization's thinking told CBSSports.com Sunday night. 

Walsh, 69, has an option for the 2011-12 season to be exercised by April 30, but the more likely scenario is a two-year extension that would keep the architect of the Knicks' revival at the helm through the critical next phase of the rebuilding plan. If the option is not picked up, Walsh's contract expires June 30. 

"It's basically going to be Donnie's call whether he wants to come back," said the person with knowledge of the organization's intentions. 

No final decisions have been made on Walsh or coach Mike D'Antoni in the wake of a 4-0 first-round sweep completed Sunday with a 101-89 loss to the Celtics, and sources cautioned that several issues could complicate both situations. For one, neither Walsh nor D'Antoni has been given a clear indication as to their respective statuses, which explains why D'Antoni took some off-guard with his postgame comment Sunday, "I don't know what the future holds." 

D'Antoni's comment was not made with knowledge of his status one way or another, one of the sources said. The coach's fate is strongly tied to Walsh, whose future has been shrouded in secrecy and subject to the whims of Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan. Even those with ties to Walsh who've had dealings with Dolan have been unable to decipher in recent weeks how far Dolan will go to try to keep Walsh. 

Another complicating factor could be an attempt to force something on Walsh that he's not comfortable with, sources said. Such a circumstance could be another attempt by Dolan to bring former coach and president Isiah Thomas back into the organization in an official capacity -- an unequivocally destructive move that is believed to be no more than a remote possibility, one of the sources said. Dolan's attempt to hire Thomas, the coach at Florida International, as a consultant last summer was shot down by NBA rules forbidding team employees from having contact with college players who are not yet draft eligible. 

Walsh has consistently sidestepped questions about his future and has grown increasingly aggravated that his status has become a news item as the Knicks made their first trip to the playoffs in seven years. Before the Knicks' brief return to the postseason ended Sunday with a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Celtics, Walsh testily tried to deflect questions about D'Antoni's status and a looming decision on whether to guarantee point guard Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million contract for next season. 

Walsh appears to be leaning toward keeping D'Antoni -- "Overall, he's done a good job," he said Sunday -- given that the Knicks lost Billups for the final three games of the Boston series and were further compromised by Amar'e Stoudemire's back injury in Games 3 and 4. D'Antoni has one year left on his contract, had only two months to integrate Billups and Carmelo Anthony with Stoudemire, and hasn't coached a stable roster from start to finish for three seasons. 

The decision on Billups, 34, must come first due to a five-day clock that began ticking Sunday on a deadline to fully guarantee his contract for next season. But the most important call is on Walsh, who restored dignity to a lost franchise, cleared a mountain of cap space to attract stars, and now is expected to embark on the third phase of a massive reclamation project that began when he was hired to replace Thomas in April 2008. 

Walsh has endured several health problems during his tenure, including a successful bout with tongue cancer and hip-replacement surgery in November that has him still using a walker. But those close to Walsh have described him as being in good health and spirits as well as invigorated by the prospect of completing a rebuilding job that began with the signing of Stoudemire and escalated with the February trade that paired him with Anthony. 

After Sunday's loss, both Anthony and Stoudemire deflected questions about whether Walsh and D'Antoni would be back next season. 

"I'm pretty sure the front office will handle it to the best of their ability," Anthony said of the multitude of offseason decisions. "They have one of the best front offices in the NBA right now, so they will do their job. I'll let them handle that."
Posted on: March 25, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 1:40 am
 

Time for Knicks' Melo-dimensional offense to end

NEW YORK – In the uncomfortable quiet of a losing locker room, Chauncey Billups perked up and spoke up when asked about the issue that ultimately will determine the success or failure of Carmelo Anthony’s shotgun wedding with the Knicks

Billups had just played another poor game and once again could not orchestrate the Knicks’ offense down the stretch in the team’s fifth straight loss and eighth in nine games, a 102-96 loss to the Bucks on Friday night. Billups and Anthony had checked in with 7:15 left and Milwaukee leading 91-88. With Billups, Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the floor together, the Knicks proceeded to miss their next nine shots from the field and made only 3 of 15 the rest of the way. 

