Carmelo Anthony dealing with shoulder injury could be the end of Knicks slim playoff hopes

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Time is running out on the Knicks and their playoff chances, and a task that was already difficult is going to be nearly impossible without Carmelo Anthony playing at full strength.

New York had put together a desperation run as of late, winning 12 of its last 15 games before dropping a close one at home to the Wizards on Friday. The loss put them technically only one game out of the eighth spot in the East, but they trail Atlanta now by two games in the loss column.

Losing to Washington on one of the game’s final possessions isn’t a crime, as the Wizards are firmly in the postseason picture themselves. But it was disturbing in that New York largely played great, getting huge games from J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire.

The problem was Anthony, who finished with just 10 points and nine turnovers, likely due to attempting to play through an injured right shoulder.

From Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York:

 X-rays on Anthony’s shoulder were negative, and the Knicks expect him to play Sunday at Miami. …

Anthony said he first suffered the injury during the Knicks’ win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

“Today was just the lingering effect on it,” said Anthony, who shot 5 of 14 from the field and missed all four of his 3-point attempts. “I just felt it just gave [out]. Throughout the course of the game, there was no strength in it — on the passes, causing turnovers, things like that. Hopefully, I’ll be all right.” …

“Well, I knew it was bothering him,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “But you know, we’ve got to have Melo on the floor. … But it was bothering him. I knew that. He has nine turnovers, that’s not Carmelo.”

And that’s the issue right there.

The Knicks have to have Anthony on the floor, and have no shot at winning the last five games of the season — all of which are against Eastern Conference playoff teams, with the next one Sunday in Miami — with him performing the way he did against the Wizards.

It feels like time has run out on the Knicks and their playoff chances. Anthony gutting out the remainder of the season at less than 100 percent would make it official.

Rumor: Paul George told former Pacers teammates he wanted to join the Lakers

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Paul George to the Lakers is a capital-T thing.

George is from Southern California, and he keeps indicating his dissatisfaction with the Pacers. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Even Lakers president Magic Johnson is talking about George.

Where do rumors like this originate?

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

A SoCal native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold.

Did George say he dreamed of playing for the Lakers growing up? Did he say it’d be cool to join his boyhood favorite team if the situation presented itself? Or did he say he wanted to get the heck out of Indiana to join the Lakers as soon as possible?

There are so many ways his comments to teammates could get misconstrued as they get passed down in the game of telephone.

But the Lakers threat – to whatever degree it’s real – looms, and it’ll impact how the Pacers handle their offseason.

Jazz call deactivating Jeff Withey, who was accused of domestic violence, ‘strategic basketball-related decision’

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Jazz Center Jeff Withey was accused of domestic violence in a police report filed by his ex-fiancée.

Withey played a small role in Utah’s first two playoff games, but once the accusation over an alleged 2016 incident became public, he hasn’t seen the court. Withey received a DNP-CD in Game 3 against the Clippers, and the Jazz deactivated the center for Game 4 last night.

Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News:

The team called it a “strategic basketball-related decision.”

Withey was always going to see a reduced role with Rudy Gobert returning from injury.

Though Gobert didn’t play in Game 3, the Jazz had two injured players – Gobert and Alec Burks on the inactive list – so Withey was active but never played. But Withey was active for Game 1, which Gobert started healthy before injuring his knee 11 seconds in.

Therefore, deactivating Withey in Game 4 for Joel Bolomboy, a little-used second-round rookie who has yet to play in the postseason, is a curious choice for basketball reasons. It’s almost as if that wasn’t the reason.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.