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Tag:Pistons
Posted on: January 10, 2011 11:00 am
Edited on: January 10, 2011 12:43 pm
 

Melo blow-by-blow: Denver driving hard bargain

The framework of a blockbuster, three-team trade that could send Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey began coming together Thursday and Friday, but there were miles to go -- not inches -- before the complicated scenario could come together.

After a whirlwind 72 hours marked by acrimony, destabilizing attempts from multiple stakeholders and even a funeral that one executive involved had to attend, the best thing that can be said Monday about the proposed deal is that the Nets and Nuggets are still communicating.

Judging from the hurt feelings and frustration that has built up among some of the participants, that is an accomplishment almost as remarkable as the ambitious framework of the deal itself. And the fact that both sides are willing to put aside grudges means that Denver and New Jersey are sufficiently motivated to complete the trade.

When? Not until the Nuggets have explored every option and tried to extract the highest possible price for Anthony, a three-time All-Star and franchise cornerstone who may already be playing beyond his expiration date in Denver.

Based on first-hand accounts from league sources, here is the latest holdup in the arrangement that would send Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton to New Jersey, Troy Murphy and Johan Petro to Detroit and Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and multiple first-round picks to Denver: The Nuggets, negotiating from a position of strength because they own the most coveted asset in the trade, are trying to extract one more quality young player and more cost savings from the current framework of the deal -- and if they can't do that, expand it or explore other scenarios to ensure they are getting the most assets possible for parting with their superstar.

UPDATE: One issue was quickly resolved Monday, with the Nets and Pistons essentially agreeing that Detroit would get a second-round pick from New Jersey for taking on Petro's contract, sources confirmed to CBSSports.com.

But Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri would prefer to parlay Harris into Nicolas Batum (pictured) by involving Portland in the deal, a scenario they thoroughly explored before the Pistons' involvement as a third team over the weekend, sources said. The Pistons' portion of the deal -- sending Hamilton to New Jersey so Anthony wouldn't have to go it alone in a risky reclamation project -- is solidified as far as Detroit and New Jersey are concerned. But the Nuggets have yet to decide if that is the best option for them.

From the standpoint of easing Anthony's concerns about signing a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nets, it represents a major breakthrough for the Nuggets. But executives in contact with Denver officials say Ujiri hasn't given up on recruiting the Blazers to contribute Batum and wants more time to shop the current offer and make sure it is the best deal he can get. In addition to getting another young player -- and Denver isn't sold on Harris, given the $17.8 million price tag over the next two seasons and the progress of Ty Lawson -- the Nuggets are continuing to explore getting off one of their long-term contracts as part of an Anthony trade. Sources say they are working feverishly to find a taker for either Al Harrington or Renaldo Balkman, a requirement that complicates matters even more.

Among the teams the Nuggets have spoken with previously is Minnesota, which asked for one of the Nets' better first-round picks in exchange for taking Murphy. With that, the conversation died. Sources also told CBSSports.com Monday that the Nuggets have engaged with the Knicks "a little bit here and there" about what it would take to get Anthony to his preferred destination, Madison Square Garden. Executives in contact with the Nuggets said Denver plans to give the Knicks an opportunity to construct a trade proposal that they will compare to what the Nets are offering -- a prospect that seems unlikely to be fruitful for New York, given that the Nuggets have always been more interested in the Nets' assets than the Knicks'.

Privately, members of the Nuggets organization believe they have taken Anthony's wishes into account by trying to construct a deal that does not land him in a bad situation. In addition, they believe the inclusion of Hamilton -- who shares Anthony's agent, Leon Rose -- is tantamount to approval from Melo that he will go against his desire to play for the Knicks and agree to the New Jersey extension. A team executive previously involved in Anthony trade talks but currently on the sideline agreed Monday.

"Melo originally wouldn't sign there," the executive said. "But it seems now, with the addition of Rip if that happens, he could have a change of heart."

Said an executive with a stake in Melo signing off on the deal with New Jersey, "There is going to have to be a sell. But at the end of the day, does Melo say, 'No?' I strongly doubt it."

