New York Knicks Introduce Carmelo Anthony

PBT’s trade deadline report card

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In the last few days, nearly 10 percent of the players in the NBA got traded. Think about that. Apparently the NBA GMs have been watching their baseball counterparts too much.

We won’t really know how all this will shake out for a few months, but what follows is our first impressions. And grades. We like to give things grades.

Atlanta Hawks (Out: Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans. In: Kirk Hinrich, Hilton Armstrong.) The Atlanta Hawks needed to upgrade at the point guard spot and Hinrich is an upgrade. He’s a better defender, a better decision maker, and can knock down the three almost as well as Bibby. This is a good trade for the Hawks from a talent perspective. They still don/t match up with Celtics/Heat/Bulls, but they got better. Grade: B

Boston Celtics (Out: Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Semih Erden, and Luke Harangody. In: Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, a first round pick [top 10 protected] from the Clippers, a 2nd round pick from the Cavaliers, and cash from the Kings.) We talked about this, Boston got worse now for the hopes of easing the transition after the big three leave. The question is how much worse and can Danny Ainge find any scraps out there bought out by other teams that can help? I don’t like messing with the core in the middle of the trade deadline. Grade C-

Charlotte Bobcats (Out: Gerald Wallace, Nazr Mohammed. In: Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, D.J. White and Morris Peterson.) This was all about saving money; Wallace was owed $21 million over the next two seasons. But in doing so the team got worse, they were 1.5 games out of the last playoff spot and they will now take a huge step back. Grade: D.

Chicago Bulls (Out: James Johnson. In: first round pick from Toronto.) Nice move all around. Johnson was out of the Bulls rotation but is starting in Toronto. He gets a chance, and the Bulls get a pick they could use. Grade: B

Cleveland Cavaliers (Out: Mo Williams, Jamario Moon. In: Baron Davis, first round pick.) Yes for this was all about the pick, and they were paying for that by taking on Davis. I get why you do it. But I think an unhappy, unmotivated Davis is a bigger drain on your organization than the Cavs realize. Grade: D

Denver Nuggets (Out: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups. In: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler, Kosta Koufos, first round pick) Their had was forced and at the end of the day they did fairly well under the circumstances. They will make a playoff push this year to at least get in, but they are in rebuilding mode now and need to make bold moves in the future. Grade B-

Golden State Warriors (Out: Brandan Wright, Dan Gadzuric. In: Troy Murphy.) Murphy is about to be bought out, this was about saving money. Which is nice in these recessionary times. Grade: C

Houston Rockets (Out: Aaron Brooks, Shane Battier. In: Goran Dragic, Hasheem Thabeet, first-round pick from Memphis.) Your big winner here could be Chase Budinger, who will get more minutes at the three with Battier gone. Budinger dropped 30 the other night and could really blossom now. Aside that, they get a pick to rebuild on and a quality point guard in Dragic and a pick. You would have thought Battier could have drawn more in, but it helps start the rebuilding and isn’t terrible. Grade: B-

Los Angeles Clippers (Out: Baron Davis, first round pick. In: Mo Williams, Jamario Moon.) Fantastic trade for the Clippers, just to get out from under the Baron Davis contract. Mo Williams can play and more importantly spread the floor with his three-point shooting. Grade: A-

Minnesota Timberwolves (Out: Corey Brewer. In: Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry.) It’s probably not going to make a big difference. Brewer was out of the rotation. Anthony Randolph will get some run and we’ll see if he can start to live up to that potential. Probably not, but no harm in the risk. Grade: B

New Jersey Nets (Out: Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Troy Murphy, two first-round picks. In: Deron Williams, Brandan Wright, Dan Gadzuric.) They needed to get a big piece to start building around and they got a very good one. It didn’t come cheap, but they punked the Knicks a little in the process so it worked out well. Grade: A

New Orleans Hornets (Out: Marcus Thornton. In: Carl Landry.) The Hornets were looking for depth along the front line, they got it with a professional and hard working player. Good pick up. Grade: B+

New York Knicks (Out: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, Eddy Curry. In: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Shelden Williams.) They wanted the second star, they got it in Carmelo Anthony. There are serious questions about fit, there are a lot of steps left for them, but the Knicks are going to be entertaining if nothing else from here on out. Grade B+

Oklahoma City Thunder (Out: Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic. In: Kendrick Perkins, Nazr Mohammed.) This was a brilliant trade. Sure, a bit of a risk because Perkins is coming off an injury and could be a free agent, but the Thunder addressed their biggest need — a defensive presence in the paint — with one of the best in the game at it. They just got a whole lot better and the West playoffs just got a lot more interesting. Grade: A

Phoenix Suns (Out: Goran Dragic, first round pick. In: Aaron Brooks.) Does this make them that much better? Not a bad move but I still don’t see what the big picture plan is. Grade: C

Portland Trail Blazers (Out: Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham. In: Gerald Wallace.) The Blazers did well with this one. They are taking on more long term salary but Wallace and Nicolas Batum give them fantastic defensive wing players. Man, if Brandon Roy were healthy this team would be scary. Grade A-

