Tag:Chauncey Billups
Posted on: January 9, 2011 7:14 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2011 2:18 am
 

Nets, Nuggets, Pistons close in on Melo deal

UPDATED 2:18 a.m. ET

Carmelo Anthony "does not need to be convinced" to sign a contact extension as part of a blockbuster, three-team trade that would send the three-time All-Star to New Jersey, league sources told CBSSports.com Sunday night.

One executive involved in the trade talks called Anthony's stance on an extension with the Nets "a non-factor," because the teams involved "already know it won't hold up the deal." The tipping point in moving Melo toward giving up his preference to wind up with the Knicks was the involvement of the Pistons, who would send Richard Hamilton to the Nets to help Anthony with his reclamation project in Newark, N.J., for the next year-and-a-half.

That key component was close to agreement Sunday night, with the Pistons poised to send Hamilton to New Jersey in exchange for Troy Murphy's expiring contract and Johan Petro -- who may go to the Pistons or somewhere else, sources said. Hamilton, who has two years and $25 million left on his deal, was the key cog in a broader plan to entice Anthony to give up his resistance to extending with the Nets instead of insisting on a deal to his preferred destination.

The other part of that equation involves Chauncey Billups joining Anthony and reuniting with Hamilton in New Jersey, sources said. The principle pieces New Jersey has offered to the Nuggets all along -- Derrick Favors and multiple first-round picks -- would still go to Denver in this three-team scenario. The involvement of Billups, who has stated that he wants to retire with the Nuggets, necessitates the Nets sending Devin Harris to the Nuggets. 

Though Billups would prefer to stay in Denver, a person with direct knowledge of his thinking rejected the notion of the Nets buying him out this season if he is sent to New Jersey in this trade. "Highly unlikely," the person said.

Numerous other players -- for a total of as many as 15 in the eventual deal -- are being discussed as the Nuggets finally have begun to push forward amid pressure from Anthony's representatives, Leon Rose and William Wesley of Creative Artists Agency, to put an end to the uncertainty over Anthony's future. 

The deal is so complicated, with so many agendas to satisfy -- from the three teams involved to the cadre of high-profile agents roped into the talks -- that plenty could go wrong. One executive involved in the talks told CBSSports.com Sunday night that the deal was not imminent, while others said discussions were continuing and players were being added and subtracted from the deal. According to rival executives who've negotiated with the Nuggets on other Anthony scenarios, Denver should heed of the dangers of killing another good deal after a four-team trade involving New Jersey, Utah and Charlotte fell apart amid indecision and overshooting by the Nuggets.

"Eventually, they're going to have to say, 'This is the best deal we're going to get,'" one of the rival execs said. "Last-second ramming guys in and out is not going to fly."

One last-minute change he Nuggets were believed to be seeking was having New Jersey take more salary off their hands. If that sounds familiar, that is exactly how the Utah-Charlotte deal fell apart. But in this case, the third team, Detroit, believes it has its part of the deal solidly in place and is more motivated to gain the savings from moving Hamilton than Utah and Charlotte were to participate last time.

One person with knowledge of the talks said Al Harrington, whose name has been included in previous incarnations of a straight-up Denver-New Jersey deal, had not yet been brought into this three-team version -- but the names were still changing overnight, sources said.

The Nets have been proceeding for months with the understanding that Anthony would sign off on a three-year, $65 million extension without which the above talks would die an immediate death. Their optimism is understandable, considering Anthony's agents have been the driving force behind several trade proposals that would send the three-time All-Star to Newark for a season-and-a-half before the team finally moves to Brooklyn -- Anthony's birthplace -- in 2012. 

"He wants the money and he wants to be from New York," one rival executive said in explaining Anthony's apparent rationale. "He gets the city he wants for the money he wants."

With the Hamilton component essentially agreed to, according to one of the executives involved, Anthony is as close as he's ever been to the moment of truth. Despite repeated assurances from Anthony's camp, the Nets did not yet have approval from Anthony's mouth as of Sunday night, according to one person familiar with the situation. 

Last month, a person directly involved in Anthony's decision told CBSSports.com that the only team he'd agree to an extension with via a trade was the Knicks. There have been no indications from Anthony himself that he has changed his stance. However, given the perceived risk of leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table with a punitive new collective bargaining agreement looming -- and with the addition of Hamilton and Billups meaning Anthony wouldn't have to go it alone in Newark -- the Nets and Nuggets are convinced the contractual issue won't blow up the deal. 

In the sort of delicious irony that often is the hallmark of major NBA trades, one of the key sticking points was which team would take Petro, who has two years and $6.75 million left on his contract. As the Record of Hackensack, N.J., first reported, the Nets initially tried to get the Pistons to absorb Petro's contract and fork over their 2011 first-round pick in the process. Pistons president Joe Dumars flatly rejected the invitation, but sources said the enormous savings from dumping Hamilton -- approximately $17 million -- was enough to entice the Pistons to absorb Petro as long as they don't have to surrender any picks in the process. Still, the Pistons would prefer if a fourth team could be found to take Petro, an option the Nets were aggressively exploring.
Posted on: January 7, 2011 11:32 pm
 

Nuggets prepared to weigh Melo offers

The Denver Nuggets are considering offers from at least five teams for Carmelo Anthony and soon will begin the process of deciding what direction to go when they trade the three-time All-Star, multiple sources told CBSSports.com Friday. 

