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.

Pistons consider shutting down Reggie Jackson for rest of season

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The Pistons have started Reggie Jackson. They’ve brought him off the bench. They’ve sat him entirely.

No role seems right for the point guard as Detroit has lost four straight and seven of eight.

Now, it seems the Pistons might just shut down Jackson, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury. He’s at least doubtful for tonight’s key game against the Heat.

Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy, via Fox Sports Detroit:

We’ve been thinking about this, actually for a long time, OK? And he’s been playing at — it’s just hard to put a percentage — but probably at about 80 percent. And as we get into this stretch of games in March where we’re playing a lot, the fatigue is just making it worse.

It wasn’t really fair to him. We were running him out there, putting pressure on him. He’s seeing things he should be able to do, and he just can’t do. He’s not feeling pain, but he just can’t make the plays he wants to make. And we’re trying to put him out there.

We were really struggling, and we just need to have guys who are at full energy and the whole thing. And as much as he wants to, he can’t right now. It’s honestly amazing what he’s done.

To his credit, he fought me on it. He wanted to keep going.

He needs some rest. We don’t know how long it will be. But he needs some rest and to be able to try to get his energy back and see if we can get him at full strength.

He’s been a warrior. He’s tried to fight through it. He’s been frustrated, because he sees openings and things on the court that he just hasn’t been able to get to. I think part of it is a confidence thing.

And I think the thing that we really look forward to, and he looks forward to, is getting a fresh start in the offseason and being able to go through the preparation for a season like he did last year. And not only get right physically, but really get his confidence back to be able to attack and make the plays he’s had.

Jackson hasn’t looked right this season, showing only fleeting moments of quality production. It’s unclear whether that’s his knee, confidence, regression to the mean after a breakout season last year, bad luck or some combination.

But it has the Pistons in dire straights. They’re 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position with tonight’s game against eight-place Miami crucial.

Detroit’s offense and defense have hummed better with Ish Smith, but despite the better chemistry he affords, the talent drop from Jackson is also glaring. It’s not as if the Pistons have soared with Smith. And relying on Beno Udrih for backup minutes is its own risk.

Van Gundy is talking a lot about next season when it comes to Jackson, which seems telling. The coach’s compliments seem designed to soften the blow.

The odds are against Detroit making the playoffs, but they might be higher without Jackson. The fact that that’s even considerable is also telling about Jackson’s season.

Joakim Noah says he’s cleared to play, which will allow suspension to begin

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The NBA suspended Joakim Noah 20 games — effective once he’s “physically able to play.”

Noah underwent knee surgery about a month ago, and though it seemed he’d miss the rest of the season, the Knicks said at the time he’d be reevaluated in 3-4 weeks. That gave the team cover to claim his suspension should begin this season.

So, Noah rushed to practice today, and no matter how unlikely he would’ve been to follow this timeline sans suspension, that will seemingly be enough.

Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

New York has eight games remaining, which would leave 12 for Noah to serve at the beginning of next season.

Obviously, the more of his suspension Noah serves during this lost season, the better. The Knicks might be a wreck next season too, but at least there’s a chance they’re ready to win (and a chance Noah can contribute). This year is confirmed hopeless.

 

After fun back-to-back wins, Kings deemphasizing veterans

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Break up the Kings.

No, really.

After consecutive thrilling wins — a historic comeback against the Clippers on Sunday and another one-point win over the Grizzlies, Sacramento coach Dave Joerger’s former team, yesterday — the Kings announced a changing of the guard.

Joerger, via CSN California:

This was maybe our last stand for the year, as far as you’re probably not going to see all those veterans play together the rest of the season.

Darren Collison, Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, Anthony Tolliver and Ty Lawson played major roles against Memphis. Expect their minutes to be cut down the stretch.

The Kings have “fallen” to the NBA’s eight-worst record. It’s unlikely, but a late-game surge could “drop” them to the league’s 10th-worst record.

That’s unviable for a team that put itself on the tanking track and loses its first-round pick (to the Bulls) if it falls outside the top 10. Sacramento must protect itself from bad lottery luck.

It might not require going full Suns, but the Kings should and will emphasize developing their young players — who, not at all incidentally, are less equipped to help the team win.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.