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If Anthony heads to the Nets, Paul may follow

Media reports were numerous late Sunday of maybe a dozen or more players, including Detroit's Richard Hamilton changing teams in at least a three or four-team deal with Carmelo Anthony in New Jersey the centerpiece.
The Nets move to Brooklyn after next season and the new model in the NBA is three stars, though you have to stretch to include Brook Lopez and his six rebounds a game in that. Might Carmelo Anthony get his money there, along with an All-Star point guard to play with in Chris Paul? (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Sam Smith Mailbag

It’s obviously sounding more and more like Carmelo Anthony is headed to New Jersey, and my personal warning for him having been there last week with the Bulls is, “Better watch out what you wish for.”

Media reports were numerous late Sunday of maybe a dozen or more players, including Richard Hamilton—due in Chicago Monday with the Pistons—changing teams in at least a three or four-team deal with Anthony in New Jersey the centerpiece.

And it seems clear Anthony has given up, as the Nuggets followed losses to the Clippers and Kings with a home loss to the Hornets Sunday, with Anthony dogging it to eight points in 34 minutes.

The Nuggets seemed to be trying to cover all their bases with some talent in Devin Harris, No. 1 draft picks and cash savings in losing Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter. Though once they do the deal, they are just another rebuilding team. The backside of this and the sales pitch by the Nets to Anthony has been adding Chris Paul after next season as a free agent, though the Nets might have to move another contract by then. And probably can.

As teams come out of New Orleans, you hear one coach after another predicting Paul’s departure given the bankruptcy of the franchise and the upcoming free agency of David West.

Which is why the Nets believe Anthony will buy in. They move to Brooklyn after next season and the new model in the NBA is three stars, though you have to stretch to include Brook Lopez and his six rebounds a game in that. But Anthony would get his money and an All-Star point guard to play with in Paul, just 27 years old by moving time.

Plus, by then the view will be Boston will be too old and Orlando may lose Dwight Howard to the Lakers express of centers with Wilt, Kareem and Shaq all moving west to seek basketball fortune.

Which also perhaps lessens the urgency in the Bulls’ view to make a move assuming Anthony is off the board and not going to the Knicks to join Amar’e Stoudemire.

These rumors can go away as quickly as they came, but it seems obvious the Bulls have been on the sidelines waiting to see if Anthony would push a trade to Chicago to join Rose, Noah and Boozer. I’ve hardly heard a whisper of that, although the Bulls apparently viewed themselves as last minute long shots.

So time to get a shooting guard? Keith Bogans hasn’t been playing much, averaging about 14 minutes the last six games. But it probably is time for a change almost halfway into the season. The Spurs moved Bogans out of the starting lineup a little more than halfway into the season last year and Bogans’ feelings don’t seem hurt.

Ronnie Brewer has settled in nicely to an activity role coming off the bench and probably should remain there. Though Kyle Korver isn’t known as a top defender, he’s taller than Bogans and works hard. He’s been lost of late in the offense with so many fewer catch and shoot chances, and it would be a great opportunity now, especially after one of the best wins of the season over Boston Saturday, to make a change to address the continuing slow starts as the Bulls were again behind by nine midway through the first against Boston.

Korver naturally spreads the court with his shooting, and the Bulls desperately need to involve him more now as he’s averaged fewer than four shots the last five games. He’s got to be a threat, but he cannot be if he doesn’t even get shots. He’ll get them starting and it is time. And it’s hard to say the team will lose anything defensively. Korver, actually, is better than advertised on that end.

But if not that, what?

Here’s the issue facing the Bulls and probably why if Anthony moves to the Nets, the odds are against making a move.

Hamilton is moving and, like with Stephen Jackson, is too old and makes too much money for the Bulls to acquire. But there are players who are and may become available, like O.J. Mayo, Courtney Lee, J.R. Smith, Rudy Fernandez, Mickael Pietrus, Rodney Stuckey, Marcus Thornton, Corey Brewer and Leandro Barbosa.

The Bulls could probably get many of them now, though the cost would likely be Taj Gibson and the No. 1 pick from the Tyrus Thomas trade, which is lottery protected but declining, i.e, top 12, top 10, top 8 until being unprotected in 2016.

Perhaps you look at Saturday and see Boston not exactly invincible, the Magic small and the Heat with no depth. You get Joakim Noah back and add, say, Lee or Mayo, and why can’t you get to the Finals right now?

That starting five should match anyone’s in the Eastern Conference. Right?

And you send a message to Derrick Rose you will do anything to win. After all, Rose can be a free agent after next season and you never want to take your star for granted. Plus, with Boozer 29, how long is your window?

But then there is Magic Johnson and the chance for a dynasty.

It was much condemned at the time because the Lakers had just acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But after the 1975-76 season, the Lakers let their second best player, Gail Goodrich, go to the New Orleans Jazz as a free agent.

Back then, you had to agree to compensation for a free agent or the commissioner would decide. So the Jazz agreed to send the Lakers two No. 1 draft picks.

