Morning shootaround — Sept. 25

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Jackson: ‘Melo must keep ball moving | Suns get even deeper at guard | Antetokounmpo ready to take on point guard role

No. 1: Jackson: Passing key to Anthony’s success in N.Y. — Knicks team president Phil Jackson played a big part in the team’s successful wooing of Carmelo Anthony in the offseason that led to him signing a new deal that keeps him in New York for years to come. Part of Jackson’s sales pitch was convincing Anthony that he could thrive under new coach Derek Fisher and the triangle offense, a system predicated on moving the ball often. In a wide-ranging chat with Steve Serby of the New York Post, Jackson talks about Anthony, J.R. Smith and more:

Q: Hawks GM Danny Ferry recently made comments about Carmelo in which he reportedly said: “He can shoot the [bleep] out of it, but he screws you up in other ways. So is he really worth $20 million? I would argue if he plays the right way, absolutely.”

A: I think there’s probably 15 players in the NBA that are very similar position. I don’t know if all of ’em are paid $20 million, but the coaches and GMs are talking about it in those type of terms — how much does this guy hurt your team, or hurt the game flow because he’s trying to score. The attempt to score, the need to score, the pressure that he feels he has to score. … Does he take away from the team game? That’s what Danny’s talking about there. And that’s where Carmelo’s gonna move forward this year in that situation — the ball can’t stop. The ball has to continually move. It moves, or goes to the hoop on a shot or a drive or something like that. In our offense, that’s part of the process of getting players to play in that rhythm.

Q: Is Carmelo on board with this?

A: All we talked about in our negotiation was, “I’d like not to have to feel like I have to carry the load to score every night.” He wants some help.

Q: Your first choice as head coach was Steve Kerr, but the Warriors offered more money. Did Knicks owner James Dolan support your pursuit of Kerr, and why do you think your second choice, Derek Fisher, was worth more money than your first choice?

A: That part is incorrect. However, having had a relationship with Steve that’s beyond just basketball and coach and player, we had discussions over the course of the year. A lot of ’em about running a system in the NBA. Is it possible that you can run this triangle system in the NBA? And I said, “I see no reason why not.” And I said, “A lot of it depends upon personnel and a lot of it depends upon mental attitude of players.” One of the discussion points that came up was as to what type of team you’re thinking about that could be very effective in the triangle, and he said, “Golden State Warriors.” And I said, “Oh that’s interesting, Mark Jackson’s there.” … And he said, “Yeah, I know.” But he said, “If that job was available, that would be kind of the perfect job for a triangle.” Well, once that job became available — I knew that he had a daughter at Cal, great volleyball player — and it really wasn’t more about that than about anything else. And so, even though he committed to me, I knew that the day that they fired Mark that that was where he was gonna be pursued. [Former Jets general manager Mike] Tannenbaum facilitated that, and that was OK with me, because I want [Kerr] to be happy in what he does. And I think probably Derek’s the right choice for this job, so I have no qualms, no problem with it at all, and I’m thankful that Jim wanted to bend. But I think I had to make a statement about what I wanted to pay a coach.

Q: How do you plan to try to get through to J.R. Smith to put an end to all his immature on- and off-the-court antics?

A: I don’t know if that’s possible or not. He might be one of those guys that’s a little bit like Dennis Rodman that has an outlier kind of side to him. But I’m gonna get to know him as we go along, and we’ll find a way to either make him a very useful player on our organization, or whatever.

Q: What’s your level of confidence that you’ll be able to pull this off, and bring a championship back to New York?

A: Well, it’s a day-to-day thing, it’s about every day doing the right thing. There’s no doubt that good fortune has to be a big part of it. I always refer back to a statement when people a lot of times like to talk about great fortune that’s happened with me, to a statement about Napoleon looking for a general to replace someone that’s fallen. And they gave him all the benefits of this general and all this stuff, and he goes in the end and says: “Is he lucky? Does good fortune follow him?” And that’s really a part of it. And so we’re looking for people we think are lucky, good fortune follows them, and we think that’ll happen here.