It is one of many twists and turns in a combustible negotiation that at one point over the weekend seemed destined to blow up because the Nuggets, once again, were facing external pressure to rush into a deal. But it should be abundantly clear by now that Ujiri, a soft-spoken, Nigerian born former scout now in the hottest executive seat in the NBA, "won't back down," according to one executive who described him as "a bulldog."

Ujiri "may seem quiet and soft," the executive said, but is "not stupid."

Based on first-hand accounts, talks between Denver and New Jersey took a back seat to Detroit's involvement over the weekend, with executives waiting to hear back from Pistons president Joe Dumars, who was attending a funeral Saturday. After the Pistons' angle leaked Friday in a report by The Record of Hackensack, N.J., sensitivities were running high in Denver because of the mutual respect between Billups and the organization -- and the fan base's understanding that if Billups were dealt, that would signal the waving of a white flag on this season.

While Ujiri and executive Josh Kroenke internally weighed the pros and cons of involving the Pistons, everyone with a stake in the deal was waiting to hear back from Dumars, who needed to meet Sunday with ownership to find out if he could get the money-saving Hamilton deal approved. Dumars, in the midst of an ownership change, has been hamstrung in trade negotiations but was able to get approval to dump Hamilton and save the organization more than $17 million.

But when word came from Dumars Sunday afternoon that the Pistons were in, the Nuggets didn't view it as moving the larger deal to the cusp of the goal line. As was the case with the four-team deal with Utah and Charlotte that fell apart in the days before training camp, it appeared to those outside the organization that the Nuggets were once again feeling rushed into hastily completing the trade.

If leaks that the trade including fan favorite Billups was all but agreed to were aimed at destabilizing the already frail locker-room psyche in Denver, it appeared to be working. Anthony, Billups and other peripheral players being discussed in the trade played Sunday night, when a disengaged Anthony scored only eight points in a 96-87 loss to the Hornets. Billups, confronted with questions about being traded, was 2-for-12 from the field and scored 13 points.

When asked after the game if this was his final game with the Nuggets, Anthony responded to reporters by saying, "Not at all" five times. The Nuggets host the Suns Tuesday night, and the Nets are at Phoenix Wednesday -- a deadline of sorts since both teams would need their full complement of new players in time for those games.

Conversations between the Nets and Nuggets continued into the early morning hours Monday, which should be read as encouraging given all the twists and turns. One executive stressed, "It hasn't broken down," evidence of the strong commitment on the Nets' and Nuggets' parts to complete the deal.

I guess they can all shake hands and make up when it's over.

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 17, 2010 2:13 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2010 9:28 pm
 

Post-Ups (UPDATE)

Houston and Portland, we have problems. 

Two teams that have been tantalizingly close to championship contention in recent years are suddenly in turmoil due to injuries -- franchise-shaping injuries to their franchise players. 

Portland had no sooner come to grips with the loss of Greg Oden -- again -- when the gathering storm of controversy between ailing star Brandon Roy and veteran point guard Andre Miller popped up. The Rockets, struggling without point guard Aaron Brooks, now may have to completely rethink their style of play and strategy for the future with word that center Yao Ming could be out for the year with a stress fracture in his ankle. 

“They built around Yao and they’re going to have to change who they are and become a more transition-oriented team,” a rival executive said. * No one ever thought the Rockets would commit to Yao beyond this season until they learned whether he’d be able to return to the court and be productive. With the answer to that question now being no, it’s time to scrap the notion that Houston can rely on Yao to ever be the centerpiece of a title-contending team. 

Changes are needed in the short run, too. Once Brooks returns -- and that will be soon -- the Rockets will need to forget about Yao and push the pace in a way that fits the talent they have. Kevin Martin is a transition player, and Brooks certainly is. So is recently acquired Terrence Williams, who could be a key part of this new strategy if the change of scenery also changes his attitude. 

