Phoenix Suns v New York Knicks

Chandler says Olympics made ‘Melo better player this year

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With three minutes left in the third quarter Sunday at Madison Square Garden Phoenix’s Shannon Brown leaked out in transition, brought in the long pass and was cruising in for a layup…

When Carmelo Anthony came in with the chase down block.

It wasn’t the athletic and emphatic LeBron James variety, but ‘Melo didn’t give up on a play, didn’t concede the points, and forced a miss. It was the kind of a play a team leader on an elite team makes. It wasn’t the kind of hustle defensive play Carmelo used to make.

There’s a different feel to the Carmelo Anthony we see in New York this year, the guy just named the NBA player of the week for averaging 29.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in the Knicks four games. The Knicks are 12-4 and if ‘Melo keeps playing at this level for a full season he will inject himself into MVP consideration.

Tyson Chandler was singing Anthony’s praises on WFAN in New York and said his playing in London on the USA Olympic team had a lot to do with how ‘Melo has played this season (via Sports Radio Interviews).

“I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to him, to be able to play this summer and be able to stay in shape and play at a high level and play against, obviously, incredible competition, as well as get his [mind] right. Carmelo is a huge competitor and he wants to be one of the best players in this league, and he is one of the best players in this league. Being around those guys this summer I think got his competitive juices going.”

Anthony has come back playing a more rounded, more selfless game. He’s not just a designated gunner, he is moving the ball on offense and moving his feet on defense. He is looking like a real leader.

Chandler echoed that talking about Anthony’s defense.

“Absolutely. He’s definitely playing on both ends and you’re exactly right. Being the star player and a key player is not just playing on one end, it’s playing on both ends. That’s really how you make a championship run and that’s what he’s done already now. He’s been an incredible leader and he’s leading by example. He’s getting out there. He’s hustling, not only with what you guys are seeing at games, but it’s the same thing at practice. He’s paying attention to film. It’s all the little things that make a huge difference.”

It’s early still — 16 games does not an MVP or a contender make. But the feel is different in New York. And we might be able to trace the change all the way back to London.

Report: Celtics re-sign Tyler Zeller for two years, $16 million

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 19:  Kyle Korver #26 of the Atlanta Hawks grabs a rebound against Tyler Zeller #44 of the Boston Celtics in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 19, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Tyler Zeller is one of the few restricted free agents left on the market who could make an actual impact next season, and on Saturday morning, he’s come off the board. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports that the fourth-year big man has agreed to a deal to stay with the Celtics. It’s for two years and $16 million, with the second season being a team option.

Zeller isn’t a starter, but he’s a nice rotation big man, especially at that price. He can play minutes off the bench for Boston, and his contract is also very movable with the second season being unguaranteed. He played just 11.8 minutes per game last season, but averaged 18.5 points and 9 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Watch Charles Barkley struggle to pronounce “Jonas Valanciunas” last season

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The Toronto Raptors were good last season, second best team in the East. That means the guys on Inside the NBA on TNT had to talk about them.

Which means Charles Barkley had to say “Jonas Valanciunas” a lot. Which is high comedy. While a lot of people struggle to say his name the guy is a solid NBA center who, with a little practice, you can say (and spell) his name pretty easily.

This comes from a YouTube user, via Reddit, with a hat tip to Eye on Basketball.

Watch highlights of USA’s 111-74 rout of Argentina in exhibition game

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Argentina isn’t considered a medal contender heading into the Rio Olympics. Their golden generation — led by Manu Ginobili — has picked up a lot of speed on the downhill side of their careers at this point.

They didn’t provide much of a challenge for Team USA in an exhibition game Friday night in Las Vegas, one won by the USA 111-74. Kevin Durant impressed playing with his new teammates in dropping 23 points, Paul George had 18, and the Americans had their way in the game.

Which is what we’re going to see a lot of in Rio — the USA’s talent level is just steps above any other team in the tournament.

Kevin Durant: Nobody has said something negative to my face about joining Warriors

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 07:  Kevin Durant speaks to the media during the press conference where he was introduced as a member of the Golden State Warriors after they signed him as a free agent on July 7, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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When Kevin Durant chose the Warriors, he received criticism from all angles.

Fans burned his jersey. Charles Barkley decried the decision. Markieff Morris said, “That ain’t right.” Durant’s former Thunder teammates leaked their displeasure with the process.

Durant was so reluctant to face the backlash, he stayed in his bed luxurious rental house for two days.

It, uh, worked.

Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

Though he has heard some criticism from Barkley and fellow Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, various talking heads and people in social media who believe he has cheated the system and cut corners to a ring, Durant said the reaction to his choice hasn’t been too bad: “All that stuff happens on the Internet. I haven’t had one person come to me and say anything negative. … It’s easy for the critics on the outside to tell you what to do, to tell you how to play. I’m the one that’s going through it, so I can’t really worry about the outside noise. The work don’t stop. Everything stays the same.”

This is a good reminder how insulated NBA players, especially stars, can be.

And it adds to why Durant signing with Golden State makes sense. While we’re debating his legacy and discussing the backlash (and the backlash to the backlash and the backlash to the backlash to the backlash and the…), he’ll be playing high-level basketball with his friends in a desirable city for a max salary.

Sure, it’s not all rosy. Durant altered his relationship with his friend Russell Westbrook, and Durant will have to return to Oklahoma City for a game. There, he’ll face plenty of booing fans.

But, all in all, Durant should have little trouble tuning out the critics.

They’re too far away for him to hear them much.