Tag:Nets
Posted on: December 11, 2010 4:17 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2010 4:21 pm
 

Melo: 'I'll think about' signing Denver deal

NEW YORK – Carmelo Anthony tested his sore knee during practice Saturday on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and then gave Nuggets fans a tantalizing bit of information.

“My mind is not made up,” Anthony said after completing his first full-speed drills after missing two games leading up to Sunday’s noon ET tipoff against the Knicks, one of his suitors via a trade or free agency – whichever comes first. “My mind is just to focus on this game [Sunday]; that’s really all I’m focused on right now. My mind is not made up. Where that’s coming from, I don’t know. But my mind is not made up.”

Three times Anthony said it, perhaps to drive home the point that he hasn’t mentally checked out on Denver. Not yet, anyway. After the interview scrum at the Reebok Sports Club broke up, he told CBSSports.com that this was the precise message he delivered to Denver management about a week ago. With 2 1-2 months to go before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, Anthony said he told Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri and executive Josh Kroenke that he hasn’t ruled out signing a three-year, $65 million extension offer that has been on the table since the spring.

“I met with them last week and I told them I’d think about it,” Melo said. “Which is more than I’ve said. We’ll see. We’ve been having a lot of great conversations.”

Indecision and inertia have defined the Melo saga since his representatives at Creative Artists Agency informed Nuggets officials in September that he was seeking a trade or would strongly consider opting out of his $18.5 million contract for the 2011-12 season and become a free agent. The Nuggets, in front-office turmoil at the time, decided not to move forward with a four-team trade that would’ve sent Anthony to the Nets – who are moving to Anthony’s birthplace, Brooklyn, in a year-and-a-half.

Though Anthony has maintained frequent dialogue with Ujiri and Kroenke in the weeks and months since then, direct public comments from him on his intentions have been rare.

How this latest clue should be interpreted depends largely on the perspective or agendas of the teams and executives involved. By telling Ujiri and Kroenke that he’d “think about it,” was he trying to express a softening of his desire to orchestrate a trade to the Nets or Knicks, his two preferred destinations? Or is the fact that he's still thinking about staying in Denver for $65 million -- presumably far more than he'd get as a free agent under a new collective bargaining agreement -- only bolster the belief that he's as good as gone?

CBSSports.com reported Wednesday that Nuggets management has all but decided to trade Anthony for the best possible package of young assets if he does not signal his intentions to sign the extension before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Privately, Nuggets officials still hold out hope they can keep the three-time All-Star, and believe the team’s strong start and the way they’ve explained their plan to him represent a show of good faith on their part to move forward with him as the centerpiece of a contender.

But sources also told CBSSports.com in recent days that the Nuggets will not fall into the so-called Cleveland trap. The Cavs sacrificed plenty to surround LeBron James with players they believed could help him win a championship, only to watch James head to Miami as a free agent anyway. According to people familiar with his strategy, Ujiri is determined not to sacrifice the future by acquiring such players – aging, expensive pieces like Antawn Jamison, for example – in what might end up being a futile effort to keep Anthony.

At the same time, the Nuggets believe they need clarity from Anthony before the trade deadline so they know how and when to proceed with their plan. Anthony, however, told CBSSports.com Saturday that he doesn’t believe he needs to sign the extension before Feb. 24.

“I don’t think so,” he said.

One way or another, Anthony said Saturday he believes the situation will be resolved by Feb. 24, though he was cryptic in his explanation of how it will go down.

“I think it’ll be decided one way or the other,” Anthony said. “… We’ll have an agreement one way or another.”

The basketball eyes of New York are on the Knicks, who have turned their season around with 11 wins in 12 games heading into Sunday’s matinee with Melo. Anthony, a native New Yorker, agreed that it’s good for the game when the Knicks are good and even took some credit for a pep talk he had with Amar’e Stoudemire when the Knicks – struggling badly at the time – played in Denver last month.

“Obviously what I said to him in Denver has really crept in on him, has really sunk in," Anthony said. "He’s doing everything I told him to do."

Which was?

“To get them boys on track, to do what he’s got to do,” Anthony said. “At that time, they had lost a lot of games in a row and were on a little losing streak. So I just told him to get everybody together and lead that team.”