Sacramento Kings (Out: Carl Landry. In: Marcus Thornton, Marquis Daniels.) Landry is the kind of solid professional that fits better on a playoff team than the rebuilding Kings. Thornton showed a lot of promise as a rookie, but the return of Chris Paul and a change of role threw him off. We’ll see how he adjusts to playing with Tyreke Evans (when he returns) but it’s not a bad risk for the Kings. Daniels is not expected to play the rest of this season, that was a money thing. Grade: B

Toronto Raptors (Out: first round pick. In: James Johnson.) Really depends on how the shooter pans out. He started and scored nine against the Bulls, but did they really need to give up a first for him? This is a time-will-tell thing, but it’s good to see him get the chance. Grade C

Utah Jazz (Out: Deron Williams. In: Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first-round picks.) The Jazz had a challenge with Williams. Owner Greg Miller said he saw what happened with LeBron, with Carmelo Anthony and he didn’t want that to happen with the Jazz and Deron. So they were insanely proactive. They got a decent amount back, you never get equal money for a superstar but they got some nice pieces. But the hardest piece to get is the superstar and they traded theirs away before they had to. Grade: D+

Washington Wizards (Out: Kirk Hinrich, Hilton Armstrong. In: Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans.) We like Jordan Crawford, he could be the kind of shooter that could develop into the kind of guy to go with John Wall. Mike Bibby will not be happy backing up Wall, being a veteran on a losing team, or much of anything else. The Wizards do save a little money. There was demand for Hinrich, could the Wizards have done better? Grade: C-

Thunder get off to fast start, survive wild ending to win 98-97, even series with Spurs

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, center, scramble with San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, right, for a loose ball as time expires in the second half in Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Monday, May 2, 2016, in San Antonio. Oklahoma City won 98-97. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Associated Press
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When the playoffs are all over, and all the confetti has fallen at the parade celebrating the 2016 NBA champion, we are still going to be talking about this game. The Spurs and Warriors gave us everything — great shooting, leads and comebacks, and a wild, controversial ending.

What ultimately matters is the Thunder bounced back from a rough first game, were aggressive from the start and raced out to that early lead using their transition offense. Then a team that blew a lot of leads this season hung on through multiple Spurs comebacks and ultimately got a 98-97 win behind 29 points from Russell Westbrook and 28 from Kevin Durant (who played well at the four spot much of the night). The series is now tied 1-1 heading back to Oklahoma City.

All the controversy at the end doesn’t change that fact, or that the Thunder did some things much better in Game 2.

The Thunder have had moments like this throughout the season, where they defended better, got transition points, and Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter (or someone else) would step up and make plays — but they didn’t sustain that high level of play for very long. They still won 55 games because Durant and Westbrook are talented, but we will see if they can sustain a “beat the Spurs” level of play for most of the next couple weeks.

San Antonio helped out by having their offense not as sharp, and just missing shots — the Spurs started 2-of-15 from the field and finished the game shooting just 26.1 percent from three. The missed shots allowed the Thunder to get out in transition more and get the easy buckets that fuel their offense.

But that’s not what anybody is talking about, this is:

Those final 13 seconds, when the Spurs were down 1 and the Thunder were trying to inbound the ball, is the topic of the day. The referees swallowed their whistles to the point that a rugby scrum broke out.

The most discussed part of the play was the inbound — Dion Waiters reaches across the boundary line to shove Manu Ginobili back, which is a clear foul and a change of possessions. Ginobili had stepped on the end line, which could have been ruled a technical but was not as egregious as Waiters’ blatant foul. There were a host of other fouls in those final seconds: Kawhi Leonard grabbing Westbrook’s jersey, a Spurs fan grabbing Steven Adams when he fell out of bounds and not letting him back in the play, and Ibaka hacking LaMarcus Aldridge in the final seconds.

But that’s not what decided the game. The Spurs made a lot of mistakes and missed a lot of clean looks before that, things they needed at the end. Aldridge had 41 points, and Leonard added 12. However, Tim Duncan was 1-of-8, and Tony Parker was 3-of-9 — those guys are not the top offensive options anymore, but the Spurs need them to be efficient. The hustling Thunder defense had something to do with this, but that doesn’t change that the Spurs need more from these two key players.

The Thunder offense worked not because they shared the ball — as per usual, it happens only in spurts — but because Westbrook and Durant hit their shots, and because they got transition buckets.

If they can do that for a couple more games at home, they will be in command of this series. But it’s not going to be simple or easy.

Referees miss Dion Waiters push off, multiple other calls in final seconds of Thunder’s win over San Antonio

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Manu Ginobili said it perfectly after the game: This one play, this one sequence is not why the Spurs lost Game 2 of their series against the Thunder.

However, I can’t remember a time the referees swallowed their whistles on so many calls in the final seconds of a game.

Oklahoma City was up one with 13.5 seconds left (after Serge Ibaka made a silly foul on LaMarcus Aldridge shooting a three), the Thunder just needed to inbound the ball, get fouled and hit their free throws. But it wasn’t that easy.

