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.

Gregg Popovich will not coach Game 4 following death of his wife, Erin

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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will not be on the sidelines again for Game 4 Sunday following the death of his wife, Erin, to a lengthy illness.

Ettore Messina will again coach the Spurs.

Popovich also missed Game 3. His San Antonio Spurs are down 3-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the first-round matchup. None of that matters compared to the loss of a woman he loved and was married to for four decades.

Erin Popovich’s passing has cast a pall over the series, especially with Warriors coach Steve Kerr being very close to the Popovichs dating back to his playing days with the Spurs.

The reaction and sadness about Erin’s passing has reached well beyond this series.

Our thoughts are with the Popovich family in this difficult time.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.

 

 

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

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Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”

As expected, likely top-three pick Luka Doncic files to enter NBA draft

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Luka Doncic — the 6’8″ point forward who is putting up impressive numbers against men at the highest levels of European basketball — is bringing is game to the NBA. As expected.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the expected is now official.

Doncic, 19, submitted draft paperwork this week to formally enter his name, league sources said. Doncic is arguably the most decorated European player to make a jump to the NBA, a wunderkind who’s been playing in the EuroLeague since 2015. He is currently leading Real Madrid in the EuroLeague playoffs, averaging 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.

The 6-foot-7 Doncic has the ability to play multiple positions, from being a primary ball-handler to shooting and playmaking off the ball. His season in Europe could continue into late May or June. NBA executives have long been intrigued by Doncic’s potential stardom, and several are continuing to make scouting trips for him.

Doncic is expected to go in the top three (likely the top two) come this June’s draft.

If you’re about to bring up Darko Milicic or some other European bust, just stop. This Slovenian has proven he can play — in 54 games this season between Liga ACB (Spain’s league, second best in the NBA) and the Euroleague, Doncic is averaging 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game. He has shown a gift for passing that should blossom in the more open play of the NBA, plus he just knows how to run a team and make plays. He can score when called upon and has three-point range, can shoot off the bounce, and if you switch a smaller guy onto him, Doncic can just post him up.

He’s not going to be a bust.

However, what his ceiling is remains the debate. He’s not an elite athlete by NBA standards who has struggled at points for Real Madrid when guarded by borderline-NBA level Americans in Europe. Can he defend at the NBA level? Can he be consistent with his jumper? He may be elite, but it’s no given.

He’s going to be good, and his floor is higher than a lot of the other top prospects in this draft class. However, if a GM thinks that Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba both have a higher ceiling and can reach it, they may go with the Americans. Doncic is going to put some GMs in an interesting position.