Tag:Amar'e Stoudemire
Posted on: October 10, 2011 12:25 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 3:10 am
 

NBA labor talks extend to Monday

NEW YORK -- Facing a deadline for the cancellation of regular season games, negotiators for the NBA and its players' association met for nearly 5 1-2 hours Sunday night and will reconvene Monday afternoon for more bargaining.

Commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver emerged from the Upper East Side hotel where negotiations took place at 11:50 p.m. ET, and Stern issued a brief statement before walking away.

"We don't have any comment at all, other than we are breaking for the night and reconvening tomorrow afternoon," Stern said.

Stern has said he will cancel the first two weeks of the regular season if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't agreed to by Monday. He did not address the cancellation deadline in his statement, and a person with knowledge of the talks said both sides agreed it would not be addressed with reporters.

"We're not necessarily any closer than we were going into tonight," union president Derek Fisher said. "But we'll back at it tomorrow and we'll keep putting time in."

According to a person briefed on the talks, the primary focus Sunday night was system issues -- salary cap, luxury tax, etc. -- leaving Monday to reconcile those complicated items with the most important point of all: the split of revenues between owners and players. Fisher characterized the meeting as "intense."

"We're going to come back at it tomorrow afternoon and continue to try and put the time in and see if we can get closer to getting a deal done," Fisher said.

The last-minute meeting was called after league and union officials originally couldn't agree on the parameters of one final bargaining session to save regular season games. On Friday, officials from the National Basketball Players Association requested a meeting, but were met with a precondition from the league that they agree to a 50-50 split of revenues that was offered in Tuesday's bargaining session. The union declined, and scheduled regional meetings for Miami on Saturday and Los Angeles on Monday.

NBPA executive director Billy Hunter did not travel to Miami, and an impromptu players' meeting was held after the All-Star charity game at Florida International University featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Paul and other stars. Fisher said the regional meeting for L.A. on Monday was postponed so union officials could concentrate on bargaining.

"Our guys would want our time to be used in meeting and trying to get closer to getting a deal done," Fisher said. "So instead of going forward with that (Los Angeles) meeting, we're going to put it off and then we'll reschedule it accordingly, depending on what happens tomorrow and into the week if we continue to meet."

Silver arrived at 5:10 p.m. ET, climbed out of a black sedan and greeted league security personnel with a smile and handshake. Union chief Hunter and general counsel Ron Klempner arrived at 5:30, followed closely by union VP Maurice Evans, who stepped out of a yellow taxi moments later. The three greeted Fisher, the union president, when he arrived in a black SUV at about 5:50, and the players' contingent stayed on the sidewalk and talked for about 25 minutes. NBPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler arrived, followed by Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, the chairman of the Board of Governors, and Spurs owner Peter Holt, chairman of the labor relations committee. The meeting started around 6:30 p.m.

Heading into the weekend, the players' were entrenched in their desire for 53 percent of basketball-related income (BRI), while the owners were stuck on offering the players 50 percent. The split under the six-year agreement that expired July 1 was 57 percent for the players and 43 percent for the owners.

From the standpoint of negotiating leverage, psychology and feeling the need to follow through on their threats, both sides seem willing to sacrifice the first two weeks of the regular season -- possibly more -- to get a deal. But from the standpoint of math and what's at stake economically by failing to reach an agreement by Monday, it is clear that a deal would be more advantageous to both sides than digging in.

The last movement of Tuesday's negotiations indicated that there was room on both sides to move beyond their respective positions on BRI. The league offered a 49-51 range for the players, who countered with a 51-53 range. Both offers occurred during informal side conferences involving Stern, Silver, Holt, Fisher, Kessler, and superstars Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.

If you look at it from the midpoint of each side's range in their most recent offers -- 50 percent and 52 percent, respectively -- they are only $80 million apart in the first year of a new CBA. Each side would lose about $200 million by canceling the first two weeks of games. A rational split of 51.5 percent for the players and 48.5 percent for the owners -- with most of the system issues remaining the same, as the players want --would address most of the owners' stated annual losses of $300 million and preserve the flexibility the players wanted to maintain from the existing system.

By holding out for 1.5 percent of BRI -- the owners at 50 percent and the players at 53 -- each side would be drawing a line in the sand over less than $400 million -- $393 million, to be exact -- over six years. And each side would lose half that amount by canceling the first two weeks of games. In the simpler, shorter-term horizon of the first year of a new CBA, each side failing to move 1.5 percent to the 51.5-48.5 split would cost it $200 million compared to the $60 million that would be negotiated away by making the concession.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 6:03 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 1:43 am
 

A moment of truth arrives in NBA talks

NEW YORK -- After more than two years of often rancorous negotiations, rifts within each side, finger-pointing and name-calling, the NBA and its players have reached a moment of truth in their quest to reach a collective bargaining agreement that would preserve an on-time start to the 2011-12 season.

After setting the table in a five-hour meeting Monday involving a small group of negotiators, the league and union will convene separately and then sit down for a crucial full bargaining session Tuesday. Though the meeting is expected to include at least 10 owners and multiple players accompanying the union's bargaining committee, neither side could say with any certainty whether the moment has arrived to make their last, best offers.

