New York Knicks v Denver Nuggets

Carmelo Anthony trade talks slowly picking up steam


Haven’t we — and all the parties involved — been talking about this since last summer? If so, how can things be dragging out so slowly now?

But it is. Nothing has been quick or painless about the Carmelo Anthony trade situation. But now something is going to go down in the next week. It has to, there’s a deadline on Feb. 24. While there has been plenty of talk so far, finally the talks seem to have a real substance to them. Here is the roundup of where we are (as of Wednesday morning).

The Knicks and Nuggets have reached the parameters of a deal, according to Alan Hahn of Newsday.

The Knicks are willing to part with Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari and a source with knowledge of the situation said that including a Raymond Felton-Chauncey Billups swap would not be a deal-breaker.

The issue at hand is the precarious decision to complete a blockbuster deal that involves even more players, perhaps rookies Timofey Mozgov and Landry Fields, and dramatically jumbles the roster, the starting lineup and the rotation with 28 games left — and very little time for practice — after the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

I’m not sure why Denver would want Felton when they already have Ty Lawson, but that may be part of the problem — the Nuggets don’t know what they want and keep changing the trade. The moving goal line on a deal was a complaint when the four-team Nets deal was discussed and not much has changed, Adrian Wojnarowski, of Yahoo is saying.

“This is like the Nets talks all over again: Denver keeps moving the goal posts,” one league source said. “They don’t know what they want there.”

As the Daily News reported, the wild card is Knicks owner James Dolan and the looming possibility he could overrule his president and cut a deal with Denver himself. There are fears that Dolan is listening too much to former president and coach Isiah Thomas and possibly agents and representatives for Anthony who have agendas to undermine Walsh.

“Donnie isn’t going to make a one-sided deal and gut his team to get this done now,” said one league source who regularly speaks to Walsh. “He’ll end up with two unhappy stars because they have no supporting cast. But if Dolan gets more involved in this, he could really makes a mess of this.”

The other wild card is the Nets. Plenty of people around the league expect Denver and New Jersey to start talking again, and if a package based around Derrick Favors and the expiring deal of Troy Murphy is still on the table, they would just to the front of the pack again. As is pointed out at the Bergen Record, with All-Star weekend in Los Angeles all the key players will be in the same place, from Carmelo Anthony to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. People start talking and… who knows?

The idea that the Nuggets may not move Anthony and he would stay and consider an extension — which always felt like an effort to gain negotiating leverage more than reality — is dead Wojnarowski adds.

“With the way he’s distanced himself from the team, the organization, they’re kidding themselves if they think he’s signing a new deal,” one league official told Yahoo! Sports. “He hasn’t checked out on the season because he never checked in.”

Nobody thinks this is getting done before the All-Star game. But come the couple days after, look for things to move fast. The Nuggets should — should! — want to leave themselves time to make another couple deals after the ‘Melo one. Then again, predicting what they want has been impossible for everyone so far.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.