Morning Shootaround — March 19


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played March 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: ‘Melo to explore ‘options’ in free agency | LeBron backs off vs. Cavs | Bynum suffering from swollen knee | Rondo struggling with how to lead rebuilding Celts | Pau backs Jackson’s move to N.Y.

No. 1: Report: Bulls, Rockets top suitors for Anthony — As Phil Jackson was introduced as the Knicks new team president yesterday, one of the main topics of conversation was the future of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony. Anthony intends to opt out of his contract this summer and test the free-agent waters and while the Knicks can offer him more money than any other team on the open market can, rumors have bubbled up about him being interested in leaving. In a review of the Knicks’ addition of Jackson, Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski says that two teams — the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets — are in the lead to make a big push for ‘Melo this summer:

Jackson has limitless resources to construct a front office, coaching staff and roster. Everything’s on him now. James Dolan won’t be cramping Jackson’s style in those big free-agent meetings, because it will be Jackson playing the part of Miami’s Pat Riley now. Throwing his rings on the table, selling management credibility born of coaching genius.

And make no mistake: One of the most important things Jackson offered on Tuesday was a nod toward his old Chicago Bulls nemesis and GM, Jerry Krause, whom, he said, set a standard for thoroughness and legwork in the evaluation of talent. All of them mocked Krause, but no one – not Jackson, nor Michael Jordan – would’ve had multiple titles without him. Or maybe even one.

The NBA is a talent business, and the Knicks’ most important asset, Carmelo Anthony, will welcome listening to Jackson’s pitch on the future. Anthony heard part of it in the news conference when Jackson went out of his way to suggest the Knicks star’s freewheeling, isolation-scoring days are done.

Anthony has free-agent options, and two have risen above everything else: Chicago and Houston, sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo Sports. The Bulls have an easier path to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign Anthony, but the Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary to offer a third near-max deals alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources said.

“He’ll give New York every option,” one source with knowledge of Anthony’s plans told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. “But he has options – and he’s going to explore them all.”


VIDEO: Phil Jackson talks about his desire to keep Carmelo Anthony in New York

***

No. 2: LeBron backs off a bit after epic start vs. Cavs — After the first quarter of last night’s Heat-Cavaliers game from Quicken Loans Arena, LeBron James had 25 points on a 10-for-11 shooting performance in the first quarter. In short, it looked like James was headed for another record scoring night just weeks after he set the team mark for points in a game with 61 against the Charlotte Bobcats. But a funny thing happened as the game went along: James tapered off his field goal attempts and worked to get others involved. While he still finished with 43 points, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst notes how James chose to back off against Cleveland after his hot start:

LeBron James had the hammer raised on his former team Tuesday night, the chance to inflict another lasting scar with the sort of record-setting performance that would hang on the books for years.Maybe it was mercy, maybe it was maturity and maybe there was just some pride from the injury-ravaged Cleveland Cavaliers. It was hard to figure exactly what happened, but James uncharacteristically stood down and perhaps allowed a chance at a record to pass and left satisfied that his Miami Heat took a 100-96 victory.

James, who possesses a flash-drive memory, easily remembered Allen Iverson scoring 54 points on the Cavs back in 2001 when he was a teenager in nearby Akron. It was a vendetta that night, Iverson upset the Cleveland crowd had mistreated him in his view in an earlier visit and he was determined to make a statement.

Iverson’s angry night still stands as the Quicken Loans Arena record and it was so within James’ grasp. James himself carries the date Dec. 2, 2010, around in his head like a family member’s birthday because of the rancor he encountered in the building in his first game back after signing with the Heat. He mentions that date numerous times a year, usually when brushing away someone insinuating he’d run into a hostile crowd that particular day.

He referenced that date again Tuesday, in fact. But James doesn’t seem to have the same desire to strike back as Iverson. If nothing else, James played almost 400 games in his life in the building and never eclipsed 50 but was halfway to that number just 12 minutes in.

“With that type of start, you see if you can go for 70,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s just human conditioning to think like that.”

