Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets

Denver’s other big problem: Nene

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Beyond the ongoing, never-ending, painfully unresolved saga of Carmelo Anthony lies the dread and doom of another situation. If you check Denver’s books, you’ll notice that Nene has an ETO (Early Termination Option) for 2011, meaning he can jump ship and enter free agency should he elect to do so. Nene loves Denver and wants to return, but he’s getting a little fed up with this whole, bizarre, distracting  Anthony situation, according to CBSSports.com:

Nene, arguably Denver’s second-best player, has made a list of three teams he’s interested in signing with or being traded to — and not surprisingly, one of them is Miami, where his fierce interior presence would be the missing piece for the Heat.

… Thus far, Denver’s stance has been to deal with Anthony first, but sources say the Nuggets are running out of time to get Nene to agree to an extension. And if Anthony and Chauncey Billups are traded in a clear step toward rebuilding, there is little doubt Nene will push for a trade.

… Nene hasn’t voiced any desire to be dealt yet, but sources say recently he has been among the most outspoken Nuggets in his anger about the distractions Anthony’s situation has caused.

via Post-Ups: Nene impatient with Nuggets’ focus on Melo – NBA – CBSSports.com Basketball.

This further confirms what we already thought: if the Nuggets have to trade Carmelo Anthony, the odds of a full-blown detonation increase dramatically. Losing Nene would crush the Nuggets inside.

Meanwhile, Nene’s value on the open market would be sky high. Miami being an option is scary enough, providing Chris Bosh with a backbone to so he can hit jumpers all day long, but there are other contenders who would get a lot out of Nene. The Knicks also come to mind, immediately. Nene has played in a high-pace system in Denver for the last several years, so he’s familiar with the run and gun style. Giving Stoudemire a legit force down low would create a twin towers system which would be a game changer for the Knicks.

Even teams like Boston, with Kendrick Perkins (should, for some unforeseen reason they elect not to re-sign him, which they will) and conceivably Shaquille O’Neal coming off the books could be interested. In short, should Nene elect to leave home, he’s going to have his choice of options. But Denver needs to do everything possible to get him locked back into a contract.

If they can ever get the Melo thing resolved, that is.

 

Damian Lillard added to Team USA Olympic roster pool

Damian Lillard
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If you’re looking for a point guard who can flat-out score the rock, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many better than Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers’ guard is averaging 24.2 points and 7.3 assists per game, with an above-average true shooting percentage of 54.6 percent, and a very high usage rate of 30.9.

He’s the kind of guy who might have a place on the Team USA Roster.

Which is why USA Basketball has added him to the pool to be considered for the Rio Olympics summer. The reason for the change is both Lillard’s level of play this season, and the fact he called USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo to ask for a spot, as reported by Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

Lillard deserves consideration, but there are two key reasons he likely doesn’t make the team:

1) He is still a terrible defender.

2) The list of guards for the USA Roster is ridiculous: Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Klay Thompson, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook. And now Lillard. That’s 10 guys for likely five spots. It’s hard to see Lillard making that cut.

But he deserves consideration.

Kings co-owner Shaq: Vivek Ranadivé told me George Karl would coach rest of season

Shaquille O'Neal
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Kings general manager Vlade Divac said keeping George Karl as coach was right move “for now.”

How long is “for now”?

Shaquille O’Neal, a Kings minority owner, shares insight.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

This would mean a little more if Vivek Ranadivé weren’t prone to wild swings. Remember, the Kings said Tyrone Corbin would finish last season as coach before firing him for Karl.

Divac also said in November that Karl would coach the rest of the season, and that came up for debate fewer than three months later.

Shaq’s revelation is as likely to embarrass the Kings in a few weeks as it is to signal Karl’s job security.

Chauncey Billups explains why not every player wants to go home

Dallas Mavericks v Denver Nuggets
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LeBron James did it and shook up the NBA — he returned home to Cleveland. That has led to fantasies other players want to do the same thing: Kevin Durant back to Washington D.C.; DeMar DeRozan or Russell Westbrook back to Los Angeles; Blake Griffin back to Oklahoma. And the list goes on.

Not every player wants to do it.

Chauncey Billups did. Billups is a Denver guy who returned to play for the Nuggets — he gets his number retired Wednesday night in Detroit, a much-deserved honor — but in a letter to his young self at the Players’ Tribune Wednesday he explained that going home is fraught with peril.

“But in reality, playing at home as a 23-year-old professional is going to be less blessing and more curse. (There’s perception, again, for you.) It’s as simple as this: you’re just not going to be ready for Denver to be Your City. You’re going to think you’re ready — and they are too — but, trust me, you won’t be. You’re still going to be so young. You’re still going to be hanging out with your boys, doing your old thing. There are going to be those … hometown distractions. And those distractions will add up.”

“And you have to understand, Chaunce: It’s not just that you made it. It’s that your whole neighborhoodis going to feel like they made it. All of Park Hill is going to feel like they made it. And don’t get me wrong — that’s special. But at the wrong age, it can also be tough. It can be a lot to handle. And you’re going to be at that wrong age. You’re not going to be mature enough yet, or developed enough yet, to take on that mix of environments, those responsibilities, that role.

“You’re not going to be ready to lead.”

There are plenty of guys around the NBA who understand those distractions and how those can get in the way of off-season workouts, of time spent shoring up a weakness or developing a new shot, and how during the season they can be another thing that wears the body down.

Some guys can handle it. Some can’t.

Go read the entire letter from Billups. He talks about getting traded from the Celtics his rookie season, about playing for Mike D’Antoni, about how very rarely do veterans want to mentor younger players because they are fighting for the same piece of the pie.  Billups is honest.

And it’s great that Detroit is rewarding him as they should.

Did Marcus Thornton steal free throws from Rockets teammate Clint Capela?

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Leandro Barbosa – guarding Marcus Thornton and fighting through a Clint Capela screen – was called for a foul in the first quarter of last night’s Warriors-Rockets game.

Thornton went to the line.

Should he have? Or should Capela have?

Perhaps, Thornton and Barbosa tangled, but it certainly appeared the contact primarily occurred between Barbosa and Capela. It looks like Barbosa tries to ram through Capela.

It also appears Capela thought he drew the foul. Watch him step toward the line before seeing Thornton there and taking his spot along the paint.

So, why would Thornton step in? He’s making 89% of his free throws to Capela’s 40%.

I’m honestly surprised players don’t try this maneuver more often. Refs have so much to keep track of. The worst consequence would be the refs shooing away Thornton and bringing Capela to the line.

Thornton made both free throws, but it didn’t matter. Houston was playing Golden State, which rolled to a victory.