Among the teams that have registered the most credible interest are the Nets (obviously), Knicks, Rockets, Bulls, and Clippers, according to three sources familiar with the situation. Details of the various discussions are still evolving, but the one constant has been efforts on the part of the Nuggets and Nets to involve a third team in the discussions. 

The Nuggets have been trying to recruit the Timberwolves as a third team that might be willing to take the expiring contract of Troy Murphy from the Nets and send the Nuggets a first-round pick in the equation. The Wolves have two extra first-round picks in 2011 -- one from Utah and another from Memphis. 

But just as efforts on the Nuggets' part to involve the Cavaliers in the discussions -- an attempt to have Cleveland use its $14.5 million trade exception from the LeBron James fiasco to absorb Murphy -- have gone dormant, so have talks aimed at involving the Detroit Pistons in the scenario. Two sources confirmed to CBSSports.com Friday night that the Nets were trying to recruit the Pistons to enter a blockbuster three-team scenario in which New Jersey would've gotten Anthony and Chauncey Billups from the Nuggets and Richard Hamilton from the Pistons. The complicated and intriguing scenario was first reported by the The Record of Hackensack, N.J. 

One of the sources confirmed Yahoo! Sports' report via Twitter that the talks died when the Nets tried to extract a first-round pick from the Pistons and dump Johan Petro's $6.75 million due over the next two seasons on Detroit. 

"Dead," is how the source described those talks, although in another form, the Pistons could be enticed to participate if it meant dumping Hamilton's $25 million due over the next two seasons -- $21.5 million of which is guaranteed. 

The Nuggets' essential posture hasn't changed over the past few weeks. They are taking their time, evaluating interest from various teams, and one person familiar with their strategy said they soon will begin weighing the various offers. Denver GM Masai Ujiri and executive Josh Kroenke are in no hurry, and most executives involved in the talks believe the situation will go right down to the Feb. 24 trade deadline -- with the Nets still the leader in the clubhouse, pending Anthony's approval of a contract extension with New Jersey. That is where the Pistons' potential involvement could become crucial, as Anthony presumably would be more likely to sign off on a three-year, $65 million extension with New Jersey if Billups and Hamilton were on board. Oddly enough, it would represent a formation of the trio that could've been created in Detroit if the Pistons had selected Anthony instead of Darko Milicic in the 2003 draft. 

Such a scenario wasn't in play about a month ago, when a person directly involved in Anthony's decision-making process told CBSSports.com that Melo -- if traded -- would only agree to a contract extension with the Knicks. There have been no indications that Anthony has changed his stance, although that hasn't stopped his suitors from lining up and putting their best offers forward. 

Among the teams that believe they have at least a puncher's chance of landing Anthony, the Nets have always been the one with the most attractive assets to the Nuggets: Derrick Favors, the expiring contract of Murphy and multiple first-round picks. The Nuggets appear to have decided they prefer going young while acquiring draft picks and prospects over established players -- which would seem to bode poorly for the Knicks, whose existing players have yet to draw serious interest from the Nuggets. But the Knicks continue taking a patient approach, with the understanding that they're performing at a playoff level without Anthony and would have the inside track to sign him as a free agent if the Nuggets weren't able to achieve an acceptable trade by the deadline. 

If the Nuggets were able to parlay Murphy's expiring deal into another first-round pick while also going farther down the road toward youth and savings by unloading Billups, it would seem to represent nirvana among the various Melo scenarios they are considering. The Nets also have made it clear they'd be willing to take on Al Harrington -- due $27 million over the next four years, of which $20 million is guaranteed. 

As for the other teams in the mix, the Rockets can offer the Nuggets enormous savings in the form of Yao Ming's expiring (and insured) contract as well as the expiring contracts of Shane Battier and Jared Jeffries, plus young assets such as Aaron Brooks, Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger or Courtney Lee. The Clippers have one of the most valuable first-round picks on the market in the form of Minnesota's 2011 first-rounder, which is unprotected in 2012, plus young assets such as Al-Farouq Aminu and DeAndre Jordan. The Bulls have not been regarded as a serious contender since signing Joakim Noah to a contract extension, which signaled their unwillingness to trade him and made it impractical due to base-year compensation rules.
Posted on: December 21, 2010 8:14 pm
 

Sources: Mavs poised to enter Melo chase

The Dallas Mavericks are plotting an aggressive push to acquire Carmelo Anthony, even if they don’t get assurances that the three-time All-Star would agree to a contract extension as part of the trade, league sources told CBSSports.com. 

Despite his team’s emergence as one of the powers of the Western Conference -- and, as Dallas proved Monday night in Miami, the whole league -- owner Mark Cuban is said to be not only willing to take a chance on Anthony, but eager to steal him from the Nets, who are owned by his billionaire rival, Mikhail Prokhorov. In a deal that would provide Denver with little more than future savings, the Mavs are planning what one rival executive described as a “hard” push. 