First and most notably, Dion Waiters was trying to inbound the ball and pushed off on Manu Ginobili guarding the inbound play. That’s a foul, or a technical depending upon which rule you want to apply. But the Spurs should have had the ball out of bounds, the referees just missed that one and both Chris Webber on the call and the TNT Inside the NBA crew harped on that one. They were right.

The officials admitted as much, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Ken Mauer, lead referee from tonight’s game: “On the floor we did not see a foul on the play. However, upon review we realize and we agree we should have had an offensive foul on the play. It’s a play we’ve never seen before, ever. We should have had an offensive foul on the play.”

The question Thunder fans are asking: Why wasn’t Ginobili called for stepping on the out of bounds line? In the final two minutes that’s a technical (the rule book says it’s a foul if he “crosses or breaks the plane of the boundary line,” Ginobili has a toe on the line). Also Leonard had Russell Westbrook‘s jersey through that entire inbounds play.

Waiters did throw a leaping inbound pass as Ginobili stumbled backwards, and he threw it to Durant — who was held as he went for the ball by Danny Green. That should have been a foul call (although Waiters’ inbound foul would have nullified it if that call had been made).

The Spurs get the ball in a scramble for the rock and end up kicking out to Patty Mills for a corner three (not sure that was the best shot), but he missed. In the rebound scramble there could have been a few calls, but the most obvious was Ibaka hacking Aldridge trying to get a putback. It was another clear foul.

All that obscured some great plays — Ginobili with the no-look, behind the head pass to Mills in the corner, or Steven Adams with an amazing closeout to get a piece of Mills’ shot, to name a couple.

I get it, the referees don’t want to decide the game with their whistle, but when it turns into a rugby scrum there should be calls, and the referees shouldn’t be afraid to make them.

Watch LeBron James make plays when it matters in fourth quarter

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On paper LeBron James didn’t have a great fourth quarter — 2-of-7 shooting, both his buckets right at the rim, and he’d been passive for long stretches of the game.

But when the Cavaliers made a 17-2 run late in the game that earned them the Game 1 win over Atlanta, LeBron was at the heart of it all. He had assists, a key steal, and a powerful and-1 dunk. You can check out LeBron’s impressive play in the last five minutes above.

Revived in crunch time, LeBron James pushes Cavaliers past Hawks in Game 1

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LeBron James  hadn’t scored in more than 10 minutes, and it was getting late in the fourth quarter. The Hawks had gone on 11-0 and 10-0 runs since his last points. And Paul Millsap forced LeBron to lose control of the ball as he went up for a left-handed layup.

A moment of truth for the Cavaliers?

LeBron pushed the ball through the hoop with his right hand while being fouled.

If you didn’t get the message, he flexed and slapped his right bicep once he landed.

It wasn’t always smooth, but Cleveland overpowered Atlanta 104-93 in Game 1 of their second-round series Monday. The Cavaliers have won seven straight overall against the Hawks, including a sweep in last year’s Eastern Conference finals, and LeBron is now 9-0 against Atlanta in the playoffs.

“Obviously, you could tell that they went through a longer series than us,” said LeBron, whose Cavs swept the Pistons eight days ago. The Hawks beat the Celtics in six four days later.

Home Game 1 winners have won the series 85% of the time, and Atlanta will have its work cut out to become an exception.

LeBron’s offensive passiveness during Atlanta’s comeback was unwelcome, but when needed, he delivered. His 3-point play highlighted a 17-2 run that would’ve ended the game if not for a garbage-time 3-pointer by the Hawks. LeBron (25 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, five steals and a block) also stole the ball from red-hot Dennis Schröder on consecutive late possessions. This was two-way excellence when it counted, the type of production that has taken LeBron to five straight Finals.

The Cavaliers had such a big lead (18) to blow because they were hot from beyond the arc (15-for-31, 48%). When they missed, Tristan Thompson (seven offensive rebounds) got them extra opportunities.

Kevin Love (17 points and 11 rebounds) threw his body around enough to get a double-double despite shooting 4-for-17. Kyrie Irving (21 points on 8-of-18 shooting and eight assists) forced too many bad shots, but he made some tough ones and kept the ball moving.

At times, it seemed Irving was going one-on-one with Schröder (27 points on 5-of-10 3-point shooting and six assists). As impressive as Schröder was from beyond the arc and attacking the rim, Kent Bazemore (16 points, 12 rebounds and four assists) was his only reliable scoring sidekick.

After allowing 30 points in the first quarter, Atlanta cranked up it defense to the frenetic level showed against Boston. Millsap (17 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, four blocks and two steals), Al Horford (10 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals) and Bazemore (two steals) led the effort.

And Cleveland surrendered open 3s when the Hawks moved the ball, which they usually did. If they make more of those open looks, it’s easy to see them winning.

But can they win four of the next six games?

As long as LeBron plays for the Cavs, that’s a monumental challenge.