What is clear is that some significant movement will be necessary to at least begin closing the enormous gap between the two sides' positions on the two main issues -- the split of revenues and the cap system -- or the rest of the preseason schedule and some regular season games will be at risk.

"We both understand that if we don’t make our best offers in the next few days, we’re going to be at the point where we’re going to be causing damage to the game, to ourselves, and they're going to be out paychecks," deputy commissioner Adam Silver said.

But even as both sides recognized the gravity of Tuesday's meeting with the scheduled regular season opener less than a month away, the potential for trouble already was brewing.

As opposed to going into the meeting with the more productive small-group format, Tuesday's session is expected to include a potentially strong showing from players who are not on the executive committee. Though it was not clear Monday whether a similar contingent of stars who attended Friday's meeting -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and others -- would be present Tuesday, it was that very format that nearly resulted in the talks blowing up when players became so irate with the owners' intransigence that they threatened to walk out of negotiations. According to sources, Kobe Bryant -- fresh off a promotional tour of Italy, where he is contemplating a potentially lucrative deal with Virtus Bologna -- and Amar'e Stoudemire are among the players interested in attending the bargaining session.

In addition, the Celtics' Paul Pierce -- who was among the stars present Friday and who stuck around for Saturday's and Monday's sessions -- will take on a prominent role in the negotiations again on Tuesday. Though Pierce has previously expressed interest in being involved in the union -- perhaps even as a committee member and vice president -- his presence is notable for more than his star power. Pierce's agent, Jeff Schwartz, is one of seven powerful reps who wrote a pointed letter to their clients urging them not to agree to any further reductions in their share of basketball-related income (BRI) or any further restrictions to the system beyond what the union has negotiated.

In the letter, agents Schwartz, Arn Tellem, Bill Duffy, Dan Fegan, Leon Rose, Henry Thomas and Mark Bartelstein warned their clients not to rush into a deal and encouraged them to demand to see the league's full financial statements from the previous six-year CBA -- including related-party transactions, which can make it difficult to identify profits and losses on a team-by-team basis.

This same group of agents has been pushing for the players to decertify the union in the face of the owners' demands of massive and fundamental changes to the league business model. Though the letter did not mention decertification, it potentially undercut the negotiating power of National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher, who have offered to drop the players' share of BRI to 53 percent and signaled a willingness to go to 52 with certain conditions, sources said.

The agents' letter explains the impact to the players of accepting 52 percent -- a $200 million giveback that atones for most of the owners' $300 million in losses last season -- and warns that there are "monumental repercussions" associated with giving back any more, a high-profile agent told CBSSports.com.

"All that’s going on right there is, (the owners) have a captive audience and they just keep going for more," the agent said. "If the players just walk away from the thing right now -- 'We decertify, we're done' -- they get their deal at 53 and it’s over with. Why keep talking to them? You think the owners are going to walk away from this deal right now at 53 percent? No way." 

UPDATE: But there was disagreement among two agents familiar with the letter as to what was meant by "no further reductions" in BRI. One said the intent was to urge clients not to accept any further reductions in what the union already has offered -- believed to be 53 percent, with the possibility of going down to 52 percent under certain conditions. However, another agent with direct knowledge of the conversations that led to the drafting of the letter said it was agreed that players would be advised not to vote for any deal that includes a reduction in BRI from the 57 percent the players received under the previous agreement.

"We shouldn't give back anything," the agent said. "With record TV ratings, record revenues, and global growth, why should we?"

An agent who has long been frustrated with the path of negotiations -- and fearful of the outcome -- told CBSSports.com, "If this is the best we can do, then why the hell haven't we decertified?" 

Late Monday, Fisher responded with a letter of his own to the union membership -- his second strong rebuke of the dissatisfied agents in less than a month -- saying the agents' letter to clients "includes misinformation and unsupported theories."

According to two people familiar with the NBPA's strategy, Hunter has never closed the door on decertification. But he has no intention of calling for a decertification vote or disclaiming interest in representing the players -- either of which would send the case to the federal courts under anti-trust law -- until the National Labor Relations Board rules on the union's unfair labor practices charge against the league. If the NLRB issued a complaint, it could lead to a federal injunction lifting the lockout. The NLRB has been investigating the union's charges since May, and there is no timetable for a decision by the agency's general counsel in Washington, D.C.

In the letter, which says that negotiations have reached "a critical stage," the agents told their clients that the owners' proposal will "cripple your earning potential and the earning potential of every future NBA player." Among other things, the agents urge their players to:

* Reject any further reduction in the percentage of BRI the union has negotiated.
* Maintain the existing structure of the Bird and mid-level exceptions.
* Resist any reduction in the current maximum player salaries.
* Maintain current contract length at existing levels.
* Keep unrestricted free agency the same and improve restricted free agency.

