Report: Phil Jackson’s mind games have Carmelo Anthony wanting to stay a Knick

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It was maybe Phil Jackson’s greatest gift as a coach. Every great coach — from Red Auerbach through Gregg Popovich — has the ability to get his players to buy into a system, to sacrifice for the good of the team. Jackson’s gift, through his ability to read people and play mind games, was to get the players to think it was their own idea. Everyone pours more into something they think is their own idea, rather than one handed down from on high.

However, it’s one thing to play mind games as a coach, in the room with the players every day where they can see you and respond to you. It’s another to do it from a distance as a team president.

Jackson’s recent efforts to get Carmelo Anthony to want to bolt New York and offer to waive his no-trade clause are making it more likely Anthony stays, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“[Jackson’s underestimating ‘Melo’s willingness to stay,” a source familiar with Anthony’s thinking told The Vertical…

Anthony has privately told teammates, too: He refuses to let Jackson run him out of the Knicks. The Knicks have contacted three teams – the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers – about possible Anthony trades. The Clippers and Cavaliers have interest, but only in cobbling together packages that include role players, league sources told The Vertical….

Jackson has resisted a transparent approach of simply meeting with Anthony and his representative and telling them that the organization prefers to trade him and wants to work to find an agreeable solution. That approach might have convinced Anthony to be more open to accepting a trade, league sources said, but Jackson’s insistence on public over private communication has severely damaged the relationship – likely beyond repair.

Because he has a no-trade clause, Anthony has the power. That’s a no-trade clause that Jackson gave him in the last contract negotiations, although how much of that was Jackson’s desire and how much of that came from owner James Dolan depends on who you ask.

Jackson’s public motivational tactics served him well as a coach, but in a different era and in a different role it’s not been the same in New York. Few expect Jackson to be able to find a deal by the Feb. 23 trade deadline, although this talk could be re-opened around the draft or next July. Jackson needs to have a direct conversation with Anthony and his representatives about what he wants to do.

The problem is, Anthony is 33, his game is heavy on isolation on one end and he’s not great defense on the other, his skills are starting to fade, and he is owed $50.6 million over the two seasons after this one (player option on the 2018-19 season) — plus don’t forget a 15 percent trade kicker if he is moved. No team in contention — most notably the Cavaliers, Clippers, or Celtics — are going to give up real value to take Anthony on. Look at it this way, if I were in the Cavs front office and Jackson calls about an Anthony for Kevin Love swap, I’m going to want at least a first-round pick and maybe Courtney Lee too in the deal. And even then I’m hesitant. Love is the better player right now and especially going forward. The Cavs aren’t about to make that deal straight up.

Jackson has put himself in this corner. Meanwhile on the court, the Knicks have fallen to 22-31, the 12 seed in the East and 2.5 games out of the last playoff slot.

Report: Bulls pushing to trade for 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 14: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.

After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.

Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.

Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.

Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.

Report: 76ers trading Ersan Ilyasova to Hawks for Tiago Splitter, picks

Atlanta Hawks guard Mike Dunleavy blocks the shot of Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 110-93. (AP Photo/John Amis)
AP Photo/John Amis
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The 76ers have played like a 64-win team when Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova share the court and a 20-win team otherwise, using data from nbawowy!.

That’s helpful for Philadelphia, which is learning what type of player — a stretch four — works best with its franchise player.

But the Hawks can use more than just a lesson in the idea of Ersan Ilyasova. They can use actual Ersan Ilyasova.

And Atlanta will get him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:

Atlanta stills sound intent on keeping Paul Millsap, so Ilyasova will likely back him up. Ilyasova should work particularly well with Dwight Howard, whose interior play was a key factor in ushering in this stretch-four era by covering for the lighter power forward next to him.

In the last 21 months, Ilyasova has been traded five times: from the Bucks to the Pistons to the Magic to the Thunder to the 76ers and now to the Hawks. They can probably count on the veteran to settle in quickly as they try to improve their position in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Atlanta is fifth, closer to third than sixth.

Both Ilyasova and Splitter have expiring contracts. The advantage of Splitter, who has missed the Hawks’ last 90 games, is that his full compensation counts toward the floor apparently without Philadelphia actually having to play all of his salary.

Plus, those picks could help the 76ers in a season where they can win something meaningful — like the Hawks have decided this season is for them.

Report: Other NBA executives believe Pacers not seriously shopping Paul George

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers in action during the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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The Pacers are reportedly shopping Paul George, trying to line up a trade if they can’t get him help in another deal.

But it’s hard to find anyone who believes Indiana is genuinely looking to trade George before the upcoming trade deadline.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

If the Pacers are serious about trading George, they better convince other teams quickly. That’s the only way to draw out the best offers.

But it makes sense Indiana is only in the exploratory stage.

The Pacers — and only the Pacers — could offer George a designated-veteran-player contract extension (projected to be worth about $209 million over five years) this offseason if he makes an All-NBA team.

That’s probably a longshot. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are locks for three of the six forward spots. Anthony DavisJimmy ButlerDraymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo should also rank ahead of George. Gordon HaywardPaul MillsapKevin Love are firmly in the mix, too. That’s a lot of ground to make up and other contenders to fend off.

But it’s likely worth it for the Pacers to keep George past the deadline and let him try. The upside is so high.

If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Indiana could always trade him at any point before the next trade deadline. He could also qualify as a designated veteran player by making a 2017-18 All-NBA team and re-signing as a free agent in 2018, but by then, it’d be too late for the Pacers to trade him if they don’t have the major financial advantage.

At some point, Indiana could ask George to pledge to stay for his max, whatever that winds up being. That wouldn’t be binding, but his response could be telling.

For now, if I were the Pacers, I’d hope he makes All-NBA this year and dare him to reject the designated-veteran-player extension. If he qualifies and turns that down, that would absolutely be telling.

But I’d also be exploring the trade market now, hoping for an offer that knocks my socks off but more realistically gaining understanding for when dealing George becomes more logical.

Report: Clippers’ Chris Paul cleared, could play against Warriors on Thursday

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul shoots as Portland Trail Blazers' Al-Farouq Aminu watches during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb last month, and the Clippers announced he’d miss 6-8 weeks.

He could return just over five weeks after injury, when the Clippers face the Warriors on Thursday.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, via Andrew Han of ESPN:

“He looked great. He went through the whole practice [on Tuesday]. You know, so it was good. Really good,” Rivers said before practice on Wednesday. “He could play tomorrow. I mean, I can’t tell you if he will or not, but he’s been cleared medically. But we just want to make sure that he’s comfortable playing.”

The Clippers have slid to fourth in the West, leading the fifth-place Jazz by just half a game. It’s probably too late to catch the third-place Rockets, who are five games up. But maintaining home-court advantage in the first round is important.

Paul should help.

The Clippers remain dangerous when healthy. They’ve outscored teams by 15.1 points per 100 possessions when Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick share the court. With those four, they score and defend at rates that would lead the league if it weren’t for Golden State’s historic offensive rating.