As for the Blazers, it would appear that their incredible aptitude for overcoming serious and numerous injuries has come to an end. In the past, winning masked the uncomfortable co-existence of Roy and Miller. Now that Portland is struggling, there’s no way to hide the fact that Roy and Miller aren’t a good fit in the backcourt together. Sources already have told CBSSports.com that Blazers officials are considering going young and moving some of their older pieces -- such as Miller, Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla. Miller, with a fully non-guaranteed $7.8 million in 2011-12, has off-the-charts trade value -- especially for a contender in need of a steadying force at point guard. 
UPDATE: A person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Friday that Roy's recent comments about the difficulty he's having playing with Miller were no accident. "He's an unhappy camper," the person said. "A very unhappy camper. For Brandon to talk like that, he's got to be at his breaking point."
Sources continue to tell me that Orlando, which is concerned about not measuring up to Boston and Miami in the East, would be the perfect fit for Miller. The Magic are not going to accept carrying a $94 million payroll into the playoffs, only to lose in the conference semifinals -- which seems to be their fate as currently constructed. Rashard Lewis’ impact continues to diminish, Vince Carter is little more than a jump-shooter, and Jameer Nelson is too inconsistent to rely on as the floor general of a championship-contending team. 

Miller could be the elixir for Orlando. All he does is find open shots for his teammates, and Dwight Howard would be thrilled with Miller’s elite talent as a lob-passer. Howard, who will be part of a blockbuster free-agent class in 2012, has quickly grown frustrated with the Magic’s obvious limitations. 

The piece that could get it done is Marcin Gortat, who’s a starting center on any team but one that has Howard. Though Gortat’s contract goes out three more years, it’s at a reasonable rate for a starting center -- topping out at $7.7 million in 2013-14, when Gortat has an early-termination option. 

Blazers GM Rich Cho has liked Gortat since his days working as Sam Presti’s right-hand man in Oklahoma City, so such a deal would seem to make sense from all angles. Gortat would give Portland a reasonable insurance policy in case Oden never becomes worthy of his No. 1 overall selection in 2007, and Roy would have the ball in his hands more -- which is something he can’t have when playing alongside Miller. Whether Roy’s knees will hold up under those demands is a valid question, but one Portland may very well need answered one way or another. 

UPDATE: According to one source, Roy’s contract is insured against injuries to either knee. There is an outside, secondary policy, the person with knowledge of the policy said, and it also covers one of his ankles. Another person familiar with the details pointed out there are restrictions tied to the length of disability and stipulations related to the timing of a particular injury. Either way, that’s an insurance policy the Blazers never want to have to dust off. Better to put the ball in their franchise player’s hands and see what happens. What have they got to lose? 

Nothing, which is the opposite of what we have in the rest of this week’s Post-Ups: 

* Executives working the phones during these early days of trade inquiry say the teams that appear most determined to make deals before the Feb. 24 deadline are Portland, Detroit, Minnesota, Memphis and Charlotte. But while execs have seen the usual volume of calls, the urgency to clear cap space and/or dump salary isn’t nearly as high as it was last summer. Leading up to the 2010 deadline, multiple teams were hellbent on clearing cap space for a robust free-agent class. Not only will this summer’s free-agent class pale in comparison, teams also are unsure of how and when free agency will take shape due to labor uncertainty. 

* Amid commissioner David Stern’s latest CBA rhetoric, sources say there won’t be any bargaining meetings the rest of the year due to scheduling conflicts and the holidays. As of now, the goal is to gather key participants for a smaller negotiating session in January leading up to an all-important full bargaining session during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles. Union officials will be most disturbed by Stern’s assertion during a trip to Memphis this week that the NBA needs to transition to a hard salary cap in order to restore competitive balance. The players view this as a smokescreen, believing that the league wants a hard cap simply as a mechanism to reduce salaries. Meanwhile, Stern dismissed aspects of the NBPA’s proposal that were geared toward improving competitive balance, saying those changes actually would cost owners more money than the current system. So that’s where we are: nowhere. 

