'Melo drama continues for Nuggets' Anthony
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It’s Monday in Chicago in November, and I’m in a ‘Melo mood.
Yes, it’s the Bulls and Nuggets at the United Center Monday might and the only visit in the 2010-11 season of the player most coveted by everyone, including the Bulls, in the post-Summer of 2010 version of the LeBronathon.
Chris Paul’s New Orleans Hornets are off to a fast start, and he looks settled, at least for now. Tony Parker has re-upped with the Spurs and Al Horford did likewise in Atlanta. There’s really no one else who makes the impact meter move who really wants to move other than Anthony.
And there’s quite a staring contest of who blinks first going on between Anthony and the Nuggets.
Here’s where it is: Anthony wants the $65 million/three-year extension the Nuggets have on the table, but doesn’t want it to play for Denver. The Nuggets pretty much have accepted that, but they want something fairly good and not to be embarrassed with a new management team. They essentially want a young player of some potential impact, salary cap space in the form of expiring deals and draft picks. And Anthony wants to be somewhere he can be more famous than he is currently.
The Nets pretty much have the pieces, though no one is going to risk a deal for Anthony unless he agrees to sign there. Thus far, Anthony has basically sent word to the Nuggets he wants to be in New York. The Nuggets have basically sent word the Knicks don’t remotely have the stuff to make a deal. So it sits.
Anthony could just play out the season and then sign as a free agent with the Knicks. Though with a new labor agreement coming, the speculation is with new salary limitations a contract signed next year might be half what Anthony could get now with an extension. The Nuggets want something and not those seemingly worthless trade exceptions Cleveland and Toronto settled for in eventually agreeing to sign-and-trade deals for James and Chris Bosh.
And then there’s the Bulls.
You ask why Anthony doesn’t just say he’ll go to Chicago with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. After all, isn’t that better team than Miami, given it would have go to scorers, a post power forward, a center and point guard? They’ll play an up and down style that fits Anthony and have the opening for a finisher. You can see in Miami’s two losses teams are succeeding by attacking their middle and breaking down their backcourt. And you always become more famous winning than just being in a famous place.
But as it goes now, Anthony appears to be holding out for New York City. The latest indications I get are he has little interest in Chicago despite what seems obvious, at least to us, winning advantages. New Jersey, either. But these things change.
I doubt the Bulls are counting on being able to make a deal, though until someone else does you never know. So what would it take? Obviously, you’d have to move Luol Deng, whom the Nuggets wouldn’t take with a four-year contract. They have made it clear they are not taking multiyear deals unless it’s for an All-Star of Anthony’s equivalent. Good luck with that. I’ve heard this nonsense they’d take Andre Iguodala. Not true with his four-year deal.
My sense with the Bulls now is they’re waiting on making any move with their 13-player roster or to bolster the shooting guard or backup point spots so as not to use up their $2 million or so cap space to help accommodate a potential Anthony deal. It doesn’t mean they have anything going, but you want to be in position should Denver one day wake up and say, “OK, we’ll take three No. 1s, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik and, if you can get an expiring contract for Deng, it’s a deal. Assuming Carmelo agrees, of course.”
So, yes, that suggests a long shot.
But why not wait instead of making an incremental move like maybe an unhappy Mickeal Pietrus or Rudy Fernandez or free agent like John Lucas or Sundiata Gaines?
Of course, you might also say, “Why bother?” Anthony is, at best, a poor and indifferent defender. And the Bulls’ issue in the early season isn’t scoring as they are ninth in the league in points at 104.6 and second in shooting at 49 percent. They are 22nd in points allowed with a whopping 105 and 11th in opponent field goal percentage.
One ancillary element the Bulls may have going for them is that coach Tom Thibodeau is represented by the same agency which now represents Anthony. Of course, that also was the Wade/Bosh group, and it didn’t do any good.
The talk is Anthony’s new management team is also pushing him toward New York for endorsements, which they’ll also benefit more by since Anthony’s former agent gets his contract fee. They’re probably also telling him with Stoudemire and maybe Chris Paul in a year or two they surpass James and Wade and in the major market which Anthony prefers. But the Knicks have no draft picks to offer. They talk of buying or trading for one, but it won’t match the potential high picks the Bulls with the Charlotte pick and the Nets with a Warriors pick can offer. Or even the Clippers with a Timberwolves pick.
