Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (July 13) -- Houston Rockets, New York Knicks reportedly discuss Carmelo Anthony trade

Plus, Pat Riley's solution to stop late-season 'tanking' and more news from around the NBA

This morning’s headlines:

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UPDATE 9:14 p.m ET: The Knicks have paused conversations with Houston and Cleveland for any trades involving Carmelo Anthony, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Reports: Anthony-to-Rockets deal in progress — Amassing talent is nothing new for the Houston Rockets over the last few offseasons, and this summer has been no different. After adding Chris Paul in a trade with the LA Clippers earlier this summer, talks between Houston and the New York Knicks to land Carmelo Anthony are reportedly heating up. Getting Anthony to Houston won’t be easy and will likely require multiple teams, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Post reports:

A deal that would end the Carmelo Anthony era in New York and reunite the All-Star forward with Mike D’Antoni in Houston “is at the two-yard line,” a person familiar with the trade negotiations told the Daily News.

On Wednesday, ESPN reported that the Knicks and Rockets are trying to recruit a fourth team into a proposed deal to facilitate a blockbuster trade. The deal needs to be expanded due to Anthony’s contract and because the Knicks are opposed to acquiring Rockets forward Ryan Anderson.

A deal to Houston would pair Anthony with his long-time friend, Chris Paul, as well as his former Olympic teammate James Harden. Late last month, Harden and Anthony attended fashion week in Paris, where Harden began actively recruiting Anthony knowing the Rockets were on the verge of acquiring Paul from the Clippers.

The Cavs are the other team Anthony would accept as a destination. But they’ve declined to budge on their stance of not offering up Kevin Love, and so the Rockets quickly became the more aggressive trade partner — and, for a couple weeks now, the likeliest destination for the greatest Knick since Patrick Ewing.

The problem with the Rockets is that they want to match salaries by dealing Anderson, who has three years and over $61 million remaining on his deal. Anthony — who is a much better all-around player — has only two years and $54 million on his contract.

A four-team trade hasn’t been completed in the NBA since 2012, when Dwight Howard went from the Magic to the Lakers in a deal that also included the Nuggets and Sixers. The complexity of such deals makes them easily combustible, but the most important parties in this situation — the Knicks and Rockets — are confident they’ll complete the trade soon.

The Knicks are far from contenders and are hoping to acquire young players and/or draft picks. Their goal in free agency was to get faster and more athletic. They then signed Tim Hardaway Jr. and Ron Baker to a combined $80 million.

Although the Knicks only have about $1.4 million in cap space, they could theoretically create more by trading Anthony. It depends on how much guaranteed salary they take back.

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Riley opens up on tanking, Dragic’s backup and more — Hall of Famer and Miami Heat president Pat Riley is never one to shy away from giving his opinion on the state of the game. With the topic of “tanking” on the lips of fans during the season, the Draft and basically all year long, Riley spoke with Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald about solutions to that issue, the Heat’s goals for 2017-18 and more:

“What I’d like to have,” Riley said this week, “is a two out of three lottery playoff. So the season ends on Tuesday, the playoffs start on Sunday, and from Wednesday to Saturday, the lottery teams play a tournament for the pick. Now, that’ll stop all that [garbage], of guys tanking and all that stuff. So the 14th team and the first team, there’s equality here now. So no more tanking in the end.

“Maybe it’s a one game. I think you’d draw a tremendous amount of fans and great interest. But because of the way it has been for long, the history of the lottery, is that people would go crazy, they won’t get used to it. So play for it. Let’s have a little playoff for the top pick in the draft, instead of working on ping-pong balls and all that stuff. But the whole tanking and resting players at the end of the year, for the right reasons, if you’re a playoff team and you know you made the playoffs, and you’re going to rest your guys, I understand that. I get that. But if you’re a lottery and you’re going to be resting players, we all know what that’s about. I’ve done it. We’ve all tried to do it to get the best position that we can get, from that standpoint. So you just want to make it as competitive as you can.”

I asked Riley if a top four seed is a very realistic target in his mind.

“Yes,” he said. “I think they should be competing for that, thinking in those terms. Cleveland has got some issues right now. They don’t from a talent standpoint but it seems as though they have some issues surrounding a lot of things. But I still look at them as a top team. I look at Boston as a team that could become monstrous. I still think they have another play or two that could be really big because of the assets they have and what could happen next year in free agency also. Washington proved they’re really a great team. Toronto even though they signed back both Kyle and Serge and gave away Carroll and Cory Joseph got back CJ Miles. So, there are other teams in the conference but we feel good. If you go into the season healthy, in shape and you’re feeling good and there’s been sort of a commitment to one another the sky’s the limit. You got to go for it….

A lot of times with all this going on, we forget that we have one of the best point guards in the NBA and one of the top centers in the NBA in Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside.”

Why does Riley believe that the Heat doesn’t need a prototypical pure point guard to back up Goran Dragic?

“This is becoming combo guard, a combination guard league,” he said. “Even if you take a look at the point guards of the draft, they’re not just pure point guards. Maybe [Lakers rookie] Lonzo Ball might be the purest point guard. The other guys are all. This doesn’t mean he can’t be a combo guard or play with another guy. But you’ve got to be two-way guards now.