The Mavs’ interest has yet to take the form of a concrete offer, as one person connected to the Anthony drama told CBSSports.com Tuesday that Dallas had yet to present one. Any prospects the Mavs might have to pull off such a coup would be contingent on Anthony declining to sign an extension with New Jersey. With a signed extension as part of the deal, the Nets still possess by far the most attractive assets to Denver -- Derrick Favors, the expiring contract of Troy Murphy, and multiple first-round picks. 

But that is the question that the Anthony saga has hinged on for months. Part of Dallas’ strategy, according to sources, is to shift the Anthony discussions to what Cuban recently called the “rent-a-player” phase, which would drive down the price and encourage other teams to present offers without assurances that Anthony would stay put for five years -- the two he has remaining (including the early-termination option for 2011-12) plus the extension. 

Such potential suitors, including the Mavs, do not have enough of what Denver is looking for to compete with New Jersey’s best offer. But if Dallas is successful in shifting Denver’s focus to “rental” deals, the Nets would then have to decide how much they are willing to give up to acquire a franchise cornerstone for their move to Brooklyn -- even if Anthony could leave them in the dust as a free agent before the team even got there. 

Meanwhile, the Nuggets remain in a patient posture and are not in any apparent rush to push a New Jersey trade to fruition. And after acquiring two more first-round picks in a three-team trade with the Lakers and Rockets last week, Nets executives are continuing their ongoing efforts to sweeten the deal for Anthony by acquiring a veteran he’d want to play with in Newark, N.J., for a year-and-a-half. Such inducements could come in the form of Al Harrington and/or Chauncey Billups, whom Anthony might be comfortable having on board. The other scenarios, according to one executive familiar with them, are numerous and “beyond challenging” because multiple teams would be needed. 

Among the contending teams with the deep pockets and championship core to take a risk like trading for Anthony without a signed extension as part of the deal, Dallas has the most expiring money to make it worth the Nuggets’ while. Any Dallas proposal would have to include the expiring contracts of Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson. More money would need to be added -- Tyson Chandler? -- or a third team would need to be recruited in order to take Harrington and/or Billups off Denver’s hands. 

The notion of Anthony going to a contender -- or to the Nets, for that matter -- without signing his three-year, $65 million extension is exactly what New York Knicks officials are hoping for. Sources say the Knicks continue to believe that the longer the Anthony situation plays out, the better their chances of landing him through a trade, or more likely, as a free agent after the season and anticipated lockout. New York has been Anthony’s preferred destination since his operatives began pushing for a trade in September, and a person directly involved in Anthony’s decision-making process told CBSSports.com earlier this month that he’d become more entrenched in his desire to agree to an extend-and-trade only if he would up with the Knicks. CBSSports.com also reported that Anthony has not shared his position with Nuggets officials, and that Nets officials have been told differently by Anthony’s camp. 

Another team that various team executives believe is very much in the mix -- either to make a push to land Melo as a rental or become involved as a third-team facilitator -- is the Rockets. Houston fully expects to receive a disabled-player exception for Yao Ming totaling $5.8 million and already has a $6.3 million exception from the Trevor Ariza trade. Such exceptions can’t be combined, but individually they could be used to absorb a contract -- such as, for example, the Nuggets’ J.R. Smith’s or Harrington’s -- without sending equal money back. In return, the Rockets would either have to get a player they want or be compensated accordingly with draft picks or other assets. The Rockets also are flush with the expiring contracts of Shane Battier, Jared Jeffries, and even Yao, whose contract is insured due to his season-ending foot injury. 

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has a history of bold moves, and has placed few restrictions on his front office, led by GM Daryl Morey, to spend money in order to win. The Rockets, for example, are currently a tax-paying team and are under no mandate from ownership to shed salary even though they are off to a slow start and have lost Yao for the season -- and maybe for good. 

A dark horse in all of this? The Mavs’ opponent Tuesday night, Orlando. The Magic have a little more than two months before the Feb. 24 trade deadline to see if their revamped roster will be good enough to contend for a title after this week’s blockbuster trades with Phoenix and Washington. But the only piece that is likely to be available and enticing to Denver is Jason Richardson, whose $14.4 million contract expires after the season. Richardson cannot be combined with other players in a trade for 60 days, which would leave just enough time before the trade deadline to involve him in the Anthony discussions. 

If -- and this is a big if -- Anthony is still a Nugget by then.
Posted on: December 8, 2010 7:51 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 11:03 pm
 

Post-Ups: Nuggets ready to move Melo

After weeks of speculation and despite a strong start by the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony's last days in Denver may finally have arrived.

The Nuggets have all but decided to trade Anthony if he does not sign an extension with the team by the trade deadline, and Denver's management team believes Anthony is fully prepared to play out the season and become a free agent, multiple sources told CBSSports.com.

The Nuggets’ strong start, coupled with George Karl’s inspirational return from cancer treatment and positive discussions about a contract extension for the soon-to-be-1,000-win coach, have the organization feeling they've done everything possible to persuade Anthony to stay. But according to people with knowledge of the team’s strategy, if Anthony doesn’t agree to sign the three-year, $65 million extension by the Feb. 24 trade deadline, the wheels are all but certain to be put in motion to part ways with the three-time All-Star rather than lose him as a free agent and get nothing in return.

