Recapping a crazy day in Portland, where the Blazers began to clean house

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This year’s Portland Trail Blazers campaign, to this point, has gone as badly as possible. Just before the NBA’s trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, the team began the process of doing something about it.

A flurry of activity went down in Portland today, and much of it set the team up nicely for a complete rebuild beginning with this year’s draft. Here’s a breakdown of the moves that were made.

Gerald Wallace traded to New Jersey

This deal netted the Blazers $10 million off of the salary cap once Mehmet Okur’s deal expires at the end of the season, and a draft pick likely to be in the lottery somewhere, even when you take into account the Nets’ improvement with Wallace aboard. Shawne Williams may or may not still be there next season, but if he is, it’ll only be for that one additional year at around $3 million.

This was strictly a salary cap dump, and an excellent one at that. When you add in the first round draft pick, this might have been Portland’s best move of the day.

Marcus Camby traded to Houston

The Blazers got rid of one of their problem personalities, sending Marcus Camby to the Rockets in exchange for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet, and a second round draft pick.

Camby’s contract was expiring at the end of this season anyway, so dealing him for two draft busts whose contracts also expire is a wash. Also, taking back garbage in terms of talent for someone like Camby who can actually play is the true definition of tanking, and with Portland entering rebuilding mode, it makes sense to try to lose as much as possible the rest of the way to secure the highest draft position.

In the past week, Camby was seemingly trying to flagrant-foul his way out of town — first, by trying to start a fight with Kevin Seraphin of the Wizards for no good reason, and then, by attempting to murder Landry Fields of the Knicks on Wednesday, with his team trailing by 30 points at the time. Not exactly a classy way to go out, but Camby has been around a long time, and probably deserved better than to spend the twilight of his career dealing with this disaster.

A fine move from the Blazers’ standpoint to rid themselves of a clearly disgruntled veteran, and an extremely nice addition for the Rockets.

Nate McMillan fired as head coach

We all saw this coming; it was just a matter of “when.”

McMillan lost his team at some point during the course of the season, and it ultimately cost him his job. When you clash with your starting point guard as he did with Raymond Felton, and then lose by 42 points on national television to a team as dysfunctional as the New York Knicks, it’s safe to say the party is over.

McMillan is a good coach and will eventually get another shot. In the meantime, the Blazers gave 34-year-old assistant coach Kaleb Canales the interim head-coaching tag, with his first turn in the big chair coming at an extremely challenging time. Then again, when the preferred course of action is losing the majority of the remaining games on the schedule, he’s got it better than most.

Greg Oden is waived. Finally.

This move should have been made a long time ago, but the volume of players added through today’s trade finally made it a necessity.

It was clear long ago that Oden was never going to live up to the expectations placed on his shoulders when he was selected as the number one overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft; it certainly didn’t help that the number two pick that year was Kevin Durant. But through no fault of his own, Oden suffered multiple injuries that required surgeries which take months, or even years to properly heal from.

Oden did actually play at an above average level at times when healthy, and even showed flashes of being something special. But he was never going to be at Durant’s level, and when the injuries continued to stack up, Portland should have cut ties with him and moved on long before today.

The sum of Portland’s moves earned them an A-grade on our deadline-day report card, and it’s a beginning for a franchise that finds itself in need of starting over. Whether or not the moves they make in hiring a new coach, and using the cap space and draft picks that were acquired today will rate as high, well — that remains to be seen.

Knicks shut out Carmelo Anthony in 2nd half, beat Thunder 111-96

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NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony‘s return to Madison Square Garden was much like the 6 1/2 years he spent playing for the Knicks.

A video played on the overhead scoreboard as part of a huge welcome from the fans and franchise, followed by a fast start that gave Anthony hope he could have everything he wanted.

Then things fell flat until the finish.

The Knicks shut out their former All-Star in the second half and beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-96 on Saturday night for their fourth straight victory.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling for me, coming back here knowing the goal that I had and what I wanted to accomplish here and falling short in that category,” Anthony said.

Michael Beasley tied his season high with 30 points in place of injured Kristaps Porzingis, and Doug McDermott, acquired with Enes Kanter for Anthony, added 11 of his 13 after halftime to help the Knicks break open the game.

“This game was kind (of) about him and I thought we did a really good job of not letting that distract us and just focus on winning the game,” McDermott said. “And it felt great, especially being a part of the trade (with) Enes.

Anthony scored 12 points in the first half but was 0 for 5 after, perhaps low on energy after the Thunder’s three-overtime victory at Philadelphia a night earlier.