* One aspect of the players’ proposal, complete details of which were reported for the first time last week, has gone largely overlooked. The NBPA proposed a broad outline for redistributing draft picks as a way to respond to the owners’ desire to enhance competitive balance. The precise method would be subject to negotiation, but the union envisioned taking draft picks away from the top-tier teams and giving extra picks to the bottom feeders. For example, the top three or top five teams in the draft order would see their first-round picks go to the bottom three or five. So using last year’s lottery order and redistributing the top five teams’ picks, the Wizards would’ve selected first and 26, the Sixers second and 27th, the Nets third and 28th, etc. Not a bad idea, although I wonder if some of those teams would simply be inclined to sell the second of their first-round picks. Either way, it would give struggling teams more assets in their quest to return to playoff contention. 

* As the Nuggets continue to weigh their options with Carmelo Anthony, rival GMs and high-profile agents are divided on whether Anthony would even be a good fit for the Knicks if New Jersey wasn’t able to get him to agree to an extension. There’s no doubting the star power Anthony would bring to New York. Would he make the Knicks better? Clearly, he’d give them the closing perimeter scorer they lack, and in that way he’d be a perfect complement to Amar’e Stoudemire. But would Anthony make the Knicks that much better than a defensive- and transition-oriented wing, such as Gerald Wallace or Andre Iguodala? “I don’t think the Knicks win any more or less games if it’s Gerald Wallace vs. Carmelo,” a rival GM said. “They’re already scoring 120 points a game. I think they have enough offense.” Others point out that Anthony is a low-efficiency shooter and a ball-stopper; coach Mike D’Antoni could live with the former but detests the latter. But my point is, if the ball stops with Anthony and its next stop is in the basket, so be it. In some ways, the inside-outside combination of Stoudemire and Anthony -- with a capable point guard, Raymond Felton, divvying up the shots -- would be more dangerous than LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. But here’s what the Melo-doesn’t-fit crowd will tell you, and I concede this point: The Knicks controlled the pace of Wednesday night’s game against Boston for 47-plus minutes. At the end, when they needed someone to stop Paul Pierce, they had nowhere to turn. Anthony is capable of playing better defense than he’s been asked to in Denver; he showed it in Beijing with Team USA. But it’s worth wondering if a player like Wallace or Iguodala would get you just as much scoring in transition and as the second option on Felton-Stoudemire pick-and-rolls and be capable of defending the other team’s closer on the last possession. Other than the fact that Donnie Walsh never panics, this line of thinking could have a lot to do with why he isn’t crushed by the Nets’ all-out pursuit of Melo. “The Knicks are in a pretty good position to sit back and see where the cap falls,” another executive said. “I don’t think Knicks will give up much to get [Anthony], and I don’t think they have much to give up to begin with.”
Posted on: November 17, 2010 1:14 pm
 

Post-Ups

Their three-game winning streak and 22-gun salute from the 3-point line against the Lakers notwithstanding, these are delicate times for the Phoenix Suns. So delicate, in fact, that a speculative riff on an NBA writer’s podcast last week sparked a flurry of trade rumors surrounding Steve Nash.

Such is life in the NBA blogosmear, but there’s an element of truth to the speculation. Watching Nash play without Amar’e Stoudemire, and Stoudemire without Nash, is a classic lesson in being careful what you wish for. The Suns, like many NBA teams, were hesitant to lavish five guaranteed years on Stoudemire given the uninsurable state of his knees. The Knicks, boxed out of the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sweepstakes, were in the rare position of being open to Stoudemire’s in-person overtures back in July. It was a match made in Desperadoville.

The Knicks were in Denver Tuesday night to face the Nuggets and the latest apple of their eyes, Carmelo Anthony. They arrived in a tailspin, having lost five in a row, and left with a 120-118 loss, a six-game losing streak, and much of the hopelessness inspired by Knicks teams of the past decade. No fewer than 15 power forwards playing at least 25 minutes per game are ahead of Stoudemire in efficiency rating, according to Hoopdata.com. Among them are Michael Beasley, Charlie Villanueva and Hakim Warrick – who replaced Stoudemire in Phoenix. You don’t need data to see that Stoudemire is struggling in his new home. Watching him search in vain for someone who knows how to run a pick-and-roll is evidence enough.