According to people in contact with the Nuggets’ management team, there is far more clarity today about what the team is seeking in a potential Anthony trade than there was in September, when new GM Masai Ujiri was thrust into the tempest in his initial days and weeks on the job. Executives believe the Nuggets have decided they would like to receive the best possible package of young players and are not interested in stopgap options that would hamper their flexibility. Acquiring a high-priced veteran player -- such as Andre Iguodala, whose talent the Nuggets value but not his contract -- would only hurt the team’s ability to build around youth while maintaining payroll flexibility into the uncertainty of a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Nets’ package of 2010 No. 3 pick Derrick Favors, guard Devin Harris, the expiring contract of Kris Humphries and two first-round picks remains the most attractive option to the Nuggets, sources say. Additional trade partners such as Charlotte and Utah are not eager to get involved in the discussions again, but wouldn’t necessarily be needed this time.

The wild card remains Anthony’s desire to sign an extension with the Nets, who obviously would not be willing to offer the same package without such a guarantee. While rival executives continue to doubt that Anthony would be willing to spend the next season-and-a-half in Newark, N.J., sources who have been in close contact with the power brokers in Anthony’s camp -- William Wesley and Leon Rose -- say the Nets remain an option for Anthony.

Anthony and the Nuggets will play Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, which remain his top choice via a trade or free agency -- even though the latter option could cost him millions depending on how successful owners are at imposing salary reductions in the new collective bargaining agreement. Sources say Anthony is so fixated on winding up with the Knicks that Denver management has become convinced that he will tempt fate and the new CBA by playing out the entire season in Denver and signing with the Knicks as a free agent on July 1 – or after the lockout. The only way that scenario could be positive for Denver would be in a sign-and-trade deal. But such an arrangement – like the pennies-on-the-dollar deals that sent LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami – would not be nearly as beneficial as what the Nets are offering now.

The Knicks, playing their best basketball in years with free-agent acquisition Amar’e Stoudemire, have believed that their best chance of landing Melo was for the process to play out slowly – and they’ve gotten their wish so far. But the Nuggets, sources say, are not sold on the young players New York could offer such as Anthony Randolph, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Point guard Raymond Felton -- who has been on an offensive tear since gaining chemistry with Stoudemire and who becomes trade-eligible on Dec. 15 -- also does not interest the Nuggets, who view him as a halfcourt player who wouldn't fit their style.

Nuggets officials are said to be coming around to the idea that Harris could play in the backcourt with Chauncey Billups, who often played shooting guard this past summer with Team USA. But if Anthony is traded, sources say management also wants to show Billups -- who came to the Nuggets not just to come home, but to win -- the proper respect by engaging him in conversations about whether he'd prefer to be traded.

Other than hoping to persuade Anthony to sign the extension and stay in Denver, the biggest variable for the Nuggets is the sliding scale of quality on the Nets’ own first-round pick they’d convey in the trade. (They also would include Golden State’s protected 2012 first-rounder). The sooner the Nuggets trade Melo to New Jersey, the better the Nets get and the worse the pick gets. But that is a matter of timing and patience. As far as willingness to deal, it appears that the Nuggets are finally open for business.

And so are we in the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:

• With the Trail Blazers' obvious struggles and the health challenges (that's putting it mildly) of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, two people with knowledge of the team's strategy told CBSSports.com that Portland management is contemplating trading older players and going young. The obvious targets for such a purge would be Marcus Camby (36), Andre Miller (34), and Joel Przybilla (31). Roy isn’t old, but his knees are -- though one of the sources said Portland would find no takers for the five years and $82.3 million remaining on Roy's contract, given the state of his meniscus-less knees. Przybilla ($7.4 million expiring contract) and Miller (whose $7.8 million salary in 2011-12 is fully non-guaranteed) are eminently moveable. Another candidate to be dealt, though not because of age or health, is Rudy Fernandez, who has wanted out of Portland for some time. Sources caution that the Blazers have engaged in only internal conversations about this strategy, and it is contingent upon the team (10-11) continuing to struggle. But the writing certainly is on the wall for major changes in Portland.

• Multiple NBA team executives told CBSSports.com this week they believe a significant number of college underclassmen will stay in school rather than risk losing a year of development (and pay) in a lockout. College coaches making the pitch to underclassman to stay in school will have more leverage than ever before. “They’ll have the hammer,” one exec said. “To lose a year of development at that stage of your career, that’s huge.” This could have a dramatic impact on a team like No. 4 Kansas, which in an ordinary year would have as many as three first-round picks: freshman Josh Selby (serving a nine-game NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits); and juniors Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor. Sophomore Thomas Robinson also impressed NBA execs scouting the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

• Speaking of Madison Square Garden, rival execs agree that New York would be a logical landing spot for Andre Iguodala, and they believe the Sixers will be more than open to discussing trades for the dynamic but high-priced swingman as the Feb. 24 deadline approaches. The Knicks, one of the few teams in a position to absorb salary in the uncertain labor environment, also would be looking for an attractive piece to pair with Stoudemire in the event the Nuggets follow through with an Anthony trade prior to the deadline. Team president Donnie Walsh would have to decide if, short of Anthony, Iguodala is the best option that will be available to him between now and 2011 free agency -- if and when that happens. And also, if Iguodala is worth giving up the cap flexibility he's toiled three years to create. Pricetag notwithstanding -- the 26-year-old is due $56.5 million over the next four years -- Iguodala would be an excellent fit for Mike D'Antoni's high-octane offense and would instantly become the best defender on the roster by a mile.

