What’s the holdup on ‘Melo deal? Al Harrington’s bad deal.

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UPDATE 12:53 pm: Here is the latest, from multiple reports, at this time on the still pending Carmelo Anthony trade:

Everything seems to be in Denver’s court, but they continue to tweak offers and try to work out the best deal — they have even pushed the Nets to take on Renaldo Balkman in addition to Al Harrington. Which is the kind of dump of toxic assets the banks did on the government. The Nets, for obvious reasons, not really going for that.

The Pistons are going to get second round picks to go with Troy Murphy (expiring deal) and Johan Petro (they will be stuck with him).

Chauncey Billups is not taking part in Monday’s light practice in Denver, but Anthony and the other people in the trade are.

And can the Nets, having gone this far down the path, really back away from the deal? They are (and their fans are) emotionally invested. Hard to back away once that happens.

10:26 am: This summer, when the Nuggets realized that Chris Anderson and Kenyon Martin would miss the first part of the season, the Nuggets went after Al Harrington to bolster their front line. They got into a little bidding war with the Mavericks and ended up winning it with a five-year, $33 million deal.

Now that contract is standing in the way of a Carmelo Anthony trade, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN on twitter (he tends to be more accurate than a lot of the sharks in the trade rumor waters).

Holdup to NJ-Den-Det trade is that Den wants NJ to take Al Harrington. NJ doesn’t want to b/c Al has 4 yrs, $28 mill left on deal.

Technically, the last two years of that deal are not fully guaranteed (he can be bought out for 50 percent), so think of it as two years, $20 million. Still, nobody really wants that deal. Which is probably why he has been in and out of the rumored variations of this deal.

The proposed trade  has Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton going to the Nets; while Denver would get Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, two first round picks, and maybe or maybe not Harrington. Detroit would give up Hamilton, who is owed $12.5 million next season, to take on the expiring deal of Troy Murphy this season. There are other picks and parts, but that is the core of the deal.

Harrington was not in the versions of the trade circulating late last night, but Denver seems to have thrown him back in the mix. Which fits with reports that they continually tweak the deal and seem hesitant to pull the trigger. Of course, they can do that so long as New Jersey’s offer is on the table. Nobody has put real pressure on them to make up their minds. Some other thoughts from Broussard.

NJ could try to recruit s 4th team to take Harrington, but their hope is that Den eliminates Harrington request.

NJ will give Detroit a draft pick for taking Petro, not determined whether 1st or 2nd rounder yet.

Billups won’t hold up deal, but sources just told me he will either want a buyout after season or a long-term commitment (extension) from NJ.

Personally, to take on the Johan Petro contract, you’d have to give me a first rounder.

Anthony himself said he didn’t think this trade was about to happen. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of teams (and players and agents) involved, things never move fast because of that.

So we wait.

DeMarcus Cousins thinks refs are giving him techs off reputation alone

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New Orleans Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins is a fiery personality on the court, often arguing foul calls at length despite no official in NBA history reversing a call directly after player complaint.

Crafty veterans — your LeBron Jameses and your Chris Pauls — slowly and pointedly chatter with officials as a means to influence their subconscious leaning on calls (and to protect them against earning techs when they do decide to straight up yell at refs).

Cousins hasn’t used that kind of angling to success in his career, instead going hard at referees with some consistency. Cousins has tried to change that approach this season, but instead has found that his prior actions have earned him a reputation the Pelicans forward believes doesn’t befit his actions in 2017-18.

Speaking to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, Cousins said that despite letting more calls go and changing his candor, NBA refs are not responding proportionately.

Via The Undefeated:

I am going out of my way. I am going over and beyond,” Cousins said. “I am coming in saying, ‘We can’t do this, this and this …’ Even calls I know I should be arguing, I’m letting go. And they’re still like … it’s a one-sided thing. Everything is changing from one end. But with them, it’s like, ‘We are not letting go of the past. You are who you are. You’re getting a tech.’

“So, when it comes to me getting a tech for saying, ‘Good call, referee …,’ vets and coaches tell me to butter them up. Switch it up a little bit. Do a little reverse psychology. Tell them it’s a good call. And you still getting a tech for it? They’re not trying to make it work. They’re stuck in their ways, and it is so obvious.”

Cousins added that he believes foes are taking advantage of his troubles.