Despite Warrick’s statistical accomplishments, things aren’t much better for Nash and the Suns. Lost in the Suns’ unconscious shooting exploits in a 121-116 victory over the Lakers Sunday night was the ongoing horror show of watching Nash dribble around desperately in search of someone to set a capable screen and roll to the basket. Both Nash and Stoudemire have lost something irreplaceable in each other.

While the Knicks plan to do their due diligence and inquire as to Nash’s availability, the Suns haven’t gotten to the point of entertaining offers, according to an executive familiar with their strategy. Coach Alvin Gentry already has made it clear publicly that the Suns aren’t trading Nash, and the executive familiar with the team’s posture characterized the flurry of rumors as “random” and “not factual.” But in Phoenix, as with many revenue-challenged NBA cities, basketball sense doesn’t always align with financial reality.

Without Stoudemire – and assuming they can’t make 20-plus 3-pointers a night for the rest of the season – the Suns will be struggling to get a whiff of the eighth seed come April. They’re the worst rebounding team in the league in terms of defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding differential, and the loss of center Robin Lopez to a sprained knee certainly won’t help.

“We’ve got to be a little bit more scrappy than we’ve been in the past,” said Jared Dudley, a key member of the superior bench that made the Suns such a threat to the Lakers in the conference finals last spring.

But Suns owner Robert Sarver, whose non-basketball businesses in the banking and real estate sectors have been hammered by the recession, isn’t paying $63 million for a scrappy, barely .500 team. The Suns are comfortably below the $70.3 million luxury-tax threshold, so there’s no urgency there. However, Sarver has been one of the most vocal in a new wave of owners in the collective bargaining fight, and rival executives believe he’ll be on a rampage at the trade deadline if the Suns are out of the playoff hunt. That’s an eventuality the Suns hope to prevent, and despite their current upswing, it will prove to be a difficult fight.

“Hopefully we can get a couple of wins in a row so we can get those rumors away,” Dudley said of the Nash speculation. “You don’t want your franchise player to go. He makes everybody better here and he’s the face of Phoenix. If you think the transition is big with Amar’e, I can only imagine. It would be a journey having [Nash] leave.”

Which brings us to the next step in our journey, to the rest of the Post-Ups:

• With Jermaine O’Neal out several weeks with a sore left knee, you and I both know what name comes to mind as a free-agent replacement: Rasheed Wallace. While ‘Sheed’s agent, Bill Strickland, wouldn’t completely rule it out, it doesn’t sound like Wallace is even contemplating the possibility of coming out of retirement – for the Celtics or anybody else. “I have not talked to Danny [Ainge, the Celtics’ president] or Rasheed about that, but I think Rasheed is through,” Strickland said. Wallace, 36, isn’t believed to be working out on the court in any capacity in the event a team might be interested in his services. And while it’s hard to imagine Wallace coming back with the NBA’s tech-happy mandate to the referees, it’s more of a physical issue. As far back as when Wallace was still with the Pistons, he was known to sometimes leave his shoes on between games in order to keep playing. If he’d removed them, his ankles would’ve swelled up so badly that he wouldn’t have been able to get them back on.

• Leave it to the Zen Master to decode the mystery of Utah’s amazing string of double-digit road comebacks last week. Lakers coach Phil Jackson pointed out that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is perhaps the only NBA coach who elects to have his team play offense in front of his bench in the second half. Most coaches prefer to have their team in front of them on defense down the stretch of road games. Lo and behold, the Jazz reeled off double-digit road comebacks against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte by pouring on the offense in the second half. Visiting coaches choose which basket to defend in which half. “You can generate a lot of points in front of your bench,” Jackson said. “Defensively, a lot of coaches like their team to be in front of the bench in the second half on the road, because you can call stuff and give eyes to the players with their back to the basket. They’re the only team in the NBA that does it the other way.”