“Tough times,” Anthony said. 

“Everything is so hard,” added coach Mike D’Antoni. 

Billups and Anthony have been a painful fit with D’Antoni’s triple-threat, pick-and-roll offense, which should be unstoppable with a point guard of Billups’ skill and leadership and two scorers like Anthony and Stoudemire. But like the opening weeks of the season, when offensive juggernauts LeBron James and Dwyane Wade couldn’t get out of each other’s way, the Knicks cannot do the one thing they’re currently built to do – score – when it matters most. Most puzzling of all, it’s more difficult for them to score when their three most accomplished offensive players are on the floor together. 

So I asked Billups in a quiet moment in the locker room if the offense is going to have to change to fit Anthony, or if he will adapt to a system he’d thrive in if only he’d embrace it. 

“Yeah, I think that’s in his makeup,” Billups said. “I think he’s probably done it before. The problem is, he’s always been so good that the system has always been just whatever he kind of wants, you know what I mean? He’s always been so good that he’s always been able to just do that and they make the system up around his strengths. I think now this is the first time he’s coming into this system and the system is a little different than the way that he plays. But he’s so good that he can be effective in any system, I think.” 

When Billups said Anthony has done it before, he meant when he played with multiple stars with USA Basketball. The offense didn’t always run through Melo with Team USA, and he didn’t always score the most points. It’s what Anthony needs to embrace now, more than he’s ever needed to embrace anything in his eight-year career. 

“He’s done it before,” Billups said. “He’ll do it again.” 

Anthony got his 25 points Friday night, and Stoudemire got his 28. But they combined for only four baskets and 12 points in the fourth quarter – and only one basket each during the horror show that was the final 7:15. 

“It’s so not fluid,” D’Antoni said. “It’s almost like mud in your engine. We’re just chugging, and it’s tough to play that way, in my opinion. We’re not spacing the floor real well, and the ball’s not moving. And it gets more pronounced in the fourth quarter.” 

With the Knicks 7-11 since the Anthony trade, D’Antoni unsurprisingly is facing the brunt of the criticism. It has not been a honeymoon for him in New York. After two years spent tearing down and cleaning house, D’Antoni finally has been given multiple All-Stars to coach for the first time since he left Phoenix. The problem is, this has been given to him with a quarter of the season left – on a team with no center, and on a team whose depth was badly depleted by the trade. 

He has also been given one of the most gifted scorers in the NBA, a player whose existing game happens to clash with the system that he runs. There are those who will follow the simplistic script and say D’Antoni is no good for the talent he has, and that the Knicks should start over again with another coach who will let Anthony do whatever he wants. 

Doing this without giving D’Antoni a realistic timeframe to break some of Anthony’s bad habits would be too silly to spend much time addressing. But more to the point: Has everyone forgotten that the Knicks gave $100 million to Stoudemire, who has played his entire career in the very system that people want to scrap after 18 games? 

The solution, which obviously isn’t going to come easily, is for Anthony to do what Billups suggested he’s never had to do before: adjust his game to the talent and system around him. He and Billups obviously have spent some time thinking about this, if not talking openly about it, because they said all the right things Friday night. 

“It’s an open offense – a lot of movement, a lot of pick and rolls, a lot of just spacing the court out,” Anthony said. “So that’s something that I have to adjust to. I will adjust to it. I’m not worried about that. And that’s something that I knew coming into this system, that I will have to adjust my game to fit into what’s going on.” 

But this wide-open system that Anthony and Billups keep describing bears no resemblance to what they do when they’re together with Stoudemire on the floor. Stoudemire’s pick-and-roll opportunities, the bread-and-butter of the offense, are nonexistent. The ball movement and spacing fall apart when Anthony touches the ball, sizes up his defender(s), and makes his move. 

