Carmelo Anthony doesn't have to be careful what he wishes for

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Thumbnail image for Anthony_game.jpgAs the rumor mill starts to churn more heavily about the eventual destination of Carmelo Anthony now that it’s accepted he wants out of Denver, there will be conflicting reports. Some will say that the Nuggets don’t care a lick about what Carmelo wants and will trade him to whomever they please. These reports will be sourced out of the Nuggets camp or those close to them. Others will say that the Knicks are still in play or that one of his preferred teams is likely. Those, as you can guess, will come from Melo’s camp. 

It’s a cute game, but has little to do with what will actually occur. What’s interesting is how this will play out and determining who exactly has leverage in this situation. And that’s where the latest tweet from the reliable Sam Amico comes in. 
Amico reports the following concerning prospective partners for the Nuggets:

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Early word around NBA is Nuggets will try to trade Carmelo to 1 of 3 teams: Wolves, Kings, Nets. In other words, careful what you wish for.less than a minute ago via webSam Amico
SamAmicoNBA


It’s very likely that Amico’s on the money here. These are the types of teams that the Nuggets will be targeting as trade partners. They’re loaded with young talent, draft picks, and a handful of expiring contracts. The Nuggets will get what they want for Melo. Who cares what Melo or CAA has to say about it?

Well, for one, the teams that will be trying to trade for him.
The problem with this tactic lies with the original source of this whole shebang, Melo’s extension. As a free agent next summer, the Nuggets were trying to lock down a max extension for Melo.  His reticence to sign that extension was the first sign that maybe Anthony wasn’t quite as happy as he let on.
It’s also that extension that maintains Anthony’s leverage. Because those teams do have what the Nuggets want. And the Nuggets certainly have what those teams want… to a degree. They have access to Carmelo Anthony… for a single season. It’s Anthony’s own control over the subsequent season that will prevent the Nuggets from trading him to whomever they please. 
Any team looking to acquire Anthony will want him in an extend-and-trade that locks him up for further seasons. After all, these teams have already established a core of young players, they’ve done their cap cleaning and draft building. They won’t be giving up players with upside and future picks for a one-year rental of Anthony. Which means the Nuggets need him to sign the extension. And Anthony’s only likely to do that if he assents to where he’s being traded. 
Anthony’s extension and trade flexibility are inter-connected. The Nuggets don’t just have to find a trade partner looking to acquire Melo enough to surrender the pieces they’re looking to get back, they have to find a partner attractive enough to Anthony to convince him to commit to the future. 
We have three actors in this little play. Anthony and his people wants his extension under the current CBA, and to relocate to a new team that fits the lifestyle which he wants to become accustomed (fame, fortune, and championships), as well as maintain their leverage in negotiations not just for Anthony but future clients. His current team needs to get the pieces they want back for Anthony and maintain their leverage in negotiations with players to not be held hostage by their demands. And his new team wants Carmelo Anthony to make them into a contender, for the next three years and beyond. 
The Nets are a prospective partner, because they are relocating to Brooklyn, a market he likely finds attractive. The Kings have two definite stars, but the market isn’t really there for him. The Wolves? Um… Darko’s fun to hang out with? 
But any of these teams have to be able to convince Anthony they have the combination of elements he desires or else they’ll only be renting him.
The Nuggets have leverage, that much is clear from the events of the past week. The best scenario is convincing him to stay in Denver, sign the extension and move forward. But that bridge may have already been crossed, then lit on fire. But to act like Carmelo is subject to the whims of the Nuggets ignores not only the realities created by his extension situation, but the new reality of the empowered player that have shifted the NBA so greatly in the past three months.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.

PBT Podcast: NBA All-Star Weekend talk, predictions with Sean Highkin

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NBA All-Star weekend descends upon frigid Toronto starting Friday, with everything from the Rookie/Sophomore… er, Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, the Dunk Contest/Three-Point Contest on Saturday, and the main event on Sunday.

Kurt Helin and Sean Highkin of NBC’s ProBasketballTalk break it all down, from Pau Gasol replacing Jimmy Butler to predictions on the Dunk Contest and if anyone can knock off Zach LaVine. Plus, there is plenty of “why Sting?” talk.

PBT will be in Toronto with reports from the event all weekend, so come back early and often for all the latest (plus trade talk, as all the GMs get together in one city where it’s too cold for them to go outside).

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Pistons retire Chauncey Billups’ jersey at halftime (VIDEO)

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Moments before his jersey went up to the rafters, Chauncey Billups spoke to the crowd about the night the Detroit Pistons wrapped up the 2004 NBA title by routing the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Finals.

“We had one motivation,” he said. “We wanted to win it here at home.”

