Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets

How Carmelo Anthony trade talks are like CBA negotiations

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Right now there is more posturing around the NBA than after a Chris Bosh dunk.

It is coming on two fronts — the Carmelo Anthony trade talks and the negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and owners.

Two very different things that have one thing in common — with no imminent deadline everyone is posturing. Deadline pressures drive deals, and right now there is plenty of time in both those situations. So everyone plays hardball and asks for the ridiculous. And that’s not going to change until hard deadlines impose reality on the sutuations.

For example, there is the latest rumor on the Anthony trade front — Denver is asking for five future first round picks from New Jersey as part of a Carmelo Anthony trade, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

If this is true — and with all the rumors swirling around the Carmelo Anthony trade talks right now we are skeptical of everything — then it confirms reports the Nuggets are overplaying their hand. If true, it would make sense to hear the Nets are backing away from negotiations.

But there are still two months until Denver has to make a deal — right now Nugget management can afford to ask for the moon. Nets management can play the “we’re not interested” game. Carmelo Anthony and his people can privately demand New York only because the chance of losing out of millions in free agency is not yet a reality.

But as the deadline gets closer, Anthony may well reconsider the swamps of New Jersey. Denver will temper its demands and other teams will make their real best offers. (Maybe, it is possible that teams start lowballing the Nuggets as they realize Denver is under pressure, that is the risk the Nuggets are taking.)

The good news is that with Anthony, there is an end in sight — the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

With the CBA negotiations, it’s more nebulous. Right now owners can take the hardline of wanting 1/3 player salary rollbacks while the players can say that the song should remain the same. Right now the threat of lost paychecks and lost team revenue is not a reality.

Technically the current CBA expires and the lockout begins on July 1. But that deadline is not the real pressure point because a lockout in the middle of summer just means no Summer League and free agency gets pushed back. The casual fan doesn’t really care about that and will forgive those.

The pressure really comes as we get into September — when the opening of camps might be pushed back and, more serious yet, games become lost. When games are lost, fans are lost. That is when paychecks and gate revenue are missed. That is the real deadline pressure.

And it takes deadline pressure to make deals happen, to impose reality on a negotiation. Right now we don’t have that, so we have a lot of posturing.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.