Tag:Dwyane Wade
Posted on: September 15, 2010 8:26 pm

Nets, Sixers add intrigue to Melo saga

One month after Carmelo Anthony’s high-powered team of advisers first began pressuring the Denver Nuggets to trade him, the superstar scorer has not wavered in his desire to be dealt, multiple sources told CBSSports.com.

“There’s no sign of reconsideration on Carmelo’s part, despite what [Denver] has publicly said,” said one of the people involved in the process.

The two sides remain locked in a stalemate over Anthony’s future while a three-year, $65 million extension offer sits untouched in front of him. While Nuggets officials – including influential adviser Bret Bearup and executive Josh Kroenke – continue to rebuff trade inquiries while hoping to repair the franchise’s relationship with Anthony, privately the team is beginning to examine which teams would have the most attractive combination of young players, draft picks and expiring contracts to complete a deal. And the team currently viewed by people close to the situation as having the most realistic chance of putting together a blockbuster, perhaps multi-team deal for Anthony is the New Jersey Nets.

“They’re working the hardest to get a deal done,” one of the sources said.

With No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors, multiple extra draft picks, and Devin Harris, whose $8.98 million contract could be parlayed into a serviceable replacement for Anthony in a three-team trade, New Jersey has the makings of a package that would appeal to Nuggets officials, one of the people with knowledge of Denver’s strategy said. The key, according to the person, would be involving a third team to convert Harris into something the Nuggets would view as “decent replacement value” for Anthony.

That is where another team equipped with attractive assets could enter the picture, multiple sources said: the Philadelphia 76ers. New team president Rod Thorn and GM Ed Stefanski – who formerly worked together in New Jersey – could be central to constructing a deal that would compel the Nuggets to move Anthony rather than endure a season-long distraction that ends with Anthony leaving as a free agent after the season. The key pieces of the Philadelphia equation would be the expiring contracts of Jason Kapono ($6.64 million) and Willie Green ($3.98 million), a young talent such as Thaddeus Young, and Andre Iguodala, who is coming off a solid contribution to Team USA’s gold-medal performance at the FIBA World Championships. Some executives believe the Sixers would at least discuss including No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner if it meant getting Anthony, but that would defeat the purpose of going over the luxury tax to get Anthony in the first place.

Thorn drafted Favors, so that is one piece that is expected to be integral to the discussion once the Nuggets officially begin seeking trade packages for Anthony. The dropoff in talent from Anthony to Iguodala is considerable, but so is the savings; Iguodala is due $44 million over the next three seasons, compared to the $65 million Anthony would command. Two people familiar with Denver’s strategy confirmed the Nuggets would be intrigued by a deal centered around Iguodala. The Nets could sweeten any such offer with Golden State’s 2012 first-round pick and two extra second-round picks they own in the same draft.

A package sending Anthony to the Nets, Favors to Philadelphia and Iguodala to Denver is one way all of these moving parts could come together. But Thorn is said to have reservations about such a deal, which has yet to rise to the level of discussion among the teams.

The situation is complicated by the difficulty in putting enough assets in the deal to satisfy the Nuggets, who don’t want the first move of GM Masai Ujiri’s regime to be trading the team’s cornerstone. Even more crucial is the need for Anthony to indicate he’d be willing to sign an extension with the team that acquires him. It is believed that Anthony, a Brooklyn native whose wife, LaLa Vasquez, also is from there, would sign off on a deal to the Nets, who move to the New York City borough in two years. It is not clear how Anthony would feel about signing an extension with Philadelphia, a city that is halfway between his New York birthplace and the Washington, D.C., area where he grew up. The Sixers were not on Anthony’s initial list of preferred destinations, which included the Knicks, Magic, Bulls and Nets. Anthony, who is good friends with former Sixers star Allen Iverson, also is aware of how harshly Philadelphia treats its sports stars, a person with knowledge of his thinking said.

The Bulls are viewed by one source as “not a realistic candidate” due to the team’s unwillingness at this point to include Joakim Noah in the deal. The Bulls and Noah are currently negotiating an extension. The Knicks, Anthony’s first choice, are viewed by rival executives as not having enough assets to entice the Nuggets. New York has Eddy Curry’s $11.3 million expiring contract, promising big man Anthony Randolph, and swingman Wilson Chandler, but the team’s draft-pick cupboard is bare. Adding to the frustration among Nuggets officials, sources say, is that Anthony’s team has been slow to offer a comprehensive list of trade possibilities.

