It’s time to end this ‘Melo drama

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It’s time.

Carmelo Anthony and the will he/won’t he, New Jersey or New York (or Chicago) drama, it’s been an entertaining little sideshow to the NBA season. Some nice garlic mashed potatoes next to the rare prime rib.

But for everyone involved, this saga has reached the point of diminishing returns. With the arrival Wednesday of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov in the United States, it is time to get this massive three-team deal done. Or not.

There is now motivation on every side to wrap this deal up or let it die. It’s a trade that sends Anthony along with Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton to New Jersey; brings Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, other players and a couple first-round picks to Denver; and gives Detroit Troy Murphy and Johan Petro as well as some second-round picks. That is just the framework, there are at least 14 players and numerous picks involved.

The motivation to end this should start with Carmelo Anthony himself. In an interview with Sports Illustrated this week he said he wanted to do things differently than LeBron James and the public relations flubs he made all summer long. And I have stuck up for Anthony here before — I think his telling Denver he is not returning well in advance is far more fair to the franchise then what happened in Cleveland and Toronto.

But the longer he seems indecisive — he may know in his mind what he will do, but that is not the perception — and the longer this drags out, the longer he holds the fans in Denver hostage. The longer he raises the hopes of Knicks fans and all 12 Nets fans, the more they will react like the spurned fans of several cities did to LeBron. Simply put, the longer this drags out the more he comes off exactly like what he was trying to avoid.

‘Melo, meet with Mikhail Prokhorov or don’t — either choice sends a message. Just be clear whether you will sign the three-year, $65 million extension or not. That way the deal dies or the pressure falls to everyone else involved to get it done. It’s time for you to come clean. Because right now that is not how it looks.

For the Nuggets, you need only to look at history to see why they need to make this happen soon. For Denver, the diminishing returns are real and tangible — the closer to the trade deadline the less leverage they have. Everyone knows Anthony is gone one way or another. The offers will not get better. Remember how Toronto’s trade options for Vince Carter fell as he quit on that team? This situation is different — Anthony has not stopped trying, although he admittedly is distracted — but the result is the same. As the Feb. 24 trade deadline nears, nobody has real incentive to increase their offers or take on contracts like Al Harrington because they know you have to move Anthony or get nothing.

Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke may be trying to force more big contracts off the books, but someone is going to have to tell him that will come in separate deals. You can’t be so frustrated with the situation as to shoot the franchise in the foot. Don’t set the rebuilding back any farther than you have to.

For the Nets and Knicks, you’ve got other moves to make, other trades to consider. This is holding up everything. Same is true of the Pistons (although they don’t appear to be the problem). All three of those teams are multiple moves away from striking fear in the hearts of the Celtics and Heat. But right now, this one potential trade is holding up everything else. As the trade deadline approaches, they need to focus on other moves (whether that is to fill in players around Anthony or to look at options other than him). That clock is ticking while this saga drags out.

The sideshow has become bad for basketball. The Nuggets are distracted. Rip Hamilton can’t get off the bench. The Nets … it’s hard to tell if the distraction is making them play worse, but they’re not playing well.

Make it happen or make it stop. Either way. It is time.

Reports: Lakers, Pacers both confident in tampering case

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The Lakers reportedly expect to be cleared of the tampering allegations brought by the Pacers over Paul George.

As for the Pacers?

Bob Kravitz of WTHR on The Rich Eisen Show

They feel very strongly that there were correspondences between Lakers executives and Paul George’s representative. They had heard those rumors for quite some time. They think there’s some there there.

Wishful thinking by both sides? It sure looks like it.

The Lakers probably tampered, because everybody tampers. But teams are rarely punished for it, so they can also believe they did nothing egregious enough to become an exception.

A paper trail between the Lakers – Magic Johnson or any other executive – and George’s camp would go far. But even that must be more specific. George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, also represents Lakers forward Julius Randle and former Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell. So, he’d have good reason to communicate with the organization.

I don’t know what the NBA will do here. Tampering rules are rarely and arbitrarily enforced. That gives each team plenty of room to believe it’s right.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Kendall Marshall, Marshall Plumlee headline Team USA’s AmeriCup roster

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AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.

But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):

  • Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
  • Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
  • Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  • Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
  • Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
  • Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
  • Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
  • Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
  • Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
  • C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
  • Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)

The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.

This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

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In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?