Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Feb. 24) -- Carmelo Anthony unsure of Phil Jackson's plan for team

Plus, a deeper look at why Paul George and Jimmy Butler weren't traded, DeMarcus Cousins' new start in New Orleans and more Staff

No. 1: Anthony unsure of what Jackson’s vision is for Knicks — Yesterday’s trade deadline saw what tends to happen at most trade deadline: the major deals being discussed never came to fruition. The New York Knicks had two key players — Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose — in the thick of trade rumors for months, yet neither was moved on Thursday. After last night’s road loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Anthony told the New York Post’s Marc Berman he has no idea what team president Phil Jackson’s plan is for the team:

Following a dispiriting 119-104 loss to the Cavaliers, Anthony was asked by The Post if he understood Jackson’s vision.

“No, to be honest with you, no,’’ Anthony said. “I think they [were] planning on the trade deadline and they were trying to make moves. That was one plan. Now they got to get back to the drawing board for another plan for the future of the team.”

It sounded as if Anthony may have been debriefed about the potential Derrick Rose-for-Ricky Rubio swap with Minnesota that fell apart.

“Nobody likes to be in limbo,’’ Anthony said. “We all want to know what’s going on especially when it’s involving you. I think there’s other players who feel the same way. They want to be involved. Not involved but up to date.’’

“The trade deadline has come and gone and me talking about it has come and gone too. I will not be talking about trades anymore the rest of the season.”

But his strained relationship with Jackson remains an issue and it’s unclear whether this marriage will end in the summer. Jackson still may have some explaining to do regarding his endorsement of an anti-Melo column and one of his confidants writing Anthony has “outlived his usefulness in New York.’’

Anthony indicated it’s on Jackson to repair the wounds.

“We’re in the same workplace, I see him,’’ Anthony said. “We see each other. You want me to spend more time with him in the office? If there’s something to talk about, whether it’s about the team, organization, I’m there. I come to work every day. If there’s something to talk about we’ll talk about it.”

* * *

No. 2: Bulls likely just pushed Butler decision back — The Chicago Bulls made a deal on trade deadline day … just not the one anyone expected. They shipped out fan favorite Taj Gibson. forward Doug McDermott and a future second-round pick for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The player most expected to be dealt, All-Star Jimmy Butler, is still in Chicago, but the Bulls’ lack of moving him doesn’t mean he’ll be there next season. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has more:

Jimmy Butler wasn’t traded Thursday. But with the Celtics keeping their hoard of assets, that storyline merely gets pushed into June.

The 76ers, Nuggets, Suns, Celtics and possibly more teams engaged in talks centered on Butler, sources said. Whenever the Celtics brought the 2017 Nets first-round pick into play, sources said they added protection to a pick that could be first overall.

The Bulls, who also made clear they need two core players, might have listened more seriously to the Celtics’ overtures for Butler if that pick had no protection, sources said.

“If we are ever in a position where we are going to rebuild completely, you have to have a certainty in terms of what you’re getting back,” Paxson said. “If you’re going to go that route, you want draft picks. You want high draft picks. And there has to be a certainty to those draft picks.

“I can tell you there was nothing remotely close to anybody calling us about Jimmy Butler. Jimmy is a top-10 or -12 player in this league. We value him highly.”

Do the Bulls value Butler enough to build around him long term?

“Jimmy is on our roster, and Jimmy is under contract for two more years,” Paxson said. “He is a terrific player. This league is fluid, and things can change quickly.

“I’ve always felt this way about team building and a team in general: There are very few guys who you build around. This is a team game. You build with players. We are building with Jimmy right now.

“We think Cam Payne is a guy who can take some of the ball-handling role off Jimmy. He can run a team and do some things that way. But I’m a very firm believer that, maybe outside of a handful of guys who ever played this game, you build with players, not around one.”

Despite recent reports of factions — including a Tribune report in June that one decision-maker advocated for a full rebuild and trade of Butler to the Celtics — Paxson insisted the organization is aligned in its direction and stance on Butler.

“I guess I’m most discouraged by the narrative that’s out there,” Paxson said. “We’re an organization. Jerry and Michael (Reinsdorf), Gar and I are the decision-makers. You can get behind closed doors and disagree about things, you can debate, you can argue. But when we walk out and make a decision as an organization, we align as an organization. To make the leap from debate to division and saying that Gar and I aren’t working together well or whatever, it’s wrong. It’s a false narrative.