The wild card in the equation is whether Anthony would agree to an extension with New Jersey as part of a trade to the Nets. Sources say the best trade proposal Denver has received remains the offer from New Jersey centered around No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors and two first-round picks. Anthony provided no clues on that front Saturday, and he counted himself among those who are curious as to whether the Nets can rise to prominence in the same city with the Knicks when they move to Brooklyn in time for the 2012-13 season.

“We shall see,” Anthony said. “Man, I think that’s what a lot of people are waiting for, for that team to move to Brooklyn and see how it’s going to turn out -- if it’s going to be a Lakers-Clippers type of situation or what. I think a lot of people are anticipating that move.”

And Anthony himself? What does he think?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m one of the guys that are waiting to see how that’s going to turn out.”

Spoken like a much-sought-after superstar who remains undecided on a lot of issues that will determine his future.

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: November 29, 2010 12:12 am
 

With Roy hurting, Blazers have decision to make

NEWARK, N.J. – The Trail Blazers had one of those players-only meetings Sunday night, which is what playoff teams do when they’ve lost three straight games, fallen to .500, and shown a startling in ability to close out games – at home and on the road.

The culprit? Lack of execution, according to coach Nate McMillan. Lack of rhythm, added Brandon Roy. Effort, said Wesley Matthews. All good answers. But not the answer – not the problem that looks like it’s going to haunt the Blazers for months, if not longer.

It was the lowest point of the season, everyone in the visiting locker room agreed after Portland turned in another lackluster fourth quarter and lost to the Nets 98-96. What’s scary about the Blazers, the team with by far the worst injury luck in the NBA, is that calling it the lowest point was optimistic. It may very well not be.

When it rains on the Trail Blazers, it pours with a ferocity rarely seen. Greg Oden is recovering from his second microfracture surgery. Joel Przybilla was supposed to play his first game in almost a year Friday night against New Orleans and got sick. Sean Marks, signed as a stopgap to play 8-10 minutes again under the basket, is shelved with an ankle injury. And yet somehow, those aren’t the biggest concerns for a team whose future was once so bright. Roy, Portland’s superstar and closer, clearly isn’t physically able to perform either of those roles – and it’s not even December yet. His left knee is something all the players-only meetings in the world won’t fix.

“I’m fine,” Roy said “I’m playing. I don’t have any excuses.”

Nor would you expect any from a guy who came back about a week after arthroscopic knee surgery and played – or tried to – in a playoff series against Phoenix last spring. Now Roy has played two games since sitting out three when his left knee started barking at him again. The numbers say he’s thriving – 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field against the Nets after scoring 27 points on 10-for-20 shooting in a 97-78 home loss to the Hornets Friday night. The visual evidence says otherwise.

A little less wincing and limping was evident after both were on hideous display in the New Orleans game, but the fact remains that Roy is 26 years old and has no meniscus in either knee. And it shows. Instead of closing out a winnable game, Roy settled into the role of decoy. As a result, the Blazers’ offense stagnated in the fourth quarter again. After producing only 13 points in the fourth against New Orleans, the Blazers went into the fourth with a five-point lead over the Nets and got outscored 25-18.

Their poor excuse for execution, though, is the least of their problems. Roy, a player built to attack off the dribble and get to the rim, has been mostly relegated to the role of innocuous spot-up shooter. The explosiveness isn’t there, and neither is the confidence to finish at the basket. And so the Blazers head to Philadelphia for the first set of back-to-back games since Roy returned not knowing if he’ll be able to play the back end in Boston Wednesday night.

“We’ll see how he goes against Philly,” McMillan said. “If he feels OK, he’ll play the back-to-back. And if not, then we’ll sit him.”

And that is where the Blazers are – a .500 team on a three-game losing streak with their star and closer working on a 30-35 minute limit and unsure when, or if his knee will be strong enough to play back-to-backs. It’s a game-to-game predicament for Roy and the Blazers, making it exceedingly difficult for them to form an identity down the stretch of games.

“For me, it’s frustrating,” said Roy, who had four points and two turnovers in the fourth quarter – dribbling the ball off his foot and falling awkwardly out of bounds while trying to drive on Travis Outlaw for one of the miscues. “I’ve always been pretty good late in games. Right now, I’m trying to get my rhythm back, my timing back late in the game.”