In addition, the letter urges players to demand a full vote of the union membership on any proposal agreed to by the NBA and NBPA negotiators. The vote that ended the 1998-99 lockout was a show-of-hands vote after players had only 24 hours to review the proposal. Only 184 of the more than 400 players actually voted.

"If and when there is a proposal that we feel is in the best interests of us as players, each of you WILL have the opportunity  to vote in person," Fisher said. "It's in the union bylaws, it's not up for negotiation."

One of the agents concerned about the outcome said he would not allow what he called a "sham" vote on a proposal agreed to by the NBPA. "I'm telling you right now, I won't stand for it," the agent said. "Not on my watch."

It was this and other unpredictable elements -- such as how unified the small- and big-market owners are on missing regular season games and revenue sharing -- that made it almost impossible to predict how Tuesday's meeting would play out. 

"If it’s a very short meeting, that’s bad," commissioner David Stern said. "And if it’s a very long meeting, that’s not as bad."

Stern had said Saturday that no decisions would be made before Tuesday on canceling the remainder of the preseason schedule if no deal were reached. Once Monday ended, however, the league entered what Stern had referred to as a "day-by-day" period where decisions would have to be made. According to several team executives, agents and others with a stake in the process, there is a widely held belief that the first chunk of regular season games would be canceled in the absence of significant movement by the end of the week.

Beyond the stated goals, talking points and hidden agendas that have infiltrated each side, the moment of truth is cloaked in one obvious reality: For a deal to be consummated this week, one side or the other is going to have to reveal its true position -- in bargaining terms, the "last, best offer." 

"Neither side has been speaking in those terms," Silver said.

Beginning Tuesday, they will have to.

"Each side has preserved its right to be where it is, knowing that there’s a heart to heart that will ultimately take place," Stern said.

In other words, it's time for the B.S. to stop and for the cards to be laid on the table. When that happens, how that happens, and who throws the first card will be a product of the tone that is set Tuesday.

"There’s always a Magic card in somebody’s back pocket that they say, ‘I know this will get the deal done,'" a team executive said Monday. "And you don’t want to show that card until you absolutely have to. At some point, does somebody whip out that card?"

Though the two sides continue to hold diametrically opposed positions on what kind of system they want -- hard cap, soft cap, flex cap, guarantees and spending exceptions -- they both agree that system issues will not cause them to miss games or cancel the season. This is primarily, if not ultimately all about the bottom line: money.

"We’re apart on the split," Stern said. "But we know that the answer lies between where they were and where we are. And without defining ours, or defining theirs, I think if there’s a will, we’ll be able to deal with both the split and with the system issues."

The most recent formal proposal from the owners would've given the players a flat $2.01 billion in salary over the first eight years of a 10-year deal, though sources say league negotiators have since modified that position slightly to a model that would give the players roughly 46 percent of BRI on average over the life of the deal. The players have been holding firm to an offer in which they would accept a pay freeze in the first year of a new deal -- the same $2.17 billion they received in salary and benefits last season -- with the BRI split in the 52-54 range thereafter. 

Based on the league's current bargaining position, even if the players offered to receive 49 percent of BRI -- thus accounting for all of the owners' $300 million in stated losses -- it still would not be acceptable to the owners, who are seeking the opportunity for every team to make a profit in addition to increased parity they believe can be achieved through a combination of systemic changes and more robust revenue sharing. One prominent agent told CBSSports.com Monday that the owners' position is "out of touch with reality."

"These guys think they're entitled to have a business that’s fool proof," the agent said. 

Said another: "Why do the most powerful and successful businessmen in the world need protection from agents and players in negotiations? If they don't want to pay the money, don't pay the money."

And if the owners maintain this bargaining position on Tuesday? If their bargaining position is real, with no magic cards hiding in their back pockets?

"Then I tell them," one of the agents said, "see you in court."
 


Posted on: September 28, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 5:01 pm
 

Efforts to save season reach 'key moment'

NEW YORK -- Calling it a "key moment" in efforts to reach a collective bargaining agreement, commissioner David Stern said Wednesday that the full negotiating committees from both sides will meet Friday and through the weekend as they try to save the 2011-12 season.

"There are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend," Stern said after league negotiators and representatives for the National Basketball Players Association met for a second straight day at an Upper East Side hotel. "Either we’ll make very good progress, and we know what that would mean – we know how good that would be, without putting dates to it – or we won't make any progress. And then it won’t be a question of just starting the season on time. There will be a lot at risk because of the absence of progress."

In addition to the players' executive committee and the owners' full labor relations board, union president Derek Fisher said several "key players" will be attending Friday's meeting. Among them are expected to be LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, sources said, with other stars like Amar'e Stoudemire and Kevin Durant possibly joining the negotiations.

Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the two sides agreed to expand their presence because "whatever decisions we are now going to be making would be so monumental" as to require the presence of those who'd be signing off on them.

You didn't have to read to closely between the lines to catch the meaning from Stern and Silver, who sought to ratchet up the pressure on getting a deal or risk not simply an on-time start to the season, but indeed the whole thing. With training camps already postponed and a first batch of preseason games canceled, Stern said the two sides are "at a period of enormous opportunity and great risk."

