Source on Carmelo Anthony’s free agent decision: ‘If he makes the choice to opt out, I think he’s gone’

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Phil Jackson has already proven to have at least a basic understanding of what’s required to begin to turn the Knicks around during his short time in office as the team’s president of basketball operations.

The plea made to Carmelo Anthony to opt in for the final year of his contract at more than $23 million was a smart one, because it would buy Jackson some time to pursue free agents in the summer of 2015, when Anthony could choose to sign for less money in order for the team to add championship pieces around him.

It’s a highly unlikely scenario, because simply from the financial side, it’s too risky for Anthony not to take a new max contract the moment the collective bargaining agreement allows it.

But while many believed that he would opt out to re-sign a max deal to stay with the Knicks — something the team would surely offer — some now feel that if Anthony opts out of his deal, it would mean a return to New York is far less likely.

From Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal:

The team’s star forward, Carmelo Anthony, has until Monday to decide if he wants to opt out of his contract and test the free-agent market, something he has long indicated that he wants to do. Once he makes that choice, the Knicks—and all of the NBA—will have a much clearer sense of whether Anthony has played his last home game in New York.

“If he makes the choice to opt out, I think he’s gone,” said one person familiar with the matter.

That’s because Anthony, for as much as he has talked about potentially taking a pay cut to help the Knicks build a winner around him, would actually be hindering the team by becoming a free agent. Despite the possibility that he could opt out and then re-sign for less money, there really is no immediate benefit in that for the Knicks, who are hopelessly over the league’s salary cap anyway until 2015.

Another telling line from that piece: “the Knicks would still be more than $4 million over the cap in 2014 even if Anthony somehow could take a $1 salary.”

Due to the team’s irresponsible decisions in the past, 2014 remains a lost cause in terms of transforming the roster. Because of this, the thinking is that Anthony signing a max deal to stay in New York doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if winning is the priority, either immediately or at some point in the not-too-distant future.

The Bulls, for example, could give Anthony a max deal by amnestying Carlos Boozer and making some other minor moves. Chicago would be immediately elevated to the status of contender with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson already in place, though it would cost Anthony a large chunk of change ($30 million or so) if in fact he makes that decision.

That’s what it’s going to come down to where Anthony is concerned. If he wants the most money possible, he’ll re-sign in New York for a five-year max deal that will hurt the franchise in terms of its ability to provide him with a championship-caliber supporting cast.

If winning is truly the priority, however, he could take less money to stay. But nothing is guaranteed in terms of the Knicks being able to add talent in free agency, so the easier route to success might simply be to sign with an already-built contender somewhere else.

LeBron James says he has scratched cornea, could sit Saturday vs. Wizards

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With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.

It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.

 

 

That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.

James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”

He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.

The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.

And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.