• With details of the National Basketball Players Association's July proposal finally becoming fully public Wednesday, the question of how prepared the union is for a lockout is naturally going to come up. According to sources familiar with the union's financial documents, the NBPA currently has just shy of $100 million in liquid assets in its war chest in the event of a lockout. The funds have been accumulated largely through players agreeing to put aside licensing money they receive from the league -- something they are doing again this season to the tune of about $30 million. If you add non-liquid assets, such as property, the union will have about $175 million on hand. This is a lot of money to you and me, but not to 450 NBA players. Consider that the players' salaries (without benefits) last season totaled about $2.3 billion -- with a "b." Now consider that players are paid 12 times during the season -- twice a month for six months. That means the NBPA's total war chest is enough to cover the players' first paychecks during a lockout in the 2011-12 season.

• With trade discussions typically heating up around the 20-game mark -- and also around Dec. 15, when summer free agents become trade-eligible -- execs league-wide are curious to learn what sort of trade climate will exist in light of the labor uncertainty. Many predict that teams that have typically been willing to take on salary between December and the trade deadline (Feb. 24) will be less willing (or unwilling) to do so in this environment. Similarly, teams performing below management's internal expectations (Houston, the Clippers, the Blazers) have a tough decision to make. They could try to fix their problems now, but without knowing what the rules will be under the new agreement, they don't know what conditions they’re planning for. Of the aforementioned teams, the Blazers are in the best position to dump salary because of the attractiveness of the contracts they'd be moving. Plus, Miller's value is not only in his contract, but in his ability to push a contending team in need of a steadying point-guard presence over the top. Full disclosure: this is my idea, not anybody else's, but Orlando would be the perfect landing spot for Miller depending on what the Magic would be willing to send back.


Posted on: December 1, 2010 2:53 pm
 

Post-Ups

When LeBron James struts to the scorer's table in Cleveland Thursday night and tosses his customary talc in the air -- to a vicious chorus of boos or derisive laughter -- all eyes will be on how the prodigal son responds to being a pariah on the court he used to own.

That's fine. It's a story -- a big one by NBA regular season standards -- and one that will be examined ad nauseum during the relentless news cycle that follows.

I happen to have some context when it comes to Cleveland sports misery, and also boiling Cleveland sports bile. As a writer for the Associated Press, I sat in the press box at then-Jacobs Field for former Indians hero Albert Belle's return after signing a free-agent contract with the White Sox. The atmosphere was venomous, to say the least. I was also on hand for a much sadder, more poignant moment when the contents of doomed Municipal Stadium were auctioned to teary-eyed fans after Art Modell hijacked the beloved Browns and schlepped them to Baltimore. Among the items up for bidding that day, appropriately enough, was the commode from Modell's office.

Not to bore you with my life story, but I was also in the press box in Miami when Jose Mesa vomited away what would've been Cleveland's first pro sports championship in four decades in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Visions of Edgar Renteria and Craig Counsell dance in my head to this day.

I don't come from Cleveland; I only lived there for two of the best years of my life as a sports writer. But I think I can safely speak for the good people of Northeast Ohio when I say that James leaving the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat was worse than all of the above.

There is vibrant debate in the LeBron-o-sphere about how Cleveland fans should treat him Thursday night. Gregg Doyel, a proud Ohioan, pleads for Clevelanders to comport themselves with dignity and not make LeBron the victim. Point well-taken. Others say screw that ; give the traitor all the venom that he's got coming to him. Knowing how much sports heartache that city has endured over the decades, I can understand that point, too.

There's a movement afoot to have 20,000 people laugh hysterically at LeBron when he's introduced, and various chants have been scripted for when he touches the ball, checks into the game, or steps to the foul line. Kudos for creativity on those. But here's what I'd like to see. Here's what I think would be the appropriate response: When the Heat are introduced, and specifically when LeBron is introduced, turn your backs on the court and don't make a sound. Not even a whisper. The silent treatment and reverse ovation will be spookier than any alternative, and would haunt your former hero for at least 48 minutes and maybe months. Then, turn around and enjoy the game. Even in a place that has, um, witnessed its share of disappointments, it is still just a game, after all.

And with that, we move on to the rest of this week's Post-Ups:

* Lost in all the hysteria over LeBump and LeCoup attempt on coach Erik Spoelstra this week is the question of what Spoelstra can do with his lineups to improve Miami's performance on the floor. With help from adjusted plus-minus guru Wayne Winston , I dug into the lineups Spoelstra has used this season and came to some interesting conclusions.

The problem doesn't appear to be LeBron and Wade playing together; it's who's on the floor with them that makes a difference. In lineups with both LeBron and Wade, the Heat have outscored the opponent by 61 points. With LeBron only, they're plus-38, and with Wade only they're plus-21. (They're minus-14 with neither, for what it's worth.)

Spoelstra's most frequently used lineup -- the starting lineup of Wade, James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony and Carlos Arroyo-- has outscored the opponent by 36 points over 133 minutes. According to Winston, that lineup plays 14.55 points better than average. In other words, those five players would beat an average NBA lineup by 14 points over 48 minutes.

