Report: Houston Rockets to pursue Carmelo Anthony this summer

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At a panel during the Sloan Conference, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers described the arduous process of acquiring Andre Iguodala.

The Warriors had no cap room last summer, so Myers faced a two-sided task to land the free agent. Not only did he negotiate with Iguodala, Myers discussed trades with other teams to unload salary. It was exhausting, and Myers nearly gave up. But at the last moment, the Utah Jazz agreed to accept the salary of Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush, clearing the way for Golden State to get Iguodala.

Also on that panel: Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

Not that the creative Morey necessarily needed any tips, but if he were seeking inspiration, he found it.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a league source, the Rockets will make a bid for Carmelo Anthony this summer, even though they probably won’t have cap space and would have to orchestrate a creative sign-and-trade. The source said Houston asked the Knicks about Anthony before February’s trade deadline.

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Carmelo Anthony would certainly form a heck of a big three with Dwight Howard and James Harden, especially if Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley are filling the gaps. That is absolutely a championship-caliber team.

But acquiring Melo won’t be easy.

First, the Rockets would have to convince him to leave New York and take a pay cut. Here’s the maximum amount Melo could earn on his next contract if he re-signs with the Knicks or signs elsewhere:

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Houston would almost certainly have to arrange a sign-and-trade with the Knicks to offer Melo his new-team max. Even if the Rockets cleared their roster of every player besides Howard and Harden, they still wouldn’t have enough cap space to sign Melo outright to his non-Knicks max (assuming a salary cap of $62.1 million).

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Unless Melo is willing to surrender nearly $7 million during the next four years – and the Rockets are willing to dump all their valuable players beyond Howard and Harden –  a sign-and-trade is the only solution.

The Rockets could trade Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer’s unguaranteed contract to New York, and Anthony would get the full amount possible from from a non-Knicks team.

But how does Houston make that trade base palatable for New York?

Lin and Asik would likely be integral to any such deal. Though their cap hits are each $8,374,646 next season, their actual salaries are $14,898,938. Even the free-spending Knicks might pause at paying role players so much.

New York would certainly push for Chandler Parsons, but he’s pretty valuable in his own right, maybe too valuable to include in a sign-and-trade for Melo. Terrence Jones could be a good compromise sweetener, and Patrick Beverley is also a valuable player, though his inclusion would leave Houston shorthanded at point guard.

The Rockets also have all their own upcoming first-round picks and assortment of future second rounders to grease any deal.

There are plenty of obstacles to clear for Houston to land Melo, but as Morey certainly knows, it’s at least possible.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.

 

Kenyon Martin: I once played high

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Former NBA commissioner David Stern said the league began testing for marijuana because players complained of other players playing high. Chauncey Billups said he knew teammates who played better high.

But Stephen Jackson is the rare former NBA player who admitted to playing high.

Now, he has company.

Kenyon Martin – who played for the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks in a 15-year career – via Bleacher Report:

We were playing in Indiana one day. I wasn’t feeling well. I had a hamstring, a hip or something. So, I smoked. I wasn’t going to play originally. So, we got to the arena, and I’m like, “I feel good.” I went and told the trainer, “I’m going to go today.” I went out there and had a great game.

If you want to guess which game this was, here are the possibilities.

This was part of a great feature on marijuana in the NBA and NFL. Matt Barnes, Al Harrington and Gary Paton also participate. I highly recommend (pun intended) watching it in full.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly: Next season playoffs or bust

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The Nuggets have steadily improved over the last four years – 30-52 to 33-49 to 40-42 to 46-36.

But even 46 wins weren’t enough to get Denver into the playoff this season, extending the postseason drought to five years.

Nuggets president Connelly, via Gina Mizell of The Denver Post:

On if next season is “playoffs or bust”:

“I think we’re there. How many times can you be the bridesmaid? Our young core, three of our best players are 23 (Gary Harris), 22 (Jokic) and 21 (Jamal Murray), and they’ve proven they’re capable of doing it at the highest level. I think all of us are, quite frankly, sick of this time of the year having a press conference.”

There’s certainly something to be said for injecting urgency. The Nuggets are already good enough to make the playoffs. They just happened to play in a historically deep Western Conference. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take more responsibility.

Denver lost to the Hawks (twice), Grizzlies (twice without Mikey Conley), Mavericks, Kings and Nets this season. Flip any of those games, and the Nuggets would have made the playoffs.

But I’m not sure what “or bust” means.

Connelly said Michael Malone would return as coach next season. If Denver misses the playoffs, would he get fired? Would Connelly come on the hot seat? What if the Nuggets again produce a record that typically qualifies for the postseason?

Even if Denver misses the playoffs next year, the 2019-20 team would have a 22-year-old Jamal Murray, 25-year-old Gary Harris and probably a 24-year-old Nikola Jokic under contract. That’s still a pretty good place to be.

Because of Jokic’s rapid ascent, the Nuggets are trying to accelerate the timeline. They most notably signed Paul Millsap last summer. (Injury cost him most of the season and contributed to Denver falling short.) They could also emphasize the present by re-signing Will Barton this offseason.

But playoffs or not next year, the Nuggets have a bright future. Connelly just doesn’t want them leaning on that excuse, though following through on his edict could create complications if Denver again narrowly misses the postseason with a good record.