He made a 3-pointer for the Thunder’s first basket of the game after refocusing following a video tribute that caught him off guard, but finished 5 of 18 from the field as the Knicks played with passion and precision they lacked in Anthony’s final years in New York.

“You got to beat the best to be the best,” Beasley said. “He’s one of the best of our era.”

Russell Westbrook had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Thunder, who were trying to sweep a three-game trip that began with Paul George‘s winning return to Indiana on Wednesday.

But they couldn’t deliver a victory for Anthony back at Madison Square Garden, even with the Knicks playing without leading scorer Porzingis because of a knee injury.

“I think the guys just, they were ready for tonight’s game,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “And we caught them after a triple-overtime game so that probably helped us too, but our guys played hard all night which probably wore them down.”

Anthony received a pair of loud cheers during pregame introductions, before and at the end of a video tribute showing his highlights on the court and his charitable efforts off it that was played after the first four Thunder starters were announced. But the boos became more noticeable once play got underway, and soon they were coming every time he touched the ball.

“That was expected,” Anthony said. “They can’t cheer for me, I’m on another team.”

Later, the cheers were all for the Knicks, who after trading their leading scorer on the eve of training camp are a surprising 16-13 – better than Anthony’s new team (14-15). Anthony was booed one last time as he was removed with 1.4 seconds remaining.

Beasley had a hand in 12 of the Knicks’ final 15 points of the third quarter, scoring nine himself and assisting on Ron Baker‘s 3-pointer. That turned a two-point lead into an 80-73 advantage over the final 3 1/2 minutes of the period.

The Knicks pushed it into double digits in the fourth behind five straight points from McDermott – originally it was six by a 3-pointer was changed to a 2 after review – and he later made it 100-87 with a 3-pointer with 6:02 remaining.

The Thunder played without starting center Steven Adams because of a concussion.

 

Manu Ginobili game-winner caps 13-0 closing run to rally Spurs past Mavericks

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — At 40 years old, Manu Ginobili‘s refusal to slow down in his 16th season with the Spurs has been a source of inspiration to the team’s young core.

The man and the mantra helped propel San Antonio to an improbable victory over Dallas on Saturday night.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and 14 rebounds and the Spurs scored the final 13 points of the game, rallying for a 98-96 victory over the Mavericks.

Aldridge’s fall-away, 11-foot jumper tied the game at 96 with 23.4 seconds remaining and Ginobili’s driving layup with 3.1 seconds was the game-winning shot.

“He’s our grandpa,” 21-year-old Dejounte Murray said, chuckling afterwards. “He’s a beast, man. You’ve all seen what he’s done for this organization and he’s still around giving his wisdom to all the new guys. To see him coming in every day, I mean there’s not one day I’ve seen Manu not show up at the facility. Being a young guy, I’ve got to be there every day.”

Ginobili’s layup off the left side of the glass gave the Spurs their first lead of the game after trailing by as many as 16 points.

“We did a lot of good things, but the ending is unforgiveable,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.

Maxi Kleber had 21 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 19 for Dallas in the final regular season matchup between the Southwest Division rivals.

Kleber’s 3-pointer gave Dallas a 96-85 lead with 4:11 remaining, but the Spurs held them scoreless the remainder of the game.

The Mavericks drought included a turnover when Wes Matthews was unable to inbound the ball with 23.4 seconds remaining. Mathews threw the ball at Ginobili’s legs to avoid a 5-second violation, but the Spurs gained possession when the ball ricocheted off Matthews just as he stepped inbounds.

“We did everything right to lose,” Nowitzki said. “We missed shots offensively, bad turnover, gave them some offensive rebounds. Letting Ginobili go left down the stretch to lay it in. We literally had to do everything perfect to lose this one and we did.”

Aldridge had his 12th double-double of the season to help offset the absences of starters Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Danny Green.

Coming off a 15-point blowout in Houston on Friday night, San Antonio was able to avoid its third straight loss.

“We played with everybody in Houston and hoped to play a good game in which we could grow and learn from our mistakes while playing against the best team in the NBA right now and I don’t think we got anything out of it,” Ginobili said. “So, if after that poor effort we came here and played badly again and lost, it would’ve been a tough one. We are proud of this win.”

The Spurs missed their first five shots, all short jumpers from Aldridge and Pau Gasol, on their way to shooting 30 percent in the opening quarter. The Mavericks took advantage, charging to a 31-18 lead after the first quarter.

San Antonio’s reserves reversed the team’s fortunes in the third quarter.

Davis Bertans finished with 13 points and Ginobili added 12 off the bench.

 

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.