And it’s human conditioning for the coach to let his player try. Instead of sitting James to start the second quarter as normal, Spoelstra sent him to the floor to continue the streak.

Then something odd happened. James backed off. He started passing up open driving lanes. He started looking for teammates inside. He started calling plays for teammates, especially looking to get Ray Allen some open looks. He eased off the pure attack mode he seemed to be reveling in only moments before.

“When I started the game off, I felt like I could have went for 50 or 60,” James said. “But you can’t really dictate what’s going to happen.”

James would take just eight shots the rest of the game, which is simply incomprehensible after one starts 10-of-11. He took just three shots in the entire second half when the Cavs, who were also without All-Star Kyrie Irving because of a biceps injury, were pushing back and trying to pull an upset.

Just imagine how many shots Iverson might’ve taken had he started a game 10-of-11, much less a game in Cleveland during his prime.

James did reach the 40-point mark, getting there with some late-game free throws when the Cavs starting intentionally fouling him to stop the clock to keep comeback hopes alive. In all, he had 43 points on 14-of-19 shooting. It was barely above normal: James averages 17.5 shots a game and most of the time he’s sharing the load with Wade.

“He’s not a selfish player, never has been,” said Chris Bosh, who was the Heat’s main offensive weapon in the second half as he scored 12 of his 21 points despite a little scare when he twisted his right knee in the third quarter.

“He’s still had [43], that’s pretty good. Some guys probably don’t have the maturity to handle that but he did a pretty good job of playing a complete game.”


VIDEO: LeBron James gets off to a quick start in Miami’s win in Cleveland

***

No. 3: Bynum dealing with swelling in knee — The Pacers have to be more than pleased with what they’ve seen from center Andrew Bynum in the two games as the big man is averaging 11.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg while shooting 40.9 percent. But it appears they’ll have to wait a while to see him on the court again as knee swelling will keep him sidelined as the Pacers travel to face the Knicks tonight, writes Scott Agness of Pacers.com:

Andrew Bynum won’t join the Pacers on their trip to New York, but instead will stay in town to treat swelling in his knees that are causing him pain — and to miss games.

“The knees are still swollen so he’s going to stay behind to get some work in here and some treatment here,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said following Tuesday’s practice. “We’ll see where he’s at when we get back.”

Bynum, who was in practice gear but didn’t participate on Tuesday, admitted there’s some concern for his recent setback. After scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds in exactly 20 minutes of work Saturday night in Detroit, Bynum has experienced significant swelling in his right knee to the point where he underwent an MRI and had it drained Monday afternoon.

“This one is a little concerning for me because it caused a lot more fluid,” he said. “I haven’t had that much fluid in there since like the (2010) Boston Finals in L.A.”

That was almost four years ago.

“It’s not fun,” Bynum added. “It is what it is at this point.”

Doctors analyzed the MRI Tuesday morning, according to Bynum, and he expects to know more Tuesday afternoon.

As Vogel has said, they knew what they were signing up for. But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to deal with.

“[It's] not really disappointing at all, to be honest,” he said. “We knew he was going to be in and out of the lineup. He’s got some problems with his knees, we’re well aware of that, and we’ll be excited with what he can give us when he’s in there.”


VIDEO: Andrew Bynum talks about his knee injury

***

No. 4: Rondo struggling to lead Celts during rebuild – After Monday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Boston Celtics have an 0-15 road mark against the Western Conference, a feat no other Celtics team had accomplished. If nothing else, that’s proof of a rebuilding season in Beantown as Boston tries to figure out its direction for next season and beyond. Star point guard Rajon Rondo is the de facto leader of these Celtics, who are comprised of many players on expiring contracts, and as Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe points out, Rondo is finding it tough at times to lead a group with an uncertain future:

There’s always some degree of uncertainty as the front office works to reshape the roster.It’s an unsung challenge for rookie coach Brad Stevens to keep his players united even though they know they might be on unsettled ground.

Likewise, it’s an unsung challenge for the team’s captain, Rajon Rondo.

