Report: Carmelo Anthony wants to stay a Knick, but if he leaves likes Bulls, Lakers, Clippers

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I still think come the start of next season Carmelo Anthony will slip on New York Knicks warm-ups before he takes the court pregame. When presented with all his options, he will stay in New York and trust management to build a team around him.

Still, there is louder and louder talk he is looking to bolt this summer because Anthony wants to win a title and doesn’t see a path to that in New York. Plus he has seen the organization and fans turn on Stephon Marbury and doesn’t want to walk in those shoes.

Which led to this interesting note from Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Anthony wants to play for a winner, but desperately wants to play in a big market because of his business ventures — his Jordan Brand sneaker line, his PowerCoco energy drink, his watch deal.

That is why New York, Los Angeles, where he has a home, and even Chicago are on his short list, according to a source. The source said the Clippers — with buddy Chris Paul — are more attractive than the Lakers, though the purple-and-gold have cap space and the Clips don’t.

Let’s run through those three teams one-by-one.

Los Angeles Clippers: L.A. wants to bring in Carmelo Anthony so he can take the ball out of Chris Paul’s hands? Does Doc Rivers think the Clippers need to run more isolation sets? Does Doc think Anthony will provide the defensive consistency along the front like the Clippers need? No, no and no. The only reason has any chance of happening is Chris Paul and Anthony are good friends and CP3 could push for it — and he’s gotten whatever he pushed for in recent years (especially before he signed his new deal last summer). However Anthony is better at the four than the three and the Clippers are set at the four — Blake Griffin is much younger, puts up numbers and more importantly is the heart of the Clippers marketing efforts. They are not moving Griffin, he’s worth far too much to them. Yes, you could play Anthony at the three but to make a trade that works financially without Griffin you end up gutting what depth the Clippers have. Los Angeles needs to make moves with this roster, but Anthony is just not the kind of help they need.

Los Angeles Lakers: They have the cap space to go get him with just a minor roster move (or Steve Nash retiring), and this would certainly signal the Lakers were done with Mike D’Antoni because nobody wants to see a sequel to that movie. (Which is why some Lakers fans may want this to happen.) An Anthony/Kobe Bryant team would sell a whole lot of tickets but how many games would it really win? There are instant defensive questions when you play Bryant and Anthony together, plus the rest of the roster would have to be assembled on the cheap with those two huge contracts — Anthony and Kobe couldn’t lift that kind roster past the second round (if even that far). Finally, the Lakers are looking for the future face of the franchise post Kobe and ‘Melo turns 30 this May. Is he the future?

Chicago Bulls: If this happens, please let me be in the room when Gar Forman tells Tom Thibodeau he replaced his beloved, versatile, hard defending Luol Deng with Anthony. I’d expect Thibodeau to go “Scanners.” The Bulls are looking for another shot creator to pair with Derrick Rose but I’m not sure Anthony fits the mold of guys they are looking for.

Thunder star Russell Westbrook scores 45, leads 25-point comeback against Jazz

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The Thunder lost three straight games, fell behind by 25 in the second half at home and looked as if they had no interest in returning to Utah.

Then, Russell Westbrook reminded everyone why he’s a superstar.

Westbrook is a singular force who can take over a game and rally his teammates – not a liability who makes everyone around him worse. His confidence and determination in the face of calamity were invaluable tonight. He kept attacking, and as shots started to fall, he and his teammates massively increased their defensive intensity.

The result: A 107-99 Game 5 win over the Jazz that looked highly improbable 21 game minutes before it ended. But Westbrook (who finished with 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists) singlehandedly outscored Utah in that final stretch.

The Thunder are hardly out of the woods yet. They still trail 3-2 in the series with Game 6 Friday in Utah. Teams with home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6 win it just 37% of the time. Those teams win the series just 26% of the time.

But thanks to Westbrook, Paul George (34 points) and plain all-around defensive effort, Oklahoma City still has a shot. At minimum, the Thunder won’t send George into unrestricted free agency with four straight losses.

Not that Oklahoma City erased all concerns.

Rudy Gobert devoured the Thunder’s offense in the paint – at least while he could avoid the foul trouble. Utah was +7 in Gobert’s 30 minutes and -8 in the 18 minutes he sat.

The Thunder made most of their comeback with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. They continued to play well once he returned in the fourth quarter, but by then, the Jazz had lost all rhythm.

Utah – led by Jae Crowder‘s 27 points – looks deeper. Anthony was still Oklahoma City’s third-leading scorer with just seven points.

And the Thunder haven’t won in Salt Lake City this series.

But they’ll make another trip there. Considering where this game and series looked midway through the third quarter tonight, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Another massive third quarter lifts Rockets past Timberwolves into second round

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We saw this movie just a couple of nights before, but Rockets fans love the ending and would gladly pay to see it 12 more times this postseason.

Much like Game 4, the Rockets were down at the half in Game 5 Wednesday after having played disinterested defense and with cold shooting from their stars (James Harden and Chris Paul combined to go 3-of-16 from the floor). Minnesota was up 59-55 and had hope.

Then the third quarter the Rockets flipped the switch. Again.

Harden had 15 points in the third — matching the Timberwolves as a team. Minnesota started to double Harden and take the ball out of his hands (especially late in the shot clock), but he often moved the rock and it led to open threes — the Rockets were 6-of-10 from three in the quarter. Houston won the third 30-15, not as overwhelming as the 50-point quarter the game before but once again enough to comfortably pull away from Minnesota and cruise in for a 122-104 win.

With that, the Rockets win the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Utah vs. Oklahoma City series.

In that series, the Rockets will need to play with more consistent focus than they brought against the Timberwolves — they can’t just play a couple of good halves in the next series and expect that to be enough. Unlike Minnesota, those teams in the next round will make Houston pay a steep price for a lack of focus.

Houston got a massive night from Clint Capela, who led the Rockets with 26 points and 15 rebounds, running the rim hard in transition and making plays inside while the rest of the Rockets launched threes over the top.

Harden finished with 24 points and 12 assists, and Eric Gordon had 19 off the bench in the win.

Minnesota had 23 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and 17 from an energized Jeff Teague.

For the Timberwolves, a team with elite young talent, this was a glimpse of what it will take to reach the heights they envision. This was a good step — the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 2004 is not to be diminished. It matters. But there are higher levels this team can attain. Defensively they have to be better, offensively they need to feed Towns more and play to their strengths better. It’s a work in progress.

Houston just showed them where they want to be.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.