The Blazers are a team without rhythm or timing, and the prospects look grim for them to be a team with a healthy Roy for the long haul. It’s a young season, they kept saying. But it gets older by the day as Roy’s struggles become more difficult to watch.

With free-agent shooting guard Wesley Matthews eager for a bigger role and capable of justifying his five-year, $32 million contract, it makes you wonder if it might be best for everyone involved to shut Roy down indefinitely so he has a chance to be a factor come playoff time. McMillan sent Matthews out with the starters at the beginning of the third quarter, in place of Nicolas Batum, and the reasons he gave were eye-opening. Accurate, but eye-opening.

McMillan said he was looking for some “scrappiness” and “fire,” and turned to Matthews to supply it. These are things that Roy brings on a nightly basis, except now, when he can’t.

The only problem with my solution is that there’s a good chance it might not help. Privately, Blazers officials are optimistic that the training staff, Roy and McMillan will be able to find a way to manage his injury and keep him effective enough – often enough – to carry them where they need to go. But that isn’t working so far, and it’s worth wondering if the alternative would work better. Let your superstar get better – or at least try – and figure out how to close games with Matthews doing what Roy used to do.

“We’re at a tough point right now, but it’s a young season,” Roy said. “We’ve lost three games in a row and we’re .500, so yeah, it’s a difficult time. We’ve got to stick together and find out what we’re made of.”
Posted on: November 1, 2010 8:54 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 12:45 am
 

Post-Ups (UPDATE)

By not completing a trade for Carmelo Anthony before the start of the season, the Nets knew they were faced with a calculated risk. What could’ve been a coup for them – the Nuggets being awful out of the gate and Anthony making the situation untenable for coach George Karl – hasn’t happened. But something else has gone the Nets’ way as they’ve continued to keep the trade talks alive.

Derrick Favors, the centerpiece of a four-team deal sending Melo to New Jersey that fell apart last month, has shaken off a poor preseason and made important strides toward proving that he’s worthy of inclusion in a franchise-shaping transaction like the one Denver is considering. It’s only three games, but the No. 4 overall pick is shooting 58 percent from the field while averaging 10.3 points, 10 rebounds and only one turnover per game. His talent is raw, and his defensive instincts are nonexistent. But at the very least, Favors hasn’t done anything in this ridiculously small sample size to infect the Denver front office with any serious doubts.

One executive who has watched Favors went so far as to say, “His stock as skyrocketed,” which is true any way you look at it. (After the up-and-down preseason Favors had, one way to look at it is this: There was nowhere to go but up.) The Nuggets, according to sources, are still in wait-and-see mode. And they’ll be seeing plenty before the key date in this saga, Dec. 15, when summer free agents become trade-eligible.

One of the aspects of this decision that GM Masai Ujiri is evaluating is how competitive his team will be with Melo on board. The next two weeks will be telling, with five games against teams that made the playoffs in the West last season – Dallas (twice), the Lakers, Suns and Trail Blazers. Rival executives have speculated that in some ways, Ujiri’s job becomes more difficult if the Nuggets get off to a strong start. If that happens, it will be exponentially more difficult to sell an Anthony trade to the paying customers. Given that Anthony left no doubt that he’s leaving Denver one way or another when he told Yahoo! Sports last week, “It’s time for a change,” a catastrophic start to the season would’ve been a far easier environment in which to justify trading him.

Until then, the Nuggets, Nets and Knicks – Anthony’s preferred destination – are in limbo until more tradable assets flood the market in six weeks. Which gives us a chance to flood the market with the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:

• As interesting as it will be to watch the first head-to-head matchup between John Wall and Evan Turner, the top two picks in the 2010 draft, the more intriguing figure in the Wizards’ backcourt hasn’t played a minute yet this season: Gilbert Arenas. The artist formerly known as Agent Zero is likely a no-go against the Sixers Tuesday night as he prepares to undergo further tests on his injured right ankle. He’s already seen foot-and-ankle specialist Mark Myerson in Baltimore. While the Wizards hold out hope of making a Wall-Arenas backcourt work, the scant hope that Arenas and the $80 million he’s owed can be moved before the trade deadline requires Arenas to return to the court, be productive, show signs that his All-Star talent remains intact, and prove that he’s no longer a locker-room risk. None of that can happen until teams see a significant sample size of Arenas on the court.