And so the sides are dug in. Anthony wants New York and a trade and his extension or he’ll play it out and walk. The Nuggets want no part of New York and tell Anthony to go ahead and leave maybe $20 million or more on the table and be the lowest paid superstar in the NBA. We dare ya! The Nets are having trouble drawing flies in Newark and aren’t leaving for two years. So maybe the Nuggets and Anthony give a little and the Bulls don’t sound so bad, after all.
Meanwhile, the Bulls remain on the sidelines waiting to get in the game, and Anthony gets to show a bit Monday whether he’s worth all the fuss.
KG keeps it classy
-- Last week we had the great Kevin Garnett/Charlie Villanueva trash talk/tweet debate about, to briefly summarize, Villanueva accusing Garnett in his incessant so-called “trash talk” of calling him a cancer patient. Garnett, in one of the more incredulous formal statements said Villanueva misunderstood and he really was taunting him by saying, “You are cancerous to your team and our league,” and he’d never be insensitive regarding cancer. Of course, Villanueva to the uninformed, which Garnett generally has been, suffers from alopecia universalis, a medical condition that results in hair loss. So, yes, he can look like a cancer patient. There were many issues here, and the most overlooked was how an explanation that telling someone you are a cancer to the NBA is considered a rational explanation does strike at my argument a bit of the NBA being the appealing league. If you are going to make up a statement and lie, which Garnett obviously did, say something like, “I hope we both can work together to help cure cancer, but I’ll kick your butt first.”
Everyone who knows and has been around Garnett will tell you—and I had plenty of confirmation Friday in Boston—that Garnett doesn’t speak anything like that statement. Of course, and you cannot fault them, coach Doc Rivers and GM Danny Ainge had to come to Garnett’s defense with Ainge pulling the clever politician trick of blaming the victim and bringing up the old locker room rule of, “What is said here stays here.” Sure, in this era. Try asking any politician who has made an off color joke or comment. Public figures, effectively, have no privacy defense in the law, and less in the internet arena.
It raised again, at least to me, the issue of trash talking, which I truly don’t understand and pretty much detest. Yes, Larry Bird did it and Michael Jordan as well, though it was a bit more benign then and clever, like when Bird goaded Julius Erving into going after him on the court once when he was repeating their scoring totals at the time, “42 to 5, Doc, 42 to 5.” I admit I enjoyed that one. But it’s gotten particularly vicious in this era and I can only imagine the way kids emulate players how many incidents its provoked in the playgrounds after ugly comments about family and personal manhood. I occasionally ask players about it and they sort or shrug about it just being part of the game, though perhaps it’s only ugly when it comes to a few like Garnett. Ah, Kevin. He’s a heck of a player and competitor, but I liked Reggie Evans’ comments that Garnett is “always barking, and when it’s time to get physical, he’s always been a little Chihuahua.” Though Garnett’s legacy effectively changed when he went to Boston, the scouting report on him always had been to hit him, play him physically and he’d back away. It’s one reason why he developed such a good fallaway jump shot. In many ways, this era has emboldened and made Garnett. Had he played against the likes of Charles Oakley or the late Maurice Lucas, you’d never have heard from him as they’d have shut him up quickly. But now Garnett can scream the vilest things at opponents and then hold up his arms like an innocent victim.
Joakim Noah didn’t want to get into any detail after the Friday loss, but his comments about not forgetting those people taking advantage now likely were about Garnett, who at one point late in the game in a stoppage slapped the ball away from Noah for no apparent reason and then moved away with his hands in the air in his usual, “Who me?” It was their first meeting since Noah in last season’s playoffs during one of his breaks from reviewing Cleveland volunteered that Garnett is a dirty player. You can be sure knowing the foul mouthed Garnett it was ugly. I did a media interview last week and was asked why I’d written several times Garnett was a punk. I apologized as I don’t usually get into name calling and said he was a tough competitor, but I felt dirty. I regretted apologizing for calling Garnett a punk.