As the Nuggets walk the tightrope between getting value for Anthony and trying to compel him to reconsider and sign the extension, other factors are in play. Ujiri, a former Nuggets scout who was with the organization when Anthony was drafted, just lived through the nightmare of losing star Chris Bosh in Toronto. Ujiri was part of the management team that decided not to trade Bosh at the February 2010 trade deadline, and Bosh bolted to join Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in Miami. The Raptors got a trade exception and two first-round picks – small consolation for the loss of the team’s franchise player.

Which is exactly what the Nuggets are trying to avoid, one way or another.
Posted on: September 15, 2010 8:06 pm

Heat (who else?) front-runners for Dampier

The Miami Heat emerged Wednesday as the front-runner to land free-agent center Erick Dampier, who was released a day earlier by Charlotte in a luxury-tax move, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.

Dampier can't officially arrange a visit with the Heat until he clears waivers, but it is believed that Heat president Pat Riley views Dampier as a key supporting piece to add to his new Big Three of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Dampier, 35, would be an upgrade over Joel Anthony and Jamaal Magloire and would fill the final missing role for Miami's championship run.

Miami can only offer Dampier the veteran's minimum of about $1.4 million, but it is believed that Dampier is open to accepting less money for the chance to compete for a championship. Among the handful of teams with the full mid-level exception of $5.8 million available, the only potential championship contender is Dallas -- and a reunion with the Mavericks is difficult to fathom. Other teams that have expressed interest are Houston, Toronto and New Jersey, with the Rockets apparently hottest in their pursuit.

The Bobcats released Dampier Wednesday to get out from under his non-guaranteed $13 million salary. Part of the concern, according to a source, was being on the hook for Dampier's salary if he got injured.
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 9:00 pm

What new ground was broken in CBA talks?

NEW YORK -- With star-studded attendance and a conciliatory tone, collective bargaining talks Thursday between the NBA's owners and players changed the attitude, if not the substance, of the debate. Even with union vice president Mo Evans calling the players "partners" with the owners -- what's next, LeBron James and Dan Gilbert double-dating? -- the two sides are still far from a deal to avoid a lockout after the 2010-11 season.

But quietly, modest breakthroughs were made Thursday on several big-picture points relevant to the new financial structure owners and players are trying to create. According to sources with knowledge of the negotiations, here are the key points that owners and players actually agreed on -- or at least, agreed to disagree:

* First, there seems to be agreement on both sides that something needs to be done to improve the competitive balance of the league. How to do it, however, remains hotly contested. The players believe many of the owners’ woes can be solved through broader revenue sharing, for which they included a plan in their proposal. The owners continue to believe that how the owners divvy up hundreds of millions in annual losses doesn’t solve the problem that expenses are too high. According to sources, the owners seem to be hunkered down in their pursuit of shorter contracts with less guaranteed money – and they appear to be focusing on those issues even more than reducing the 57 percent share of basketball-related income (BRI) that the players receive. In the owners’ view, shorter contracts and the ability to restructure them midway through – a provision that exists in the NFL’s CBA – would help teams become more competitive faster. The players acknowledge the problem with the current system when teams burdened with bad contracts get “stuck in the mud,” according to a source, and need 3-4 years to clean up the mess. But the players disagree with the owners’ desire to shorten contracts and limit guarantees, even with the long history under the current CBA of players with declining ability becoming contractual albatrosses for their teams. Tracy McGrady and his $24 million salary getting dumped on the Knicks as an expiring asset last season is an extreme, but not rare example.

* With top players such as Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Richard Jefferson taking significant pay cuts on new deals this summer, there also seems to be common belief that payrolls will decline during the 2010-11 season for the second consecutive year – even after the biggest free-agent spectacle in league history. Since some rosters aren’t complete and the NBA’s fiscal year hasn’t closed yet, the amount of the decrease isn’t known, and the two sides differ on what the amount will be. The owners seem ready to acknowledge a 1 or 2 percent decline, while the players believe 5 percent is more realistic.