When Spoelstra subs Zydrunas Ilgauskas for Anthony in his second-most used lineup, that number goes down to 2.65 points better than average and Miami is plus-6. What happens when the Heat play without a point guard proves the point I've been harping on all along: Whether he likes it or not, LeBron needs to be the point guard on this team.

By far, Miami's best lineup with James and Wade (and with at least 30 appearances) is one without a true point guard. The Supertwins plus Bosh, Udonis Haslem (currently injured), and James Jones is 44.19 points better than average and outscoring opponents by 29 points in 43 minutes. If anything, Spoelstra should have been using that lineup more often; despite the assumption that Jones' suspect defense is an issue, that lineup is comparable defensively to the starting unit featuring Arroyo and Anthony instead of Jones and Haslem.

Without Haslem, Spoelstra still has an effective option with James and Wade and no true point guard on the floor. But to this point, he's only used this combination 13 times for a total of 17 minutes: James, Wade, Bosh, Ilgauskas and Jones are 45.81 points better than average and plus-15.

The point-guard problem is underscored when Spoelstra uses another point guard other than Arroyo. For example, of the four lineups Spoelstra has used with James, Wade and Eddie House, three of them are awful -- the worst being a lineup of James, Wade, Haslem, Ilgauskas and House, which is 46.99 points worse than average and minus-8.

The bottom line: Aside from using LeBron as a point guard more frequently, you can't really argue too much with the combinations Spoelstra has used most often. LeBron is the one player capable of tailoring his game to the needs of the team, and if he does, that will help Wade emerge from his funk and get the Heat playing like a Super Team instead of a Blooper Team.

* Brendan Haywood's agent, Andy Miller, told CBSSports.com that his client's one-game suspension enforced Friday against the Spurs was for "an isolated incident. ... It's over, and we're moving forward." One person familiar with the situation called it a "flare-up" and a "misunderstanding" between Haywood and coach Rick Carlisle that did not involve minutes or playing time. The relationship between Haywood and Carlisle is not in need of being addressed further, the source said. Haywood logged only 7:58 against Miami in his return Saturday night, but got more than 21 minutes Monday night against Houston -- the Mavericks' sixth straight win.

* As we touched on during preseason , Magic GM Otis Smith was presented a trade proposal involving Gilbert Arenas and Vince Carter this past summer, and despite Smith's close relationship with Arenas, he turned it down. Sources have continued to believe that the Wizards would only be able to trade Arenas if and when he proved he was healthy and in a positive place emotionally after the ruinous 50-game suspension he incurred last season. To the Wizards' delight, that has finally happened. Since being reinserted into the starting lineup eight games ago, Arenas has been consistently exceeding 30 minutes a night and has scored at least 20 points in five of those games. While the Magic have let it be known that they're willing to make a big deal if it involves trading anyone except Dwight Howard, sources say there has been no movement on the Arenas front since the aforementioned discussions fell apart.

* The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Tuesday that an attendance clause believed to have lapsed in the team's arena lease with the state actually still exists . That means the Hornets, currently 25th in the NBA in attendance despite their 12-5 start, would be permitted to start the relocation wheels spinning by breaking their lease unless they average at least 14,213 for the next 13 games. Team president Hugh Weber reaffirmed the team's commitment to New Orleans in the article, but stopped short of unequivocally stating that the team would not use the clause to break the lease. One reason: It would cost the team $10 million. Another: New ownership would be wise to consider such a move. If the Hornets are struggling now, with inspired play from Chris Paul and a giant-killer mentality instilled by new coach Monty Williams, just imagine how bad the attendance would be if the team was forced to trade Paul after a lockout.

* As we close in on Dec. 15, when numerous free agents signed over the summer become trade-eligible, rival executives have privately started wondering if the Heat would consider parting with one of their Big Three if it meant fielding a more complete team. The face-saving option to trade and the most easily obtainable, executives say, would be Chris Bosh. In fact, one executive speaking on condition of anonymity wondered how it would alter Denver's reluctance to trade Carmelo Anthony if the Heat offered a package centered around Bosh. The Nuggets, according to the executive, might prefer an established star in the low post as opposed to Derrick Favors, an unproven rookie. It's fun speculation, but highly unlikely. Aside from the embarrassment associated with breaking up the ballyhooed Big Three in Miami, the rub would be cost; executives continue to believe that if Denver deals Anthony and/or Chauncey Billups before the February deadline, it will be in a major cost-cutting deal.

* Meanwhile, as the Melo turns, executives are becoming more convinced that Anthony would not agree to an extension with the Nets -- a stance that could kill New Jersey's months-long bid for the superstar once and for all. Having attended a recent Nets game in Newark, which might as well be Russia as far as native New Yorker Anthony is concerned, I concur. Melo is interested in starring in a Broadway show -- or a nearby, off-Broadway equivalent. Had the Nets' move to Brooklyn not been sabotaged by lawsuits and New York City government paralysis, that would've made a huge difference. But Newark is Newark, and I believe Melo is headed elsewhere.
Posted on: September 23, 2010 4:44 pm
 

Preseason Primers: Denver Nuggets

Let the Melodrama begin. A little more than a year after a trip to the Western Conference finals, the Nuggets are on the verge of implosion. Superstar Carmelo Anthony wants a trade, but first he's going to have to show up at training camp Monday and answer questions about it for days on end. George Karl is back from his valiant cancer fight -- without trusted assistant Tim Grgurich and with a long list of issues. Karl, perhaps, is the Nuggets last, best hope to talk Melo out of wanting out.