• A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Denver’s interest in Portland swingman Nicolas Batum in a potential Anthony trade, but those overtures have fallen on deaf ears among the Trail Blazers’ brass. Portland isn’t about to include the talented, versatile Batum in a deal unless they’re getting Melo, which isn’t happening. Having said that, the Blazers have a tremendous asset in Batum if and when they get involved in any trade discussions as the deadline nears. Batum is not only affordable – he’s still on his rookie contract – but his value is much greater to faster-paced teams. With their grind-it-out style, the Blazers understand that they don’t take full advantage of Batum’s open-court abilities.

• Commissioner David Stern went easy on the Knicks over the Isiah Thomas fiasco, allowing Thomas and then the Knicks to announce the death of their failed attempt at a reunion via a blatantly illegal consulting arrangement. Stern could’ve really embarrassed Garden chairman James Dolan on that one, but elected to allow the Knicks and Thomas to clean up the mess themselves and then say there was no need for the league office to take action. Pending the outcome of a league investigation of alleged illegal workouts with draft prospects – some perpetrated under the Thomas regime as team president, according to Yahoo! Sports – the NBA office is not likely to be so kind this time around. While there is no precedent for forfeited draft picks for such violations, those alleged to have been committed by the Knicks in the Yahoo! report would be the most extensive and persistent on record. The league has hired outside counsel to investigate the allegations, and the Knicks plan to cooperate fully. All of this was simply another lesson that re-hiring Thomas in any capacity was a bad idea whether it was against NBA rules or not.

• I am justifiably puzzled by the Heat’s apparent pursuit of a point guard to get Miami’s offense running more smoothly until floor-spacer Mike Miller returns from injury. I could see the usefulness of a Derek Fisher-type in that role, but short of that, the Heat’s offense would run just fine with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James acting as interchangeable wings initiating the offense. Coach Erik Spoelstra could play that way now, if he wanted to, by benching Carlos Arroyo for James Jones – who would fill Miller’s role as the shooter until Miller returns. The problem with Jones is his lack of defense, but the rest of Miami’s defense is so smothering, I’m not sure Jones-for-Arroyo wouldn’t be worth examining. Something tells me the Heat will eventually realize that they don’t need a point guard, simply because they’ve already got two of them: Wade and LeBron. Besides, after signing the top three free agents on the market and turning the NBA upside-down this summer, it strikes me as gluttonous for the Heat to be out on the market pursuing more pieces. Dear Coach Riley: I think you’ve got enough.

UPDATED 12:45 a.m.

• Though most 2007 draft picks were not getting extensions by the midnight Tuesday ET deadline, the Suns agreed to a five-year, $22.5 million deal with Jared Dudley, said his agent, Mark Bartelstein. ESPN the Magazine reported that the Grizzlies signed Mike Conley to a five-year, $45 million deal. With hours to go before the deadline, only Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Dudley and Conley had received extensions amid uncertainty over a new collective bargaining agreement that makes it difficult to assess such players’ value.

• It cannot be overstated that the public truce between the Blazers and Rudy Fernandez is no indication that the Spanish star is happy spending this season – and next, now that his fourth-year option has been picked up – in Portland. While sources say Fernandez is resigned to the fact that he’s a Blazer for the foreseeable future, efforts by Fernandez and his agent, Andy Miller, to tone down the rhetoric will go a long way toward making the situation more fertile for a trade. If nothing else, the fact that Fernandez now has two years left on his contract makes him far less of a flight risk if he’s traded. The Blazers remain steadfastly opposed to giving Fernandez his wish and releasing him from his contract so he can return to Spain. So for now, Fernandez appears content to accept his minutes and role while allowing trade inquiries from other teams to progress naturally.

Posted on: September 28, 2010 4:22 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2010 11:24 pm
 

Four-way deal dead, but talks will continue

The Carmelo Anthony saga moved to the next phase Tuesday, with the Nets trying to provide more cap relief to the Nuggets by finding a new home for Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, CBSSports.com has learned.

