Denver Nuggets v Sacramento Kings

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.

Paul George says “I’m ready” to challenge LeBron James for supremacy in East

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 29: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks for a pass while under pressure from Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on February 29, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is the best basketball player walking the face of the earth. The only guy who could start to challenge that supremacy the past couple of years has been Stephen Curry, and last season’s NBA Finals answered that question for now.

In the Eastern Conference, for years now it has been LeBron James and his team then a step back to everyone else — LeBron has been to six straight NBA Finals, four in Miami and the last two in Cleveland. Most pundits (myself included) think that’s going to be seven in-a-row because the Cavaliers are clear and away the class of the East.

Paul George says he and the Pacers are ready to change that narrative. Here is what he told Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“Honestly, I look at us challenging them. I’ve been in the East and I’ve been No. 1 with LeBron being on a team,” George told The Vertical in a recent telephone interview, harkening back to when the Pacers finished with the best regular-season record in the East in 2013-14, the season before his gruesome Team USA leg injury….

“I’ve always matched up with him like, ‘I know he can do this, I know he can do that,’ ” George told The Vertical about James. “Not in an awe fashion, but it’s more so, ‘I’m not supposed to win these games. This is supposed to be the best dude in the NBA. I’m trying to challenge him. I know what I’m up against.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready for you. I’m a veteran. I know you, you know me. Let’s meet here, let’s get this job done.’ I’m prepared. I’ve had time to figure this out. I’ve had time to lick my wounds. I’m ready.”

Good for George — this is exactly what you want an elite competitor and top player to say heading into the season. He sees Everest in front of him, and he wants to climb it.

I’m also higher on the Pacers than most; I think they are a top-four team in the East that can finish top two. They upgraded at the point with Jeff Teague, plus they added the underrated Thaddeus Young (although they will miss Solomon Hill) and depth up front with Al Jefferson. I don’t get Larry Bird pushing Frank Vogel out the door at all, but Nate McMillan is a solid NBA coach to take his place. I think the Pacers are taking a step forward this season, maybe a fairly significant one.

But they’re still not in the Cavaliers’ class.

The East is still Cleveland then everyone else. Last season Toronto won 56 games and had its best season in franchise history, and they were still a step or two below the Cavaliers. No team in the East — not the Raptors, not the Celtics, not the Pacers — are making up those steps. Unless injuries or something else unforeseen brings the Cavaliers back to the pack, the Eastern Conference once again will look like Secretariat at the Belmont.

Russell Westbrook says he will not kneel for national anthem “as of right now”

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook spins the ball as he poses for photos during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Without question, some kneeling/raised fist protests of the National Anthem are coming to the NBA once preseason games start in a couple of weeks. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers has already come out saying “there’s no more American thing to do than to protest.” Teams are discussing the need for social change.

While the NBA has a rule that players must stand for the anthem, the NBA and players’ union are already discussing exactly how and if that rule should be enforced.

While some players will kneel, Russell Westbrook will not be among them. Probably. Here’s is what he told Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.

Obviously, Westbrook is leaving himself some wiggle room here. Also, if there is one NBA star you can expect to be blunt about the situation when talking to the media, it’s Westbrook (when he feels like opening up to the media, anyway).

I expect few if any of the NBA’s top stars — the guys with the biggest international brands — will join the protests. However, there certainly will be players taking part. For a league that sees itself as progressive — and has a more politically progressive fan base compared to other American sports — how the league handles this will be watched.

Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau thanks Kevin Garnett after retirement announcement

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics sits not he bench prior to Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the New York Knicks on April 28, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”

It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Pacers unveil 50th anniversary patch for their uniforms (PHOTO)

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 28:  Leandro Barbosa #28 of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center on March 28, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. 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 Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:

It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.