* Regardless of the amount of the payroll decline, one team executive said owners were rattled by the bold free-agent coup pulled off by star players this summer – with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teaming up in Miami – and have become focused on limiting player movement as a result. Any efforts to curb players’ free-agent rights would be staunchly opposed by the union. But there is a real sense from the owners, according to this executive, that they’re determined to write provisions into the new CBA that would provide stronger disincentives for free agents to leave their teams.

“If there’s anything I’d love to see happen in collective bargaining, it’s for the term ‘free agent’ to go away and I’d love to see the term ‘mid-level’ go away,” the executive said. “There’s nothing free about it, when you’re making the mid-level, you’re making more than two-thirds of the league. Mid-level sounds like mid-major, Holiday Inn, Applebee’s. It’s inappropriately termed.”

* Sources also revealed new details of the players’ proposal, which National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has declined to specifically discuss publicly. In perhaps the first concession of the year-long negotiations, sources say the players have proposed issuing owners a credit on their books for capital improvements to their arenas. The Knicks, who are investing as much as $850 million to renovate Madison Square Garden, would benefit handsomely from such a provision. The players presented this as a way to encourage owners to modernize old arenas and thus create additional revenue streams.

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.”

Posted on: August 11, 2010 6:24 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2010 7:48 pm

Isiah not taking Knicks job (UPDATE)

NEW YORK -- Not surprisingly, Isiah Thomas and the Knicks aren't reuniting after all. The deposed team president will not take a consulting job with the Knicks, citing the NBA rules that forbid the arrangement.

After nearly three days of reviewing league policies that apply to the consulting arrangement Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan tried to arrange with Thomas, the Knicks and NBA officials reached the only conclusion possible: Thomas' job as basketball coach at Florida International clearly disqualifies him from working in any capacity for an NBA team. League rules strictly prohibit any coach, scout, executive, consultant or anyone else remotely employed in basketball operations with an NBA team from having any contact with draft-ineligible players. Such contact, obviously, is a key part of a college basketball coach's job.

"After speaking with Commissioner Stern and Knicks executives, it has become apparent that my new agreement violates certain NBA by-laws," Thomas said in a statement. "Because of this, I have decided to rescind my contract with the team.

"I have nothing but the utmost respect for Jim Dolan, Donnie Walsh, Mike D'Antoni and the entire Knicks organization, and I want to thank them for affording me this opportunity. One of the biggest regrets of my life is that the Knicks didn't perform up to the standards the fans had every right to expect while I was in charge. I take full responsibility for that. I was very much looking forward to this unique opportunity to help the organization do what I do best: find basketball talent. I wish the team nothing but success in the future."

The Knicks announced Friday that they were hiring Thomas -- whose scorched-Earth tenure as Knicks president and coach ended with the hiring of Walsh as team president in April 2008 -- as a consultant to advise the organization in a variety of ways. Among Thomas'
duties was to "provide valuable insight and analysis of young prospects from around the world."

As CBSSports.com reported Monday , such an arrangement was a clear violation of the NBA Constitution and By-Laws, which do not even allow basketball operations employees with NBA teams to publicly speak about high school, college or international players not yet eligible for the NBA draft -- much less have direct contact with them.

In announcing that Thomas was voiding his contract, officials with the NBA and the Knicks made efforts to minimize the public-relations embarrassment the team would endure as a result. This was obvious in the timing of the public announcements on the Thomas fiasco Tuesday: First, Isiah's statement. Then, a thumb-in-the-eye to Knicks fans from Dolan, who praised Walsh and D'Antoni in a release issued by the team but said he was "disappointed" he couldn't hire Thomas and that he will "continue to solicit his views."

"I continue to believe in his basketball knowledge, including his ability to judge talent," Dolan said of Isiah in a rare public pronouncement. "He's a good friend of mine and of the organization and I will continue to solicit his views. He will always have strong ties to me and the team. We wish him continued success at FIU. I also believe Donnie Walsh has done a terrific job since joining the Knicks and my tremendous respect for him has only grown since he's joined the organization. I'm confident that the work that Donnie, Coach Mike D'Antoni and their staffs have done this summer has the team poised for long-term success."