"I can't say that common ground is evident, but our desire to try to get there I think is there," Fisher said. "We still have a great deal of issues to work through, so there won't be any Magic that will happen this weekend to just make those things go away. But we have to put the time in. We have a responsibility to people to do so."

The incremental rise in doomsday talk from Stern signaled that the negotiations are entering a new phase, where the threat of a canceled season will become a leverage point for both sides. If no agreement is reached by the end of the weekend -- the four-week mark before the scheduled regular season opener -- it would be virtually impossible to get a subsequent deal written, hold abbreviated training camps and a preseason schedule, and pull off a shortened free-agent period.

And yet neither side evidently was prepared to move enough Wednesday to get within reach of a deal. That moment of truth, one way or another, should come in the next 96 hours.

Once the league agreed to replace its insistence on a hard cap with the more punitive luxury tax and other provisions -- a "breakthrough," as one person familar with the talks called it -- it sparked "the process of negotiation" that the two sides have arrived at now. 

"There could be some compromises reached," the person said.

According to multiple sources familiar with the talks, the owners did not enhance their economic offer Wednesday, instead focusing on using systemic changes to hit the number they are seeking to achieve -- still 46 percent for the players over the life of a new deal. The problem, sources say, is that the players are not willing to accept a deal at that percentage, and that some of the systemic adjustments the league has proposed as alternatives to a hard team cap will act like a hard cap -- such as a luxury-tax system that rises from dollar-for-dollar tax to $2 or more.

NBPA executive director Billy Hunter has called a hard team salary cap a "blood issue" for the union, and Fisher wrote in a letter to the union membership this week that he and Hunter will continue to oppose any deal that includes one "unless you, the group we represent, tell us otherwise."

In addition to what they presented as hard cap alternatives -- which also included a reduction in the Bird and mid-level exceptions -- league negotiators also have presented a concept that could drive a wedge in the players' association. In exchange for keeping certain spending exceptions in place -- albeit in a reduced form -- one idea floated by the owners was a gradual reduction in existing contracts -- the "R" word, as in rollbacks -- that would minimize the financial hit for players who will be signing deals under the new system.

Such a proposal would alleviate the problem of players such as James, Wade, Stoudemire, Anthony, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson having outsized contracts compared to stars who'd be faced with signing lesser deals under a new system. In essence, the players who already are under contract would take a percentage cut in the early years of a new CBA -- 5 percent the first year, 7.5 the second and 10 percent in the third year, sources said -- so that players like Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams wouldn't bear a disproportionate share of the burden when they sign their max deals under the reduced salary structure the owners are seeking.

The provisions are not geared strictly for the star class of players; in fact, the proposed rollbacks would be across the board, "for everyone," a person with knowledge of the idea said. And while this concept may alleviate the problem of having future stars bear more of a burden, it would create other problems -- not the least of which is the players' unwillingness to accept a percentage of BRI in the mid 40s that would make such rollbacks necessary.

It is for this, and other reasons -- such as restrictions the owners would want even in a soft-cap system -- that a person familiar with the owners' ideas told CBSSports.com Tuesday night that what they were proposing was deemed "alarming" by union officials.

And it is why Stern said Wednesday, "We are not near a deal."

"I'm focused on, let’s get the two committees in and see whether they can either have a season or not have a season," Stern said. "And that’s what’s at risk this weekend."

But amid all the comments made throughout these negotiations, it was an ordinary fan who hit a home run Wednesday with the most sensible statement yet. As Hunter and other union officials spoke with reporters on the street outside the hotel hosting negotiations, a guy in a white luxury sedan stopped in the middle of the street and started pounding on his door panel.

"We want basketball!" the fan shouted. "Stop the playing and get it done!"

He then drove off, heading west, having made the most sense of anyone.

Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:07 am
 

Knicks considering two-year extension for Walsh

NEW YORK -- The Knicks are considering a two-year extension for team president Donnie Walsh, with the matter expected to be resolved in the next two weeks, a person familiar with the organization's thinking told CBSSports.com Sunday night. 

Walsh, 69, has an option for the 2011-12 season to be exercised by April 30, but the more likely scenario is a two-year extension that would keep the architect of the Knicks' revival at the helm through the critical next phase of the rebuilding plan. If the option is not picked up, Walsh's contract expires June 30. 

"It's basically going to be Donnie's call whether he wants to come back," said the person with knowledge of the organization's intentions. 

No final decisions have been made on Walsh or coach Mike D'Antoni in the wake of a 4-0 first-round sweep completed Sunday with a 101-89 loss to the Celtics, and sources cautioned that several issues could complicate both situations. For one, neither Walsh nor D'Antoni has been given a clear indication as to their respective statuses, which explains why D'Antoni took some off-guard with his postgame comment Sunday, "I don't know what the future holds." 

D'Antoni's comment was not made with knowledge of his status one way or another, one of the sources said. The coach's fate is strongly tied to Walsh, whose future has been shrouded in secrecy and subject to the whims of Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan. Even those with ties to Walsh who've had dealings with Dolan have been unable to decipher in recent weeks how far Dolan will go to try to keep Walsh. 

