Yes, the Knicks broke all sorts of bad streaks with Sunday’s survival win over the Miami Heat. It ended 13 straight playoff losses as the Knicks have become the NBA’s version of the Cubs with no title now for almost 40 years. They don’t seem very close even as they’ve had their share of injuries this season. Because it’s fairly clear this Carmelo Anthony/Amar’e Stoudemire pairing isn’t going to work. Yes, Stoudemire came back with a nice 20/10 Sunday after his embarrassing episode punching that fire extinguisher box in Miami. Though some say it was in reaction to Anthony continuing to selfishly dominate the ball, which is reasonable, friends say Stoudemire continues to have difficulty getting over his brother’s death this year.
The playoff numbers for Anthony remain mind boggling, now 17-34 career in playoff games, Sunday his first 50 percent playoff shooting game in his last 10, losing 13 of the last 16 playoff games he’s been in.
If I were the Knicks, I’d be trying still to trade Anthony and Tyson Chandler for Dwight Howard and some pieces, maybe Jason Richardson or Glen Davis. With Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin with some supporting guys to shoot, you might have a better chance. You assume if Howard wants to play in Brooklyn, he’d want to play in New York City. You’d have him for one season with him picking up his extension. You’d think by now the Magic have had enough with Howard passing on being around the team in the playoffs. The first day he can sign an extension and he doesn’t they’d have to trade him. I’m assuming a lot of teams make offers this summer thinking they’d have a year to persuade him. You’d think given the circumstances with the Bulls now they’d also kick the tires as a lot of teams will take a look.
But with the Knicks, you get the sense they are staying with Anthony and Chandler.
So can you trade Stoudemire? That was the big question last week after the punching incident, and the consensus is you cannot, given he is owed $63 million for the next three years with no insurance because of his knee problems. It’s rare for a top NBA contract not to be insured. But it previously was said you never could trade Juwan Howard and then Gilbert Arenas, and they were traded with then the biggest contracts and Arenas with similar physical issues.
So I’ll see if I can help.
How about to Golden State for Andris Biedrins with two more years and $18 million and Richard Jefferson with two more years and $21 million? Neither plays for the Warriors and with Andrew Bogut and David Lee, the Warriors could nurse Stoudemire with minutes and he’s shown he still has some oomph. Those new owners like to make a splash.
How about Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva? Gordon is owed $25 million over the next two seasons and Villanueva $16.5 million. One is expected to get amnesty. Maybe try Stoudemire and you figure you maybe get two useful seasons. The Pistons desperately need some attention and some size, and they aren’t using either of those former top free agents.
How about Joe Johnson? The Hawks are going nowhere again and perhaps on the verge of a big shakeup with another early playoff out likely coming. Josh Smith wants out. They don’t want Marvin Williams. Johnson seems disinterested. He has a worse contract than Stoudemire’s. Atlanta would actually save $25 million taking Stoudemire’s deal. Maybe you lay off Marvin on them as well for some shorter deals.
It’s certainly not easy, but it’s also not impossible.
Does FIBA rule the NBA?
-- Last month when the Mavs were in Chicago to play the Bulls, frequently fined Mavs owner Mark Cuban again condemned the NBA about teams paying eight figure contracts who have no right to deny players the right to play for their countries in the Olympics. The issue at the time was Dwyane Wade saying the Olympic players should be paid, which resulted in massive negative publicity given Wade’s $17 million annual salary. Cuban said corporate America and the U.S. Olympic committee profit on the backs of U.S. players. He said the U.S. needs to return to younger players or a full time national team, not NBA stars. But Cuban’s complaint resonates again as his Mavs were swept in the first round of the playoffs. It was a competitive series, though the Mavs drew the short straw of the tough Thunder. Finishing seventh assured that, and the Mavs started slowly because of Dirk Nowitzki’s poor start after a knee injury playing for Germany in last summer’s Olympic qualifier. Cuban pays Nowitzki $19 million to compete for the Mavs, and then he’s limited in the NBA season by playing for someone else for free. The NBA in expanding internationally agreed with FIBA to provide players for the Olympics and denied teams the right to tell players no. Said Cuban of Dirk playing: “I was going nuts, trust me. I said, 'Are you kidding me?' But, I don't have the right to stop him." Derrick Rose is out of the Olympics with his ACL injury. But the Bulls face the issue with Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, both now battling injuries, planning to play for their nations this summer with again little time to rest before next season. And Deng perhaps facing surgery into next season if he needs it for his wrist.