“I don’t really think we can say the offense has to go through me or the offense has to go through Amar’e,” Anthony said. “In this offense, everybody touches the ball. Everybody gets open. … Everybody is a part of the offense. So for me to sit here and say the offense has to go through me or Amar’e … Chauncey has the ball. He coordinates all that, and we feed off him.” 

Billups described D’Antoni’s system as “different than any other system out there. … I’ve always pretty much been kind of a fast learner, but it is more different than any other system I’ve played in.” 

Not to belabor the Miami comparison – because we’re clearly talking about different caliber players – but LeBron and Wade have gone back and forth in trying to decide whose turn it is to score and to lead. Through 18 games, Anthony has been the focal point of the Knicks’ offense. That’s right, the player whose game fits the system the least has been the one getting the most opportunities. 

It is time for the Knicks to remember why they brought Stoudemire here, and what he does best: score easy baskets on pick-and rolls, and if not, create wide-open shots for someone else. Facing a far bigger challenge than he imagined when he got here, it is time for Anthony to embrace that, too. He’ll get his opportunities to do what he does best, and in some ways they’ll be better and higher-percentage opportunities than he’s ever had before. 

“Me personally, I’m gonna try to figure it out, and we’re gonna try to figure it out as a team,” Anthony said. “And when that happens, those times are gonna be fun. Basketball will be fun again.” 

He has no idea how much.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:10 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 5:55 pm
 

Karl, Nuggets agree to three-year extension

After successfully navigating one crisis by getting good value for superstar Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets averted another one Tuesday when they agreed with coach George Karl on a three-year contract extension that could last as long as six years.

The deal has team options for the fourth, fifth, and sixth years, said Karl's attorney, Bret Adams -- a huge commitment from the Nuggets at a time when coaches have so little job security.

"I think with this team, they just have great confidence that this is a team that's coachable and there's not a more experienced or better coach to do it than George," Adams said. "They stuck with him last year with the cancer, and to take it the next step with this long-term commitment, I don’t think George could be any happier with his future. He wanted to be there, they wanted him there, and with this team it's a whole new re-energized George after the trade."

Contract talks ground to a halt during the months-long process in which Nuggets executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke were negotiating a trade that eventually sent Anthony to New York on Feb. 20. Once that complicated deal was complete, it didn't take long for contract talks with Karl -- the Nuggets' coach since 2004 -- to Heat up again.

"There was a whole lot of frustration with George having to coach a guy who didn’t want to be there," Adams said. "Only Masai and Josh knew how difficult it was to coach that team in those circumstances. It was difficult, and he kept them winning. To do that under those circumstances was pretty remarkable."

Karl, 59, has won at least 50 games for three straight years and led the Nuggets to the 2009 Western Conference finals against the Lakers. This season, he has dealt with his own personal battle against throat and neck cancer and kept the Nuggets alive in the playoff race despite months of speculation over Anthony's trade destination. The Nuggets are 5-2 since trading their franchise player to the Knicks along with Chauncey Billups for Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, and draft picks. Denver (37-27) currently is fifth in the Western Conference playoff race.

“I’ve always said Denver is the place I want to end my career,” Karl said. “This puts me one step closer to achieving that goal. Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke were very professional throughout these negotiations. The Kroenkes have been great throughout this entire process. They’ve been very supportive of me as a coach and during my battle with cancer. I’m excited for the remainder of the season and look forward to making another playoff run.”

Close friends say Karl is energized by the trade, both for the obvious reason of removing the daily distractions of trade speculation and because he's excited about coaching a new group of players. A coach's coach, Karl thrives on the teaching and team-building that comes with the job far more than he thrives on the accolades.

"Getting the Melo trade done and getting George's fairly complicated contract done because of the health issues is a testament to the future of the Nuggets," Adams said. "They've really given real confidence to the fans in Denver as to the direction of this team. They hit two home runs."