Billups was the most valuable player in the Finals that year, and he had his No. 1 jersey retired by the Pistons on Wednesday night at halftime of their game against Denver.

He was the second player from that 2004 team honored by the Pistons this year. The Pistons retired Ben Wallace’s jersey last month at a similar ceremony – in front of a packed house on a night Detroit beat Golden State.

There were some empty seats in the upper level Wednesday, but Billups wanted to be honored while the Pistons were playing the Nuggets. Billups is a Denver native and played for the Nuggets for two stints during his career.

“This was by design, only because there’s a lot of people that contributed to my success as a player and as a man, in Denver, my hometown,” Billups said before the game. “There were several dates that I could have chosen. This one obviously stuck out.”

Billups does have a mild regret about his run of success with the Pistons. He figures they could have won more titles.

“I felt like, two and maybe three championships – we were that good,” he said.

Ben Wallace was on hand Wednesday, and so were Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince from the 2004 champions. Pistons great Isiah Thomas was also at the Palace for the ceremony.

“This is what tradition looks like,” Thomas told the crowd. “This is what it feels like.”

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: How ‘Bout them Celtics!

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Traditionally, NBA players treat the last game before the All-Star break like you treated the last day of school before summer vacation. But through the slop, there were some entertaining games on Wednesday, here is what you need to know:

1) If you weren’t taking the Celtics seriously before, the Clippers think you should start. The Boston Celtics are 32-23, have the third-best defense in the NBA, and in their last 10 games are outscoring opponents by 7.9 points per 100 possessions (fifth best in the NBA in that stretch). They are legitimate. Not title contenders, but they are looking like the third best team in the East and a second-round showdown with Toronto could be interesting (especially if Danny Ainge can pull off a big move at the trade deadline — he’s trying). Brad Stevens is earning Coach of the Year votes every time the Celtics step on the court.

The latest sign the Celtics are for real — winning a shootout against the Los Angeles Clippers. Two good defensive teams decided to take the night off on that end, which was entertaining and fit the “last day of school before break” theme. Isaiah Thomas just shredded the Clippers perimeter defense on his way to 36 points and 11 assists (watching how quick he is on the dribble, he’s got to be the favorite at the All-Star Saturday skills challenge). Chris Paul countered with 35 points and 13 assists. It was an old-fashioned, 1980s-style barn burner that went to overtime when the Clippers didn’t score a field goal in the final 3:29 of regulation and the Celtics completed a comeback in a Thomas jumper. In OT, J.J. Redick started out hot, but the Celtics closed hotter and got the win. The one bit of bad news for Boston Kelly Olynyk suffered a shoulder subluxation, he will have the week off to let that rest. (We will now note that happened on the same night Kevin Love suffered a shoulder injury, too. His was just a stinger, and he will be back after the break.)

2) Kawhi Leonard drains game winner to give Spurs another win. A couple of seasons back, when the Spurs motion offense was clicking, with the game on the line they would have run a play, four guys would touch the ball, and they would get a clean look. But this is how much Gregg Popovich trusts Kawhi Leonard now: Tie game with 13.3 seconds remaining, and the play design is a 1-4 flat isolation for Leonard. That’s what you call for LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Popovich called it for Leonard. And he was rewarded with the win.



3) Chauncey Billups got his number retired in Detroit.
There is a 2004 championship banner hanging above the Detroit Pistons court in large part because for a stretch Billups was not only the ultimate leader but played as well as anyone in the league. Just ask Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Wednesday night they honored Billups in the Motor City (well, in Auburn Hills) by retiring his number.

4) Portland beats Houston to take over final playoff spot in the Western Conference. If the playoffs started today, the Trail Blazers would be the eight seed in the West and the Rockets would be golfing. That’s because Portland beat Houston 116-103 to move to .500 and ahead of Houston in the standings by half a game. Houston had some success scoring in the first quarter thanks to some old school Dwight Howard in the post and James Harden on the drive. The problem is, when Portland adjusted and Houston’s offense sputtered, they had no defense to fall back on — Portland scored at will all night. Damian Lillard finished with 31 points, the Trail Blazers had an offensive rating on the night of 115.6, and the Rockets head into the break trying to answer the same questions they had back when Kevin McHale got fired. Houston thinks things can come together, and they can make another playoff run, but a playoff run would be based on defense and the Rockets don’t play four quarters on that end nightly.

5) Suns Markieff Morris, Aaron Goodwin scuffle on bench. After the game — a 112-104 loss to Golden State — Morris said this was no more than two guys as close as brothers having a disagreement. It’s just a little hard considering everything that has gone on in Phoenix this season — including Morris’ poor play and the towel throwing incident with now-fired coach Jeff Hornacek — to think this is not another window into the chemistry problem in the Suns locker room.