Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Nov. 16): Carmelo Anthony responds to Phil Jackson's comments

NBA.com Staff

Anthony understands James’ reaction | Bulls start off road trip with win | Pachulia finding his role with Warriors | Turner struggling so far in Portland

No. 1: Anthony understands James’ reaction to Jackson’s comment — New York Knicks president Phil Jackson caused a stir this week when, in a Q&A with ESPN.com, he referred to the business associates of LeBron James as his “posse”. LeBron had pointed thoughts on the comments — which he shared yesterday — and one of Jackson’s players, Carmelo Anthony, shared his take on them as well. ESPN.com’s Ian Begley has more:

Carmelo Anthony said he understands why LeBron James was offended by Phil Jackson’s use of the word “posse” to describe the Cleveland Cavaliers star’s business associates.

“I would never want to hear that word about me and my — I don’t want to say crew — but people that I consider family or people that I come up (with), been through thick and thin with,” Anthony said Tuesday. “I’d want to be called a tight-knit group or family. That’s what I consider those close people to me.

“I think everybody would understand [why the term is offensive]. I don’t think you would have to be a rocket scientist or an educated person to understand what that means to us.”

James’ business associate, Maverick Carter, took issue with Jackson’s use of the word in an interview Monday with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, and James echoed those thoughts Tuesday.

“I had nothing but respect for [Jackson] as a coach for what he was able to do,” James said. “Obviously he was at the helm of (the team featuring) my favorite player of all time, (Michael Jordan), and also being there growing up and watching him with the Lakers, but I got nothing for him,” James said of his level of respect for the New York Knicks president.

Anthony hadn’t read Jackson’s comments on James in the Q&A but said he was “briefed” on the matter before speaking with the media.

“I know him and I don’t think he would just say something to be saying it,” Anthony said of James, his close friend. “Whatever was said, I’m pretty sure it hit home and he responded to it. I don’t know exactly what was said.”

Anthony said he doesn’t think Jackson meant to use the word “posse” in a racial connotation, but he also didn’t want to speak on Jackson’s behalf.

“It’s different words that different people use in different ways,” the Knicks star said. “To some people, the word ‘posse’ might not mean anything. It might just be a word. To some other people it could be a derogatory statement. It all depends on who you mention it to and who you’re talking about in essence.

“In this sense [Jackson] was talking about four, five black men. Do I think he meant it in any kind of way? I really don’t know. I don’t think he did. I would hope that he didn’t. Sometimes Phil just say things and he says the first thing that comes to mind. Probably he’s in his office right now regretting it. With Phil, you never know what’s going to be said, what’s coming, and depending on who’s listening. People take it the right way and people take it the wrong way. I just don’t understand him talking about LeBron right now in November.”

Anthony added that he isn’t concerned with how the James-Jackson interaction may impact the way free agents view the Knicks in future offseasons.

“No, that don’t worry me,” he said. “I don’t really know what was the gist of the conversation, what was the topic or why Phil was even talking about LeBron in the first place. I don’t think we play them anytime soon. It’s a whole month away.”

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No. 2: Bulls start circus trip off on right foot — Shed a tear and get wistful if you’re a Chicago Bulls fan as the team’s long-standing and well-known circus road trip is coming to an end next season. The Bulls began their penultimate edition of the trip last night and did so in resounding fashion, thumping the Portland Trail Blazers 113-88 for their second straight win at Moda Center. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has more on the win, the looming trip and more:

The Bulls began their quest for love in impressive fashion, blowing out the Trail Blazers 113-88 Tuesday night in a building where they’ve often struggled. The Bulls, whose six-game, two-week trip takes them from the West Coast to the East Coast, had lost 11 of 14 here.

Now, the Bulls have won in two straight seasons here for the first time since winning three straight from 1995-98.

“I think it was our most complete game that we played,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Jimmy Butler continued his torrid five-game stretch with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. The two-time All-Star had averaged 29 points, 7 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 4 steals and made 42 of 46 free throws over his previous four games.

“I see the work he puts in in the weight room,” Wade said. “I see the work he puts in on the court. I see the work he puts in on film. You don’t know that from afar. You know he’s a talented player (and) plays hard. But you don’t see the work he puts in. I see all of it.