Karl, who underwent months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that spanned from last season through the summer, received another clean bill of health from doctors Tuesday, Adams said. Karl's health issues "had to be addressed" in the contract, and Adams said the Nuggets addressed them "very fairly."

"Extending George’s contract has been one of our top priorities,” said Ujiri, the Nuggets' vice president of basketball operations. “He’s done a tremendous job since arriving in Denver, and particularly with the unique challenges of this season. With George on the bench, we have a bright future and everyone here is focused on finishing the season strong.”

For more on this story, check out our Eye on Basketball blog.
 
Posted on: March 5, 2011 12:12 am
 

Melo takes leading role from Amar'e in loss

NEW YORK – Twice in the final minute-and-a half when the Knicks needed a basket, Carmelo Anthony had the ball in his hands. Exactly what the Knicks want, right? 

Most of the time. But not all of the time. And as it turned out, not Friday night against the one team above all others the Knicks can’t beat – the team with the worst record in the NBA. 

The Knicks were barely a .500 team when they traded for Anthony, and that’s exactly what they are since the trade – 3-3. The one constant, going back to the days when LeBron James wore No. 23 Cavs attire, is that the Knicks can’t beat Cleveland. The old Knicks were 0-1 against them this season, the new Knicks are 0-2, and Knicks of all shapes and sizes are 0-11 against Cleveland since Dec. 19, 2007. 

“It’s a tough loss,” Anthony said. “I don’t want to say it’s embarrassing, but it’s a tough loss.” 

Offense wasn’t the problem for the Knicks Friday night, not when they shot 55 percent from the field and lost 119-115. But the most telling sequence came at the end, when the ball was in Anthony’s hands twice with the game on the line – and twice, one of the most feared clutch scorers in the game didn’t deliver while another feared clutch scorer could only watch. 

With the score tied 110-110 after J.J. Hickson’s driving layup with 1:41 left, Anthony brought the ball up and had it on the wing. Amar’e Stoudemire, who had 36 points at the time, started coming over to set a screen. Anthony threw up a stop sign – the Knicks’ new leading man waving off the old leading man with the game on the line. 

In the pre-Melo days, this would be time for a pick-and-roll for Stoudemire – one of the great finishers in the game and the NBA’s leading fourth-quarter scorer. But these are the uncharted waters the Knicks are wading in now that they’ve added Anthony, who is cut from the Kobe Bryant cloth when it comes to crunch time. 

Ultimately, Anthony made the right basketball play – kicking to Shawne Williams for an open 3-pointer that went in but didn’t count because Anthony was whistled for an offensive foul. What would’ve happened if Stoudemire had come over to set that screen and rolled to the basket for a potential layup, Mike D’Antoni will never know. 

“They’ve got to figure that out,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll figure it out, but an iso with Carmelo is one of the best in the league. Look at the stats – last quarter, fourth quarter over the last 10 years, I think he’s No. 1 in percentage of making shots, so that’s good. Amar’e having the ball in his hands is good. That’s not going to be a problem.” 

Anthony said he waved Stoudemire off because the Cavs were in the same defense they were in on a prior possession, when they ran pick-and-roll and kicked out of it for a missed jumper. But it was a problem again on the Knicks’ final possession, when Anthony drove the lane, missed a layup, and got called for another charge. 

“I guess it was an offensive foul,” Anthony said. “He called it. I saw the lane, and I wasn’t going to settle for a jump shot at that point. I saw a path, I went, and he took a big charge.” 

In that situation, with seven seconds left and the Knicks trailing 117-115, it’s all Anthony, all the time. There’s no time to wait for a Stoudemire pick-and-roll to develop. So when you have one of the best one-on-one scorers alive, you put the ball in his hands and take your chances. Unlike some so-called superstars in this league, Anthony will never shy away from that moment. 

The earlier situation could’ve gone either way. And that – along with something called defense – is what the Knicks (31-29) are trying to figure out with 22 games to go. 