Goodrich broke down, but it was no better for the Lakers as it seemed they were wasting the best years of Abdul-Jabbar’s career with their caution. The Lakers won more than 50 games once in the next four seasons as the Bullets and SuperSonics won titles in what was arguably the NBA’s weakest period.

But in 1979, one of those Jazz picks became the pick the Lakers used to select Magic Johnson. During that period, the Lakers also traded one of their regulars, Don Ford, to the Cavaliers for a draft pick. It became James Worthy in 1982. And the Lakers were off to win five titles. That also was the period when Red Auerbach decided he could wait another year when five teams picking in front of him couldn’t because Larry Bird was staying in school. So the top five picks in the 1978 draft when Bird was first eligible were Mychal Thompson, Phil Ford, Rick Robey (to the Pacers), Micheal Ray Richardson and Purvis Short. Bird went sixth to a Celtics team that won 32 games and needed help. Auerbach decided to be patient.

Should the Bulls take a shot now? Or should they wait it out, see what happens and maybe in a few years be able to score from the top of the draft as it hardly seems Charlotte has much of a core or plan for the future? You see, it’s not so easy to just make a move even if you probably could get Mayo tomorrow. OK, maybe next month…

Allen and Mayo scrap on Memphis’ team plane

-- The latest issue of NBA morality was the Grizzlies’ banning gambling on the team plane after Tony Allen got into a fight with O.J. Mayo over a debt, curiously with Mayo taunting Allen about Mayo not paying up. This somewhat shakes my faith in trading for Mayo, who may be a bit more, let’s say unwise, than we think. I know NBA guys are kids and do more kids stuff than anyone knows. But kids know not to mess with the bad man, which Allen is. We know this because rarely have NBA players supposedly had hits placed on them from gangs as Allen did a few years back over a fight in Chicago. America is terrific for overreacting after an event, though I recall the Bulls happily gambling virtually all day in the ‘90s and winning all sorts of titles. There are some infamous gambling debts, like those owed Charles Oakley, also not a good idea. Oak was suspended with the Raptors for slapping Tyrone Hill in a preseason game over a debt and going after Jeff McInnis at a shootaround. And they weren’t on the same teams. Oak just visited McInnis’ shootaround. Supposedly it was over a woman. Or a debt. Whatever. You didn’t mess with Oak. Or should have known better. The latest card game fascination among the players is something called Bourre (boo-ray), a Cajun card game, and it used to be a game called Tonk, neither of which I understood even after watching. Bourre supposedly began the dispute between Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton that led to, well, bad stuff. But you can’t overreact to everything and prevent people from being people. Most teams permit gambling as it’s fairly legal in the U.S. and common throughout the history of sports. Who’d ever watch the NFL if there weren’t gambling? Discipline comes more from the staff and organization and individual, though the bigger common denominator in a lot of this is the taunting and so called trash talking that is so common and, seemingly, the more inappropriate and incendiary.

NBA news and notes

-- Which NBA coach said this: “These guys, you tell ’em stuff and they do the opposite.” It’s the quote on the wall in most coach’s offices. It could be, but it was Rajon Rondo saying why he wouldn’t want to be an NBA coach. Though it has sounded a lot like what they’ve said often in Boston about Rondo. … Mike D’Antoni was supportive of the Suns when the Knicks, in Amar’e Stoudemire’s return last week, demolished the Suns and pretty much began their rebuilding even though they don’t know it yet. And while D’Antoni is close with coach Alvin Gentry, it was owner Robert Sarver who stripped him of the GM job, which led to his departure. So no offense to Alvin, but D’Antoni put Stoudemire back in up 30 in the fourth and put Ray Felton back to get one more rebound for a triple-double in the fourth. So, Robert, how have you been? …The Knicks held Felton to a two-year deal with a future eye toward Steve Nash, Paul or Deron Williams as 2012 free agents. But Felton is stating a strong case for now and had big games recently against both Paul and Tony Parker, supposedly another New York target. Though other than Stoudemire, who because of physical issues was a questionable free agent, though the best so far of the power forwards, no major free agents have expressed any interest in going to New York. And it looks like Anthony is the latest. …You can see even the Cavs veterans having checked out as Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison can’t seem to shoot quickly enough without moving the ball much. It is not difficult to see why they’ve become the league’s worst team. It wasn’t that LeBron means a difference of 40 wins, but players like that bring out the best in others and now we see some of the worst. … I had to smile reading the Charlotte Observer Wednesday when Tyrus Thomas had 21 and 11 in a win over Minnesota and the paper said the team hoped it wasn’t an anomaly. So, class, what did Tyrus have the next game? Right, six points and four rebounds in 31 minutes on two of 13 shooting. … Charlotte, whom the Bulls visit this week, has had a soft schedule since Larry Brown’s firing and has won four of six with a lot of raving about Silas’ freer ways. But with Gerald Wallace out, Gerald Henderson finally has gotten a shot and is showing something, averaging about 10 points and six rebounds the last four games.

