Nuggets soften the hard line, are suddenly more open to the idea of dealing Carmelo Anthony

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carmelo_anthony_denver_nuggets.jpgOh, what an intricate web the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors have woven. Melo has been linked to a dozen NBA teams, several book clubs, and at least one amateur magicians’ alliance since his desire to be traded became public, but the Nuggets’ willingness to play along with Anthony’s whimsy has been anything but concrete.

Obviously Denver would prefer to hang on to their best player, but if Masai Ujiri and the rest of the Nuggets’ brass consider Melo’s departure to be an inevitability rather than a mere possibility, it makes sense that they would at least take stock of their star’s value on the open market.

A report from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Chad Ford suggests that Ujiri is doing just that, and that the Nuggets are bracing for impact rather than taking evasive action:

The Nuggets still aren’t aggressively shopping Anthony and haven’t withdrawn their longstanding offer of a contract extension, but numerous sources told ESPN.com that Denver officials have in recent days let other teams know for the first time that they will listen to pitches after previously resisting such discussions. “I’m not sure how soon, but I do think they’re going to trade him [between now and February],” said one rival GM.

Said another source briefed on Denver’s plans: “There’s no doubt they are working on it. Eventually they’re going to pull the trigger. “

…Although Anthony has not made any such declarations publicly, it appears that Nuggets management is growing increasingly resigned to the fact that they won’t be able to change their franchise player’s mind.

Stein and Ford also suggest that Ujiri’s recent hiring to the Nuggets front office hasn’t had much of an impact on the team’s ability to sway Anthony, or even to arrange a sit-down meeting between the two parties. That’s not a pleasant sign for the home team, particularly since getting Anthony to agree to their proposed extension is likely the only way for Denver to get out of this in one piece. Otherwise, the Nuggets are likely looking at some kind of lesser returns in exchange for Carmelo, and their trade options are seriously limited by Anthony’s own preferences.

As has been explained previously: Melo may not have a no-trade clause, but he does have some power here. He wants the Nuggets to trade him, and now, it looks like they may just fulfill that wish. However, with just one year left on his deal, most suitors aren’t going to swing away without a general agreement for Anthony to commit over the long-term.

The Nuggets may have opened up the phones, but they’re not just going to hand out Carmelo to caller #10. They still have to filter through which teams Anthony accepts, which teams are financial fits, which teams provide a market conducive to growing La La Vazquez’s career, which teams are actually willing to invest in Anthony prior to the new CBA, and oh, which teams actually have the pieces to make a deal worthwhile for Denver. The Nuggets’ softer stance may remove one obstacle, but there are still all kinds of complications in the way of consummating a deal for Carmelo Anthony.  

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Cavaliers on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.