It was a futile effort to revive this excruciatingly slow-moving blockbuster, which died Tuesday in its current form involving the Bobcats and Jazz. Sources say discussions will continue, however, on other fronts amid mixed priorities within the Denver front office and some lingering doubts about whether Melo will ultimately give his thumbs-up on a trade to New Jersey.

“I think he’s thumbs-sideways on it,” said one source familiar with Anthony’s stance. “He’s not 100 percent sold on it.”

Martin, whose $16.5 million expiring contract would be a valuable asset at the trade deadline, and Smith, who has a $6.8 million expiring deal and controversy wherever he goes, could be the final pieces that eventually compel the Nuggets to sign off on a divorce with Anthony. But that divorce isn't happening with the structure of the exhaustively reported four-way deal involving Utah and Charlotte. That framework, a person involved in the discussions said, is "dead." The Melo talks as a whole, however, will trudge forward.

If more cap savings is what the Nuggets want, they'd only have to take back $17.5 million under NBA trade rules for Martin and Smith, a savings of $5.8 million – twice that when you factor in luxury tax. Numerous scenarios have been explored to allow the Nuggets to send out both Martin and Smith, sources say. But despite a growing belief that the Nuggets finally are ready to acknowledge that a truce with Anthony is unattainable, conflicting priorities among Denver decision-makers have put a chill in the discussions for now.

“Denver keeps moving the goal posts,” said one person connected to the talks. “They say, ‘We want this,’ and New Jersey says, ‘We got it.’ And then Denver says, ‘Wait a minute, we want this and this.’”

Around and around they went, several weeks after the basic framework of the deal was hatched by old friends Kevin O’Connor, Larry Brown and Billy King. Sources say those three did the legwork on the four-team possibility involving New Jersey, Denver, Charlotte and Utah and brought it to the Nuggets as a potentially attractive way for them to part ways with their disgruntled superstar. O’Connor, the Jazz GM, is a former assistant coach under Brown at UCLA. Brown, the Bobcats’ coach, has known King, the Nets’ news president, since his college days at Duke – and the two worked together in Philadelphia.

Ironically, one person familiar with the negotiations said the deal probably would’ve been done by now if Charlotte hadn’t waived center Erick Dampier and his non-guaranteed $13 million contract – which would’ve been a home-run for Denver in an exchange for Martin. Including Dampier in the deal would’ve provided what a source described as “ridiculous savings” for the Nuggets – about $33 million when factoring in the tax, making the deal “a no-brainer.”

UPDATE: In the absence of that asset, the Nuggets – led by newly hired GM Masai Ujiri, 30-year-old executive Josh Kroenke and adviser Bret Bearup – insisted on trying to squeeze more out of the deal while also exploring offers from other teams. In addition to Martin and Smith, Denver officials eventually were trying to dump Renaldo Balkman in the trade. Ultimately, one executive involved in the talks said, Denver's never-ending efforts to make the deal better for them was what wound up killing it.

The other part of their protracted strategy – sitting down face-to-face with Anthony before media day Monday – may have backfired on them, too.

Ujiri, trying to take the high road in the Anthony matter, insisted on meeting with him in person before signing off on the deal – as any new GM would. Unfortunately for Ujiri, Anthony’s discontent with the direction of the organization pre-dates the new GM’s arrival – and also runs deeper than Ujiri was aware. One reason Ujiri declined to give any details of his face-to-face encounter with Anthony Monday, according to two people familiar with the exchange, was simply that there were no details. Anthony, not wanting to rehash old wounds with his new boss, politely declined to engage Ujiri in any substantive conversation about his future.

“He said, ‘I’m cool,’ and, ‘You’re going to have to talk to my reps about that,’” said one of the people familiar with the meeting. In addition, multiple reports indicated that Anthony did not participate in the promotional activities players typically perform on media day, and the Denver Post noted that his image was removed from a prominent ad on the Nuggets’ website – replaced by Ty Lawson.

As a result, one source maintained Tuesday that the Nuggets were “going to move him, like now, ASAP.” But after all the delays and frustration on all sides, that may be an optimistic take.

