Carmelo returns against soft Nets defense, sparks Knicks win

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We’ve got a way to go before this “battle of the boroughs” resembles a real rivalry. Or maybe even a fair fight.

After Wednesday night, the once-hot Brooklyn Nets are 2-8 in their last 10 games, and it all comes back to defense. Which we thought would be a weakness before the season even tipped off and it has been a trouble spot lately.

It showed up again Wednesday night facing the best offense in the NBA in the New York Knicks — and on a night they got Carmelo Anthony back. ‘Melo went for 31 points and the Knicks pulled away in the fourth quarter on their way to a comfortable 100-86 win at home. Comfortable as in this didn’t feel like a rivalry. Or a huge challenge. The Knicks are now up 2-1 in the season series on the Nets.

In their three meetings this season, Anthony has scored a combined 110 points.

The outcome here shouldn’t be a shock. In the Nets 10 games prior to this, they had given up 108.6 points per 100 possessions, which would be worse than the Hornets or any team has given up all season long. Then the Knicks came through and put up 114.3 on Wednesday night.

Antony was at the heart of it, putting up 17 points in the first half and being a key part of the 18-6 run where the Knicks took control of the game in the third quarter.

It was a night where the Madison Square Garden fans and the Knicks bench seemed flat, with the exception of J.R. Smith. The Knicks gunner sixth man had 19 points, five rebounds and three assists.

For the Knicks, this felt like a professional win. The kind really good teams have — they were not spectacular or dominant in any one area, they just executed when they had to and were better than their opponent in pretty much every category.

For the Nets, they got a close look at how far they are away from elite right now.

There is a lot of talk about the Nets offense — Deron Williams 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting Wednesday — complained before the game and Joe Johnson said after the game there is too much isolation. Normally I’d say a coach as tied to management as Avery Johnson is safe, but the Nets have pretty much locked themselves into this roster for a couple years. If the players can’t change…

Johnson needs to get them to. He needs to get them to defend, first, find some direction in the offense second. Because things are starting to go bad in Brooklyn and it could get a lot worse. Especially when they have to watch that team in Manhattan continue to look like a contender.

PBT Extra: What does Kyrie Irving trade mean for LeBron James?

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In the end, the entire Kyrie Irving blockbuster trade was about LeBron James. It started because Kyrie Irving wanted out of LeBron’s enormous shadow. Cleveland went with this trade because Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder help them win now, and whatever LeBron decides to do next summer the Brooklyn pick (and maybe Ante Zizic) helps them build for the future.

But what does this trade mean to LeBron James?

Honestly, it doesn’t change much. That’s what I get into in this latest PBT Extra. LeBron is leaving his options open, but maybe this deal could help Cleveland keep him if it makes them more competitive with the Warriors.

Rumor: Young Bulls ‘can’t stand’ Dwyane Wade

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After a loss last January, Dwyane Wade (in conjunction with since-traded Jimmy Butler) lashed out at his Bulls teammates for not caring enough. Those younger players didn’t receive the message gratefully, questioning why Wade didn’t practice more.

The simple answer: Wade is 35, and he and his team are better served if he saves himself for games. But Wade also should have known his schedule left him ill-suited to criticize harder-working teammates.

The whole saga exposed the inherent tension that occurs when an accomplished veteran with declining skills is thrust into a leadership position on a mediocre team.

Consider that backdrop as Wade and Chicago dance around a buyout.

Nick Friedell on ESPN discussing Wade getting bought out:

This is inevitable. It’s coming. It’s a matter of when, not if.

But right now, guys, it’s just kind of a staring contest. Everybody’s looking at each other saying, “OK, how much money are you willing to give up?”

And Gar Forman, the Bulls’ GM, at summer league, said, “Oh, we’re not having conversations.” I don’t think that’s the case. I think Dwyane’s agents and the Bulls are wanting to get this thing done.

But I’d really be surprised if it happened before the season. I still think it’s more likely that it’ll happen probably somewhere in December or January.

But this is a divorce that’s going to happen. It’s just going to take some time.

The young players on the Bulls really can’t stand Dwyane, and it’s the little secret in Chicago. They have had enough.

Wade’s January criticism was reportedly particularly directed at Nikola Mirotic and Michael Carter-Williams, neither of whom are on the roster. (Mirotic, a restricted free agent, will likely return.) Even if Wade’s comments cast a wider net, Jerian Grant, Paul Zipser, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio are the only young players still on the team from that time. None of those players deserve much influence in how the franchise operates.

Still, no matter what the young players want, it’s clear Wade no longer fits on a rebuilding Chicago. They might get their wish.

Wade is set to earn $23.8 million in the final season of an expiring contract. That salary could prove useful in a bigger trade.

If bought out, Wade would count as dead money against Chicago’s cap at his buyout amount. They Bulls should obviously be amenable if he sacrifices enough, but a small discount doesn’t justify locking into that money rather than having a trade chip available.

If Chicago is deep into the cellar as expected after the trade deadline, a buyout would be completely logical then. Maybe the Bulls even assess the trade market sooner and conclude Wade’s huge expiring contract won’t facilitate a trade.

It’s easy to see a buyout happening eventually. In the meantime, Wade and his younger teammates will just have to get along. I trust Wade’s professionalism to make this situation at least tenable, but Fred Hoiberg might have his hands full building cooperation with all the people involved.

Spurs sign undrafted former Virginia guard London Perrantes

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) The San Antonio Spurs have signed guard London Perrantes.

Michael Scott of Basketball Insiders:

The 22-year-old Perrantes wasn’t drafted out of Virginia this year but made summer league appearances for the Miami Heat in Las Vegas and Orlando.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 10 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in the MGM Resorts Summer League. He averaged 11.3 points, 4.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals in Orlando summer league action.

Perrantes set school career records at Virginia with 138 games and 4,425 minutes. He averaged 12.7 points, 3.8 assists and 3 rebounds during his senior season. He made 40.9 percent of his career 3-point attempts (211 of 516).

 

Danny Ainge: Isaiah Thomas’ hip played ‘some’ role in Kyrie Irving trade

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The Celtics gave up so much for Kyrie Irving, questions immediately emerged about the assets traded to Cleveland:

Are we all underrating the Nets, whose 2018 first-round pick Boston sent to Cleveland? Were Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder just products of Brad Stevens’ system? And is Thomas damaged goods?

Thomas will enter free agency next summer as a 29-year-old 5-foot-9 point guard seeking a max contract. That’s undoubtedly a concern.

But Cleveland is in win-now mode, as LeBron James can opt out of his contract next summer. As long Thomas maintains his star production between now and then, even if his next contract presents complications, the Cavaliers should be happy.

But a hip injury leaves uncertainty into how Thomas finishes this contract.

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

Ainge, via Blakely:

“There’s probably a little bit of delay for Isaiah to start this year,” Ainge said in a conference call with reporters following the trade becoming official Tuesday night.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Cavs are building for June, not October. A short delay in Thomas’ return is no big deal – as long as he fully recovers and isn’t at greater risk of future injury.

Those are big assumptions for someone in his position. His physical will be huge.