Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz, Game 6

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.

Brandon Ingram with the steal, slam (VIDEO)

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Very little has gone right for the Lakers of late. They have dropped five in a row. Around Los Angeles, the talk has gone from “this team could make the playoffs” after a 10-10 start to “they need to tank and try to keep the pick” after going 5-21 since. (The Lakers pick this draft is top-three protected, if it’s outside that it goes to the Sixers. The Lakers currently have the fourth worst record in the NBA.)

The Lakers young players look… young. D'Angelo Russell admitted he just started trying to follow a game-day routine, then said Tuesday night he didn’t focus and deserved to be benched down the stretch. Brandon Ingram shows flashes, he’s smart and sees the game, but he’s still physically pushed around.

But those flashes, like the steal and dunk above are fun.

Lakers fans, welcome to the process. This is what rebuilding is like. It’s a roller coaster, you just hope the trajectory generally remains up.

Rumor: Is Cleveland done making moves?

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 13:  Kyle Korver #26 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots over Arron Afflalo #40 of the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on January 13, 2017 in Sacramento, California.  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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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LeBron James has made it clear he wants the Cavaliers to add a veteran point guard to the mix. Cavs GM David Griffin has talked about wanting to add playmakers to the roster.

The Cavaliers made a savvy move picking up Kyle Korver recently, he brings shooting and some high IQ play to the table. But was that it? Does Cleveland have another trade to pull off?

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is about as connected as they come with the Cavaliers organization and he said on ESPN Cleveland radio not to bet on seeing another move.

Windhorst is right, in terms of players the Cavaliers don’t have much to move — James Jones? Kay Felder — and they don’t have a first-round pick to move until 2021. The buyout market may be something to watch, but a solid playmaker or point guard may be hard to come by.

The only question about the Cavaliers roster is this: How does it match up with Golden State? Barring a major catastrophe, the Cavaliers are coming out of the East, but can they beat the Warriors four out of seven? The MLK Day blowout was not an indicator one way or the other, the Cavs mailed that game in, but there certainly are questions about the potential Finals matchup. One more playmaker would help the Cavs, I just don’t know where he comes from.

Report: Pelicans explored Dwight Howard trade before Hawks pulled him off table

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 07:  Dwight Howard #8 of the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Center on January 7, 2017 in Dallas, Texas.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Who are the Pelicans? They look like a movie where the writer, director, and studio suits all had very different versions of the film in mind, and the result is a jumbled mess. Think “Suicide Squad.”

There are a lot of questions about the roster and style of this team, but at the heart of all of it is this: Do they play Anthony Davis at the four or the five? They are better with him at the five but keep spending money on bigs to push him to the four.

They considered doing it again in the past month, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN (in an article that brilliantly lays out the quandary in New Orleans).

But they haven’t committed to staying small, and sticking Davis at center. They worry about the physical toll it would take, and fretted after Davis picked up two quick fouls jostling with Dwight Howard two weeks ago. In the days that followed, Atlanta and New Orleans had exploratory talks about possible Howard trades before the Hawks pulled everyone off the market, according to several league sources. It is unclear how interested New Orleans was, and there was not unanimous support within the team for acquiring Howard.

Dwight Howard? He’s played better this season and finally is staying within himself in Atlanta, but why would the Pelicans want him and that contract next to Davis? To be fair, these kinds of conversations happen a lot in the NBA and most don’t go anywhere. Still, this one is perplexing. It’s the opposite of the style they had success with this season. It’s back to the confused push-and-pull within that franchise.

Maybe this goes to having Saints people oversee the basketball side and thinking, like the NFL, you can rebuild on the fly quickly with smart fifth round picks and a couple free agents. The NBA doesn’t work that way (and there aren’t fifth round picks, although the second round serves that purpose). The Pelicans should have tanked in recent years. If the Pelicans brought in Alvin Gentry to run a more Warriors-style offense, then give him the players to do it. Davis is a foundational piece and will be a stud in any system, maybe Holiday can work in that free-flowing, fast-decision style with shooting everywhere, and after that… I don’t know.

Bottom line, if the Pelicans brought in Alvin Gentry to run a more Warriors-style offense, then give him the players to do it. Davis is a foundational piece and will be a stud in any system, maybe Holiday can work in that free-flowing, fast-decision style with shooting everywhere, and after that… I don’t know.

But the indecision and hodgepodge of a roster in New Orleans leaves it in the same place as always, and that is squandering one of the game’s best players.

Video Breakdown: What is Hammer action? An explainer

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Hammer action — sometimes referred to as a Hammer play or a Hammer set — was made ubiquitous in the modern NBA by the San Antonio Spurs. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds to identify, and it’s got two main principles.

First, the Hammer part of any set is a back screen to setup a cut by a wing player around the arc to the corner (or sometimes on a flare to the wing).

Second, the Hammer always happens away from the ball side of a play. It’s a weak side action, and typically anything happening with the ball on the strong side at the beginning of the play is purposeful distraction.

You can learn all about the Hammer by watching this week’s NBA Glossary video above, or by reading the text version down below.

The Diagram

Here we have a set where the ball is on the right side of the floor, with one post high and one low. The Hammer action happens on the weak side of the court between the shooting guard and the center:

The small forward is going to start the pick and roll with the power forward going to the right side. Meanwhile, the center is going to set the back screen on the left left side of the floor. This is our Hammer action, and the shooting guard will run off that screen to the corner.

Once the play starts and the small forward gets to the baseline, he passes it out to the guard, who shoots the corner three.

Let’s take a look at it in action and how the Spurs mix it into different looking plays.

Here they have the ball at the arc on the right side of the floor. Kawhi Leonard is coming through the paint to receive a pass off the screen.

Meanwhile, Patty Mills is the player that’s going to run off a hammer screen here on the left elbow.

The ball is passed, and with Kawhi dribbling toward the arc, the trap is set, and the Hammer action commences.

The defender turns his head, and Mills runs toward the baseline unimpeded to take the jumper.

In this example, we have the pick and roll to the right side. The hammer action is going to happen between the guard and the post on the weak side.

As the pick and roll is run, the Hammer screen is set.

Notice San Antonio has cleverly positioned Tony Parker at the top of the arc, and when LaMarcus Aldridge pops out, it’s up to Parker’s defender to stunt over to help.

This makes Danny Green’s defender slide over to help cover Parker, basically leaving Green unguarded in the corner.

Aldridge sees this, and passes the ball to Parker for the quick rotation over to Green.

That’s the basics of the Hammer play. It’s nothing super complicated, but it shows you how spacing and exploitation of defensive tendencies can be programmed into an NBA offense.