"The Nuggets are going to look at every single trade and they’re going to have to work with [Anthony]," another person familiar with the talks said. "And that’s really going to slow the whole process down.”

Further complicating matters, sources say Karl is not going to be as influential in trying to keep Anthony in Denver as first believed. With the departure of Karl’s biggest supporter, former GM Mark Warkentien, and his top assistant, Tim Grgurich, Karl is unsure where he stands in the organization as he returns from his heroic cancer fight with one year left on his contract. The result has been tension – or at least uneasiness – among Karl, his staff and the newly formed front office. Plus, while Karl knows that he has a 50-win playoff team with Anthony and a rebuilding team without him, sources say the 59-year-old coach is growing tired of the MeloDrama and isn’t relishing the strain that it could place on him and the team.




Posted on: September 27, 2010 12:36 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 10:39 pm
 

Nuggets' indecision 'a huge puzzle' (UPDATE)

Talks of a blockbuster trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to the Nets gained momentum Monday before getting bogged down again in the Nuggets' indecision, two people familiar with the negotiations told CBSSports.com.

One person briefed on the complicated, four-team talks described them as "moving along" after a weekend of inertia fueled by Denver's inability to make a final decision on trading its franchise player -- and Anthony's desire to make sure he was doing the right thing by signing off on a deal to New Jersey.

"Talking and waiting," was how another person with knowledge of the negotiations described them.

On Sunday, a person connected to the talks told CBSSports.com that there was a "more than 50 percent chance" Anthony is traded in the next 24-48 hours. The momentum gained Monday bolstered that prediction, with most of the focus on the original framework of the deal also involving the Bobcats and Jazz.

But as the discussions dragged on, frustration with the Nuggets' handling of the negotiations was building among the other executives involved in the deal. One person who has been briefed on the talks described the Denver team of GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke and adviser Bret Bearup -- consummating their first trade together -- as "a huge puzzle." A second person familiar with the discussions expressed frustration with "a lot of contingencies" the Nuggets were trying to place on the deal, and a third described the Nuggets as indecisive and hesitant.

Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor, speaking at Utah's media day , said, "If you're going to make that trade, it would've been done Friday."

The Nuggets have done this slow dance before, under different leadership, but the meandering pace of these trade talks has some execs marveling at how some things in Denver haven't changed.

As part of the scenario being discussed for weeks and tabled over the weekend while Denver executives strategized privately and sought other offers, the Nets would send No. 3 pick Derrick Favors and two first-round picks to Denver for Anthony. The Bobcats would get Devin Harris from New Jersey and send Boris Diaw to Utah, which could send Andrei Kirilenko and his $17.8 million expiring contract to Denver. Quinton Ross would go from New Jersey to Utah.

That basic structure "hasn't changed" since Friday, said one person who has been briefed on the talks.

As discussions progressed, however, sources confirmed reports that Utah was trying to get a second-round pick in the deal, and Charlotte was asking for cash or a pick for its involvement. Those issues were "being discussed" Monday, one of the sources said. At the same time, frustration was growing for Utah and Charlotte, although one executive with a hand in the negotiations pointed out that both teams would have something significant to lose if the deal fell apart: Charlotte needs a starting point guard, and Utah needs luxury-tax relief.

The Nuggets, who accelerated trade talks in response to ominous predictions of problems that would result from Anthony staying in Denver, convened for media day Monday -- and Anthony was there. Though that hurdle was far from a drop-dead deadline, it was nonetheless ideal from the Nuggets' standpoint to make considerable progress before being saddled with controversy and drama.

There was no hiding how torn Denver officials were Monday between trying to find a better deal and hoping that Anthony's camp could be persuaded to tamp down its trade rhetoric. After spending the weekend trying to determine if a better deal would emerge -- or if better assets could be acquired from the three other teams currently involved -- the Nuggets reached a tipping point in the most difficult decision a franchise ever has to make. That is one reason Denver tried to explore every angle and wanted to meet in person with Anthony before agreeing to trade him.