And around the time Rondo returned to action in January after missing nearly a year following a knee injury, former Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he brought up this topic with his former point guard.

It’s not unusual for the two to talk, even with Rivers now coaching the Los Angeles Clippers. They have history, with Rivers coaching Rondo from 2006-07 until last season.

“I speak to Doc all the time,” Rondo said. “I’ve talked to him on the phone. I’ve talked to him after games, text-wise. He gives me advice all the time.”

“Everybody is not going to buy in, because all they hear is that they’re all getting traded because they’re in the middle of a rebuild,’” Rivers said he told Rondo. “So you’re going to go in there and talk about, ‘Hey, let’s buy in as a team,’ and half of them are going to say, ‘I’m not even going to be on this team.’ ”

“Well, the first concern is to make it through the trade deadline,” Rondo said.

Indeed. The Celtics made two swaps before the deadline. And though he involved in numerous rumors, Rondo wasn’t moved.

But the roster is by no means settled.

The Celtics figure to be especially active this summer, and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck recently told the Globe, “This June there could be some fireworks.”

Technically speaking, only Rondo, Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Vitor Faverani, Kelly Olynyk, and Jared Sullinger are on guaranteed contracts for next season.

Jerryd Bayless, Kris Humphries, and Avery Bradley will become free agents, though Bradley will be restricted, meaning the Celtics can match any offer he receives.

“For the most part, guys are playing for contracts,” Rondo said. “It’s not a matter of being here. It’s a matter of staying in the league.”

That pressure can weigh on a player.

“If a guy is not under contract, obviously he wants to play well every game,” Rondo said. “He wants to make all his shots, do all the intangibles.

“I’m not necessarily saying that a guy under contract won’t do all those things, but obviously it’s amplified when you’re playing for your life or you’re playing for your career.”

Leading a locker room in which players might be playing for their career is new for Rondo, but Wallace recalled being in that situation in Charlotte.

In 2004-05, his first season there, the team was rebuilding (it finished 18-64) and most of the players were set to become free agents. Ideally, Wallace said, players buy into the system, but that’s easier said than done.

“It’s a big challenge,” he said, “because even though you don’t want to think about that, once you start losing, you start thinking about your career — ‘Oh, I’m up next summer, I’ve got to figure this [expletive] out.’

***

No. 5: Pau backs Knicks’ signing of Jackson — With Phil Jackson officially entrenched as the Knicks new team president, he’s got his work cut out for him in trying to turn New York into a stable franchise again (as our John Schuhmann points out). But for now, many folks are commending New York on getting a person of Jackson’s caliber to lead the charge and one of those backers is none other than Lakers power forward Pau Gasol. Gasol won two championships and made three Finals trips under Jackson when both men were in L.A. and Gasol told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin he backs the Knicks’ latest personnel move:

The New York Knicks officially announced the hiring of Phil Jackson as their new team president Tuesday, and will reportedly pay him $60 million over five years for the job. It may have been an unprecedented payday for a front office executive, but it also qualifies as a sound financial decision by the Knicks in Pau Gasol’s eyes.

“I think the Knicks are fortunate to have him,” the Los Angeles Lakers big man said after practice Tuesday. “I know they gave him a big contract and a big investment, but I think he’s worth every cent of it.”

Gasol, who played under Jackson in L.A. from 2008-11 and reached three NBA Finals while winning two championships in the process, said it will take some adjusting seeing Jackson working on the opposite coast.

“It’s weird,” Gasol said. “It’s weird to see him with a Knick logo behind him in the picture today. But I know he’s in a good place.”

Gasol said he still sees Jackson “regularly” since the 11-time champion coach retired from the sidelines following the 2010-11 season, but will have to curtail that contact because of Jackson’s new role.

“Apparently we can’t really talk to each other from now on since I’m going to become a free agent and he’s an executive for another team, so it’s under rules that we can’t communicate,” Gasol said, referring to the league’s tampering clause. “He can be penalized. So, our communication has been cut off until July 1st.”