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No. 2: Suns have glut of guards after re-signing Bledsoe — If you’re looking for a superstar on this year’s free agent list, the market for the officially dried up last night. The Phoenix Suns and star guard Eric Bledsoe agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal last night that not only keeps in Arizona for a while, but gives Phoenix perhaps the best guard depth in the NBA. Our David Aldridge has more on Bledsoe’s deal and how it affects the Suns’ plans going forward:

The Phoenix Suns and restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe ended their months-long dance around one another Wednesday by reaching agreement on a new five-year, $70 million deal that will give the Suns one of the best, if not the best, three-guard rotations in the NBA.

Bledsoe had rejected the club’s four-year, $48 million offer it made earlier this summer, looking for a max deal. Phoenix rejected that notion out of hand, starting a staredown that lasted most of the summer and threatened to carry over into the start of training camp this weekend. But the club moved off its $12 million per year stance and now will pay Bledsoe $14 million annually through 2019, a higher per-year average than several of the league’s top point guards have on their current deals, including Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Denver’s Ty Lawson and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, who signed a four-year, $48 million deal this summer.

There is no early termination clause in Bledsoe’s deal, according to a source.

Bledsoe averaged 17.7 points and 5.5 assists last season for Phoenix, teaming with Goran Dragic to lead the Suns to an improbable run at the playoffs which only ended the final week of the regular season. Phoenix strengthened its backcourt further (and also got some insurance in case it couldn’t re-sign Bledsoe) by getting guard Isaiah Thomas from Sacramento in a sign-and-trade deal in July.

Given Bledsoe’s injury history — he missed two months last season following knee surgery, and was injured for large chunks of his time with the Clippers — the new deal may seem a risk. But it’s a reasonable gamble for the Suns, given that the new television deal the NBA is likely to strike in the coming months with its national television partners (including Turner Sports, which operates NBA.com) is likely to inject billions more dollars in revenues to the teams.

That, in turn, will lead to significant raises for players who can command max salaries, which can run up to 30 percent of a team’s salary cap in a given year. In that climate, $14 million per year for a player who’s likely entering the prime of his career is a fair compromise, both for the Suns and Bledsoe.

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No. 3: Antetokounmpo embracing move to point guard — Over the course of last season, Milwaukee Bucks phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo quietly amazed with his all-around skill set and ability to play frontcourt and backcourt positions despite being 6-foot-11. As was reported last week, Hall of Fame point guard Gary Payton plans to help mentor Antetokounmpo as he is coached by another (future) Hall of Famer, Jason Kidd. In a chat with BasketballInsiders.com’s Alex Kennedy, Antetokounmpo talked about playing more point guard minutes in 2014-15, the addition of rookie Jabari Parker and more:

“I’m not going to say I was shocked by it,” Antetokounmpo told Basketball Insiders when asked about the move to point guard. “It’s something that I feel comfortable with and I’ll play wherever Coach wants me to play, especially when it’s Coach Kidd who thinks that I can play point guard. That makes me feel like, ‘I can play it. I can play point guard.’ I’m going to try my best and just listen to Coach. I’ll do whatever Coach says to do and I’ll get more comfortable.”

In addition to learning from Kidd, the Bucks have hired Gary Payton as a special adviser. He’ll work with Antetokounmpo as he adjusts to playing point guard. Antetokounmpo is ecstatic that he’ll get to learn from Kidd and Payton, and realizes this is an opportunity that most players don’t get.

“Oh man, it’s really important and nice, since they’re some of the best point guards in NBA history,” Antetokounmpo said of Kidd and Payton. “Not only are they great point guards, they’re great basketball players and can help us all basketball wise. Whatever they say, that is what I’m going to do. I’m so happy to have guys like them as I figure out the position and to have them teach me. I’m really excited. I’ve talked with Jason Kidd and he’s a really good coach, but he’s also a really great guy. He treats us really well.”

“I was comfortable playing point guard during Summer League, but the pressure and the [competition] level of Summer League is different,” Antetokounmpo said. “Okay, there are some NBA players, but it’s not the same. For sure, it’s not the same [as the regular season]. So, let’s see. Let’s see how training camp goes. The guys are ready. Brandon Knight, who is one of our point guards, will sometimes give me the ball so that I can be the point guard and he can be more of a scorer. I’ll just see how it goes in training camp, playing point guard, and then during the season see how I do.”

“I’m really excited we added him to the team because he’s a great player and a great guy too,” Antetokounmpo said of Parker. “I love playing with him and he’s going to bring a lot of things to the team. He’ll draw a lot of attention [from defenses] and there will be a lot of space, which will help me create. He’s going to help me – and not just me, all of the team. He’s going to make all of the team better because he’s a really good player and he’s a hard worker, who is going to make the rest of the team work hard too. That’s the truth. Whenever I see our guys working, and not just Jabari, that really pushes me to work harder.”