Another complicating factor could be an attempt to force something on Walsh that he's not comfortable with, sources said. Such a circumstance could be another attempt by Dolan to bring former coach and president Isiah Thomas back into the organization in an official capacity -- an unequivocally destructive move that is believed to be no more than a remote possibility, one of the sources said. Dolan's attempt to hire Thomas, the coach at Florida International, as a consultant last summer was shot down by NBA rules forbidding team employees from having contact with college players who are not yet draft eligible. 

Walsh has consistently sidestepped questions about his future and has grown increasingly aggravated that his status has become a news item as the Knicks made their first trip to the playoffs in seven years. Before the Knicks' brief return to the postseason ended Sunday with a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Celtics, Walsh testily tried to deflect questions about D'Antoni's status and a looming decision on whether to guarantee point guard Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million contract for next season. 

Walsh appears to be leaning toward keeping D'Antoni -- "Overall, he's done a good job," he said Sunday -- given that the Knicks lost Billups for the final three games of the Boston series and were further compromised by Amar'e Stoudemire's back injury in Games 3 and 4. D'Antoni has one year left on his contract, had only two months to integrate Billups and Carmelo Anthony with Stoudemire, and hasn't coached a stable roster from start to finish for three seasons. 

The decision on Billups, 34, must come first due to a five-day clock that began ticking Sunday on a deadline to fully guarantee his contract for next season. But the most important call is on Walsh, who restored dignity to a lost franchise, cleared a mountain of cap space to attract stars, and now is expected to embark on the third phase of a massive reclamation project that began when he was hired to replace Thomas in April 2008. 

Walsh has endured several health problems during his tenure, including a successful bout with tongue cancer and hip-replacement surgery in November that has him still using a walker. But those close to Walsh have described him as being in good health and spirits as well as invigorated by the prospect of completing a rebuilding job that began with the signing of Stoudemire and escalated with the February trade that paired him with Anthony. 

After Sunday's loss, both Anthony and Stoudemire deflected questions about whether Walsh and D'Antoni would be back next season. 

"I'm pretty sure the front office will handle it to the best of their ability," Anthony said of the multitude of offseason decisions. "They have one of the best front offices in the NBA right now, so they will do their job. I'll let them handle that."
Posted on: March 29, 2011 12:35 am
 

Melo puts Knicks out of their misery

NEW YORK – Hours before the game, after the Knicks’ first home shootaround of the season, Carmelo Anthony called it “almost a must-win game.” When it was over – the game, and the Knicks’ six-game losing streak – Melo took the liberty of upgrading it to “definitely a must-win.” 

Forgive him that bit of revisionist history, since most of Anthony’s first month as a full-time resident of New York since he was 8 years old has been a nightmare. 

“Tonight was the starting point for us,” said Anthony, who scored at will to the tune of 39 points – 33 in the second half and overtime – in the Knicks’ bizarre 113-106 victory over Orlando. “We got that monkey off our backs.” 

The Knicks didn’t solve the world’s problems, or even figure out how to get consistent offense from both Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in a game they won. They did find out that with supreme effort and intensity, they can defend well enough to win even without personnel built for, you know, defending. And they learned that as cruel as the basketball gods can become, they can be just as charitable. 

“We showed that when we play with energy, we play with intensity, and we just play hard, a lot of things fall into place for us,” Anthony said. 

And so the most compelling train wreck of the NBA season north of South Beach is over. Move along; nothing more to see here.

It took Orlando being without starting point guard Jameer Nelson and reserves Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon (who left the game with a jammed finger) for the Knicks’ chemistry experiment gone awry to snap a skid in which they had lost nine of 10. (Orlando, of course, also was without J.J. Redick, who missed his ninth straight game with an abdominal injury.) It took Gilbert Arenas to shoot a miserable 2-for-11, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range. It took Dwight Howard missing the final 1:17 of OT after recording his sixth personal foul of the night and 17th technical foul of the season – putting him one tech away from a second one-game suspension with eight games left in the regular season. 

And finally, it took Jason Richardson’s offensive foul for tripping Anthony, waving off what would’ve been a tying 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu with 51 seconds left and the Knicks leading 109-106. This after Anthony had first tripped Richardson after the two had scrapped for a loose ball. 

“That’s what happens in life, man,” Anthony said. “The second guy always gets caught.” 

At least Melo was honest about that one. A significant weight lifted from his shoulders, he finally could smile again Monday night. 

“I’ve seen him score 40 and 50 points before, clutch baskets and all that,” Chauncey Billups said. “But I just think that he was so locked in. The kid was rebounding, he was all over the place – grabbing extra rebounds, doing extra effort plays, steals, blocked shots. You know that he wanted to win this game.” 

Before Anthony and the Knicks could win it, of course, they had to almost lose it. And the end of regulation was a near catastrophe that would’ve sent the panic meter to new heights. 