“Now it’s to the point where teams are saying, ‘Yeah, just go over there and beat the s— out of him.’ I don’t get calls, and I’m not protected like other players are,” he said.

It’s interesting to see that Cousins has at least tried to change things up, and indeed acknowledges that he should be trying to work with the officials rather than antagonize them.

Still, we’re not sure what the tone of his “good call” comments are toward the refs. Are they sarcastic? Or are they contrite? You can see how one might earn Cousins a tech from an official — who seem to be particularly sensitive this season — and the other might endear you to them.

James Harden is playing with a bruised right knee

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James Harden, Chris Paul, and the Houston Rockets are on a 13-game winning streak. They have a 1.5 game lead over the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. But it’s not all rosy in Space City.

Harden suffered a bruised right knee against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, and almost had to sit out the Rockets’ win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters after the win over the Bucks, Harden said that he was in some pain but a doctor told him he would be able to play and that he would not make the condition worse.

Via ESPN:

“I wasn’t feeling well at all, but the doc came in and just told me that there’s going to be pain for a bit, but you can play through it,” Harden said. “It can’t get worse, but it’s going to be pretty painful until obviously you give it some time. Once he said that, I was like, ‘Let’s go.'”

“I wasn’t moving like I usually move, but we won,” said Harden.

If Harden wasn’t feeling well, it sure didn’t show. He had 31 points, although on 8-of-21 shooting against Milwaukee. Chris Paul chipped in with 25 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

It doesn’t sound like Harden will be missing a game any time soon, which is par for the course for him. He’s played in a minimum of 89 percent of his team’s regular season games since entering the league in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Rockets are blasting their way into 2018. They play the Warriors next on January 4.

Nuggets say Paul Millsap won’t return until after All-Star break

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The Western Conference has been a blast this season, with the Houston Rockets playing strong after the arrival of Chris Paul. The team has 13 straight wins, and a 1.5 game lead over the Golden State Warriors.

That’s just part of the results of the West getting a boatload of stars sent its way over the summer. One team is lacking their new addition, however, and his absence has been a quiet disappointment. The Denver Nuggets still sit in sixth place out West, but new forward Paul Millsap has been sidelined with a wrist injury.

The original timeline for Millsap said he would be out for three months, which would put him back around the beginning of March. That plan was confirmed by Nuggets head coach Mike Malone, who said that he expects Millsap will be out until at least the All-Star break, which starts on February 16.

Malone also seemed to indicate it’s possible Millsap is out longer than that.

Via Twitter:

At least Millsap is on schedule? It’s hard to tell inflection from text, but let’s just hope Malone’s “at the earliest” isn’t an indicator of slow recovery on Millsap’s part. The Nuggets certainly don’t need to rush Millsap back. They have a 16-13 record and instill more confidence than most the teams floundering below them in the standings.

LeBron James on talk with Lonzo Ball: “Some things could be held private”

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LeBron James was caught on a hot mic this week speaking with Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. The conversation came after the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Lakers in Ohio, 121-112.

In their talk, LeBron told Ball that he needed to stay in his zone and be aggressive. Pretty generic stuff, to be honest.

Meanwhile, LeBron was asked about whether he thought having microphones record those types of conversations between players was good for the league. He was less than enthused.

Via Cleveland.com (response is at 0:50 in the video above):

Some things could be held private. Like my conversation with Lonzo. Everything doesn’t need to be said. Should be some type of privacy. I’m OK with it.

It does raise an interesting question in terms of player privacy and separation between media, fans, and players. On one hand, you could see how what they say on the floor, in a public arena meant for spectators, could be deemed public and therefore fair game.

But it’s also common for media not to publish — or for TV not to broadcast — the things players say during the game. We don’t hear trash talking, even if we see it, and if you’ve ever sat near the floor at an NBA game you hear a lot more colorful language than you do watching the game on TV.

However you come down player privacy on the court, it doesn’t seem like LeBron needed to speak with Ball in front of media like that. He could have spoken to him in the tunnels below the Q, or got his phone number and texted him. He could have sent him a DM on Twitter and it would have been more private.

It feels like there was a performative aspect to this, like LeBron wanted to create a mystery around his conversation with Lonzo but it got turned on its head. It’s just too bad what was said between them wasn’t actually that interesting.