One avenue Denver pursued recently in the trade discussions was getting Gerald Wallace from Charlotte in the deal, a person involved in the talks told CBSSports.com Monday. But the Bobcats have insisted throughout that they'd only trade Wallace if it meant getting Anthony in the deal, and that's not happening based on Anthony's lack of interest in playing in Charlotte. For the same reason, Denver's interest in the Sixers' Andre Iguodala is a non-starter.

A package featuring No. 2 pick Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, the expiring contract of Jason Kapono and draft picks -- explored previously here -- also fails to pass the Melo test.

As the Nets' discussions continued to develop Monday, sources say one team that is more involved than commonly thought is the Knicks. After New York fell short in its pursuit of LeBron James and/or Dwyane Wade, it would be devastating for the Knicks to watch Anthony go to their cross-river rival -- especially since that rival is moving into the city limits to Brooklyn in two years. While Knicks president Donnie Walsh has been in far from panic mode, he has been "working every angle" in an effort to get back in the game with Anthony, according to a rival executive familiar with Walsh's approach.

"He's the master," the executive said. "I'll put it this way: If there's any way to get something done that he feels good about, he'll get it done. He'll leave no stone unturned."






Posted on: September 26, 2010 10:13 pm
 

Melodrama: Will Anthony be in camp Monday?

As the Carmelo Anthony trade talks careen toward an inevitable tipping point, the key question is this: If Melo isn’t dealt by the time the Nuggets convene for media day Monday, will the disgruntled superstar be there?

Despite noise coming from Anthony’s camp – in particular, according to sources, from influential adviser William Wesley – that Anthony either won’t show for camp or will make things ugly if he does, there was no word Sunday from Anthony himself as to whether he’ll be in Denver this week.

“If Melo doesn’t show,” said one person connected to the trade negotiations, “it’s disaster mode for them.”

While Nuggets officials are holding out hope that a face-to-face meeting with Anthony could change things, sources familiar with the hard-line stance being taken by Anthony and his agents at Creative Artists Agency see that as a combination of wishful thinking and desperation. It’s been a month since Denver hired former Toronto personnel man Masai Ujiri to replace Mark Warkentien as GM, and Ujiri still has not been able to arrange an in-person meeting with Anthony.

So Ujiri, facing his first major crisis as a top basketball executive, has spent more time meeting with Nets president Billy King – whom he and fellow Denver exec Josh Kroenke convened with in New York last week – than with Anthony himself. And that wasn’t the only meeting of importance in the past 72 hours, CBSSports.com has learned. Wesley, long an unofficial master of NBA maneuverings who is now a full-fledged CAA agent, sat down last week in New York with Nets minority owner Jay-Z in an effort to pave the way for Anthony’s arrival, a person with direct knowledge of the meeting said.

Anthony’s insistence on forcing his way out of Denver, the mounting pressure on Ujiri to get the best deal possible, and the prospect of an ugly scene with Melo in Denver this week had one person connected to the trade talks predicting Sunday that Anthony would be traded in the next 24-48 hours.

“Better than a 50 percent chance,” said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the teams’ business.

Given the lack of public fanfare that has surrounded Melo’s trade demand – the words “trade me” have never come out of his mouth – my personal prediction is that Anthony will show up at media day and training camp as long as he’s a Nugget. But even sources who acknowledge that Anthony would want to avoid the image hit that would come with a no-show or negative-show believe that any positive spin offered by Anthony in the coming days would only be for public consumption. As with Chris Paul in New Orleans, making waves publicly would only hurt Anthony’s chances of getting shipped to one of his ideal destinations because it would erode whatever leverage Denver has.

A desire to meet face-to-face with Anthony, however, isn’t the only factor keeping Denver from pulling the trigger on a deal. No, Nuggets officials don’t want to finalize a trade before hearing from Melo directly. But sources say there also are reservations among some of the decision makers in the Nuggets’ front office about accepting No. 3 pick Derrick Favors as the biggest asset in return for Anthony. Some Denver officials, sources say, have a strong preference for Joakim Noah or Blake Griffin. For that reason, it is believed that the Bulls or Clippers could jump ahead of the Nets in the sweepstakes if they’d agree to include one of those respective players. As of Sunday, however, there was no movement on either front.

Only more waiting, and the countdown to the next unofficial deadline in the Melo saga: His whereabouts when the Nuggets report for camp Monday.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com