Carmelo Anthony sounds like LeBron, says he'll keep his options open


Thumbnail image for canthony_arty.jpg“I’m here today… Whatever the future holds, it holds. I’m leaving my options open right now.

That was Carmelo Anthony today, sounding a lot like LeBron James a year before.

What the Denver Nuggets want to avoid is a LeBron repeat — an entire season of speculation followed by losing their best player and getting nothing in return.

But  Anthony came out Monday at Nuggets media day and took a page from LeBron’s strategy. He said he never asked for a trade, he planned to stay a Nugget this season and that he was “keeping his options open” until the end of the season. Which could really force Denver’s hand.

There are reports that Anthony is willing to sign off on playing for the Nets and that trade is picking up steam again, that it is now the Nuggets who are dragging their feet. If true — and that is a mighty big “if” — then Denver has to seriously consider it. Because there are not better deals coming from their end.

Here’s what he said. (The quotes are via tweets from Chris Tomasson of FanHouse and Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post, who live tweeted the press conference

“I never once said anything about trade talk…. There’s been a lot of speculation going on”

“I’m leaving my options open. At the end of the season, I’ll sit down with my team, I’ll sit down with the Nuggets”

“I’ve been a Nugget for seven years. This is where I started my career. Tomorrow the ball goes up and we get started.”

First, technically he did not request a trade publicly, if he did that he’d be fined. That’s why agents and back channel folks force these things. Be very clear that he did push for a trade, just not in public because he didn’t want to write a massive check.

Aside that, Melo sounded like LeBron about keeping his options open. And sounding like LeBron is not good for the Nuggets (see what happened to Cleveland).

If he is planning to wait until the end of the season to decide (if the Nets trade does not happen), Denver may be stuck in the situation they wanted to avoid. They would like to keep him, and if they are seriously close to geting him to sign an extension then trading him becomes hard. If they think he’s gone they’ve got to move him to get something back, but the days of driving a hard bargain like they did the last few weeks — demanding Joakim Noah from the Bulls, for example — may be gone.

The only teams that would take Anthony are the ones where he would sign an extension. If that really is just the Knicks and Bulls, then Denver has only a couple partners here. They can send him where he wants to go and get pennies back on the dollar, or they can do nothing and get nothing back.

Chauncey Billups admitted this all would be a distraction, but that he didn’t expect it to impact Anthony on the court.

George Karl spoke of making the NBA’s final four teams, while general manager Masai Ujiri gave the company line about adding players if needed to be a winner. Ujiri added, “I love Melo.”

We’ll see soon if Nuggets fans still feel the same way.

Luke Walton is NBA Coach of the Month despite zero official wins

Luke Walton
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If you were going to name the Western Conference Coach of the Month for November, there was only one choice to make — the coach of the undefeated Golden State Warriors.

So congratulations Steve Kerr, since he gets the credit for those 19 and counting wins… er, wait.

The NBA announced it has given November Coach of the Month award to Luke Walton, the interim Warriors’ coach who has guided the team while Kerr is recovering from back surgery. The league also announced Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt as the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month.

As the NBA explained earlier in the day, they see the Warriors as still Kerr’s team — he was the architect who put in the systems and built the foundation, while Walton is just living in the house for a while. Walton is a housesitter. So the fact the team was undefeated under Walton is moot, he gets no credit for the wins, they all go on Kerr’s resume. But Walton can win the Coach of the Month award for guiding the Warriors a league-best point differential of 15.4 points.

This was expected, but now it is official.

He could win it again for December, unless Steve Kerr decides to come back

Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan tied NBA record with 22 missed free throws Monday

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DeAndre Jordan tied his personal best with 12 made free throws Monday night against the Trail Blazers.

But that’s not what anybody is talking about with Jordan’s trips to the free throw line Tuesday.

So you don’t have to do the math yourself, Jordan hit just 35.3 percent of his free throws. When the Clippers pulled away with a mini-run in the fourth quarter, Blazers coach Terry Stotts responded with hack-a-Jordan, and Doc Rivers refused to take him out. The result was nine intentional fouls and trips to the free throw line in less than two minutes.

