The Extra Pass: Carmelo Anthony calls his string of stellar performances ‘pointless’ after latest crushing loss

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NEW YORK — The Knicks seem intent on finding new ways to lose basketball games, the most recent one coming in crushing fashion Monday night at the buzzer against the Mavericks.

But the constant losing and the team’s abysmal record truly have nothing to do with Carmelo Anthony.

Dallas gave back all of an eight-point lead it possessed with 1:37 remaining, and Anthony’s three to tie it capped an effort of more than 40 points for the third time in his last four games. He did everything possible yet again for this Knicks team — including playing excellent defense against Dirk Nowitzki on the game’s final possession — only to see his opponent’s shot bank and bounce home as time expired.

Anthony finished with 44 points on 29 shots, one make away from shooting better than 50 percent from the field for a fourth straight game, and added nine rebounds and four assists in almost 42 minutes of action. But nothing he does seems to be enough to save this Knicks team from loss after difficult loss.

“Melo has been our most consistent player all year,” Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said afterward. “There’s no doubt about that. The way he’s played, it’s a damn shame that we’re in the position we’re in because our team doesn’t deserve it, and he definitely does not deserve the position that we’re in based on how he has played.”

He absolutely doesn’t.

For the third straight game, Anthony was the type of unstoppable force offensively that makes you understand why teams will be lining up with offers at or near a max contract if he chooses to leave New York in free agency. He is one of the game’s elite pure scorers, capable of bombing shots from three-point distance at a high enough percentage, even while defended, to keep his team within reach.

Anthony is a combined 17-of-30 from beyond the arc over his last three games, all increasingly painful losses. It took double overtime before New York fell in Orlando, in a game where Anthony scored 44 points and played 50 minutes. And then in Atlanta the very next night, Anthony dropped in 35 points on 52 percent shooting, only to see his team blow a 17-point lead, and fall apart in the second half by surrendering 68 points over the game’s final 24 minutes.

Monday night at Madison Square Garden, the building was electric as the Knicks staged their furious late-game comeback, and the feeling was that this time, they may just have enough to push themselves over the winning edge. But Anthony couldn’t get a shot off with Vince Carter defending and the game tied, losing his handle a bit before being forced to swing it to J.R. Smith for a desperation heave as the shot clock expired.

“I think I gave up a decent shot,” Anthony said of his final possession. “The first time I had it, Vince was on me, and I figured we’re at home, I can try to get to the rack and get a foul or a closer shot. I didn’t want to pull up for the three, but that’s what I should have done. I should have just pulled up for the three and just took that chance.”

When Nowitzki’s shot dropped home on the ensuing possession to send the Knicks to another loss, Anthony stood on the court for several seconds afterward, thinking about all he had done in this one and has been doing for his team all season long, only to see anything but the desired result.

“It’s just like a needle in a balloon right there,” Anthony said of the feeling he had when he saw the ball go through the basket. “It sucks all of the air out of you.”

“That shot right there, I felt like I couldn’t do nothing more, nothing better,” he said. “He hit a tough shot, and we had a chance to get a better shot than we did when we had the ball. It was just a lot of that going on, and an accumulation of us losing the game. I was just trying to take all of that in.”

It was a lot to deal with in that moment, but Anthony hasn’t been at all to blame for his team’s lack of success. And yet, his stellar string of high-scoring performances comes as little consolation.

“It’s pointless,” he said. “Pointless. It is tough. You score 40, 44, 44, 44 — all losses. You kind of ask yourself, is it worth it? But I’m not going to stop doing what I’m doing. You can believe that.”

As Anthony walked out of the Knicks locker room, he was asked for additional clarification — even though any competitor playing at the game’s highest level would have been able to predict his response.

“You’re losing,” Anthony said. “Scoring all of that and taking Ls, I’ll take the W with 10 points.”

New Orleans Saints fire Pelicans’ team physician

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The Pelicans have been crushed by injuries the last few years.

Why? That’s an incredibly complex question.

But the New Orleans Saints – who share an owner (Tom Benson), a front-office leader (Mickey Loomis) and other staff with the Pelicans – have found culprits for their own injury woes.

Mike Triplett of ESPN:

The Saints have fired team orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri, per source, after it was discovered that CB Delvin Breaux has a fractured fibula and will require surgery expected to sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. Breaux was originally diagnosed with a contusion

Suri is a Pelicans team physician.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Fairly or not, Suri – after the Saints deemed him unacceptable – will be in the crosshairs if he keeps his job with the the Pelicans and their injury woes continue.

Rumor: LeBron James ‘100 percent’ leaving Cavaliers next summer

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Chris Sheridan was ahead of the crowd in 2014, reporting LeBron James would likely leave the Heat for the Cavaliers – which obviously happened.

But Sheridan called it a “90 percent chance,” a small – but large enough – hedge. He also said LeBron would announce the decision on LeBron’s personal website. Of course, LeBron revealed his choice in a Sports Illustrated essay.

So, maybe Sheridan knows what he’s talking about. Maybe he doesn’t.

