NEWS OF THE MORNING
‘Melo, Knicks agree to stay quiet on contract | Howard dominates in debut | Cavs get ‘grimy’ win | Thompson impresses in win vs. Lakers | Rookie Carter-Williams creates buzz for Sixers | Still no extension for Jazz’s Hayward
No. 1: Anthony, Knicks agree to not discuss contract during season — Prepare to be disappointed if you’re rooting for another bout of ‘Melo-drama surrounding Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and his future. Anthony, who put the Denver Nuggets through some ups and downs during the 2010-11 season as his pending free agency hung in the balance, has an agreement in place with New York’s GM to not talk about his contract, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post:
Knicks general manager Steve Mills, despite the sudden dismissal of Glen Grunwald four days before training camp, said there still are the highest of expectations from ownership.
“In terms of an edict, we try to win every year,’’ Mills said before the Knicks’ 90-83 season-opening win over the Bucks Wednesday at the Garden. “Our goal is to try to win the championship and be as competitive as we can possibly be.’’
Earlier in the day, ESPN reported Dolan told his coaches he “expects’’ to win it all despite removing the man who built the roster.
Nevertheless, a source said Dolan simply was expressing extreme confidence in his players.
As for Mills, he might have more pressure in delivering Carmelo Anthony on a long-term contract this summer.
“Any job like this is a high-pressured job,’’ Mills said. “I’m excited about being here. I feel very good about our team. We’re out to try to win a championship this year. You only feel pressure in this kind of environment but it’s a good pressure.’’
Mills said he and Anthony have agreed to talk only basketball and not about his contract future. That could mean Mills has no plans to even offer Anthony a three-year contract extension when he could do so in February.
Anthony already has said multiple times he wants to be a free agent to be in position for a five-year deal.
“Carmelo and I, the first day of training camp, we both agreed we wouldn’t have any more conversations about his ability to opt out or us negotiating an extension,’’ Mills said. “I’ll stick to what I had agreed to and not talk about his contract status.’’
No. 2: Healthy Howard dominates against Bobcats — Rockets center Dwight Howard has been saying all season that his back troubles are behind him, he’s happy playing in Houston and ready to prove he’s still the best center in the league. That much was on display last night in the Rockets’ home-opener as Howard dominated on the glass, collecting 26 rebounds to tie a career high. Our own Fran Blinebury caught up with Howard after the game, who is feeling great and wants to keep this hot start rolling:
All that mattered was that Howard was finally playing a game for the Rockets that counted in the standings, and for the first time after two tumultuous and dissatisfying seasons, things were different.
This was the way that Daryl Morey always hoped and wished it would be over all those months and years when he was trading players and draft picks and office furniture in an attempt to get the kind of super-nova stars in his lineup that would make the Rockets relevant again.
“I was nervous,” admitted the general manager.
It’s one thing to lie awake at night staring at a ceiling filled with fast-breaking fantasies and quite another to roll reality out onto the floor and expect it to work.
It did, if only in fits and start, and based on the overwhelming raw numbers of Howard’s work on the glass and around the basket.
He made eight of 14 shots from the field, blocked two shots and gobbled up 26 hungry rebounds, which equaled his career high.
“I really was trying to get 30,” Howard said. “I wanted to get 30 rebounds. I was upset that I didn’t do it, but I’ll try next time.”
More than numerical goals, it’s the fact that he can try without worrying about the effects of a surgically repaired back or a bad shoulder that make all the things he might do the next time and next time and next time a possibility again.
“He’s the elite basket protector in the league when he’s healthy,” said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, who was an assistant on the staff when Howard was in Orlando and was Mike D’Antoni’s No. 1 aide last year in L.A. “I’ve gone through stretches of two-three weeks when we were in Orlando where he just dominated the game.
“Watching him on film and talking to him, I just think he feels a lot healthier. He’s moving a lot better and he’s playing with great energy. He’s such a physical force and he’s also a very smart player that when he’s right — and right now it looks like he is — he can impact every play at both ends of the floor.”
“He never last year moved like he’s moving now,” Clifford said. “He’s looking like a different guy. With all the frustrations that everybody had to deal with there last year…he’s got pride and he had played at a level in Orlando that he could physically never get to last year (in L.A.). I think that’s where it all started.
“People can say whatever they want about our team last year, but those guys fought hard. (Howard) could have sat out. We went 28-12 the last 40 games with our backs to the wall, playing every night to get to the playoffs. Those guys did a great job and he was right in the middle of it. He didn’t give in. Again, until Kobe got hurt, I think we were the team people were saying, ‘Man, I’m not sure I want to match up with them’ when we were seventh or eighth. Because we were playing well at that point.”
No. 3: Cavs get ‘Gritty-Grimy-Ugly’ in season opener — In his first go-around with the Cavaliers, coach Mike Brown was known for the defense-first mentality he gave to Cleveland during the LeBron James era. As he begins his second stint as coach in Ohio, Brown is sticking to his old tricks and trying to grind out wins however he can. Brown had nothing but praise for his squad after a season-opening win against the Nets, writes Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer, which was sealed by a free-throw line jumper by Anderson Varejao of all people:
Welcome back to Mike Brown’s world.
The Cavs didn’t just beat Brooklyn, 98-94, before a sellout crowd of 20,562 at Quicken Loans Arena, they did it Brown’s way.
The Cavs new/old coach called it: Gritty. Grimy. Ugly.
“And that’s how I like it,” said Brown.
How does Gritty-Grimy-Ugly look? It’s winning a game with Kyrie Irving scoring 15 of the hardest points of his career. What else can you say when the All-Star guard shot 4-of-16 from the field?
“He got seven rebounds,” said Brown, preaching the Gospel of Gritty-Grimy-Ugly.