Out of a timeout with 10.2 seconds left in regulation and the Knicks leading 100-97, coach Mike D’Antoni opted – as he always does – to defend Orlando’s search for a 3-point shot rather than foul. Some coaches are dead-set against fouling in that situation, while others believe that’s the only way to play it. This time, the Knicks got burned when Richardson drilled a tying 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left. 

“I played with him,” Stoudemire said of his former Suns teammate. “He makes shots like that all the time.” 

With the pressure building to win a game with his newly assembled All-Star duo, D’Antoni didn’t show it on the sideline as the Knicks prepared to inbound the ball for their final trip of regulation. As the Knicks were assuming their spots on the floor, D’Antoni was engaged in what looked like a good-natured and spirited debate with several fans behind the bench – presumably over why he didn’t opt to foul. 

“It’s kind of a tricky situation,” Richardson said. “If I was a coach, I wouldn’t do it, either.” 

On the Knicks’ final possession of regulation, the ball went to Anthony – as it did nearly every trip after he checked into a tie game (80-80) with 8:49 left in the fourth. He drove the lane, got up in the air and had to double-clutch. Realizing he had to clear shot at the rim, he said he deliberately tossed the ball off the backboard to himself – but missed the putback at the buzzer. 

“I should’ve thrown it on the other side (of the rim),” Anthony said. “There was nobody there.” 

Then came overtime, and the Howard foul and tech, and the curious case of J-Rich getting caught for doing what Melo had done to him – costing Orlando Turkoglu’s tying trey. But if you were expecting Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to have his usual fun with the league’s officiating and disciplinary system, you would’ve been disappointed. Asked three officiating-related questions in his postgame media session, Van Gundy each time responded with dead silence. Commissioner David Stern, who’d promised we wouldn’t be hearing from Van Gundy anymore on such issues, was right. 

And for one night, so were the Knicks. 

“They played really hungry,” Richardson said. “They dove, they hustled. It was a must-win for them. You lose six in a row, you start getting hungry. You start feeling that starvation kicking in.” 

Making the Knicks’ first victorious post-game meal in nearly two weeks a must-eat.
Posted on: March 25, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 1:40 am
 

Time for Knicks' Melo-dimensional offense to end

NEW YORK – In the uncomfortable quiet of a losing locker room, Chauncey Billups perked up and spoke up when asked about the issue that ultimately will determine the success or failure of Carmelo Anthony’s shotgun wedding with the Knicks

Billups had just played another poor game and once again could not orchestrate the Knicks’ offense down the stretch in the team’s fifth straight loss and eighth in nine games, a 102-96 loss to the Bucks on Friday night. Billups and Anthony had checked in with 7:15 left and Milwaukee leading 91-88. With Billups, Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the floor together, the Knicks proceeded to miss their next nine shots from the field and made only 3 of 15 the rest of the way. 

“Tough times,” Anthony said. 

“Everything is so hard,” added coach Mike D’Antoni. 

Billups and Anthony have been a painful fit with D’Antoni’s triple-threat, pick-and-roll offense, which should be unstoppable with a point guard of Billups’ skill and leadership and two scorers like Anthony and Stoudemire. But like the opening weeks of the season, when offensive juggernauts LeBron James and Dwyane Wade couldn’t get out of each other’s way, the Knicks cannot do the one thing they’re currently built to do – score – when it matters most. Most puzzling of all, it’s more difficult for them to score when their three most accomplished offensive players are on the floor together. 

So I asked Billups in a quiet moment in the locker room if the offense is going to have to change to fit Anthony, or if he will adapt to a system he’d thrive in if only he’d embrace it. 

“Yeah, I think that’s in his makeup,” Billups said. “I think he’s probably done it before. The problem is, he’s always been so good that the system has always been just whatever he kind of wants, you know what I mean? He’s always been so good that he’s always been able to just do that and they make the system up around his strengths. I think now this is the first time he’s coming into this system and the system is a little different than the way that he plays. But he’s so good that he can be effective in any system, I think.” 

When Billups said Anthony has done it before, he meant when he played with multiple stars with USA Basketball. The offense didn’t always run through Melo with Team USA, and he didn’t always score the most points. It’s what Anthony needs to embrace now, more than he’s ever needed to embrace anything in his eight-year career. 

“He’s done it before,” Billups said. “He’ll do it again.” 

Anthony got his 25 points Friday night, and Stoudemire got his 28. But they combined for only four baskets and 12 points in the fourth quarter – and only one basket each during the horror show that was the final 7:15. 

“It’s so not fluid,” D’Antoni said. “It’s almost like mud in your engine. We’re just chugging, and it’s tough to play that way, in my opinion. We’re not spacing the floor real well, and the ball’s not moving. And it gets more pronounced in the fourth quarter.” 

With the Knicks 7-11 since the Anthony trade, D’Antoni unsurprisingly is facing the brunt of the criticism. It has not been a honeymoon for him in New York. After two years spent tearing down and cleaning house, D’Antoni finally has been given multiple All-Stars to coach for the first time since he left Phoenix. The problem is, this has been given to him with a quarter of the season left – on a team with no center, and on a team whose depth was badly depleted by the trade. 