But the longtime NBA writer just fanned the flames of the already hot LeBron-leaving-Cleveland rumors.

Sheridan:

There have already been plenty of warning signs about LeBron’s relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, which didn’t restart in a great place.

It’s entirely believable LeBron would leave Cleveland, in large part due to Gilbert.

But it’s also fun to speculate about that salacious storyline.

Maybe Sheridan or his source got carried away for that very reason. Or maybe they know something.

Neither possibility should be discounted.

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant betting odds favorites to win MVP

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Unlike the early projections for the NBA title next season, the MVP race seems wide open.

Russell Westbrook put up ridiculous numbers on his way to the award last season, but now he is going to share the rock with Paul George. James Harden made a legitimate case and would have won most seasons, but now he will have the ball in his hands less with Chris Paul running the show.

Who is going to win? Westbrook and Golden State’s Kevin Durant are the early betting line favorites, with these odds courtesy of online gaming site Bovada.

Russell Westbrook (OKC) 7/2
Kevin Durant (GS) 9/2
Kawhi Leonard (SAN) 13/2
LeBron James (CLE) 15/2
James Harden (HOU) 8/1
Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 17/2
Steph Curry (GS) 11/1
Anthony Davis (NOP) 16/1
Paul George (OKC) 25/1
Chris Paul (HOU) 25/1
Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 25/1
DeMarcus Cousins (NOP) 33/1
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 33/1
John Wall (WAS) 33/1
Blake Griffin (LAC) 40/1
Nikola Jokic (DEN) 40/1
DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 50/1
Joel Embiid (PHI) 50/1
Kyrie Irving (CLE) 50/1
Damian Lillard (POR) 50/1
Draymond Green (GS) 60/1
Ben Simmons (PHI) 66/1
Gordon Hayward (BOS) 70/1
Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 75/1
Jimmy Butler (MIN) 75/1
Andrew Wiggins (MIN) 75/1
Kevin Love (CLE) 100/1
Kyle Lowry (TOR) 100/1
Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 100/1

Yes, it is far too early to discuss this. As a voter, I don’t even start to make a list of serious candidates until midway through the season (then that list evolves as the season wears on). But it’s fun to speculate about.

To me, the smartest bet on the board seems to be Kawhi Leonard — he could have won last year, and if anything the Spurs are going to ask more of him this season. I think Harden has a chance to win it this season even with CP3, same with Westbrook, but it feels less likely. It’s hard to imagine one Warrior being picked above the others for the award. If Giannis Antetokounmpo finds his jumper it could happen, but that feels more like something a couple seasons away. Same with Karl-Anthony Towns being in consideration.

If you’re going to bet on Kevin Love, just donate that money to charity where it will do some good.

If Jeff Hornacek doesn’t work out with Knicks, is David Blatt next in line?

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It’s not fair to judge Jeff Hornacek of his first season as coach of the New York Knicks. Phil Jackson made some poor roster decisions — don’t hire a coach that likes to play fast then go sign Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah — and then there was the on again, off again, on again triangle offense looming over everything.

This season Hornacek will sink or swim on his own terms, and his ability to develop Kristaps Porzingis into a true franchise cornerstone and put Tim Hardaway Jr. and other young players in good positions around them.

If not, is former Cavaliers coach David Blatt lurking? Frank Isola of the New York Daily News says it’s something to watch.

Blatt, who has enjoyed tremendous success abroad, owns an impressive resume. No question about it. But you know the old saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And Blatt has connections with people in high places inside the Knicks front office, namely team president Steve Mills and newly hired front office executive Craig Robinson…

Mills is going to give Hornacek every opportunity to succeed in New York but Mills, who is said to have strong opinions about how the team should be coached, also wants to see results. That begins with Hornacek repairing his relationship with Kristaps Porzingis, who did not connect with the head coach last season and ultimately skipped his exit meeting with Jackson, Hornacek and Mills in April.

Repairing that relationship with Porzingis is crucial. We’ll see if Hornacek can do that and get this team moving in the right direction.

Blatt wants to return to the NBA, but his he the guy to connect with Porzingis? Blatt’s problems in Cleveland had far less to do with Xs and Os than it did relationships with players — Blatt was saying he wanted to team to play faster long before Tyronn Lue said that when he took over, but Lue could get players to buy in and listen. Blatt couldn’t. Blatt came in expecting to be handed respect, touting his European resume (that NBA players shrugged at), and demanding deference rather than building partnerships with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Blatt came off as needing to be the smartest guy in the room, always. Basically, Blatt could not handle the player/power dynamic in the NBA (coming out of Europe, where coaches have absolute power, like an American college coach). Has he learned how to deal with it?

Before we get to that question, Hornaced gets his shot. The real test for the Knicks comes after Christmas, when they spend most of a couple of weeks on the road (due to the Grammys coming to Madison Square Garden), it’s a tough couple of weeks, and the team could struggle in that stretch and not recover. Hornacek has to have the team playing well enough, and buying in enough by then, to survive that trip. Do that and he will stick around. If not, the sharks are circling.