This being New York, some hysterics already are plunging off the bandwagon as if the bandwagon just hit an enormous pothole. That’s just silly. It’s preposterous to expect a scorer of Anthony’s stature to do anything but try to score with the game on the line in the last two minutes – especially considering he took exactly half as many shots from the field as Stoudemire. Anthony’s 29 points came on 10-for-16 shooting, while Stoudemire equaled his season high with 41 points and was 16 for 32 from the field. 

Is it panic time for the new Knicks? Hardly. They’re about as mediocre and inconsistent as they were before the trade, except they now have not one, but two of the best scorers in the game -- and, by the way, didn't have Chauncey Billups Friday night. They have to figure out who’s turn it is, and when. But if anyone was expecting it not to be Anthony’s turn in the final two minutes of the game when the Knicks need a basket, they’re going to be disappointed again and again.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 5:53 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 6:07 pm
 

Walsh doesn't care about Isiah's role

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The obligatory question didn’t come until the end of Knicks president Donnie Walsh’s session with reporters Tuesday, but it had to be asked. 

What role did Isiah Thomas have in the Knicks’ successful pursuit of Carmelo Anthony

"I have no idea,” Walsh said, understandably reacting testily to the incessant drumbeat about Isiah’s role. “Only what I read in your papers. … I’m assuming Isiah’s getting ready for the NCAA Tournament. That’s what I’m assuming.” 

Maybe in the office pool, but not on the court. Thomas’ Florida International team is 9-17. 

Asked if it would bother Walsh if Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan was keeping with his word and continuing to solicit Thomas’ views – as he said in a statement announcing the team was no longer pursuing Thomas’ employment as a consultant – Walsh said, “I could care less. There are a lot of people that talk to him, all right? I could care less.” 

The notion of Thomas working behind the scenes to help Dolan accelerate the Knicks’ pursuit of Anthony – part conspiracy theory, part urban myth, and part truth – has cast a shadow over one of the most significant days in Knicks history since their last championship 38 years ago. Dolan still leans on Thomas, whose mark as an executive – besides incompetence – was to make the big splash now at the expense of the future. Theories about Thomas pushing Dolan to get involved in the trade talks – speaking with the Nuggets’ Stan Kroenke and meeting with Anthony himself in Los Angeles – took on new life during All-Star weekend. The Knicks’ sudden departure from Walsh’s patient negotiating path seemed out of character for one of the best poker-faced negotiators in the league. 

But Walsh, toeing the company line like the pro that he is, said he and coach Mike D’Antoni were in constant communication with Dolan while he was in Los Angeles and that Dolan “didn’t put any words in my mouth or anything, or any thoughts in my head.” 

“Jim went out to L.A. to be at the owners’ meeting,” Walsh said. “Somewhere in there it developed that he could have a meeting with Kroenke and later with Carmelo. Which was good news. Before he even went out there, we had met and talked about this deal. When he was out there, at every stage he called me and Mike – he was talking to (Kroenke) – and he kept us apprised of it. We talked it out. I was on the phone the whole period with him or with other people about this trade. And it’s continued through (Tuesday). We were together. That’s why when this information came out that suggested we weren’t, we issued the statement. And it was a very truthful statement.” 

Asked if Dolan had to sell the deal to Walsh, who throughout the process was reluctant to gut the roster to get Anthony, Walsh said, “No, not at all. And he shouldn’t because I’m the one who knows basketball, all right? So my job is to advise him, that this is good for your franchise. And I did that.”

There has been speculation that Walsh was so displeased with Dolan's spearheading of the final push to give up four players and three draft picks for Anthony -- with Thomas pulling strings in the background -- that it could affect Walsh's desire to return for the final year of his contract, which is at the team's option.

"I haven't thought about my future, all right?" Walsh said. "I don’t think it’s time to think about my future. You guys are making more out of it than I’m making out of it."
 
 
 
 
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