Chandler and Curry taking different paths
-- Could it have been? No, not really. The Bulls’ grand 2001 experiment with Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry is exhibit No. 1 why the NBA should exclude high school players for at least two years. Or more. Perhaps that would not have been long enough, either, as it took Chandler about six years and a change of scenery to begin to develop into a true NBA player. It took the highly skilled Curry a bit less, though a heart ailment and then personal problems derailed him. The experiment, while good on paper, never had a chance because they were so young. It comes up now because Chandler was voted Defensive Player of the Year and probably will make all-NBA. Curry, at least, is back in the NBA, though barely on the end of the Miami roster. Though he doesn’t play, Heat personnel continue to be confident Curry will revive his career next season. It mostly didn’t work because they were so young and asked to do too much, though it didn’t help their first coach, Tim Floyd, really didn’t want any part of them and basically declined to coach them because he wanted veterans. When Floyd resigned, Bill Cartwright took over and Chandler in his press conference credited Cartwright for his development. But after Cartwright was fired, Scott Skiles had little patience for two young big men and eventually both were traded. Cartwright, an assistant with the Suns, is thrilled for Chandler and says he still believes it’s not too late for Curry to still have a productive career.
“The main thing is Tyson really wanted to be good and has wanted to do whatever it took to be good,” said Cartwright. “At that point in time, it was a lot for both those guys to take in. Just the basic concepts (of staying in front of your man). It wasn’t easy for them. I always felt Tyson would be really good, seven-feet tall, athletic and he really wanted to do whatever it took. But I knew you had to give them time. A lot of guys coming into the league had this notion, ‘I’m going to score 30 pts and get 20 rebounds.’ I did not feel Tyson felt that way. He knew he’d be a really good defender. He had to work on offensive game.
“People don’t realize what those guys are coming into is overwhelming,” said Cartwright. “Cooking, your own apartment, and now playing against guys in the NBA. It takes time to find yourself. Eddy’s situation was a little tougher being from Chicago. But I always had great belief in those guys and still do. I remember when I was in New Jersey and the Bulls were trying to move Tyson. I told Rod (Thorn), ‘This guy is going to lead the league in shot blocks and rebounds.’ The unique thing about Tyson is he does what few players do, bring energy to the team and virtually guards everyone at the basket. He’s happy with who he is and thrives on it. To me, that’s a beautiful thing.
“There was a point in New York (2006-07 averaging 19.7) Eddy had the opportunity,” says Cartwright. “Can he get to that situation again? He’s a guy who can score. It’s not too late for him. He’s still young (29). Hopefully, he can get that opportunity again.”
NBA news and notes
-- There’s a new economics in the NBA, and it appears to apply to coaches as well. While being second guessed about his personnel moves letting go Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson and J.J. Berea from their 2011 championship team, Mavs owner Cuban lectured reporters they didn’t understand the new collective bargaining agreement. Cuban said he didn’t like it and should have fought harder, but was alluding to the new luxury tax penalties and revenue sharing which likely would have cost him tens of millions of dollars in losses with such a high payroll. So one result was not extending coach Rick Carlisle, who coached this season on the final year of his contract without an extension. So did the Thunder’s Scott Brooks after going to the conference finals and winning Coach of the Year, and now Scott Skiles says he’ll coach next season in the last on his contract without an extension. “We have to get it done on the court,” Skiles told the Milwaukee Journal. The Bucks were 3-17 against the top six teams in the East and now need to add size with the trade of Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis. The Bucks were 12-11 after the trade. ... I know all those Pacers players who ended up on TMZ last week in Orlando after a bar/club were victims and targeted by drunk fans. And, yes, when you are a young kid, as most of these guys are, you don’t want to stay in all the time. And pro athletes are targets. But going out in Orlando until 3 a.m.? I’ve been to Orlando and it is not the most welcoming place to be for young man late at night. These things can happen anywhere. But they usually don’t. The Pacers’ players were upset about the negative media attention, which really was more for just being stupid than violent.