“I know this guy wants to be great. That’s half the battle. Some people are OK with being average. He’s not. Me personally, someone who came from a similar background where I was underrecruited and not highly touted early, I respect that. I told him what you’ve done since the Pacer loss, that’s the next step to greatness to you. It’s hard to do it every night. But the great players do.”

Hoiberg said the Bulls are feeding off Butler’s high play.

“We’re riding him,” Hoiberg said. “There’s no doubt about that. And we’ll continue to do that as long as he stays in this rhythm, which I’m confident he’ll do.”

The Bulls started Jerian Grant for Rondo, and Grant delivered his best minutes as a Bull, finishing with 18 points (one off his career high) and a career-high five steals as all five starters reached double figures for the first time this season.

“I felt like they were kind of playing me as a guy that is going to be out there trying to pass, so it helped me be more aggressive.,” Grant said.

The Trail Blazers missed their first 11 shots and never recovered, finishing at 35.8 percent. Damian Lillard, who entered averaging over 30 points, didn’t score until midway through the second and finished with 19 points on 7-for-22 shooting. Grant played a part in this.

“He wasn’t intimidated at all. He went out there and battled,” Hoiberg said. “Lillard, you could argue he’s as good as we have in this league at that lead guard position. Just to play with that poise that he played with really for his first meaningful minutes and to guard one of the top players in this league, I thought he handled it great.”

Typically, this trip is when the Bulls spout the cliches about bonding and spending time together on the road. Some seasons, it happened. Others, it didn’t.

This season, the Bulls’ off-court chemistry has been noticeable from the start, no small detail for a team with 10 new faces and following an underwhelming, non-playoff season in which the locker room featured factions.

Wade, Rondo and Butler have led the leadership charge.

“I just know how to form chemistry with guys,” said Wade. “First of all, you find the guys who are similar personalities and then you go up from there. I’ve pretty much got that down pat.”

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No. 3: Warriors glad to have Pachulia around — After they shipped out Andrew Bogut over the summer, the Golden State Warriors had a glaring need for a center in the offseason. To fill it, they signed veteran big man Zaza Pachulia — fresh off a solid season in Dallas — in hopes he could do some (but not all) of what Bogut used to provide. After a slow start to the season, Pachulia is picking things up of late, writes Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle:

After 13 NBA seasons without reaching a conference finals, he had no qualms being the least notable player in his new team’s starting lineup.

It didn’t take long for Pachulia to learn that playing with a cast of big names brings numerous complexities. In head coach Steve Kerr’s system, he is tasked with reading the defense, setting screens, finding the open man and attacking the glass. Not having much scoring responsibility puts more onus on him to execute nuances.

By that measure, the 6-foot-11, 275-pound center is making important strides. After eight turnovers in his first three games, he has coughed up the ball only six times in his past seven. Pachulia’s field-goal percentage (60.7) and free-throw percentage (88.9) would be career bests if they hold. Per 36 minutes, he is averaging 12.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.3 steals.

“We’re so happy to have him,” Kerr said. “He could’ve gone elsewhere and made more money, but he’s smart, he’s tough. … He’s exactly what we’ve needed.”

Still, Pachulia is the source of much frustration for Warriors fans. Unlike his predecessor, Andrew Bogut, he is hardly a rim protector. His 0.3 of a block per game is tied for fifth on the team. When facing Pachulia at the rim, opponents are shooting 67.7 percent.

It is one of the biggest reasons teams are repeatedly driving to the basket against Golden State. A season after Bogut helped them hold opponents to 50.4 percent on shots at the rim, the Warriors are allowing 54.4 percent on those attempts. Golden State gave up a combined 114 points in the paint in its two losses, to the Spurs and Lakers.

“I’m not comparing myself to Andrew,” said Pachulia, whose blocks per game this season are on par with his career average. “I came here to provide my presence. That’s all I can do.”

The hope is that Pachulia plays better positional defense. When they had the Georgian big man on the floor last season, the Mavericks were 2.1 points per 100 possessions better defensively.

“He’s working at it,” Stephen Curry said. “He knows where to be. He’s a pretty physical presence down there in the paint. It’s only going to continue to get better.”

