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Phil Jackson on column about his relationship with Carmelo Anthony: ‘You don’t change the spot on a leopard’

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Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report wrote an interesting analysis of the dynamic between Knicks president Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony, whom Jackson is trying to trade despite Anthony holding a no-trade clause. Ding’s premise: After helping Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant win multiple championships, Jackson believed he could help Anthony maximize his team success.

Ding:

 

Jackson undoubtedly overestimated his own ability—perhaps you’ve heard something lately about the no-trade clause he gifted to Melo in 2014—to kindle Anthony’s evolution from superstar to winning superstar.

Anthony is a likable person who just happens to be nothing near Jordan or Bryant in will to win. No, Jackson never thought Anthony had that fire, but he thought he could balance Anthony’s ball dominance by teaching teamwork and converting talent into a clear net positive.

Even more fascinating? Jackson’s public response:

As usual, it’s goink to be tricky to decode this tweet from Jackson, but let’s try.

I believe he’s saying Ding’s analysis is almost sound — except the part about Jackson being wrong about anything.

“A leopard can’t change its spots” is a phrase meaning people don’t change fundamental truths about themselves. And, of course, Jackson already knew that. So, he didn’t learn it through his experience with Anthony.

Michael Graham starred as a freshman during Georgetown’s 1984 championship run, lost his spot on the team due academic problems then wound up playing for Phil Jackson in the Continental Basketball Association. Alan Siegel of Washingtonian:

On New Year’s Eve 1986, Graham and his coach, Phil Jackson, got into it in the middle of a game. A few days later, the Patroons axed him after only 11 games.

Jackson, who went on to lead the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers to a combined 11 championships, is considered by many to have been the best coach in NBA history. But even as he used his memoir to describe leading the likes of Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman, he still devoted space to Graham, the star he’d failed to mold back in the minors.

“Nothing I said made any difference,” Jackson wrote. “Whenever I tried to talk to him, his eyes would glaze over and he’d retreat to some dark inner corner nobody could penetrate.”

The coach described pulling off the highway the night he let Graham go and starting to cry at the thought that he might have ended the player’s promising career: “Here was a kid who was born to play basketball, someone who had enough talent to be a star in the NBA, and yet despite all my sophisticated psychology, I couldn’t reach him.”

 

There are unique challenges in building around Anthony — a highly paid player who dominates the ball offensively, commits little defensively and doesn’t set a strong winning tone with his teammates. So far, Jackson has failed in that task (though drafting Kristaps Porzingis would help any situation).

And Jackson hasn’t failed because he initially misdiagnosed Anthony’s problems and then only later discovered them. Jackson was making the same comments about Anthony’s passing in 2014 that he’s making now.

Jackson knew what he had in Anthony. We all did. There was no certainty how Anthony would develop under Jackson, but the conditions entering the relationship were clear.

I keep circling back to this: If the Graham experience told Jackson that Anthony would never change, why did Jackson re-sign Anthony to a five-year near-max contract with a no-trade clause?

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.