Brandon Roy’s future with bone-on-bone in both knees bears watching, given that his game is based on getting to the basket and he’s only 26 – with a lot of mileage theoretically ahead of him. But Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and former consultant to the Philadelphia 76ers, said it depends on the extent of the damage and where it is. After his latest bout with knee swelling and pain last week, Roy learned that surgery was not an option because he has no meniscus left in either knee. DiNubile said Roy’s fate will be determined by whether he lacks cartilage, too. “It would be extremely unlikely at that age to have no meniscus and no cartilage,” DiNubile said. Whether the bone-on-bone condition is occurring in the actual knee joint (bad) or under the kneecap (still bad, but better) also is important. If the bone-on-bone situation is where the tibia meets the femur, “You’re kind of doomed,” DiNubile said. “That’s not compatible with up-and-down playing. If he were to have bone-on-bone in the main part of his knee, his career’s going to be limited one way or the other.” If the condition exists in the kneecap, DiNubile said athletes “can do surprisingly well.”

• As more than an innocent bystander in the Carmelo Anthony saga, Nuggets coach George Karl is more than doing his part by using his considerable powers of persuasion to try to keep Melo in Denver. But it’s impossible to evaluate Karl’s efforts on that front without noting his own pursuit of a contract extension. Two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that the Nuggets view Karl as part of their future, regardless of whether Anthony stays. Whether Karl wants to remain in Denver if he winds up with a rebuilding team post-Anthony – that’s another matter. But despite Karl’s disenchantment with the ouster of his friends Mark Warkentien and Tim Grgurich, the lines of communication between Karl, GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke, and team president Paul Andrews are very much open. And weighing on the matter more than Anthony’s future is Karl’s health. Karl, 59, has several more hurdles to clear in his heroic efforts to beat throat and neck cancer, and wants to be sure he remains cancer-free before asking the Nuggets to commit to him beyond this season. Everyone in the NBA, including the Denver front office, is rooting for him.

Tayshaun Prince’s repeated blowups, with coach John Kuester giving as good as he’s getting, aren’t expected to play a major role in the Pistons’ decision on whether to trade the swingman and his $11.1 million expiring contract. A person with knowledge of Prince’s thinking told CBSSports.com that his frustration isn’t fully directed at Kuester; losing, after his time as a member of the formerly contending Pistons, is a bigger issue. But the biggest issue in the decision on whether to move him is the impending ownership change in Detroit. Trading an expiring deal, by definition, involves taking on future money – which is difficult, at best, to do when a new owner is entering the picture.

Kevin Love’s 31-point, 31-rebound game – an incredible performance and the first of its kind since Moses Malone in 1982 – was a quiet victory for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. Rambis had been trying to prove a point to Love by limiting his minutes: If you don’t play both ends of the floor, you’re not going to play. Rambis’ message finally got through, and the result was an example of what Love is capable of when he puts his mind to it. But this isn’t the end of the dysfunction in Minnesota, by any stretch. Just because Love performed in an historic way doesn’t mean he’s buying Rambis’ message long-term. And a person familiar with the Wolves’ locker room dynamics isn’t convinced it’s smooth sailing from here. “The team is a disaster,” the person said. Depending on who you ask, the issue is either lack of communication from Rambis, or an unwillingness to listen on the part of Love and others who are disenchanted with minutes. It’s going to take more time to sort it all out.
Posted on: November 3, 2010 4:31 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2010 6:41 pm
 

Garnett denies calling Villanueva cancer patient

Kevin Garnett on Wednesday denied calling Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva "a cancer patient" in a trash-talking rant during the teams' game the night before.

“I am aware there was a major miscommunication regarding something I said on the court last night," Garnett said in a statement from his representatives released by the Celtics. "My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact, ‘You are cancerous to your team and our league.’ I would never be insensitive to the brave struggle that cancer patients endure. I have lost loved ones to this deadly disease and have a family member currently undergoing treatment. I would never say anything that distasteful. The game of life is far bigger than the game of basketball.”

After the Celtics beat the Pistons 109-86 Tuesday night, dropping Detroit to 0-4 and sending the team into turmoil, Villanueva wrote on his Twitter account that Garnett had called him a "cancer patient" during a trash-talking rant. Villanueva has no body hair due to a rare autoimmune disorder known as alopecea areata.