-- Still another amazing loss for the 76ers, who saw Lou Williams in Detroit miss two free throws with six seconds left and a three point lead and lose in overtime, almost exactly the same as a loss to Washington. Yet, Doug Collins spent the post game comforting Williams. Doug has been changing, it seems. … The new Scalabrine? Boston fans chanted Har-an-gody as he got 17 and 11 in a win over Toronto. … It has been a little stupid all the credit Hakeem Olajuwon got with Patrick Ewing on the staff for Dwight Howard finally deciding to make some post moves. And Stan Van Gundy was right on it in noting, “Hakeem has gotten more credit for two hours than anyone I've ever seen. They were in a gym for two hours, three hours, and all of a sudden every shot Dwight makes is because of Hakeem.” … That competed for the comment of the week with Dwight Howard, who said Hedo Turkoglu’s current body fat level is the lowest since his birth and Kobe Bryant noting the proliferation of fan MVP chants and noting they probably do it for Earl Boykins in Milwaukee. He’s right. The lack of originality in arenas—can’t we do better that those “sucks” chants?—almost makes football fans seem literate.

-- With Gilbert Arenas choreographing a dance for the Magic reserves and giving them a name and Howard’s usual lighthearted behavior—I think he was doing interviews recently in disguise—it’s hard to believe the Magic with nine straight wins recently have the demeanor to make a long playoff run. Though it probably is a fun team to play for. … Miami’s Erik Spolestra is on pace to be the first coach ever to be fired during the season and then coach the All-Star team. Though a Pat Riley disciple, he seems to have a bit of the Phil Jackson nurturing in him as well by giving the players those new-word-every-day calendars (wonder when contraction comes up for LeBron) and is using HBO’s Band of Brothers miniseries as a sort of theme for the season, though I personally hate those war themes for basketball. … James now calls the Heat the “Heatles” for the attention they get on the road. They make their first Chicago appearance Saturday, but James has no idea if he thinks this team draws anywhere near the attention of Michael, Phil, Scottie and Rodman. … Most likely Trail Blazer to be dealt may be Andre Miller, who sat most of fourth quarter and overtime in a big home loss Sunday against Miami. It seems an awfully angry LeBron James, who after hitting a clinching three in overtime Sunday slowly walked around the court to taunt the crowd as he finished with 44. Yes, Pat Riley really has that ‘Us Against the World Thing Going’ again. … Tough season for Kirk Hinrich, who can’t be more exasperated about his mostly goofy teammates who are the league’s only team without a road win. “We're not very mentally tough,” Hinrich told the Washington Post. “I don't know if we just go into games expecting things to go right and when things don't go right, we kind of hang our heads and we don't move on to the next play. That's why our road record is what it is. It's just a level of immaturity.” Hinrich is wearing protective eye glasses now for a Bo Outlaw look since suffering a shiner during the loss to the Bulls last month. Though I think he is so embarrassed he is disguising himself. There have been rumors of a trade of Andray Blatche and even rookie John Wall was caught trying to pad his stats trying to get up a shot in a loss at Philadelphia last week as the game was already decided with a second or two left.

-- Talk about desperation. Hornets coach Monty Williams said after a loss to the Warriors last week he’d shake up his rotation. So he put in Aaron Gray in the first quarter. But Gray still remains scoreless since Dec. 13 and hasn’t scored in the last three games he’s played. But then the Hornets won in Denver. Yes, falling behind Gray in the rotation apparently will wake anyone up. … This is one Carlos Boozer ought to file away. Al Jefferson, in talking about since lacking great athleticism he developed more of a Moses Malone type game and a prized pump fake, told Jazz reporters Boozer always fell for it. Meanwhile, the Jazz has struggled some with a 10 wins in the last 17 with all the losses to winning teams and just one win over a winning team. … Watch Kevin Love and what you see just is a guy who never quits on any possession. Sounds simple. Sure, he plays angles and fundamentals, but the reason he’s leading the league in rebounding showed as he’ll cover shooters in the corner and never stop and always get back to the basket. Can that be all it takes? … Another victim of corporate takeover as with new ownership the Warriors look like they’ve run out Tom Abdenour, regarded as one of the league’s top trainers who’ll move into San Diego State. … Guess the Lakers aren’t quite dead yet with six wins in their last seven, though Lamar Odom is starting a reality who with his celebrity-of-sorts wife and Ron Artest, averaging half his career average, shooting just under 40 percent and lately holding a raffle for his championship ring and yelling at Phil Jackson to stop making fun of him. Oh, and Kobe told the New York Post his knees basically are shot. Yup, looks like they’re back. … One of the guys I’ve always wanted to be around more is Houston’s Shane Battier, who offered this after the fading Rockets fifth straight loss Saturday: “We’ve got to fight through it. Winston Churchill said, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’” I know, which rapper is he?

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