It’s was more than Gritty-Grimy-Ugly. It was one huge human being defending the basket and setting some cement-truck picks. He is 7-foot, 280 pounds with arms that seemingly reach to the clouds.
Two seasons ago, before his knees became inflamed, Bynum averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds. That was with the Lakers under a coach named Mike Brown. He missed all of last season due to those knee injuries, and Brown is unsure how much he’ll play this season.
This was a Mike Brown type victory where no one scored 20 points, but six players had at least 10 points next to their name. It’s a game he called “ugly” at least three times, a game where the Cavs out-hustled the far more experienced and talented Nets. Brooklyn came to town with seven players who have been All-Stars and an $189 million payroll.
“I wanted us to fight, and I thought our guys did,” said Brown. “It was our ability to defend and rebound (that did it).”
No. 4: Thompson puts on a show against Lakers — If Warriors guard Klay Thompson keeps this up, Golden State is going to be even tougher to stop on offense than last season. Thompson ignited a rout over the Lakers last night, going for 38 points on 15-for-19 shooting, which included a 5-for-7 mark from 3-point range. More impressive to Thompson was he had this night while his father, former NBA star Mychael, was in attendance, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Klay Thompson’s father can be awfully tough on him, but the third-year guard’s opening-night performance Wednesday was so spectacular, it earned a handshake from even one of the harshest of critics.
“He was probably proud,” Thompson said after his father, Mychal, found his way to the Warriors’ postgame locker room to offer congratulations. “It was a special moment.”
“It’s the best feeling in the world, especially when you win and the crowd is into it,” Thompson said. “When you’re scoring like that and your teammates are finding you, there’s nothing better.”
After a preseason in which the Warriors struggled to integrate four new rotation players and didn’t seem to completely find their footing following a weeklong tour of China, they looked like a true contender in beating the Lakers for just the sixth time in the past 39 meetings.
With as lofty expectations as ever swirling around a Golden State team and pregame introduction pageantry that only added to the hype, the Warriors thrilled the 39th consecutive sellout crowd at Oracle Arena with their largest opening-night victory ever. They had twice won openers by 28 points, in 1967 and 1978.
“That’s how big-time organizations do it, and I thought our guys did a great job of being ready after all of the (pregame) cheers,” head coach Mark Jackson said. “When the ball went up, they were ready and prepared, and it was a thing of beauty from the beginning to the end.”
Thompson made it pretty simple. He was the front line of the defense, being a consistent pest to Lakers point guard Steve Blake, and he was the game’s best offensive player – appearing simply unguardable.
The Lakers’ guards couldn’t stop him on the block, they didn’t realize he had the range to shoot from 5 feet behind the three-point arc, and they couldn’t rotate quickly enough to contest the seemingly instant release on his jumper.
Thompson said he knew he had it going in the pregame, when he knocked down about 95 percent of his shots. By game time, it was obvious to everyone else.
“He’s thirsty to score,” Jackson said. “He wants to shoot.”
No. 5: Carter-Williams creates buzz in debut — Michael Carter-Williams couldn’t have asked for a better way to start off his NBA career. He was on fire against the defending-champion Heat last night, flirting with a triple-double as he put up 22 points, 12 assists and nine steals in Philly’s 114-110victory. The rookie was seemingly everywhere in the Sixers’ win, particularly on defense, and amazed the home crowd with his overall play, writes Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News:
But Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams outplayed pretty much everyone and posted a ridiculous line of 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals, seven rebounds and only one turnover to lead the Sixers to the improbable, 114-110 win in front of a near-sellout crowd of 19,523.
“I was just going out there and trying to play my part as a team,” Carter-Williams said. “I’m going to do as well as the team does. We had a lot of guys going. Evan was great, Thad [Young] was great [10 points, six rebounds], and Tony [Wroten] coming off the bench [14 points] was awesome. I was able to find some openings, and they were able to find me on some open shots, and that got me in the rhythm.”
Carter-Williams did a fantastic job of using his length to get into passing lanes all night. As the night progressed, the rookie seemed to gain more and more confidence in his first professional game.
“The stats speak for themselves, really,” Brown said of his point guard’s debut. “I actually thought he could have had one more steal. He was in the wrong place.
“We tried to come up with a game plan, and you try to come up with how the team is going to play overall, and he is a big part of that, and with his length and him cheating and reading gambles where we have to turn him loose a little bit. He was really good. What do you say? Just look at the win and look at the stat line. He was really, really good.”
No. 6: Still no deal for Utah’s Hayward — Last we heard, the Jazz and forward Gordon Hayward remained far apart on hopes of a contract extension. That was three days ago. Today is the deadline for him (and other 2010 draftees) to sign an extension with their team and there hasn’t been much forward movement in that direction, writes Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune. The sides are continuing to talk, though:
Gordon Hayward stepped into the center of the media scrum after Wednesday morning’s shootaround, ready for the same question he’s been asked just about every day for the last two weeks.
The Jazz and Hayward have until 9:59 p.m. MT on Thursday to reach a deal to extend the 23-year-old swingman’s contract; otherwise, Utah’s first-round pick in 2010 will become a restricted free agent this summer. So far, no deal has been reached.
If Hayward is thinking much about the ongoing talks, he’s not saying.
“The game is the only thing that’s on my mind right now,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Pelicans will be will be without 3-point shooting power forward Ryan Anderson (fractured toe) for 1-3 weeks … New Mavs guard Monta Ellis and ‘Monta Basketball’ fit in pretty well with Dirk Nowitzki and Co. … Suns might not be as bad as everyone is predicting …
ICYMI Of The Night: On a 14-game night, it’s awful tough to pick the one play that stands out the most. But our vote today is going to this Anthony Davis finish off an alley-oop from Brian Roberts …