He has also been given one of the most gifted scorers in the NBA, a player whose existing game happens to clash with the system that he runs. There are those who will follow the simplistic script and say D’Antoni is no good for the talent he has, and that the Knicks should start over again with another coach who will let Anthony do whatever he wants. 

Doing this without giving D’Antoni a realistic timeframe to break some of Anthony’s bad habits would be too silly to spend much time addressing. But more to the point: Has everyone forgotten that the Knicks gave $100 million to Stoudemire, who has played his entire career in the very system that people want to scrap after 18 games? 

The solution, which obviously isn’t going to come easily, is for Anthony to do what Billups suggested he’s never had to do before: adjust his game to the talent and system around him. He and Billups obviously have spent some time thinking about this, if not talking openly about it, because they said all the right things Friday night. 

“It’s an open offense – a lot of movement, a lot of pick and rolls, a lot of just spacing the court out,” Anthony said. “So that’s something that I have to adjust to. I will adjust to it. I’m not worried about that. And that’s something that I knew coming into this system, that I will have to adjust my game to fit into what’s going on.” 

But this wide-open system that Anthony and Billups keep describing bears no resemblance to what they do when they’re together with Stoudemire on the floor. Stoudemire’s pick-and-roll opportunities, the bread-and-butter of the offense, are nonexistent. The ball movement and spacing fall apart when Anthony touches the ball, sizes up his defender(s), and makes his move. 

“I don’t really think we can say the offense has to go through me or the offense has to go through Amar’e,” Anthony said. “In this offense, everybody touches the ball. Everybody gets open. … Everybody is a part of the offense. So for me to sit here and say the offense has to go through me or Amar’e … Chauncey has the ball. He coordinates all that, and we feed off him.” 

Billups described D’Antoni’s system as “different than any other system out there. … I’ve always pretty much been kind of a fast learner, but it is more different than any other system I’ve played in.” 

Not to belabor the Miami comparison – because we’re clearly talking about different caliber players – but LeBron and Wade have gone back and forth in trying to decide whose turn it is to score and to lead. Through 18 games, Anthony has been the focal point of the Knicks’ offense. That’s right, the player whose game fits the system the least has been the one getting the most opportunities. 

It is time for the Knicks to remember why they brought Stoudemire here, and what he does best: score easy baskets on pick-and rolls, and if not, create wide-open shots for someone else. Facing a far bigger challenge than he imagined when he got here, it is time for Anthony to embrace that, too. He’ll get his opportunities to do what he does best, and in some ways they’ll be better and higher-percentage opportunities than he’s ever had before. 

“Me personally, I’m gonna try to figure it out, and we’re gonna try to figure it out as a team,” Anthony said. “And when that happens, those times are gonna be fun. Basketball will be fun again.” 

He has no idea how much.
Posted on: March 5, 2011 12:12 am
 

Melo takes leading role from Amar'e in loss

NEW YORK – Twice in the final minute-and-a half when the Knicks needed a basket, Carmelo Anthony had the ball in his hands. Exactly what the Knicks want, right? 

Most of the time. But not all of the time. And as it turned out, not Friday night against the one team above all others the Knicks can’t beat – the team with the worst record in the NBA. 

The Knicks were barely a .500 team when they traded for Anthony, and that’s exactly what they are since the trade – 3-3. The one constant, going back to the days when LeBron James wore No. 23 Cavs attire, is that the Knicks can’t beat Cleveland. The old Knicks were 0-1 against them this season, the new Knicks are 0-2, and Knicks of all shapes and sizes are 0-11 against Cleveland since Dec. 19, 2007. 

“It’s a tough loss,” Anthony said. “I don’t want to say it’s embarrassing, but it’s a tough loss.” 

Offense wasn’t the problem for the Knicks Friday night, not when they shot 55 percent from the field and lost 119-115. But the most telling sequence came at the end, when the ball was in Anthony’s hands twice with the game on the line – and twice, one of the most feared clutch scorers in the game didn’t deliver while another feared clutch scorer could only watch. 

With the score tied 110-110 after J.J. Hickson’s driving layup with 1:41 left, Anthony brought the ball up and had it on the wing. Amar’e Stoudemire, who had 36 points at the time, started coming over to set a screen. Anthony threw up a stop sign – the Knicks’ new leading man waving off the old leading man with the game on the line. 

In the pre-Melo days, this would be time for a pick-and-roll for Stoudemire – one of the great finishers in the game and the NBA’s leading fourth-quarter scorer. But these are the uncharted waters the Knicks are wading in now that they’ve added Anthony, who is cut from the Kobe Bryant cloth when it comes to crunch time. 

Ultimately, Anthony made the right basketball play – kicking to Shawne Williams for an open 3-pointer that went in but didn’t count because Anthony was whistled for an offensive foul. What would’ve happened if Stoudemire had come over to set that screen and rolled to the basket for a potential layup, Mike D’Antoni will never know. 