"KG talks alot of crap, he's prob never been in a fight, I would love to get in a ring with him, I will expose him," Charlie V tweeted. "KG called me a cancer patient, I'm pissed because, u know how many people died from cancer, and he's tossing it like it's a joke. I wouldn't even trip about that, but a cancer patient, I know way 2 many people who passed away from it, and I have a special place 4 those."

Moments after Garnett's statement was released Wednesday, Villanueva wrote on Twitter, "
New day, moving forward, Pistons lets get a win tonight." But before the Pistons played the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday night, Villanueva was asked about Garnett's denial.

"I know exactly what I heard," Villanueva said, according to the Detroit Free-Press .

Posted on: October 28, 2010 3:44 pm
 

No extension for Green, Stuckey; Horford in talks

Jeff Green and Rodney Stuckey, two members of the 2007 draft class seeking contract extensions by Monday’s deadline, will not be receiving them, people familiar with the circumstances told CBSSports.com.

Thunder GM Sam Presti, who earlier Thursday told the Oklahoman that a deal would not be reached with Green, told CBSSports.com that he had good dialogue with agent David Falk and seriously explored the matter.

“We will have to revisit the discussions in the future,” Presti said.

As a result, Green will become a restricted free agent after the season, as will Stuckey, who also will not be reaching a deal with the Pistons, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com. Among other factors, Stuckey’s situation is complicated by an ownership change in Detroit, sources said.

To date, only Kevin Durant and Joakim Noah among high-profile members of that draft class have received extensions from their teams. Agreements for Houston’s Aaron Brooks, Portland’s Greg Oden and Atlanta’s Al Horford also are long shots at best – although a person familiar with the discussions told CBSSports.com that talks are scheduled this week between Hawks management and Horford’s agent, Arn Tellem.

The reason for the extension drought is simple: With a new collective bargaining agreement coming after the season, and a new pay structure and possibly altered contract lengths and guarantees along with it, it is difficult for teams to commit to new deals that in past years were foregone conclusions for players of this caliber. Even restricted free agency, which could change under the new agreement, is an unknown because executives and agents don’t know how it will change under the new agreement.

“People want more certainty and want to understand the rules,” a person involved in contract negotiation said. “Are contracts going to be 75 percent guaranteed? Fifty percent guaranteed? What are the rules?”
Posted on: November 7, 2009 9:37 pm
 

A.I. in Memphis was never going to end well

Allen Iverson has left the Memphis Grizzlies amid conflicting reports about whether it is for personal reasons or unhappiness with his role.

The accelerated news cycle demands immediate reaction, opinion, and conclusions. Sometimes these conclusions are drawn when athletes' personal lives are involved. Sometimes, those conclusions are dead wrong.

We don't know if anything serious is wrong in Iverson's life, other than the fact that he's not starting for the Grizzlies and has made his opinion about that abundantly clear. (Hint: He feels the same way about coming off the bench in Memphis as he did in Detroit.) We do know that, given Iverson's history, his incessant griping about coming off the bench, and his vow last season that he'd retire before doing that again, there's ample evidence for you to assume the worst.

Either way, Iverson flew to his home in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon, hours before the Grizzlies were scheduled to play the Clippers in Los Angeles. This came after meeting with team owner Michael Heisley on Friday night and again Saturday morning, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported. The team described his return as "undetermined." That's an ominous word, but this has been an ominous and awkward union from the beginning.

It was never a good idea for the Grizzlies, who are 1-5 to no one's surprise and going nowhere, to hook up with Iverson at this point in his career. The warning signs were there in Detroit last season, even though Iverson was by no means the only one in the wrong there. I still believe Iverson could've helped a serious title contender if he was able to swallow his pride and accept a sixth-man role. He does not want to accept such a role, even if it meant getting the championship that has eluded him during an otherwise brilliant career. Why would anyone think he'd accept that role in Memphis, where the Grizzlies aren't even the best basketball team in their own city?

The point is, even if Iverson's excused absence from the Grizzlies is for a legitimate reason, how is anything going to change when he returns? It's not. You knew this wasn't going to end well, and now it appears to have careened into a ditch only six games into the season. Hate to say it, but both sides should've seen it coming.



 


Category: NBA
 
 
 
 
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