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, who was hired over Jackson last November, said Jackson will do a “great job” in New York, but also detailed the challenge the former coach will face. D’Antoni coached the Knicks from 2008-2012 before being unceremoniously showed the door, so he knows the pitfalls associated with the franchise more than most.

“It’s a big job anywhere,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t think just New York. I think it’s a big job anywhere to turn it around. I think you have to look at the cap room and what they have and how quick you can do it? Can you get lucky? So there’s a lot of things. I know that there will be a lot of effort put into it. Good, sound decisions. And you hope — well, I’m not a Knick now so I don’t hope — it works out for him. But it’s a tall order for anybody at anywhere at anytime. This league is not easy to get on top. And we know in New York, you’re either winning or you’re a failure. So, it will be tough but they got a good man and he’ll do a heck of a job.”

D’Antoni does not believe that Jackson’s coaching resume will automatically translate to front office success.

“I don’t think one correlates to the other,” D’Antoni said. “I think they’re two completely separate jobs. It’s like turning a great player into a coach. It’s a different job. So you don’t know if they can do it or not. I think that obviously he’s got a good basketball mind, so he’ll approach it a different way and let’s see if it works out. I think there’s a lot of great qualities there, so there’s no reason it doesn’t. But there’s no reason it does. So we’ll see what happens.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: As our Scott Howard-Cooper reported last night, the Hall of Fame is weighing a potential change to the voting format … A detailed look at what it might take for Chicago to bring over prized foreign talent Nikola Mirotic to the NBA next season … A groin strain will sideline Lakers guard Jordan Farmar for at least two weeks … Cool little chat with Pacers coach Frank Vogel about his game day routine and more … Blake Griffin doesn’t think he has much of a chance in the MVP race this season … The shared grandfather of the Magic’s Tobias Harris and the Suns’ Channing Frye was a Tuskegee AirmanMo Williams has been playing better since LaMarcus Aldridge has been out of the lineup … Quick guards have been giving the Raptors fits of late … Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas may get some rest down the stretch of the season

ICYMI of the Night: Wizards swingman Trevor Ariza is in the midst of a great season, to be sure. But sometimes even a great season needs a little luck, as demonstrated by his wild fadeaway bank shot last night in Sacramento …


VIDEO: Trevor Ariza nails a wild off-the-glass fadeaway jumper

44 Comments

  1. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    The 2 best NBA scorers on the same team. That sounds like fun to me, maaan. :-)

    KD and Russell and Carmelo were awesome on the 2012 Olympic team.

    Imagine them joining up with the Thunder after this season in which the Knicks fail to make the playoffs for the first time since … does anyone know the last time the NY Knicks FAILED to make the playoffs? Egad.

    Melo, get out of that downward spiral and join up with 2 former Olympic Gold Medal teammates.

  2. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Phil Jackson doesn’t know how to manage a nonplayoff team like today’s Knicks.

    Carmelo Anthony HAS TO join OKC As Soon As Possible — ASAP. If he’s serious about wanting to win as much as possible, OKC is his best option. NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. Anyone who thinks he may join the Bulls has NO IDEA what they’re talking about. The Bulls are still good, but their future is bleak.

    Melo has to join the young and elite OKC Thunder, a Championship-caliber team for the next 15+ seasons / years.

    Plus, Russell Westbrook will be healthy for a very, very long time. That dirty play Kyle Lowry made during that EPIC double-overtime Toronto/OKC game (possible 2014 NBA Finals preview) did not stop Westbrook. That was like a test proving Westbrook is in no danger of any re-injury. He has totally recovered and will help the Thunder win it all.

    The NBA needs to start handing down fines/punishments to players who try to injure other players on purpose. This is getting ridiculous. Coaches need to tell their players to play the game the right way. Don’t tell your players to “sweep the leg” (Karate Kid reference). It won’t work on Westbrook, anyway, so don’t even try it anymore. Stop aiming for his knee, Kyle Lowry and Patrick Beverley. STOP. Have some professional decorum.

  3. NBAFAN says:

    I think – Anthony – James – Love will be create their own TEAM :D :D

  4. The Official Blake Griffin says:

    Melo to Heat?

