Anthony eyes the door in Denver as team cleans out front office

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Thumbnail image for Anthony_game.jpgWe didn’t see this coming — Denver cleaning out its front office. It comes right at the time reports are surfacing that Carmelo Anthony is leaning toward exploring his free agent options next summer, lockout and new Collective Bargaining Agreement be damned.

Coincidence? Probably not.

Mark Warkentien — the 2009 NBA executive of the year — and his right hand man Rex Chapman have both been let go by the Denver Nuggets, according to the team. Here is the explanation from the official press release.

“Mark and Rex have played important roles in our success over the past several seasons,” KSE Executive Vice President Paul Andrews said. “However, after meeting with both individually in recent weeks, we decided it would be best for all parties to go their separate ways. We appreciate everything that each has done for the organization and wish them nothing but the very best in the future.

“We are in the process of evaluating and restructuring the Nuggets front office and have begun a search for possible replacements as we prepare for the upcoming season.”

NBA.com reached Warkentien but he declined to make any comments.

Warkentien was one of ‘Melo’s biggest supporters in the organization and one who set up the three-year, $65 million extension that was offered to Anthony. The one he has ignored.

And the one he is not likely to sign, according to Alex Kennedy at Hoopsworld. He tweeted that Anthony is not too worried about the lockout and any money lost in the new CBA negotiations and wants to test the free agent market next summer.

Anthony just became the New York Knicks fans new free agent obsession.

It is possible that Warkentien and Chapman being let go as it becomes clear Anthony is plotting to leave is a coincidence. Not likely, but possible.

What is more likely is that the Nuggets are doing what Dell Demps is trying to do in New Orleans with Chris Paul (the other New York obsession) — convince him that the organization is changing its ways and wants to build a contender around him here. It may not be an easy sell, Stanley Kroenke has never been a big spender in the way that the Knicks have (which is largely a function of market size).

One thing to watch — Josh Kroenke, the owners’ son, may well take a larger role on the basketball side. That is something that has been rumored for a while and now there seems to be a spot for him. Whether that encourages ‘Melo to stay or go remains to be seen.

Byron Scott: Lakers made me feel ‘betrayed, lied to and deceived’

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Byron Scott lost 77% of his games with the Lakers, alienated their young players and failed to deliver on his big talk about defense.

Yet, Scott said he was blindsided when the Lakers fired him last year.

How did he possibly get the idea he’d return for a third season?

Mark Medina of The Orange County Register:

Scott said he “felt betrayed, lied to and deceived” by former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and former executive Jim Buss. Though he had only two guaranteed years on his four-year contract, Scott contends that Kupchak and Jim Buss previously promised him they would exercise the team option for his third year. Scott also believes the Lakers used him to manage Bryant during his final seasons and farewell tour before making the coach a scapegoat for the franchise’s struggles.

“If I asked him to do certain things, Kobe would do it because of his respect for me,” said Scott, who mentored Bryant during his rookie season in 1996-97. “Basically, you just wanted me there to help you guys get through the next two years, so Kobe doesn’t go crazy on you guys. I would be the one that can handle it. They know me. I’m not going to back down. I’m not going to be intimidated by anybody.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if management said something Scott could have reasonably interpreted as a promise to keep him. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Scott heard what he wanted to hear.

The Jim Buss Lakers didn’t always feature the best lines of communication, and Scott was delusional.

Either way, the Lakers did the right thing in firing Scott. If he were hired to manage Kobe Bryant’s final seasons, Kobe retired. There was no more need for Scott, who neither related well to young players nor implemented a winning scheme – pretty much everything beyond handling Kobe.

The strangest part of Scott’s criticism is how it reflects on Kupchak, who has now been accused of both being too dishonest and too honest.

Tony Parker tells French publication he plans to return in January

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Back on May 5, Tony Parker has surgery to repair a ruptured left quadriceps tendon, an injury some thought could be career ending for the 35-year-old point guard.

He plans to be back and is aiming for January, he told the French publication L’Equipe, as transcribed by EuroHoops.net.

“I will play my best basketball when I return in January”, Parker told L’Equipe….

“The first thing that came in when I got injured, was frustration. I was super good and we had the chance to go until the end and get the title,” Parker said.

“The coach’s plan worked like a clock. I was consistent, playing for twenty to twenty-five minutes per game. My series against Memphis was good and I had a good start in the season,” he added.

Paker’s return in January (if he can meet that timeline) will have him coming off the bench, meaning the Spurs will still need a starting point guard and some depth at the position.

No, that doesn’t mean Chris Paul is coming to San Antonio, that was always a long shot as Adrian Wojnarowski noted. It’s not like the Spurs to kick guys like Parker to the curb (Bill Belichick does not run the franchise) nor do the Spurs gut their roster, and that’s what they’d have to do. Beyond that, Paul is president of the players’ union and one of the things he/the union got in the new CBA was to turn the over-36 rule (which restricted how much LeBron could get on his last deal) to the over-38 rule — meaning the Clippers can give 32-year-old Paul one more five-year max deal. You really think he’s walking away from that?

Hopefully, when Parker returns he can give us all glimpses of his old self.

Steve Kerr says he’s not ready to coach in NBA Finals, at least not yet

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Steve Kerr has been a regular presence at Warriors practices, he’s traveled with the team to playoff games, he’s been part of the planning/strategizing sessions for the team — basically, he’s been everywhere but the sidelines.

He’s not ready to return there. Yet.

Interim Warriors’ coach Mike Brown was knocked down by the flu on Monday, so Kerr ran the Warriors practice then spoke to the media, but said he still is battling issues from his back surgery and is not ready yet to return to the sidelines. Via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

The Warriors brought in Mike Brown last summer just for this type of situation — he’s a veteran NBA coach who has led a team to the Finals (the Cavaliers, with LeBron James), and the Warriors thought it possible Kerr could miss time. With Luke Walton in Los Angeles, Golden State wanted a veteran on the bench. Brown is that.

He’s not as creative as Kerr is addressing matchups and challenges, but if Kerr is in the film sessions and practices, then his influence is still there. That may be enough for a more talented and more rested Warriors team (than a year ago) heading into the Finals starting Thursday night.

Stephen A. Smith, who has incorrectly predicted last six NBA Finals, picks Warriors

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ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has incorrectly predicted the last six NBA Finals – an incredible streak even if he were trying to guess wrong. But at least his picks led to the fun video above.

His prediction this year? Warriors in 7:

Congratulations, Cavaliers!