“You’ve got to be able to score. You’ve got to be able to handle; defend, make threes; take it to the rack. Tyler Johnson is great at it. We use JJ [James Johnson] a lot in handling the ball and getting us into offense. Our plan was that that’s probably what we would have done with Gordon Hayward and also now with Justise Winslow coming back. He was a primary ballhandler for us a lot before he got hurt and even before. And Josh Richardson. We don’t need a prototype pure point guard. We have enough ballhandlers and I think the game is such today that’s the way it’s being played.”

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Casspi embraces fresh start with Warriors — In his eight years in the NBA, Omri Casspi has carved out a role as a solid player and veteran voice on what have mostly been either rebuilding or faltering squads. That career path changed for Casspi this summer as he signed with the defending-champion Warriors yesterday and is looking forward to his first-ever playoff games and more. Conner Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle has more:

Growing up in Yavne, Israel, only 25 miles north of the Gaza Strip, Omri Casspi idolized Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s largely for logistical reasons: They were the only NBA franchise consistently televised in the country.

Now, thanks to League Pass and NBA games being aired nightly, young Israelis can be more discerning about their favorite team. Still, the Warriors — with their cast of All-Stars and annual trips to the Finals — have a stranglehold on kids’ interest.

“A team like the Warriors is obviously well known all over the world,” said Casspi, who recently signed a one-year deal with Golden State for the veteran’s minimum of $2.1 million. “To be a part of this and be a part of this culture, it’s a blessing.”

But beyond his dedication to his people, Casspi reportedly turned down a one-year, $4.5 million deal from a likely lottery-bound team for a chance to resuscitate his career and finally pile up wins. Most of his first seven NBA seasons were spent as a valued rotation player on losing teams. After posting 11.8 points per game for Sacramento on 48.1 percent shooting in 2015-16, he bounced around with three clubs last season.

“I can’t wait for the season to start,” said Casspi, who was so eager to move past his disappointing 2016-17 that he took only one day off after the season before returning to the gym. “I have so much to prove, and a big chip on my shoulder to go in and do the stuff I can do to go help my team win. This is what I’m looking for.”

Because he has spent more than half of his NBA career with the Kings, Casspi is intimately familiar with Northern California. Most of his furniture and cars are still in storage roughly 80 miles northeast of Oakland.

Retrieving them will need to wait until September, when he’ll return to the Bay Area ahead of training camp. Casspi leaves Friday for Tel Aviv, where — starting Tuesday — he will focus on his national-team duties. It is an annual tradition for a player whose Israeli roots are foundational to his identity.

But this trip will be unique: For the first time, the country’s only NBA player will be in Israel as a member of its favorite team.

“The country was going crazy when I signed,” Casspi said. “The Warriors are like rock stars in a sense. People are really excited, and I’m really excited. I feel like it’s going to be a great fit.”

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Reports: Ex-lottery pick Udoh reaches deal with Jazz — It wasn’t that long ago that big man Ekpe Udoh was quietly carving out a solid role as a plus-defender in the NBA. The former No. 6 overall pick of the 2010 Draft saw his NBA role diminish, though, and has spent the last few seasons playing overseas. According to The Salt Lake Tribune‘s Aaron Falk and Tony Jones — and Shams Charania of The Vertical, who first broke the news — Udoh has reached a deal to play in Utah next season:

NBA offseason news doesn’t sleep. Not for holidays, and apparently not in the wee hours of the morning, either.

Yahoo reported early Thursday morning that the Jazz have agreed to a two-year deal with 30-year-old center Ekpe Udoh, a former first-round draft pick who has revitalized his career in Europe. The deal is reportedly valued at $6.5 million.

It’s the third deal Utah has struck in 24 hours. The Jazz also signed small forward Thabo Sefolosha and power forward Jonas Jerebko on Wednesday, appearing to bolster frontcourt depth.

Udoh would be a variation on that theme. The 6-foot-10 big man was the Golden State Warriors’ No. 6 overall pick out of Baylor in the 2010 draft. The Warriors passed on Gordon Hayward and Paul George to get him. Udoh never ascended to the heights of those all-stars, starting only 52 games in five seasons in the NBA. He averaged 4.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.

But in Euroleague for the past two seasons, Udoh has been a force. He’s averaged 12.3 pppg, 6.5 rpg and 2.2 bpg in two years with Fenerbahce in Turkey, looking more like the player the Golden State once envisioned him becoming. Fenerbahce won the Euroleague championship in May, and Udoh was named the Final Four MVP as his teammates mock-bowed to him.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: This may be the best Bill Russell tattoo ever … The Knicks may have some interest in free agent Ramon Sessions and/or trading for the Suns’ Eric Bledsoe … Jimmy Butler’s mansion in Chicago is for sale — for $5 million … OKC fans are wondering already: could Paul George end up sticking around? … Kings big man Willie Cauley-Stein is spending his summer in Vietnam working on his painting skills