Finally, a classically subdued missive from Stern, who said in a statement from the league office that there was no need for him to take action since Thomas' contract had been voided. (Gee, I wonder why?)

"However, we have reminded the Knicks of NBA rules that prohibit team personnel, including consultants, from having contact with players not eligible for the draft," Stern said.

Anyway, the fallout from attempting to circumvent NBA rules -- or simply being unaware of them -- will be nothing compared to the public scorn heaped on the Knicks for even contemplating a reunion with Thomas in the first place. His tenure as team president and then coach featured ill-conceived trades (Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry), a sexual harassment lawsuit that cost Madison Square Garden and Dolan $11.5 million, and a salary-cap mess that took Walsh more than two years to clean up.

The announcement of Thomas' ill-fated reunion with the team also overshadowed a rare run of positive developments for the Knicks, who made credible pitches to sign free agents LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, landed power forward Amar'e Stoudemire instead, and have the flexibility to add a second max player through trades or as a free agent next summer. The biggest damage may have been inflicted on Walsh and D'Antoni, whose reputations were cast in a poor light by Dolan's belief that the team couldn't attract future free agents without Thomas' credibility as a Hall of Fame former player.

Sources say some elements of the Knicks' power structure -- i.e. Dolan -- believed after the failed bid for James and Wade that Thomas and his credibility with star players was needed to close the deal on future signings. Thomas, in fact, played un undefined role in the team's recruitment of Stoudemire, and also landed a meeting with James' associates during a failed 11th-hour bid to persuade the former Cav to join the Knicks. Walsh went out of his way to thank Thomas for his help in landing Stoudemire, a move that was met with head-scratching gazes in the media audience during Stoudemire's introductory news conference last month.

What has to scare Knicks fans even more than Dolan's continued belief in Thomas is the fact that Thomas could regain eligibility to work for the Knicks simply by quitting his job as Florida International coach. So it is possible that Knicks fans haven't heard the last from Isiah.

But then, who ever does?

Posted on: August 10, 2010 7:02 pm

Candidates selling Melo in pursuit of Knicks job

NEW YORK -- We're barely a month removed from the biggest free-agent feeding frenzy in NBA history, and already the next wave has begun.

The Knicks' controversial attempt to hire Isiah Thomas as a consultant hasn't dissuaded candidates from pitching themselves as the right man for a job that team president Donnie Walsh has left vacant since he was hired two years ago -- a day-to-day GM who eventually would succeed him. The latest twist, according to sources familiar with the situation, has potential candidates angling to present themselves to Walsh and Garden chairman James Dolan as the man who is capable of delivering Carmelo Anthony as a free agent next summer.

The overtures have fallen on deaf ears with Walsh for two reasons, sources say: 1) Walsh has yet to receive clearance to hire a general manager to handle the day-to-day basketball operations, and 2) The respected, 69-year-old executive has grown tired of the free-agent recruitment game and the dishonest pitches that invariably come with it.

Walsh's desire to decompress from the untoward free-agent hysteria, however, didn't stop Dolan from hiring Thomas -- who was ousted and replaced by Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni in 2008 -- as a consultant whose primary duty will be to recruit free agents. Sources say the hiring may very well be struck down by the NBA, which has strict rules against team employees having contact with high school, college and international players not yet eligible for the NBA draft.

Thomas positioned himself to return to the Knicks by convincing Dolan that he played an important role in the team landing free-agent power forward Amar'e Stoudemire this summer. The Knicks struck out on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and decided they needed someone with Thomas' clout to ensure it wouldn't happen again.

But Thomas isn't the only current or former NBA executive trying to tout himself as the man who can persuade Anthony, a free agent next summer, to join Stoudemire with the Knicks. Part of that strategy, sources say, includes efforts on the part of at least one candidate to pitch himself to Creative Artists Agency -- the firm that represents Anthony -- as an addition to the Knicks' front office who could bring Anthony with him.

Walsh has had it on the back burner for some time to hire a lead assistant with a big enough profile -- and substantial enough resume -- to replace him when he retires. Such a move would create a rare spasm of continuity for an organization that had known nothing but change and turmoil prior to Walsh's hiring two years ago. Strong indications within the organization this summer have pointed to former player Allan Houston being groomed as Walsh's successor. Houston impressed Dolan and other team officials with his performance in an expanded role during the free-agency period this summer.

