UPDATED: Carmelo Anthony trade talks move closer as Nets zero in

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The New Jersey Nets have managed to move their efforts to obtain Carmelo Anthony in a trade with the Denver Nuggets “further along” according to a report from ESPN New York.

Here’s where we stand at posting time:

  • The teams are the same as last we left, with the Pistons pulled into the deal and sending Rip Hamilton to New Jersey to re-team with Chauncey Billups in what our boss man Kurt Helin described as eerily similar to what could have been in Detroit in 2003 had the Pistons drafted Melo.
  • The previous hang-ups were two-fold: the Pistons refused to give up a draft pick in the deal, and everyone was reluctant to take on the insane Johan Petro contract ($10 million over the next three seasons).
  • The first hang-up is reportedly resolved, with Detroit not having to surrender a pick. Petro remains a sticking point, as the Pistons are only willing to be the two teams’ cash dump partner if they’re taking on the least amount of salary.
  • It’s a massive deal in its framework, with 15 players coming and going, and this is outside of whatever fourth team is brought in to potentially take on Petro.
  • Denver would get two first-round picks, Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and Anthony Morrow among other assets in the deal.
  • New Jersey is hoping that by acquiring both Hamilton and Billups to team with Lopez, that will be enough to talk Melo into the much-discussed extension, even without a sit-down with Mikhail Prokhorov.
  • There’s a lot of confusion on where this is coming from, but the loudest talks have been that Denver is relenting to pressure from Melo’s representatives. If that’s the case, it bodes well for Jersey’s chances at an extension.
  • It’s unclear at this point what Detroit’s after besides clearing its books.

The Billups situation is particularly interesting. Billups’ agent told FanHouse that if traded, he would opt to become a free agent this summer. Billups has been pretty clear about wanting to finish his career in his home of Denver. But in this scenario, Billups become the starting point guard for a contending team beside a star in Carmelo, with a legit big man in Brook Lopez, in a huge market in 2012 when the Nets go to Brooklyn, and he gets to reunite with former teammate Rip Hamilton. I’m not sure Billups will get a better chance to go out on top. Maybe he doesn’t care after already having his ring, but it’s enough to at least give him and his agent pause.

For the Pistons, you have to wonder if they’re simultaneously looking to move Tayshaun Prince in a deal to send out both long-tenured veterans in a short period of time, in an effort to completely remake themselves as a team of the future. With ownership up in the air, this appears to be a solely financial endeavor, but if they’re not getting picks back in this deal, they’re going to want to gear towards the future somewhere. There’s a solid core in place with Greg Monroe, Austin Daye, and whatever point guard ends up being decent along with Jonas Jerebko. Moving both veterans would give them a truly clean slate, so to speak, which they haven’t had in years.

We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.

UPDATE 8:16 p.m. ET: Woj over at Yahoo! has a further list of players included in the deal as it stands, which includes Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams going to New Jersey and Ben Uzoh, Stephen Graham, and Quinton Ross on their way to Denver along with Harris, Favors, and the picks. Chris Mannix of SI reports that Anthony will reportedly agree to an extension with New Jersey, pending the deal. Mannix says the Nets are convinced of that now.

UPDATE 10:12 p.m. ET: Woj at Yahoo! now reports that deal is on hold as Denver is contemplating whether they want more assets. The deal is on hold as of now and this could kill things. Two other teams have walked off from previous talks because Masai Ujiri decided to get cute by agreeing, then changing the bar height.

Michael Beasley had his truck stolen out of his driveway

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Michael Beasley will be getting buckets, shooting long twos, and playing inconsistent defense for the New York Knicks next season (the analysis is just based on recent history).

But first, he’d like to find his truck. Which was stolen.

Well, I did see a Dodge Ram 1500 on the road today, but since I’m on the West Coast and I have no idea what color/year Beasley’s truck is, I’m going to assume the guy I saw didn’t perpetrate the heist.

Still, that sucks for Beasley, even if he can easily afford to replace it.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.