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No. 4: Turner struggling to find niche in Portland — Evan Turner never lived up the the star billing that comes with being the No. 2 overall pick in a Draft (as he was in 2010 by the Philadelphia 76ers). But give Turner credit for finding a role in the NBA as a steady, multi-talented guard who was a contributor at just about every stop in his career. Turner signed with the Portland Trail Blazers in the offseason in hopes of continuing that role out West, but so far that hasn’t been the case, writes Jason Quick of CSNNW.com:

Through 10 games, Turner has the NBA’s worst plus/minus by a longshot, and with every head-scratching pass and every flat shot that bangs off the front rim there is growing unease among the fan base: What exactly did the Blazers spend $70 million on this offseason?

Turner is averaging 6.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in just less than 24 minutes a game while shooting 38 percent from the field. Hailed as a play-maker when the Blazers signed him, Turner has 24 assists and 20 turnovers.

What is even more confusing than his play has been Turner’s recent assessment of his role. To hear the Blazers talk in July, Turner would be riding shotgun with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in directing this team. But after three weeks, it appears Turner feels like he belongs in the back seat.

In the past week, there has been a noticeable step-back from Turner in terms of his engagement within the offense. During his first six games, Turner averaged 7.8 shots; over his last four he is averaging 3.7 shots.

“What can you possibly do?’’ Turner asked after the Blazers’ overtime win Friday against Sacramento, when he had two points, four rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. “When you get three shots and play 27 minutes … that’s not a knock, because we have the best guards in the league, but I mean, what can I possibly do besides be accountable to defense, take care of the ball, rebound and play the floor? Where I just came from, I had the ball in my hands tons of times to make plays.’’

Lillard is averaging 30.6 points on 19 shots a game and McCollum 22.2 points on 17 shots a game. Turner is averaging six shots.

“Obviously, everybody is paying attention offensively, and I mean, I think I’m playing the best I possibly can for the situation,’’ Turner said. “It’s not even ‘I’m only getting three-or-four shots’ … it is what it is. We’ve been winning, and that’s pretty much it. I think I’m helping rebounding, defending, and I think I’ve gotten better taking care of the ball.’’

Coach Terry Stotts has become defensive amid growing questions about Turner’s play.

“I think everybody is kind of targeting Evan and I don’t think that is necessarily very fair,’’ Stotts said. “The game against (Memphis) he didn’t take a shot and played very well. He’s playing good defense, he’s adapting … it’s a process. He’s a smart basketball player, has high basketball IQ and he is only going to get better.’’

At the forefront of the criticism is his plus/minus rating, which is a league-worst minus-110, 35 points more than the next closest player, Phoenix’s Brandon Knight.

“Whoever is on court with Dame is going to have a positive plus minus,’’ Turner said, chuckling. “I don’t really know what else to say. I could counter and be like ‘Hey, whoever scores on …’ but that don’t look good. I’ve always been in situations where I’ve been a positive. I started out last year as having one of the best (plus/minus) in the league.

“I mean, when it rains it pours,’’ Turner said. “There’s more to make sense of and more to complain about, but what do you want to do? I mean, if you want to point blame or whatever, I’ve been I’ve been blamed numerous times before so I don’t really dive too deep into it.’’

Turner was never angry or defensive Friday when talking about his season. Instead, he seemed uneasy talking so much about himself, because he wanted the focus to be more on the Blazers’ 6-4 record than his struggles or dwindling role.

“What can you knock if you are winning?’’ Turner said. “These dudes are making the right plays, the right reads, and you fit in where you fit in. The contract is going to draw attention, but even if I didn’t have a big contract I’m an easy target, so that doesn’t keep me up. As long as we are winning, it’s not about me.’

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: James Harden calls the Oklahoma City Thunder a “one-man show” … The Houston Rockets and big man Donatas Moteijunas have not talked about their contract impasse lately … Portland Trail Blazers big man Festus Ezeli is getting another opinion on his troublesome left knee … Dwight Howard played a little trick on his mom over the summer … A foot injury could sideline Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris up to four weeks … Don’t underestimate the effect the Lakers’ offseason veteran additions are having on the team’s young core …

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