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Carmelo Anthony not a central figure to Steve Mills’ Knicks

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New/old Knicks president Steve Mills opened his introductory by saying the team was committed to building around:

“And,” Mills said before pausing and unwittingly building suspense, “fortunately for us moving forward, we still have all of our first-round draft picks.”

No mention of Carmelo Anthony.

Of course, Mills – who preceded, worked under and now succeeds Phil Jackson – faced numerous questions about Anthony. Mills was tight-lipped on many topics, none more so than the high-priced star.

The Knicks reportedly hope to urge Anthony, who possesses a no-trade clause, to expand his list of acceptable destinations beyond Houston and Cleveland. Anthony reportedly still expected to be traded to the Rockets (though Rockets owner Leslie Alexander selling the team might put a wrench into the works).

“Carmelo could easily be a part of our team next year,” said Mills, who stressed veterans will still be important as mentors in the new direction.

“We’re going to move forward. It may be with Carmelo. It may be without Carmelo.”

Asked about buying out Anthony, Mills gave a one-word answer: “No.”

Mills just didn’t sound too concerned about the 33-year-old who’s due $26,243,760 this season and $27,928,140 if he opts in next year.

“If Carmelo is with us, we will continue to develop our young players,” Mills said. “If he’s not here, we’ll continue to develop our young players.

“[It] will take longer to do. But I think it’s something that the fans of New York are ready for and will accept as long as the guys come together and play hard.”

Long-overdue patience or a way for Mills to retain job security even as the team loses? Probably some of both.

But as usual, the Knicks sound all-in on the plan as it’s introduced. They also introduced new general manager Scott Perry, who’s on a five-year contract.

Though it’s believed Mills will still hold final authority in running basketball operations, it still remains to be seen how he and Perry will balance power. Decipher Mills’ explanation however you’d like:

“I’m going to give Scott the room to make basketball decisions and make recommendations to me,” Mills said. “He’s going to have a chance to manage the coaching staff, manage the scouting staff and make recommendations as to where we should go as a basketball organization. I think we’ll be partners in that in the sense that he’ll come to me with his recommendation, and we’ll debate it back and forth. But, at the end of the day, I’m giving him room to make those decisions.”

Mills made one big move before Perry arrived – signing Hardaway to a four-year, $71 million contract. In his first public appearance since, Mills defended the shocking price tag by saying he believed Hardaway is a starting shooting guard – an exceedingly low bar for someone making $17.75 million annually.

Perry piped in: “We applauded the move from afar when I was in Sacramento at that time.” So a team run by Vivek Ranadive and Vlade Divac supported the signing? Cool, cool, cool.

Mills said he has spoken with Porzingis, who seemed unhappy late in Jackson’s tenure, a few times this offseason. Mills also said he would have selected Ntilikina, whom Jackson drafted No. 8, if he were drafting himself.

The new general manager praising a signing that occurred before he was hired. The new president defending the drafting of the old president, whose mess the new president and new general manager are left to clean up.

There’s all the usual intertangled drama in New York – even without considering Anthony, which Mills’ Knicks might not have to do for much longer.

Fergie says she “tried my best” after national anthem blowback

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fergie is apologizing after trying something different with the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” the Grammy-winning singer said in a statement Monday. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after she finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on “the dawn’s early light.”

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 +-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured Sunday’s mood – and became an instant GIF – when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, “Let’s play some basketball!”

The Black Eyed Peas singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he “needed a cigarette” after Fergie’s performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal leaped to Fergie’s defense, saying: “Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone.”

Others on social media weren’t as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

 

Did Lakers help keep LeBron James in Cleveland with trade?

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When the trade went down between the Lakers and Cavaliers before the deadline — sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus Cleveland’s 2018 first-round draft pick (top-five protected) — it caught the NBA by surprise.

The first reaction for a lot of people to the deal? This opens up as much as $70 million in cap space for the Lakers this summer (depending on other moves with players such as Julius Randle). Los Angeles could sign two max players — LeBron James and Paul George. Why would Cleveland help Los Angeles open up room to steal LeBron.

The Cavaliers didn’t see it that way — they knew they had to make a major shakeup or LeBron was gone. At that point, does it matter where? So in a series of moves, Cleveland GM Koby Altman radically remade the roster around LeBron. The goal was to energize them back into being the team to beat in the East, and from there make it hard for him to leave as a free agent. Since the trades, the Cavaliers are 2-0 and LeBron has clearly been reinvigorated, plus they will add Kevin Love back in a few weeks.

Altman’s plan seems to be working, one executive told Mark Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”

I had heard from sources for a while LeBron to the Lakers was not likely (Paul George is another story, that door remains open). As Spears notes, the Lakers did not have an All-Star in Sunday’s game. Even if LeBron and PG13 went to Los Angeles, that team was third or fourth best in the West next season. LeBron is in full on legacy mode and wants to win rings. Los Angeles is not the place to do it.

Houston is interesting (and it’s still a team I hear some execs think has a real shot), but the gutting or role players on that roster to make it work would be a concern. Maybe a dark horse such as Philadelphia can emerge. However, if LeBron can lead this newly-energized Cavaliers team to the Finals again (his eighth consecutive trip there), they get a high draft pick with the Brooklyn pick, then LeBron gets a commitment from Altman and owner Dan Gilbert to keep spending and being aggressive, where is he going to be closer to a title than at home?

Lou Williams trolls Jimmy Butler for resting during All-Star Game

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Jimmy Butler was in Los Angeles and enjoying his well-earned All-Star slot on Team Stephen.

Well, except for the actual playing basketball part. Butler did not set foot on the court during the All-Star Game at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

Lou Williams, the Clippers’ guard who likely would have been near the front of the line for an open All-Star roster spot in the West (likely second in the queue behind Chris Paul), but instead took part in the Saturday Skills Competition then had Sunday off, trolled Butler for it on Twitter.

This seems more good natured than genuinely bitter.

Williams will roll with it, but his point’s a valid one — if you’re an All-Star, at least play a little and give the people what they want. Get out there for five minutes or whatever. LaMarcus Aldridge only played four minutes, no big deal.

If you’re not going to use the roster spot, give it up to someone who will.

Report: Raptors won’t sign Vince Carter if he gets bought out

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Of returning to the Raptors, Vince Carter said, “It’ll happen one day.” It sounds as if the Kings would buy him out if he wants.

Will he end the season with Toronto?

Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050:

After speaking with a few team sources, I can confirm that they’ve had internal dialogue and debate about the idea of bringing Vince Carter back. It’s something that they wanted to do over the summer. That’s why they made him an offer, something that I’ve reported in the past. And it’s also something that they’d be open to in the future, perhaps next year in some capacity. But they’ve decided now is not the right time. And I think the consensus seems to be there’s so much going on right now, and they want this season to be about this team, their accomplishments and their playoff push and not the sideshow that I think would come with a Vince Carter return.

The Raptors (41-16) are on pace for their best record ever. They’re excelling offensively and defensively. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are spearheading a more dynamic offense that spurs hope for more playoff success.

Toronto is probably correct to save the Carter reunion for another year – though it depends who else is available. That 15th roster spot could be useful. If Carter is the best player who’d sign, the Raptors should sign him and deal with the hoopla.

But it’s not clear whom they could get or whether they could even get Carter. He hasn’t sounded like someone who’d forgo guaranteed salary to play for the minimum.