“I care a lot about this organization and want what’s best for it. I like the way we work. And the decisions we make, we make as a group, we make always in the best interests of the organization, and when we walk out of the room, we’re aligned as an organization. It’s as simple as that.”

The trade essentially is Lauvergne and Payne for McDermott because Morrow, like Gibson, will be an unrestricted free agent and won’t be re-signed. McDermott never met expectations after the Bulls traded up to draft him 11th in 2014.

“Our entire organization was on board,” Paxson said. “Our coaching staff pushed very hard for us to move up to get Doug. They wanted him.”

And now, like that Tom Thibodeau-led coaching staff, McDermott is gone. Butler remains — for now.

* * *

No. 3: Pressure builds on Ainge — The Boston Celtics and their bevy of young players, Draft picks and other assets made them a prime target for trade deadline chatter. Yet they opted not to make a major move for an All-Star like Jimmy Butler or Paul George and instead will ride out the season with their existing crew. As Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald points out, that means Celtics boss Danny Ainge will have to hit a homerun in the offseason now:

The Celtics have chosen the status quo at the trade deadline, though, according to league sources, there is question about just how much of that was by actual choice.

The word from around the league, over the last several days in particular, was that Ainge was growing very protective of this year’s Nets pick and the ability to be a player in free agency. Though some took that as a posturing, others who dealt with him believed it to be the case when the Celts held the line in certain negotiations.

According to sources, the Celtics did include the Nets’ first-round picks (2017 in a swap positions scenario, 2018 unencumbered) separately in their offers. The Chicago negotiations, which have been going on in some form for more than a year, were difficult on a number of fronts, the first of which was the Bulls’ tough choice of whether to even make him available. After taking the ’17 Nets pick off the table, the Celtics were said to be willing to include it, albeit with protections. But things truly dissolved when Chicago, looking to remain competitive in its rebuild, couldn’t find common ground with the C’s on the number and quality of core players that would be involved in the deal.

The first choice of both the Bulls and Pacers was to keep their star and build around him, but Indiana’s move to listen to offers for George was short-circuited by reports that his plans were to either win in Indy or go home to the Lakers as a free agent after next season.

That pretty much ended the fight for the Celtics — and everyone else — at the deadline.

So if you aren’t going to compete for a championship this season, is there anything you were after now in the market that won’t be there in June — and maybe even at a better price?

If they keep the pick, the Celts will draft in a zone from which most franchise players are derived. But even that will require some measure of patience.

The Celtics got Jaylen Brown out of the No. 3 overall pick last year from the Nets, and it’s interesting to note that, while two years younger at a similar stage, his rookie season compares very favorably to what Butler did in his first two years. There is evidence to suggest better players are at the top of this June’s dispersal, but the C’s still have to make the right pick.

Ainge could have avoided that by pushing his chips into the middle for either Butler or George, giving the Celtics following the splash it desired. But by folding these cards and waiting for the next hand, he’s probably shown more brass — well-founded or not.

No. 4: Relief short-lived in Indiana after trade deadline — Superstar Paul George remains today what he was yesterday — the lead dog on the Indiana Pacers. That the team opted to not trade him at the deadline surprised some, but as Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star points out, George’s hurt feelings plus a slumping squad equals a wary future for the Pacers this morning:

George will be in a Pacers uniform Friday when the team begins the second half of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies. He plans to continue to be the Pacers’ leader for their final 25 games of the regular season and any postseason play.

What occurs after this season, however, became murkier Thursday after George was the biggest star who was discussed in a potential blockbuster trade.

Team president Larry Bird spent much of the day weighing the option of trading George to the Boston Celtics, a team that possesses several rotational players and valuable draft picks, including the lowly Brooklyn Nets’ first-round picks in the next two drafts. Ultimately, Bird decided not to deal George with the hope the franchise can convince him to re-sign after his expected opt-out at the end of the 2017-18 season.

George, though, said he was not pleased that Bird considered trading him after previously vowing to sign George to a max contract.

