Carmelo Anthony says that “without a doubt” he’d accept less money to help Knicks

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Carmelo Anthony has been making the rounds during All-Star weekend, and as you’d expect, the focus of the questions are primarily on his pending free agency decision.

But to Anthony’s credit, he hasn’t shied away from it or been vague. Instead, he’s cleared the air on why he’s entering free agency, he’s stated what his personal priorities are and he’s said what he needs to see from the Knicks going forward.

And when Anthony says he wants to remain with the Knicks, it’s easy to believe him. Pushing all of the dysfunction aside, he’s the biggest star in one of the biggest cities in the world. The Knicks are his team, ran by his agency. If he wants a player out (cough, cough Jeremy Lin), the player is out. He’s the man there.

Wanting to make it work in New York is perfectly logical, even if there’s a degree of difficulty thanks to James Dolan and company.

Anthony sounds open to working on solutions wherever he can, though. Here’s what he told reporters yesterday, as transcribed by Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com:

Carmelo Anthony says he is willing to accept less money to re-sign with the Knicks if it helps the team attract big-name free agents, according to published reports.

“Without a doubt,” Anthony said Friday while in New Orleans for All-Star Weekend. “Any opportunity I have to build that up in New York, I’d do it. I told people all the time, always say, ‘If it takes me taking a pay cut, I’ll be the first one on [Knicks owner] Mr. [James] Dolan’s steps saying take my money and let’s build something strong over here.'”

While that’s all well and good, Anthony giving up money in his next contract won’t help the Knicks — at least right away. New York will be over the cap in 2014 thanks to the giant expiring deals of Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, and that’s even without Anthony’s deal altogether. Anthony taking less money won’t create any more flexibility for next season.

Down the road for the highly anticipated 2015 offseason, however, Anthony could certainly help the Knicks clear some more space for a max player (and additional players) by taking less than the max amount he can receive.

Anthony will be due $24.1 million during the 2015-16 if he accepts his full max contract, which is based on a percentage of his old deal.

Has the success of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami set in with Anthony, making him realize that a paycut might be worth it for the chance to win titles?

It’s certainly possible, but ultimately, it’s going to be much tougher for Anthony to just leave money on the table without any stars joining him immediately. Since New York is capped out and lacking major trade assets, it’s tough to see how another star joins him this year.

I’m not saying it was easy for James, Bosh and Wade to take less money, but they were guaranteed to be a championship contender when they did it. The trade off was right in front of them to see. Anthony has no such guarantee. Really, all he has to work from is what he’s seen management and ownership do since he’s been in New York, and that’s rarely been pretty.

But again, the Knicks are Anthony’s team. If he stays, he’s assuming some ownership in his own right. Part of the responsibility to build a winner certainly falls on him, and the Knicks should have a better chance to do that with more room under the salary cap.

That being said, Anthony shouldn’t be criticized or begrudged if he takes the full max. Turning down millions of dollars sounds really easy until, ya know, you actually have to turn down millions of dollars. You’re worth what you’re worth, and if New York is willing to pay Anthony the full max to keep him, so be it.

Either way, it will be interesting to see which ways the narrative twists and turns this offseason when Anthony makes his decision. The basketball world will certainly be watching.

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.

Isaiah Thomas makes it clear he wants to stay in Boston

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It’s been a long time since there was so much discussion about whether a team needs to trade or just let go of an All-NBA and All-Star player at his peak who is clear and away a fan favorite.

Yet that’s where the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas find themselves. After landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft — where they will almost certainly take point guard Markelle Fultz — and with the Celtics looking a full couple steps behind the Cavaliers in the playoffs, the question about whether Thomas is part of the future in Boston has come up. He is a free agent in 2018 and are the Celtics willing to pay the big money it will take to keep him?

Know this, Thomas wants to remain a Celtic and win a Celtic. You can listen to his full comments above, but Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the money quote:

Outside of chasing Gordon Hayward, this summer the Celtics are going to focus on getter some frontcourt help, someone to help with rebounding and rim protection. They will look to get better, but Danny Ainge isn’t going to push all his chips into the middle of the table to make a gambit on immediate massive improvement. He will remain patient, building this team so that in three years and five years they will be a force in the East.

And the Thomas discussion likely gets put on hold for a year (unless there is a change of course and contract extension talks come up, but that’s only if Boston misses on Hayward and any other big targets).

Stephen Curry says talk of lack of competitive balance “disrespectful” to Warriors, Cavaliers

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This year’s NBA playoffs have been horribly lopsided and they lacked drama because we all knew where it was headed: Golden State vs. Cleveland. They were so dominant that between them they lost one playoff game so far. This has brought up discussions of competitive balance — we have seen the same Finals three years in a row, and we will almost certainly head into next season expecting a fourth. Then maybe a fifth.

Not surprisingly, Stephen Curry isn’t a fan of the lack of competition argument, saying it disrespects the Warriors and the Cavaliers.

“That almost is kind of disrespectful, because it’s not like it’s easy for us to get here. It wasn’t that at all. Us and Cleveland worked our butts off all year to put ourselves in a position to be playing for a championship. The league is as strong talent-wise across the board as it’s ever been. Every night we get challenged. Obviously, we had that one stat I guess, point differential, all year. We had a pretty solid showing in that respect. But, every night was hard. Every night was challenging. You can’t just sleepwalk through a season and sleep walk through the playoffs and expect to be here. You got to do something. You got to come out every night and prove yourself. Granted, anybody who was betting on who was gonna be in the Finals probably picked those two. It’s easy for them to say that and just wake up in June and see it happen. We had to put that work in all year long to make it happen.”

Curry is right in that nobody should question the work the Warriors and Cavaliers put in to get to this point, and that the other teams did not just roll over for them. Also, both teams did get a little lucky with injuries.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that right now there is a dominant team in each conference, and that sucks the drama out of the postseason. (Maybe a healthy San Antonio team could have pushed the Warriors, we didn’t get to find out.) Golden State has four of the top 15-20 players in the NBA, and that makes them a juggernaut — again, regardless of the work put in. Other teams don’t have much of a chance if the Warriors are healthy and focused, not in a seven game series. The fact that it was flukey circumstances that put a dominant team in each conference — there isn’t another LeBron James returning home, and out West it took a one-time salary cap spike to add Kevin Durant to a 73-win team — doesn’t change the fact this season has felt like a foregone conclusion from the start.

Right now we’ve got what we wanted and expected, the trilogy between the Warriors and Cavaliers. But if we head into next season expecting (and maybe getting) round four of this matchup in the Finals, is that good for the league? Why watch the movie if you know how it ends before it starts?