Slow start for Durant’s Thunder
-- It does turn out it’s more difficult the second time around. Kevin Durant finally shot 50 percent in a game for the first time this season Sunday, but the Thunder lost to the Celtics to fall to 3-3 and hardly suggesting to anyone they are the second best in the West, which many predicted preseason. Durant, though averaging 26 points, is shooting 37 percent and 29 percent on threes. Oklahoma City’s offense seems to be Durant and Russell Westbrook taking turns shooting or throwing themselves into the defense to draw a foul. Maybe it’s my imagination, but Westbrook doesn’t seem so thrilled throwing the ball to Durant, who seems to get the ball a lot late in the shot clock. It’s the potential issue with a young team that has success too fast and only Durant has received a contract extension. The Thunder rarely throw the ball inside, and defenses are adapting. Last week, when the Thunder lost to the Clippers, Durant walked out of his postgame press conference in mid sentence. “Everybody follows me. I didn’t show up. The team didn’t show up. That’s why we lost,” he said. Making that move from 50 is toughest on young teams. We’ll see what they have.
Brand back to his old self, while Iguodala struggles
--I know I’m biased because I do love the NBA, but even after watching some Bulls losses lately, like the compelling game in Boston Friday night, how could you ever actually want to watch baseball? Oh, right, hardly anyone is. How about World Series TV ratings an 8.4 national average compared with 10.6 for last season’s NBA Finals, the second time in three years the Finals outdrew the World Series. I’ll admit my first love affair was with baseball, and I do still enjoy it as I have a chance to read during games. But I guess what’s most surprised me is the way the NBA now really has become more of an historic game because of the way baseball’s great records have been rendered meaningless by the rampant steroid use. It’s amazing the way fans ignore milestones now, like Alex Rodriguez’ 600th home run or the cherished home run records. And Michael Jordan talks about Wilt’s 100 and starts a real debate. … It’s nice to see Elton Brand just about back to where he was, putting up nearly 20/10 numbers as the bright light in a mostly a dim start for Doug Collins’ 76ers. It’s been clear watching them Andre Iguodala is just killing the team, firing up bad shot after bad shot, blowing off the offense. Collins sat Iguodala almost the entire fourth quarter against Washington last week, and then brought him back in the last two minutes when Iguodala practically sabotaged that and the overtime. Then they fall back 19 against Toronto Friday and Iguodala goes out for the second half with a supposed strained Achilles and the 76ers take the lead before running out of gas late. Sunday, Iguodala was out and the 76ers played their best game of the season in beating the Knicks. See a pattern there? The basic problem with Iguodala, on a huge, long contract that has three years left after this, is he has little offensive game and no shot. He was ideal in the summer playing for USA Basketball as he could accept a supporting role there and defend, which is his specialty. But he refuses to not be a top scorer with his team given his salary and apparent ego issues. He’s probably not as valuable as Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, but he cannot face that. It basically gives the 76ers little chance to develop until they can move him. It also seems he needs a new address to begin to recover. … You certainly hope Collins is OK. He says those bouts of vertigo from a summer concussion aren’t serious, though the withering Philadelphia sports radio last week had Collins already leaving the bench. Philadelphia reporters asked Collins and he replied: "I wear my emotions on my sleeve It was tough [Tuesday overtime against Washington] to lose that game. Our guys fought so hard. If I don't make it through the season, it'll be because I got something seriously wrong with me." Collins says there is not and his basic and overall health is excellent.
Pistons pick up first win of the season
-- The Pistons finally got a win Friday, but last week suggested a brutal season ahead with the franchise up for sale, attendance in free fall and players at one another and the coach. Rodney Stuckey, a few years ago regarded as their future center piece, got a DNP-CD Friday after on the court ignoring coach John Kuester, who challenged the team for lack of leadership only to hear Tayshaun Prince tell reporters: "He's right, but at the same time it goes both ways. He says we got to be more vocal, he has to do some things better, too. Obviously, we're 0-4 so it ain't just the team." Prince then advised fans behind the bench to keep quiet if they don’t have anything positive to say, which you can imagine didn’t go over well on the message boards given his lackluster efforts. Richard Hamilton, with a long contract remaining, seems to be waiting to be traded to a contender along with Prince. Tracy McGrady started at point guard in Friday’s win, but Stuckey was back starting Sunday as the Pistons did beat Golden State. The odd part is the Pistons have been in the games and collapsed at the end, like against the Bulls, and do have plenty of fire power, if not much front line. … Also benched for so-called insubordination was Orlando’s Mickael Pietrus, who similarly didn’t like his reduced playing time and had a shouting match with coach Stan Van Gundy during their blowout win over Minnesota. It will be something to watch with Orlando as they already had an incident with Ryan Anderson when Brandon Bass began playing ahead of him more. It’s probably the ultimate issue with Orlando as opposed to Van Gundy’s comment they don’t have a true go to guy. They’ve compiled perhaps the league’s deepest team with a huge budget. But with so many backups who see themselves as starters, their chemistry suggests problems ahead. … I enjoyed seeing Charlotte Observer writer Rick Bonnell’s view of Tyrus Thomas:“It's time for Tyrus Thomas to fall out of love with his 20-foot jump shot.” I'm not saying he should never take it, but it's a much bigger part of his game than his jump-shooting prowess would justify.” Now when did we hear that before? … Nice for the Bulls to be in the Central Division, where no one has a winning record.
