Report: Carmelo Anthony leaning towards leaving New York; Chicago, Houston frontrunners

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Phil Jackson’s suggestion that Carmelo Anthony take less money to stay in New York so there is flexibility to build a team around him has an obvious counter argument:

If you’re going to take less money to win, why not do that in another city where the parts are already assembled to have a contender? It’s likely why when they met recently Jackson suggests Anthony opt-in for next season, giving Jackson a year to work his plan.

Anthony has said from the start he is opting out and not only that, he’s leaning toward leaving and heading to Chicago or Houston, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

As re-signing with the Knicks continues to fade as his priority, Chicago and Houston have emerged as the clear frontrunners to acquire Anthony, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Anthony’s meeting with Knicks officials on Friday night had little impact on his state of mind, league sources said, because there remain too many uncertainties about how quickly president Phil Jackson can reshape the team into a championship contender.

If winning really is Anthony’s priority (he has said that, but everybody says that) then both of those teams make sense as a fit.

Chicago needs a second reliable shot creator and scoring option next to (a hopefully healthy) Derrick Rose, plus they have a defensive system and a Defensive Player of the Year in Joakim Noah who can help clean up Anthony’s defensive mistakes (he’s worked harder on that end the past couple years, but let’s not pretend ‘Melo is a good defender).

Houston needs a stretch four that will help space the floor, and with Dwight Howard and James Harden the Rockets would have their “big three” put together. They would be contenders, although the West is already full of contenders. The two questions I have about Anthony in Houston: Kevin McHale wants to run and we know how Anthony felt about those Mike D’Antoni offensive principles before, will ‘Melo play in the system? Can Howard, as great a defensive backstop as he is, salvage a defense with Harden and Anthony?

The front offices for both of those teams are working on plans to clear cap space to make Anthony a big, although not max, offer.

There will be other teams trying to get in the mix. Obviously New York is making their pitch. The Lakers are out there, although they are lukewarm on the idea of the Kobe Bryant/Anthony pairing (as they should be).

But it looks more and more like Anthony is ready to move on.

Which really isn’t the worst thing for a Knicks team trying to rebuild.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.