New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony keeps ball away from Brooklyn Nets Deron Williams in NBA game in New York

Carmelo Anthony says anything less than a trip to the Eastern Conference finals would be ‘unacceptable’

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The Knicks have gotten off to a fantastic start this season, and one that is arguably better than most expected. The team is essentially still at the top of the Eastern conference standings — percentage points behind the Heat, but just one game back in the loss column, with two more wins.

And, let’s not forget that two blowout victories over Miami are a part of those 20 wins New York has piled up through its first 27 games.

Now that the team is somewhat proven, expectations are skyrocketing, especially in the number one media market in country. For better or for worse, the Knicks aren’t backing away from that, and Anthony is the one leading the charge.

In an interview with Stephen A. Smith of ESPN.com, Anthony spells out his vision for the Knicks this year, and the way he sees it, the team should be playing deep into the postseason, at the very least.

From Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com:

In an excerpt of SportsCenter’s Sunday Conversation, Smith asks Anthony what he thinks would constitute a successful season.

“Winning the division, getting out of the first round, getting to the Eastern Conference finals,” Anthony says. “I don’t see anything less than that.”

He adds that anything less than a trip to the conference finals is unacceptable.

“I’ll sit here and tell you right now, it’s unacceptable. With the guys we have, with the team we have, with the roster that we have, it’s unacceptable,” he says.

It’s a bit unusual for a team’s star player to come right out and declare a minimum ending point to his team’s season, and one that he would view as a breaking point for making it a success. But a closer look shows that Anthony really isn’t going out on much of a limb here with this one.

A quick scan of the East shows essentially what we knew heading into this season — that the conference isn’t all that deep, and once you get past Miami, New York and Chicago are the only teams that firmly belong in that second tier, and should be the ones battling it out for the honor to face the Heat in one of the postseason’s later rounds.

Chicago should be the only team that the Knicks have to worry about before meeting up with Miami, and that fear should be a legitimate one. The Bulls already give the Knicks fits, and will only be stronger once Derrick Rose returns to the lineup, which is expected to happen sometime near the league’s All-Star break in mid-February.

But should Chicago not finish with one of the top-three records in the East — which is a very real possibility, with Indiana improving, and with Atlanta always willing to pile up regular season wins for essentially no reason — the Bulls won’t be the Knicks’ problem in the playoffs, they’ll be the Heat’s, by virtue of a theoretical four-seed that would land them a date with Miami in the second round.

If things shake out that way, New York should have a relatively clear path to the Eastern Conference finals — which ultimately makes Anthony’s expectations extremely realistic.

It’s a trend: Russell Westbrook posts video of him singing two more breakup songs

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At this point, there is zero chance Russell Westbrook‘s posts are a coincidence.

First. he posted a video of himself singing along to Lil Uzi Vert’s “Now I Do What I Want.”

Then came the shoe ad that was another little jab at now Warriors Kevin Durant.

Now comes Westbrook’s return to karaoke posts, this time singing Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together” and Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake.”

Apparently, Westbrook and Durant are having one rough teenage breakup.

Fun throwback video: Paul George vicious dunk on LeBron’s Heat

Indiana Pacers' Paul George goes up for a dunk during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Indianapolis. Indiana won 104-97. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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One of the great stories of last season was the return of Paul George to All-Star level form (then to watch him be crucial to the USA winning gold this summer).

It was a great story because vintage Paul George was so great. Watch this throwback video of him blowing by LeBron James and dunking over Chris Andersen from a few years back — this is vicious.

@ygtrece to the rack in the #NBAPlayoffs! #NBAvault

A video posted by NBA History (@nbahistory) on

By the way, if you’re not following NBA history on Twitter and Instagram, you’re doing it wrong.

Chris Bosh on if he’s working out: “Yes, I’m hooping. I’m a hooper.”

CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 25:  Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat watches on from the bench against the Charlotte Hornets during game four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 25, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Chris Bosh wants to play basketball this season. Of that, there is no doubt.

The question is will the Heat let him after he missed the end of the last two seasons due to potentially life-threatening blood clots? If so, will he have minutes or travel restrictions?

Bosh is working out to get ready for the season — he posted a video of it Monday on Snapchat, showing off his handles, and put it this way: Ues, he’s hooping.

The Heat and Bosh need to come to common ground on this before training camp opens. Bosh is on blood thinners for his condition, the team and he need to decide if he can come off them on game days or if there is another protocol that works for everyone.

The Heat would be a vastly better team with Bosh on the court this season, but that didn’t motivate them to bring him back during the playoffs last season (even though he wanted to). Whatever happens, Bosh wants to play.

Former Nuggets coach Bernie Bickerstaff talks when Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf sat for Anthem

15 Mar 1996: Point guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf of the Denver Nuggets stands in prayer during the singing of the National Anthem before the Nuggets game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Abdul-Rauf came to an agreement with
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Twenty years before Colin Kaepernick made his stand by sitting for the national anthem during preseason games — something he has every right to do: if we are going to force compliance in our rituals of allegiance how are we different as a nation than the countries we rail against for forced indoctrination? — the NBA had Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.

For those that don’t remember, Abdul-Rauf was a good NBA guard and a member of a Denver Nuggets in the mid-1990s. He had converted to being a Muslim during his playing career. As his faith and beliefs grew, he came to view the flag as a symbol of oppression. In the middle of the 1995-96 season, he told the NBA he would no longer stand for the anthem. Everything was kept quiet for a while, but when the PR storm hit it led to a few strange days — the league suspended him at one point — before was a compromise where he would stand for the anthem but pray into his hands during it.

Bernie Bickerstaff was the coach of the Nuggets at the time and went on SiriusXM NBA Radio Monday to talk about those days. His first reaction was that of virtually every coach who has heard or talked about Kaepernick.

“Distractions,” Bickerstaff said. “It caused a lot of distractions, and you know at that point the number of media members was not quite as resounding as it is today. But still, it was a distraction.”

Bickerstaff said he was blindsided byAbdul-Rauf’s decision, and he said they scrambled to deal with the fallout. He said he and the brain trust of the team eventually had a meeting with the guard and told him if he wanted to be on the team he had to stand for the anthem.

“We had him come in, to sit down and have a conversation, and the conversation was about, the one thing that we have in this life is freedom of choice, and with that choice comes consequences. And my conversation with him was simply that one of the guys I probably admired most at that time was Muhammad Ali, because not only did he make a decision not to step forward but it was the part of it, the things that he gave up, and our message basically to (Abdul-Rauf) was ‘Hey, that’s the guy I admire. If you really feel that way then you go home, and you give us a call and let us know you’re willing to walk away from that contract, and then I can really, really, respect that…

“When he got home, we got a call and he said ‘I think I want to be on the trip.’ And that’s our understanding, if you’re on the trip, then you’re standing.”

The NBA came in with a more fair compromise.

If this were to happen again with the NBA, it would be interesting to see how Adam Silver would handle this compared to the heavy-handed David Stern.