LeBron hardly a Defensive Player of the Year candidate
-- Speaking of that Central, it’s an interesting tug-of-war to watch with the Pacers with Roy Hibbert looking like a Most Improved candidate and coach Jim O’Brien talking about having to play through Hibbert and basically everyone else, especially long distance chucker Danny Granger, satisfied to fire threes. "It was really pathetic,” Hibbert said after the 76ers got their first win of the season. “People have to be held accountable. We have to run the system. When we run it, we're good. When we don't, we lose like this." And just think, just five more months to go. … I know a lot of people think Stan Van Gundy says too much, but I had to be equally incredulous about talk that LeBron James could be defensive player of the year. Only if you watch ESPN, which covers his run down blocks from behind like presidential press conferences. Thabo Sefolosha actually is a better defender, for one, because James—and no offense since he has to do so much else—plays the passing lanes to gamble, doesn’t close much on shooters and his all-defensive status last season convinces me the coaches who vote only watch the ESPN highlights. "He (James) is the Defensive Player of the Year after five games?” Van Gundy offered. “Wow. I would say that's a quick rise to prominence defensively.” … Everyone in New York had a lot of fun last week renewing their bashing of Isiah Thomas after the remarkable ESPN/New York story of Thomas’ obsession with still running the Knicks, which was not exactly the political thing to say. Thomas said his recruitment of Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford from the Bulls was because they fit James as a low post center and shooter and the three were AAU friends. But Thomas also brought up the overlooked specter of after the 2013-14 season when James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade can opt out of their contracts. Oh, no! Not again! "I do find it ironic that we all ended up here in Miami (Thomas at Florida International) instead of us all ending up in New York," Thomas told writer Ian O’Connor. "But it's a four-year deal." Thomas has been known to be close with Carmelo Anthony and you can be sure he’s working Anthony now with the idea that if Anthony signs with the Knicks he could be joined by James in 2014 when Anthony and James are just 30. And with Isiah to run the organization? The speculation is Knicks’ insiders leaked the recent story of scout Rodney Heard, hired by Thomas, allegedly conducting illegal workouts several years ago. Why’s it come out now? Maybe to alienate Thomas with ownership to keep him from returning. Michael Jordan, by the way, retired the first time when he was 30 and came back and won three titles and many believe it could have been more. Though if I’m Anthony I could not see wanting to play in that snake pit.
