Phil Jackson on Carmelo Anthony: “It’s been a tough year for him”

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Statistically, Carmelo Anthony used a higher percentage of his team’s possessions last season than this one — his usage percentage last season was a career-high 35.6, this season it’s 32.7, which is still second highest in the NBA behind Kevin Durant.

This is where context comes in (and why every advanced stats guy in the league watches games/film and uses that context — nobody just looks at the numbers alone). Last season Anthony got help from a team that spaced the floor to shoot threes better, plus had better individual years (J.R. Smith, for one, although he has picked it up lately scoring 20.4 points a game and shooting 45 percent from three in his last five games). Anthony’s numbers dropped over the course of games as defenses focused on him and dared any other Knick to beat them. For much of the season they couldn’t and the losses piled up, adding to Anthony’s burden.

Phil Jackson sees it. He sees Anthony working hard — and harder than anyone remembers on defense — and thinks he deserves credit for it.

Clearly Jackson’s talks with Anthony will lead toward the Knicks attempting to keep their star this summer. Jackson spoke about Anthony with ESPN.

“We’ve had a couple occasions to talk,” Jackson said at the team’s practice facility. “We haven’t really delved into the future as much as what’s gone on, getting to know each other type of thing. Trying to see how he’s feeling about playing.

“He’s had to carry a big load. It’s been a tough year for him. But it’s been a tough year for everyone. It’s not just isolated with him. But I think he feels the weight of it a lot more on himself.”

These kind of conversations are how Phil Jackson works — it’s about getting to know the player then subtly guiding that player to his way of seeing things. It’s about growth and not just as a basketball player but as a person. It’s something Anthony likely will respond well to.

As for the load, when Smith and company are helping out, when the three balls are falling (40 percent as a team the last five games and 39.2 over the last 15) then some of that burden is lifted. The Knicks offensive rating their last 15 games is up to 112.7 and that is winning them games.

And with that the Knicks are making a run that could well lead them to the playoffs (thanks to the Hawks collapse). That certainly would make this disaster of a season feel a little better. Jackson is there to bring hope for the future.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.