  5. Art says:

    To pay Anthony Bulls need to amnesty Boozer, trade Gibson & Dunleavy for future draft picks and say goodbye to Mirotic (because they lose 5ml MLE and have only 2.7ml room MLE the same second they amnesty Carlos). So, they will have starting line of injury prone Rose, Snell, Butler, Anthony, Noah and bench: veteran for room MLE (say Augustin) and 2 rookies.
    Houston can’t have salary-cap space to sign Anthony. The only option for them is sign & trade Melo for Parsons, Asik, Lin and a pick or two & it’s up to NY to agree.

  6. Number 13 says:

    So the Heat almost let the Cavs come back and win because Lebron wanted to play team ball? …

  7. rawbizniz says:

    Melo to Chgo. makes sense being that Chgo. needs another scoring option & present team can compensate for Melo’s lack of “D”./Doesn’t it sound like Pau is trying to let it be known that he would’t mind joining Phil & Knicks next season?

  8. squala96 says:

    Melo is turning 30 soon and he hasn’t even got into an NBA final yet. He just never had the superstar coach and the right teammates to do so. So unless it’s money he wanted, it would be wise to leave NY. If he joins the Rockets, the league will finally have a proper Big 3 unlike Miami where the third guy just isn’t up there with the other two. It will almost guarantee Houston a crown, if they don’t do so this year. Granted that he, Howard and Harden gel nicely together, I can’t imagine how other teams can beat them.

    As much as I like Anthony to wear purple and gold next year, LA, unfortunately, isn’t currently the place for him to seriously attempt a crown. Kobe’s recovery is still uncertain, and pretty much everyone else is dispensable. Chicago might be nice for him as well. This team is very efficient. While everyone expected them to fall when Rose got injured again and trading Deng away, they proved them wrong and are currently in a good playoff spot.

  9. DoCJ says:

    we will trade melo for future hall of famer bahahahaha….where’s lbj when u need him

  10. dustydreamnz says:

    Some say Melo is a ball hog but look at the players in his team. I guarantee if he is in a better team he will share the ball more. Boston is the best fit in my opinion.

  11. Brady says:

    DRose is deff not the most dominant player in the league….He can’t even stay healthy hes just another tmac injury PRONE….Melo to boston wouldnt be soo badd…rondo,bradley,melo,green, and sully..thats a pretty good front five

  12. akke says:

    Melo to Chicago
    Ch need a shooter

  13. Chicago2016rings says:

    I agree with Alex, Carmelo has a better shot, and less competition in the Eastern Conf. Plus he has two big options out there, stay with New York and get a max contract plus trust in Phil to make the right decisions and put the right players around him OR what I think should happen…and the Bulls Acquire Melo and run a championship Three peat starting in 2016 when Mirotic comes over. heres a starting line up that will make the Heat cringe:

    Derrick Rose – All Star
    Jimmy Butler – future All Star
    Carmelo Anthony – All Star
    Nikola Mirotic – future All Star
    Joakim Noah – All Star

    I do see a championship coming to the bulls with or without Carmelo. but heres to hoping.

    • kitten mittens says:

      I think they have a better chance without melo, he is a bad fit. also thibs will have to try to not get his players worn out before the playoffs

  14. load of cr@p says:

    james backed off? watched the game. he was forced to play team ball cuz the cavs started sticking it to them. much better game than I thought it was going to be. Tired of the media giving him andf that team excuses.

  15. KING HEAT says:

    carmelo neeeeeddds to stay in knicks cause if he goes to rockets or bulls they are going to be a beter team

  16. JOEL says:

    IF IM PHIL JACKSON, THE FIRST PRIORITY WILL BE TO GET RID OF MELO.

  17. JOEL says:

    MELO IS A GAME STOPPER! A BALL HOG. JUST ANOTHER ALLEN IVERSON THAT WOULD PROBABLY NEVER WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP.

  18. OldCelt says:

    How is Rondo supposed to lead Celtics when he is playing like 60% of games? More importantly where is he supposed to lead them? Out of lottery? Don’t be ridiculous. At this point the more games you lose the better. And Rondo is playing just fine in most games he playes. Full summer camp and he’ll be as good as every if not better.