This offseason, Antetokounmpo played for Greece’s national team in the FIBA World Cup. Greece lost earlier than expected, in the round of 16 to Serbia, but it was a great experience for Antetokounmpo, who averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 16 minutes per game. He was often one of the youngest players on the floor and deferred to Greece’s veteran players, mainly getting his points through hustle plays. However, he believes participating made him better and he’s looking forward to playing with Greece every chance he gets going forward.

“I really think it will help me,” Antetokounmpo said of playing in the World Cup. “I went over there [to Spain] and I played among the best from all different parts of the world, so it was a really good experience. With things like that, you never lose something, you always gain something. I’m glad that I was there and participated in the World Cup and helped my team Greece to do something.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Spurs will reportedly re-sign the last remaining free agent from last year’s championship team, Aron Baynes … The Kings have reportedly parted ways with director of player personnel Shareef Abdur-Rahim … In an interview with a San Antonio radio station, Tim Duncan stood up for ex-teammate (and embattled Hawks GM) Danny Ferry … Golden State’s brass dispel the notion their new stadium will look like a toilet bowl … The Timberwolves don’t seem likely to pay Ricky Rubio any where near the max if they give him an extension … Pacers coach Frank Vogel discusses the Pacers’ offseason, Roy Hibbert‘s mindset and more … A day after the former No. 2 pick of the 2008 Draft, Michael Beasley, agreed to a training camp deal with the Grizz, the No. 2 pick of the 2009 Draft, Hasheem Thabeet, has reportedly reached a similar deal with the Pistons

10 Comments

  1. wheresthabeet? says:

    In Detroit, lol.

  2. Holland speaking says:

    A 6’11” PG? Man, that’s scary. I would love to see that!

  3. Brendan says:

    Giannis might do well against some of the league’s lower tier and backup point guards but going against a cp3 or tony parker he’s going to get picked apart may have a few blocks here and there but will get destroyed by handle, changes of speed, and the pick and roll.

  4. About Giannis, no he is not a point guard or will start at point guard. This experiment is about growing a potential star player’s game at the expense of wins when it matters the least. Giannis will likely be given a role to bring the ball up after rebounding it in order to kick start fast breaks and allow him to grow into a point forward type player. He is an all-world talent that will be given every opportunity to flourish on a small market team that recognizes one star is great but two is better as we see in OKC.

    This team is good on paper, it will be up to coach Jason Kidd to put it together and get them to compete.

  5. KIdd says:

    Kidd is a very intelligent coach and knows exactly what he is doing. Reminds me of his decisions to resurrect Shaun Livingston last season with the nets. He understands exactly what a point guard needs to do in his system which is initiate the offense and the fact that Antetokounmpo is 6’11 adds a little bit of an edge at that position within his system. Expect the Bucks to either make the playoffs or play like a playoff contender this season.

  6. T gas TT ako says:

    bledsoe doesnt deserve the deal,,, i wil give that max or much more to DRAGIC anyday,,,, thats a really realy awful decision,, should’ve let him just go away

  7. OKC says:

    So are the Bucks trying to tank or something? Giannis has a really high ceiling, but surely it is not as a 6’11 PG with questionable handles and vision. Last year this dude was super raw but did a great job of guarding bigger perimeter players like KD and PG, but they think he should run their offense? Kidd is on one =/.

    • MKE says:

      Obviously you don’t watch him much if you question Giannis’s vision. 6’11 guys with poor court vision aren’t considered for the PG position. Kidd and Payton being 2 of the best PGs ever is endorsement enough of Giannis’s skills. I’ll agree that his handles need to continue to improve, but watching summer league (granted on ball defense isn’t as good) you can definitely tell that he’s made strides handling the ball. We’re about to watch the emergence of one of the game’s transcendent talents. Sit back and enjoy.

      • RJ says:

        Well said. Now if only nba store would let me order his authentic jersey. His name is too long now?… Can I get some help on that?

      • lbj says:

        RJ, RJ, RJ… You’re not going to need an authentic jersey with too many letter on it. You’ll only need 5! I’ll give you a hint:

        J _ M _ S

        Fwoosh!