-- A lot gets lost in New York when someone else is beating up a fire extinguisher, but how bad a shooter has J.R. Smith become? Yes, he did play — sort of when family members weren’t getting into riots in the stands — in China in the lockout, so maybe he’s tired. But he’s eight of 33 the last two playoff games and 20 percent on threes in the series. He shot 40.7 percent in the regular season, and with all the cap room so many teams have this summer he’ll probably be in demand. ... It’s not doing the Magic all that much good, but Glen Davis is averaging 20 points and 9.5 rebounds against the Pacers playing center, though not able to defend anyone along with so-called Most Improved Ryan Anderson. The Pacers did defend Anderson and basically leave Davis alone for his pop out jump shots. Anderson just played off Dwight Howard to stand around and shoot. Steve Novak would have been most improved playing there. The Pacers basically went to whomever Anderson was defending, leading to alternate big games for David West and Roy Hibbert. Nice voting. Anderson is averaging 8.5 points on 32 percent shooting in the playoffs without Howard. ... You can buy a Bobcats season ticket for $43. Yes, all 82 games. That’s what they’re worth, right? It’s actually a promotion with 500 upper deck tickets priced to match the draft pick the Bobcats get in the NBA lottery. If they get No. 1, it’s 43 times 1. If they get No. 2 and so on. Interestingly, despite the horrible season, attendance was up a bit. They do like basketball there. ... Fairly damning Josh Smith observation to the Atlanta Constitution about losing to the Celtics Sunday: “They shot the mess out of it. I’m watching it being a real observer on the bench, and they are just running the plays way more harder than we are. Whatever play is called for Ray Allen is coming off screens 100 miles per hour, Paul Pierce is finding a way to get open. Kevin Garnett setting screens and getting the guards open. We have to try to return the favor and see if they like it and stop being so passive.” Hello, you’re down 3-1 already. Yes, same ‘ol Hawks. Smith is going into his final season at $13.2 million and word leaked out this season he’d like to be traded ... It’s been a rough finish for free agent Kirk Hinrich shooting 38 percent and averaging 5.5 points against Boston despite playing almost 30 minutes per game, though his defense has been good. Hinrich shot 41.4 percent this season, the third worst of his career but at 31 is believed to be looking for one more big contract. ... Talk about your bad shooters, John Wall shot seven percent on threes and 27 percent beyond three feet. Really, is that even possible for a guard?
-- Lamar Odom is ending his reality show to try to resurrect his NBA career. Yes, someone will take a chance as he’s still a valuable talent at 32. But what he did the last two seasons to the Lakers and Mavs with having another full time job on those reality shows at least should show Ron Artest wasn’t that nuts trying to get a Circuit City job when he was a Bulls rookie. Artest only tried to work Sunday afternoons when the team didn’t practice so he could get a discount on electronics. I never understood what was all that wrong, anyway, certainly compared with Odom. ... Gregg Popovich’s rest and recover strategy for the regular season, team executives are saying, is at least the new manual for shortened seasons if this even happens again the way the Spurs have come out in the playoffs. ... Thanks to Popovich, another guy building a career like Bruce Bowen is Danny Green, playing for a minimum and whom Popovich admitted he wasn’t sure would make the team. He’s averaged about 10 points against the Jazz after nine in the regular season and is being hailed for his toughness and big shot making. He’s another great find and then employment in perhaps the top organization for talent discovery and then usage on the floor. ... All indications in Phoenix are the Suns will make Steve Nash a limited offer and he’ll move on. It makes sense as the Suns will have $23 million in salary cap room and they’ve gone as far as they can go. The Suns were always a player destination, and this will test whether they still are under the frugal Robert Sarver management. Many believe Nash instead of chasing a title with a contender for a lesser salary will go back to Canada and the Raptors for a three-year deal and help bring their young players along.
-- The playoffs is a time to, obviously, become a champion. Or not. And to make yourself some money. Two who are making themselves some money are the Thunder’s James Harden and the Grizzlies’ O.J. Mayo. Both are restricted free agents and neither team may be able to match a major offer. Harden was brilliant in that 29-point close against the Mavs when he also ran the team at point guard to close, had five assists, five rebounds and three steals. Though he doesn’t get the notice, most NBA executives I’ve talked to say they’d rather have the Thunder’s so called Big Three than Miami’s because of Harden. Oklahoma City’s issue is Serge Ibaka is restricted after next season and also will draw an eight figure offer. They might take a luxury tax hit next season, but I can see them matching. Nowitzki said the Thunder have three guys to throw the ball to who can “go off,” and teams need two or three to ultimately succeed. He noted Dallas basically had one. This, by the way, was after Nowitzki said after the first two games it was Russell Westbrook as “the guy who is killing us.” Oh, yeah, Kevin Durant is there, too. By the way, give Westbrook, whom critics said wouldn’t get over his envy for his teammates, credit for playing off the ball and seeing Harden run the offense and Westbrook committing to playing defense. I’m not sure, meanwhile, with the Grizzlies whether they can match despite Mayo moving his playoff scoring average up to 14.3 and 37.5 percent on threes while being asked to defend Chris Paul down the stretch. The Grizzlies also have Darrell Arthur and Marreese Speights restricted with a payroll already close to the luxury tax in small market Memphis where they don’t draw like in Oklahoma City.