Walsh is two years into a four-year contract, and the Knicks must decide by March 31, 2011 whether to guarantee the final year of the deal.

Anthony, an ideal fit for the Knicks, already has told confidants this summer that he's eager to explore playing in New York. His dilemma is whether to turn down a three-year, $65 million extension offer from the Nuggets with only 10 months left in the current collective bargaining agreement. The new deal is expected to be much less lucrative for players. Sources say owners who were rattled by this summer's free-agent frenzy -- orchestrated by CAA, which represented James, Wade and Chris Bosh -- are determined to clamp down not only on player salaries in the new agreement, but also player movement.

Anthony's desire to play in New York is so strong, sources say, that those close to the three-time All-Star have scoffed at the efforts of executives touting themselves as being able to deliver him.

"Carmelo already wants to play in New York," one person with knowledge of his plans told CBSSports.com. "He doesn't need anybody to bring him there. He's a gunslinger. That situation is perfect for him."

Anthony's teammate, Chauncey Billups, said after Team USA practice Tuesday that he still doesn't know whether Anthony will sign the extension or test the free-agent waters next summer.

"If I was a betting man? I don’t know," Billups said. "Of course, I'm biased because I'm playing on the team that he’s playing on. But I'm optimistic that he’s going to come back and play for the Nuggets. I know he loves the city. Shoot, he’s been there since he was 20 years old. So I'm optimistic, but I don’t know. I wish I did, but I don’t."

Posted on: August 3, 2010 4:58 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2010 10:46 am

The Big Shamrock (UPDATE)

Shaquille O'Neal is about to take his talents to South Bay -- Boston, that is. The 38-year-old, 15-time All-Star is close to agreeing to a deal with the Celtics, a person with knowledge of the agreement confirmed to CBSSports.com.

Shaq, soon to be known as the Big Shamrock -- or, fill in your favorite nickname -- is on the verge of accepting the veteran's minimum starting at about $1.4 million, the person with knowledge of the deal said. The number of years was still being worked out Tuesday, but Comcast SportsNet-New England -- which first reported the Shaq-to-Celtics news -- said O'Neal is seeking a two-year deal. In all likelihood, the second year would be a player's option.

As Royce Young pointed out , the fit is ideal for both O'Neal and the Celtics. Shaq, who struck out in his bid for a fifth championship last season with LeBron James in Cleveland, wants one more shot with a veteran-laden, contending team. The Celtics, who already have added another O'Neal (Jermaine) to bolster their frontcourt, needed another experienced big man to help them navigate the early part of the regular season while Kendrick Perkins recovers from a knee injury sustained in the Finals against the Lakers.

Shaq had significant talks with the Hawks about bolstering their young roster with his experience, but the Celtics are a better fit. The no-nonsense, winning culture that Doc Rivers has created will be the perfect environment for Shaq to thrive with whatever abilities he has left in the tank. Based on his increased production in the playoffs, it appeared to me that Shaq had more to offer last season than former Cavs coach Mike Brown was willing to give him a chance to provide. Rivers, however, will have to wrestle with the glaring deficiency in Shaq's game at this stage of his career -- the same issue that caused Brown to skimp on his minutes last season: Shaq's defensive abilities have declined far more than his offensive talents.

Rivers will have to figure out a way to incorporate Shaq into the Celtics' team defensive concepts, a task that won't be easy with the departure of associate head coach Tom Thibodeau, architect of Boston's defense during the Big Three era. But once Perkins is back, Shaq's presence will give Rivers more flexibility with his front line in the playoffs than he's had in recent years. When he needs a basket on the block, he can go to Shaq. When the situation calls for a defensive presence, he can go with Perkins.

When he needs a free throw from either one, forget it -- but hey, nobody has a perfect plan for next season other than the Miami Heat. At least Shaq didn't wind up there.

In all seriousness, O'Neal's presence in Boston could represent the Big Antidote to Miami's Big Three of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The only glaring weakness in the Heat's rotation is at the center position, so Shaq-to-Boston makes even more sense when you consider that. And we won't have long to wait to see it happen, with the Heat and Celtics reportedly opening the 2010-11 regular season on Oct. 26 in Boston.

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