“I was kind of on the ropes just like you guys were on what was about to happen,” George said of his emotions before the deadline. “It was kind of a dark moment of uncertainty and that was the frustrating part. You want me to be your guy here, I thought I would have been in the loop a little more on that.”

Bird couldn’t persuade another team to take the Pacers’ first-round pick for a talented player, a move George favored.

“Just realistically, we have to keep improving,” George said. “We’ve got to keep getting better. We’ve got to know who’s going to be helpful going forward and who we’re building around. That’s the only thing we can take away from these next 25 games. We can’t go into the second half or go into it next season with any mediocrity. We’ve got to just improve. That’s what it comes down to.”

The Pacers entered the All-Star break on a season-long six-game losing streak and currently hold the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

When asked if he felt relief to stay in Indiana, George said it was better for everyone else in the franchise to put the trade deadline and the rumors behind them. George then said he wasn’t concerned about his future.

“At the end of the day, I’m in a good situation,” he said. “We’ve got to work with what we’ve got.”

* * *

No. 5: Cousins remains confident of Pelicans’ potential — The New Orleans got a look at shiny new addition DeMarcus Cousins last night and he didn’t disappoint. The All-Star big man had 27 points on 11-for-19 shooting and added 14 rebounds and four blocks, but the Pelicans lost to the Houston Rockets, 129-99. After the game, both he and his fellow All-Star frontcourt teammate Anthony Davis know there’s work to be done on the court, writes William Guillory of The Times-Picayune:

“We’re not ready,” said Cousins. “It’s obvious we’re not ready, but the potential is still there.”

Cousins and Pelicans forward Anthony Davis combined for 56 points and 23 rebounds in Thursday’s loss, but the Pelicans couldn’t keep pace with the high-powered Rockets offense.

The Rockets (41-18) made 14 more 3-pointers than New Orleans on Thursday night and had six different players score in double digits, while the Pelicans only had three–and one of them was forward Omri Casspi, who broke his thumb in the third quarter of Thursday’s loss.

The Pelicans trailed by as many as 35 points at one point in the second half, and while there is still plenty of optimism surrounding the team, it has a long way to go before being able to compete with some of the elite squads around the NBA.

“We’re still trying to figure it out the rhythm. This is not a great team to do that against,” said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. “We played them twice and they shot 111-112 threes. With the two bigs we have now, they’re not accustomed to being able to go out on the court and go out against a guy like (Rockets forward Trevor) Ariza on those guys.

“We’re still trying to find ourselves. We are disappointed but not discouraged.”

“We just turned the ball over, that was tough,” Davis said. “It doesn’t matter who you have on the floor, whether we have a team full of new guys or the same guys we had before the break, we just can’t turn the ball over.

“We turned the ball over a lot and that just comes from overthinking. We just haven’t played with each other.”

Jrue Holiday said he is trying to find the right balance between scoring and distributing to his teammates, and with Cousins’ addition to the lineup, he will need to go through a process to find the right mixture.

“For me personally, I was just trying to be able to get everybody involved,” said Holiday. “With a couple dominant guys in the post, I just wanted to throw it into the post and let them play. If not, we’re just trying to force things in there with two or three guys in the paint.”

* * *

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: In trading for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker in the last week, the Toronto Raptors have addressed some critical lineup holes … Dwyane Wade says he’s fine to play tonight against the Phoenix Suns … If the Philadelphia 76ers buyout Andrew Bogut, the Boston Celtics may be one of the first teams to try and snag him … This most recent round of trade rumors seemed to have worn on the mind of Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio … The Oklahoma City Thunder got the scoring punch they were looking for with their deadline-day deals … The Chicago Bulls’ front office says it supports coach Fred Hoiberg … Willie Cauley-Stein had no problem carrying a much bigger load for the Sacramento Kings … The Memphis Grizzlies opted to keep their roster in tact for the season’s stretch run … Similarly, the Utah Jazz are betting on team chemistry and continuity as the season winds down … Former Miami Heat star Chris Bosh will serve as an analyst on TNT’s “Players Only” broadcasts … The New Orleans Pelicans waived Terrance Jones and signed Hollis Thompson yesterday … Joel Embiid wasn’t happy with the Philadelphia 76ers’ lack of transparency with his injury …