It was ugly to watch.

The purist’s answer here is “if he hits his free throws this never happens, so learn to shoot them.” That’s the camp Adam Silver is in, and it’s his voice (and that of the other owners) that matters. There is no appetite around the league to change the rule, even though more and more players are being subjected to it.

I would argue that fouling intentionally off the ball in the first place is outside the spirit of the game — it’s not playing basketball — and unsportsmanlike. I think it’s bad for the sport, much worse than missed free throws and a dragged out game. I would like to see any time there is an off-the-ball foul the aggrieved team having a choice of free throws or the ball out-of-bounds.

But I’m in the minority. The rule isn’t changing soon. Which means Jordan — or Dwight Howard or Rajon Rondo or someone — is going to get the chance to set a new free throw futility mark soon. That will be fun to watch.

Rumor: Houston seeing if there is trade market for Ty Lawson

Ty Lawson

While it does happen — and the ones that do happen tend to be bigger names — December is not a time the NBA does a lot of trades. Team GMs are always willing to talk, listen, and get a feel for the market, but it’s not until after the first of the year — and closer to the February trade deadline — before the market picks up momentum.

But there are always trade rumors, and the well-connected Steve Kyler over at had an interesting one — the Houston Rockets might be open to moving Ty Lawson.

The Rockets have been sniffing around the league for deals and there is a belief among other teams that Lawson could be had in trade, and had cheaply. Lawson is owed $12.4 million this season with the final $13.21 million of his deal being fully non-guaranteed.

As the Rockets search for ways to change, there is a belief that Lawson could be the first Rocket player moved. But given how poorly Lawson has played in Houston and his troublesome off-the-court history, it’s hard to imagine that Lawson alone is going to yield much in return. But as teams start to get desperate, Lawson does have a career assist average of more than 6.5 assists per game and averaged 9.6 per game last season for the Nuggets.

The Rockets are 10.4 points per 100 possessions better this season when Lawson is on the bench rather than starting. Lawson and James Harden — both of whom need the ball in their hands to be most effective — get outscored by 9.3 points per 100 possession when they are paired.  Pair Lawson with Dwight Howard and the Rockets are -11.4 per 100.

The Rockets clearly need to shake things up, and firing coach Kevin McHale and bringing in J.B. Bickerstaff has not been the answer. They have serious effort issues, which leads to real locker room chemistry questions. If they move Lawson, with that salary they should get a player of some value in return. If a good team loses a point guard to injury, Lawson could be a viable alternative.

Moving Lawson would be no magic bullet for Houston right now, but don’t be shocked if you hear a lot Lawson rumors as the trade deadline nears.

LeBron James on not facing Kobe Bryant in Finals: “I didn’t hold up my end”

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James
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It was the matchup everyone wanted to see — LeBron James and the Cavaliers against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the NBA Finals. You can be sure the suits at ESPN/ABC wanted to see it.

Never happened. It felt like it would in 2009, but LeBron and the Cavs ran into a Magic team they could not defend and fell short. Kobe vs. LeBron never happened on the NBA’s biggest stage.

LeBron blames himself he said Tuesday, as reported by the Akron Beacon Journal.

“I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain,” James said of 2009, when the Cavs were upset by the Orlando Magic in the conference finals. “I know the world wanted to see it. I wanted it, he wanted it. He held up his end, I didn’t hold up my end and I hate that. I hate that it didn’t happen.”

LeBron was phenomenal in that series, but this was a team he could not carry all the way. In Game 1 he had 49 points on 20-of-30 shooting, plus dished out eight assists, and pulled down six rebounds — and the Cavaliers still lost. LeBron had a 59.1 true shooting percentage for the series despite a ridiculous 38 usage rate. The problem was his teammates had no answers for Stan Van Gundy’s offense with Dwight Howard in the paint and four shooters around him, plus Hedo Turkoglu playing the best ball of his career off the pick-and-roll.

Bottom line, LeBron you shouldn’t blame yourself. I’d say blame Cavaliers management, but clearly you did a summer later when you took your talent to South Beach. At least you ultimately learned to forgive.