    • jc says:

      Young players need to develop, and that’s how he has to lead them. He needs to get them to play hard and teach them how to get better and just be professional in general. Anyone can look at the team and say that it isn’t going to the playoffs, but just because you’re not good on paper doesn’t mean you don’t try.

  19. JonP says:

    Melon should go with the bulls
    The bulls need another consistent scorer so it wont be so much load on rose, and his lack of defense wont be so bad since the bulls are known or deffence.
    Whats the worste that can happen there, Melo starts playing D?

    • gg says:

      to get melo the bulls would have to sacrifice a lot of good players, melo may be worth more than them individually, but collectively they are worth more than him

  20. We need melo.. We need melo… We need melo.., We need melo… If we had melo we would be finals material and unstoppable better than the heat, many people said the same thing with lebron and Wade about how they wouldnt work well together but look at them now and they have been to the past three finals and won the last two

  21. Robin R says:

    Can you imagine him with the Rockets? Mad points will be scored in every game! Although, I hope Parsons will stay…

  22. alex says:

    why would Melo go west if he wants to win???? The WEST is stacked!! Four/ five legit teams that win a championship, while in the EAST 2 maybe 3. If he wants to sniff the conference finals he better stay in the East!! The Bulls are his best shot unless the HEAT really want to win and they all restructure contracts and he takes his talents to South Beach!! i can dream LOL

    • kitten mittens says:

      the only 2 teams that have a chance to win it in the west are the clippers and thunder

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        Clippers will have to prove they can beat the Spurs, first. Spurs (believe it or not) are currently the 1 seed in the West. Clippers can’t beat the Spurs. Can they?

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        I know the OKC Thunder can beat the Spurs. They are 3 and 0 against the Spurs the season and will likely sweep the season series, 4 wins and 0 losses against the Spurs.

  23. qqqqq says:

    Carmelo,harden and howard on the same team wouldnt work. 2 ball dominant iso guys on the same team, and a howard struggling to get shots, somebody would end up very unhappy at some point. I hope melo resigns with the knicks, but I think chicago has lots of reasons for him to sign there.

    • Rockets fan says:

      Well Carmelo can play a role like he did in the Olympics. He actually does better when he’s not the first option. We can play him as a spot-up shooter and a guy to look for when we need a bucket. Harden will be doing all the iso’s

    • lol says:

      you think D.Rose aint dominant? Dude he is probably the most dominant player in the league. He wants the ball all day all night long.. and if he doesn’t get he is pissed. I mean D.Rose when healthy is probably the best PG in the league so he has all the rights to be dominant.

      Melo” should stay at NYK.

      • kitten mittens says:

        chris paul is a better point guard, by a lot. plus d rose is busy dominating the pine for the last two years

    • Andy says:

      I think that no team has even a single good reasong to sign Melo…. He just has to have a ball all the time and plays iso game. You will not win a championship with that kind of play… It is like Kobe was playing those great games few years back (he even scored over 80 against Raptors) but Lakers weren’t wining anything back then and only when he started to play more team ball, they won 2 in a row. This is team game, so Melo has to change his playing style if he wants a ring.

      • okc2014 says:

        In my opinion, Carmello Anthony has potential to fit in just fine with either the Rockets or the Bulls. He’s just not progressing w the Knicks. I wish him the best. He deserves better. Go OKC!

      • Cle says:

        Lets be honest here Melo to the rockets will be better then him going to the bulls a Big 3 to start in the Rockets is perfect. Their is no big 3 with the Bulls.

      • Mike says:

        @Andy
        It is like Kobe was playing those great games few years back (he even scored over 80 against Raptors) but Lakers weren’t wining anything back then and only when he started to play more team ball, they won 2 in a row.

        Dude, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Those bad Lakers teams needed Kobe to be a volume shooter. Who did you want to shot, Smush Parker? In 2008, they got a guy named Pau Gasol.

        mw