Training camp site: Pepsi Center, Denver 

Training camp starts: Sept. 28 

Key additions: Al Harrington (free agent), Shelden Williams (free agent). 

Key subtractions: Johan Petro (free agent), Joey Graham (free agent), Malik Allen (free agent). 

Likely starting lineup: Chauncey Billups, PG; Arron Afflalo, SG; Carmelo Anthony, SF; Al Harrington, PF; Nene, C. 

Player to watch: All eyes are on Melo. If he’s not traded by the time camp opens Monday – and all signs point to not –then the Melodrama will only get thicker and thicker. There’s zero chance Anthony refuses to show up for camp; he is an image-conscious superstar who is going about his trade request professionally, as opposed to the Rudy Fernandez scorched-Earth approach in Portland, for example. (Plus, Melo doesn’t want to be fined, nor would he disrespect George Karl that way.) But how Anthony responds to the media attention, how he interacts with his teammates after weeks of news reports, and ultimately whether he’s able to reconnect with Karl will be the three biggest stories of camp for Denver. 

Chemistry check: This should be a happy time, with Karl returning to the bench after missing much of last season due to cancer treatments. As usual, Karl has a restless locker room to deal with – and Melo isn’t the only problem. Kenyon Martin openly questioned whether the Nuggets got better this summer. J.R. Smith needs to go. The Nuggets cleaned out their front office, too, jettisoning 2008-09 executive of the year Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman and hiring Toronto assistant Masai Ujiri while giving more power to adviser Bret Bearup and executive Josh Kroenke. Oh, and Karl’s longtime assistant, Tim Grgurich, isn’t coming back. That’s all – so far. 

Injury watch: Martin and Chris Andersen are expected to miss the early part of the season as they recover from knee injuries. 

On the spot: Ujiri. While he technically won’t have final say on whether to trade Anthony, where to trade him, or for what, dealing the franchise cornerstone will be on his resume one way or another. 

Camp battles: Harrington, Williams and Renaldo Balkman are in the mix for playing time in the frontcourt while Martin and Andersen are out. 

Biggest strength: Well, that depends on whether you’re talking with Melo or without. With Melo, they have one of the top five or six players in the NBA paired with Billups, a savvy floor leader who probably has one more season of championship-caliber play in him. Without Melo, it depends on what they get for him. 

Glaring weakness: Stability. In a few short weeks, or at most, months, the momentum of seven straight playoff appearances (including one conference finals appearance) and three consecutive 50-win seasons could go up in smoke if and when they have to move Melo. In the short term, Denver’s weakness will be up front with Martin and Andersen out – which explains their pursuit of Erick Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and other bigs this summer.
Posted on: September 12, 2010 5:13 pm
 

Odom, Billups deserve to be rewarded

The revelation of the world championships, quite obviously, was Kevin Durant. He did everything for Team USA -- did exactly what was required of a blossoming superstar who was asked to put his imprint on the world basketball stage.

So without a doubt, Durant will be suiting up for the 2012 Olympics in London, when some of the divas who passed on Turkey will be back to defend the gold medal attained by the Redeem Team in Beijing two years ago. But what became plainly apparent Sunday, as the United States ended a 16-year drought in the FIBA worlds by beating Turkey 81-64 for the gold medal, is that not all of those '08 Olympians will be assured of getting their spots back.

Far from it.

It's widely assumed that three spots will be available: those belonging to Jason Kidd, Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd. So as I plan out Mike Krzyzewski's Olympic roster before Team USA even gets to the airport, I say those spots should go to Durant, Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups.

When the Americans left U.S. soil as underdogs to Spain in the eyes of many, I felt that however this tournament played out, Odom and Billups deserved spots on the team for London. As good as Durant was, it's impossible to dismiss the championship pedigree Odom and Billups brought to this otherwise woefully inexperienced team. If nothing else, Odom and Billups deserve a spot as a reward for taking one for the country this summer. They stepped up and gave Jerry Colangelo and Coach K their commitments at a time when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were too busy working on their Twitter accounts, and while Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony were occupied with trying to get traded.

As far as tangible contributions, Billups didn't shine during the tournament. But no one should have a problem with him getting the Jason Kidd memorial roster spot in London for his experience and for his trouble this summer. As for Odom, who was brilliant in the gold-medal game with 15 points and 11 rebounds -- including a flurry of putbacks, 3-pointers and work-ethic baskets in the fourth quarter -- he earned a spot regardless. My pal Gregg Doyel still thinks Odom is a lackadaisical yo-yo ; I've always thought he was wrong about that, and that much was proven beyond any doubt in this tournament. Odom was huge for the U.S. It was no coincidence that the Naismith Trophy was handed first to Odom and Billups Sunday in Istanbul. They earned it. American basketball is all about pecking order, and they were right at the top of it, where they belonged.