“They’ve got to figure that out,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll figure it out, but an iso with Carmelo is one of the best in the league. Look at the stats – last quarter, fourth quarter over the last 10 years, I think he’s No. 1 in percentage of making shots, so that’s good. Amar’e having the ball in his hands is good. That’s not going to be a problem.” 

Anthony said he waved Stoudemire off because the Cavs were in the same defense they were in on a prior possession, when they ran pick-and-roll and kicked out of it for a missed jumper. But it was a problem again on the Knicks’ final possession, when Anthony drove the lane, missed a layup, and got called for another charge. 

“I guess it was an offensive foul,” Anthony said. “He called it. I saw the lane, and I wasn’t going to settle for a jump shot at that point. I saw a path, I went, and he took a big charge.” 

In that situation, with seven seconds left and the Knicks trailing 117-115, it’s all Anthony, all the time. There’s no time to wait for a Stoudemire pick-and-roll to develop. So when you have one of the best one-on-one scorers alive, you put the ball in his hands and take your chances. Unlike some so-called superstars in this league, Anthony will never shy away from that moment. 

The earlier situation could’ve gone either way. And that – along with something called defense – is what the Knicks (31-29) are trying to figure out with 22 games to go. 

This being New York, some hysterics already are plunging off the bandwagon as if the bandwagon just hit an enormous pothole. That’s just silly. It’s preposterous to expect a scorer of Anthony’s stature to do anything but try to score with the game on the line in the last two minutes – especially considering he took exactly half as many shots from the field as Stoudemire. Anthony’s 29 points came on 10-for-16 shooting, while Stoudemire equaled his season high with 41 points and was 16 for 32 from the field. 

Is it panic time for the new Knicks? Hardly. They’re about as mediocre and inconsistent as they were before the trade, except they now have not one, but two of the best scorers in the game -- and, by the way, didn't have Chauncey Billups Friday night. They have to figure out who’s turn it is, and when. But if anyone was expecting it not to be Anthony’s turn in the final two minutes of the game when the Knicks need a basket, they’re going to be disappointed again and again.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:15 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 2:46 pm
 

Amar'e welcomes Carmelo to New York

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The guy who started it all, who put the cachet and challenges of playing in New York on his shoulders, embraced the idea of getting some help Tuesday. Amar’e Stoudemire has a co-star – and not a minute too soon, as far as he’s concerned. 

“I think that’s where it all started, when I signed here in New York,” Stoudemire said, recalling his decision to be the first star to come to the Knicks at a time when the NBA landscape is changing forever. “That pretty much opened the eyes of the rest of the basketball world that, ‘New York is a place that I’d go now.’” 

Stoudemire spoke by phone Tuesday morning with his new teammate, Carmelo Anthony, who was en route to the Knicks’ training facility after the blockbuster trade sending him from Denver to the Knicks was agreed to Monday night. The customary conference call with league officials to approve the trade was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re both really excited,” Stoudemire said. “Chauncey (Billups) is a great shooter off the screen-roll and Carmelo can space the floor from the 3-point line out. The court’s going to be open and it’s going to be hard to guard us.” 

Stoudemire said he found out that the trade had been agreed to Monday night from Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, who took the lead on closing the massive, three-team, 12-player trade with Denver and Minnesota.

"Mr. Dolan called me and told me," Stoudemire said. "We commented back and forth. The one thing I talked about when I first signed was keeping the communication open because the goal was to win a championship team."

Stoudemire and Anthony first met in high school, playing in McDonald’s All-American games and the Jordan Classic. Now, they’ll have to figure out how to co-exist on the same team – in a city that is overwhelmed with expectations that the addition of Anthony puts the Knicks in the hunt with Miami, Boston, Chicago, Orlando and Atlanta. The pressure will be stifling and the expectations unrealistic, but Stoudemire said it is precisely what Anthony was looking for since he began angling for a trade five months ago. 

“That’s what he wants,” Stoudemire said. “That’s what I wanted, coming to New York and playing on the big stage. We have that same swag. We’re going to do it together.” 

Stoudemire likened the addition of Anthony to Phoenix giving him Steve Nash in Phoenix, when current Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni was the coach there.

"We went to the Western Conference finals and won 60-odd games," Stoudemire said. "We built a championship caliber team. That's something that's been overlooked, what I did for that franchise."

Now, Stoudemire brings in Anthony, whose union was first discussed publicly at Anthony's wedding in July -- when Chris Paul raised a glass to forming "our own Big Three in New York." Two down, one to go -- though Stoudemire smiled when asked if he'd spoken with a certain New Orleans point guard since the trade went down.

"No, I haven't talked to him at all," Stoudemire said.

It took Stoudemire’s pals in Miami, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, a solid two months before they got used to playing with each other. With Amar’e and Melo, there will be bumps in the road. But Stoudemire said “there’s no doubt” they’re compatible. 

“Every team needs a 1 and a 1-A punch,” Stoudemire said. 

If nothing else, the Knicks have that. And Stoudemire believes the guys in Miami and Boston will take notice. 

“I think they know it’s starting to get harder and harder in the East,” Stoudemire said.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com