NBA news and notes
-- There were a lot of what seemed mostly made up rumors last week when Al Horford signed his extension that the Hawks would have to deal Josh Smith for financial reasons. Forget it. Wrong. Expect them to try to deal Marvin Williams and Jamal Crawford. … Same with Mike Conley getting that huge extension. Much depends on owner Michael Heisley, who admits to be a Jerry Jones type owner. It seems questionable how they can afford to pay in that market both Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo. But they played poorly without Randolph and Xavier Henry has been uninspiring. Nothing seems imminent with them. … The Bucks are last in the league in scoring and 29th in shooting and you figure it’s a battle of wills there as well. Many wondered how coach Scott Skiles would coexist with so-called ball holding players like Drew Gooden, John Salmons and Corey Maggette. The question was whether Skiles, who promotes ball and player movement and now has a contract extension and the support of management, could break the bad habits. Apparently not so far, as after Saturday’s loss to the Hornets, point guard Brandon Jennings grew particularly frustrated. Said Jennings to Milwaukee reporters: “It's starting to get a little bit ridiculous now. Every day it's something. It's either shots not falling or we just all break down. Some people are not on the same page. It's getting a little bit annoying now.”… No surprise with the Washington Post headline last week: ‘Arenas back; Wizards lose.’ It was his first regular season game since last January and his 50-game suspension. Wall went from nine steals the previous game to nine turnovers. The longer the season goes, the more players will be in the classic trade philosophy of “my crap for your crap.” It might make it possible for Washington to trade Arenas. So far I figure with long contracts perhaps Baron Davis, who already has bailed out on the Clippers, Iguodala, Richard Hamilton and perhaps Hedo Turkoglu are possibilities. And then with Arenas actually looking productive perhaps guys like Kenyon Martin, Eddy Curry. And then would you give up Rashard Lewis if you were Orlando and his obscene deal for a potential go to type guy? It’s all my speculation, but you figure the Wizards would do about anything to help Wall.
-- Good luck, Vinny. The former Bulls coach has the Clippers in their usual spot last in the Western Conference. Guard Eric Gordon said the team played hard only in its opener and Baron Davis after Vinny criticized his conditioning said his knee really has hurt since at least 2007, maybe longer. Vinny said Davis has to grow. But you have to watch them if only to see Blake Griffin, who is the real deal. … Down the hall, the Lakers are quietly well ahead of the Miami Heat and getting the least notice ever for a team rolling along with blowouts and hunting down a third straight championship. When you talk to veterans from previous eras, no one begrudges LeBron James the opportunity to go to Miami. But as I run into Hall of Famers they continue to be amazed a player of that talent would choose to join a comparable star on his team. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Los Angeles Times added a view: "Miami doesn't have a team yet. They're still trying to find their identity. They've got a long way to go before they establish themselves. Orlando and Boston, they've been there, and they want to get back. Miami's going to have their work cut out for them. And there's probably some other [East] teams that will emerge as the season proceeds." So Eddie House takes the last shot in the first such opportunity. It was the so called right play, but again you wonder about James, whose big flaw in Cleveland seemed to be he didn’t embrace that late game responsibility. Hey, not everyone has it in them and maybe he realizes it and it’s no shame. And, after all, winning is the goal. But you wish he’d tried. I know I don’t want to see Eddie House with the last shot. After all, it should be entertaining also. … How about Chris Bosh averaging 3.3 rebounds in 29 minutes the last four games. Now, I know House can do that. If it goes bad in Miami, Bosh is going to take the fall. It will be interesting to watch if he can deal with it.
-- There was a lot of head scratching also around the NBA about Tony Parker’s extension given the Spurs’ small market and the aging of its core. Most felt they’d try to transition younger, though they still could make a trade. In a lot of ways, the Spurs are becoming like the late 80s Celtics, who remained loyal to Larry Bird and what he did for the franchise and did not made moves when they could, like dealing Kevin McHale. The Spurs seem to be doing likewise for Tim Duncan, whose contract goes through 2011-12 and many believe he will play on after that. But as Boston discovered, though it might have been different had Len Bias not died, it’s a long way back when you run it out with your stars. … Rudy Fernandez went out last week with a back injury, though he was back Sunday in the blowout loss to the Lakers with 13 points in 19 minutes. It’s something to watch if Portland reduces its demands as the coaching staff has been high on rookie guard Armon Johnson for his defensive play. … The brain lock play of the week went to Rudy Gay, who with 0.4 left and shooting free throws all he had to do was miss the second and Phoenix couldn’t shoot. So he makes it, the Suns design a beautiful alley-oop to Jason Richardson to tie the game and win in overtime. Kids, get that degree. … How about Fabricio Oberto retiring after going to Portland to relieve their injured centers? It would be scary to be a big man there also with Jeff Pendergraph’s preseason injury. … Surprise return to the NBA and even in the Nuggets starting lineup on occasion after injuries is Harvey’s Melvin Ely, who is in with the Nuggets Monday. The Nuggets also were starting undrafted forward Gary Forbes, about whom Anthony said the Mavs were surprised to see him starting and so was he. … It will be great to see George Karl after treatments for cancer last season. His return has been an inspiration around the NBA.