But this so-called "B-Team" so far exceeded expectations from spots 1-12 that there will be precious little room for sentimentality when Colangelo and Krzyzewski assemble the Olympic roster in two years. Let's say I'm right and you start with Durant, Odom and Billups joining '08 Olympians James, Wade, Anthony, Paul, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. How do you make room for Derrick Rose (which Colangelo must)? How do you ignore the versatility and defensive intangibles offered by Russell Westbrook (which Colangelo shouldn't)? How do you snub Blake Griffin and Tyreke Evans (you probably can't)? What if John Wall is as good as we think he is (which he is)? What if Rajon Rondo wants to play (which he should)?

As the adage goes, these are some good problems for the Americans to have. A few short years after the embarrassment of bronze medals at the 2006 world championships and 2004 Olympics, USA Basketball is back. It was back in Beijing two summers ago with the Redeem Team. But really, this B-Team should be -- and will be -- remembered for driving home the point.

At a time when reputations and gold medals were on the line, the biggest American stars in the sport took a pass. Those who showed up and got the job done should be rewarded. More than a few, I predict, will be.

 
 

 

Posted on: August 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2010 4:49 pm
 

Stars come out for NBA labor talks (UPDATE)

NEW YORK – NBA owners and players met for 3 1-2 hours Thursday in a bargaining session that didn’t result in any progress toward a deal but did help change the tenor of the debate: The star players did show up, and they’re engaged.

In a surprise development, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Joe Johnson and Chauncey Billups joined the players’ executive committee in the bargaining session – a reprisal of their appearance at the most recent meeting at All-Star weekend in Dallas.

“I think it’s important for all of us, as the faces of the NBA, to be involved in the negotiations and what’s going on,” Anthony said as he exited the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel on 52nd Street, to waves and cheers from passersby. “Our future’s in jeopardy if we can’t come to a mutual agreement.”

According to sources familiar with the players’ strategy, the stars decided to take a break from their appearance schedule associated with the World Basketball Festival, a four-day event in conjunction with Team USA training camp, to avoid the perception that they aren’t going to be involved in the bargaining process for the long haul. Some observers believed that the players’ appearance at the All-Star bargaining table in February would be a one-time deal, something that the stars of the league wanted to dispel, sources said. Wade and Billups were the first to commit, followed by James, Anthony and Johnson.

“It’s important to have representation of all the guys in the NBA and not just ourselves,” said Hawks guard Mo Evans, a member of the executive committee. “It was great to have those guys interested in what’s going on in the league. We’re all involved. We’re going to leave this game to someone else – whether it’s two years from now, five years from now, or 10 years from now. We want to leave this game in a better place than when we got it.”

According to people in the bargaining session, there was far less rancor and rhetoric than in the session at All-Star weekend, when the players rejected the owners’ initial proposal. The word “lockout” was thrown around less frequently, too.

UPDATE: But both sides acknowledge that there's much ground to be covered. According to one person present, commissioner David Stern proclaimed at one point during the meeting, “There’s a gulf, not a gap.”

However, in an encouraging sign, the league and union issued a joint statement after the bargaining session, as opposed to individual missives: "The NBA and NBPA held a four-hour bargaining meeting today that included constructive dialogue and a productive exchange of information. While we still have much work to do, it was encouraging how many players and owners participated in the process and all pledged to continue to work together. We all agreed to meet again before training camp.”

Still, while the tenor of the dialogue improved, there was virtually no progress on the issues that keep both sides far apart on a new deal to replace the current CBA, which expires on June 30, 2011. The owners and players continue to disagree on the extent of the NBA’s stated losses – the latest figure the league used Thursday, according to a source, was $380 million during the 2009-10 season – and how the pie should be divided. Under the current agreement, players get 57 percent of overall revenues, known as basketball-related income (BRI).

It was the first bargaining session since All-Star weekend, and the first time owners and players discussed face-to-face the players’ proposal that was submitted to the owners last month. There was little concrete discussion of specific issues, such as the owners’ desire to institute a hard salary cap with shorter contracts and less guaranteed money. Both sides agreed to meet again before the start of training camp, and then break into smaller groups to tackle specific bargaining issues.

“They generally objected to the entire proposal,” Hunter said. “They said they didn’t agree with it. We kind of anticipated that. But at the same time, it lends itself to more discussion so they all felt as though we did make progress in terms of our willingness to talk to one another as opposed to at one another. And so to that extent, things felt a lot better in the room – the atmosphere, the environment, the nature of the discussions – more so than in February. Things have thawed a lot.”

In addition to the stars, the players were represented by the members of their executive committee: president Derek Fisher, treasurer James Jones, and vice presidents Adonal Foyle, Keyon Dooling, Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas, Chris Paul and Evans. The owners were represented by Peter Holt (Spurs), Glen Taylor (Timberwolves), Wyc Grousbeck (Celtics), Jeanie Buss (Lakers), James Dolan (Knicks), George Shinn (Hornets), Stan Kroenke (Nuggets) and Larry Miller (Trail Blazers). Suns owner Robert Sarver, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide canceled at the last minute to address personal business.

“It was great conversation, great dialogue going back and forth, great communication,” Anthony said. “So hopefully we can come to an agreement soon.”







 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com