Dan Feldman

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 04:  Derrick Rose #25 of the New York Knicks in action against the Milwaukee Bucks during their game at Madison Square Garden on January 4, 2017 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Derrick Rose: ‘I was going to take the fine’ to go home, because family comes first

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Derrick Rose ignored the Knicks’ calls because he wanted “space” and then got fined about $200,000 by the team.

As he tells it, his AWOL night almost sounds thought out.

Rose, via Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

“My family is first,” Rose told The Vertical. “I didn’t make the decision off the strength of people caring about what I did. I went home, did what I had to do, because my family is before anything. I was going to take the fine of whatever it may be.”

But he admitted that tales of him being homesick in New York might be a tad overblown. “I know I left room for that, like space for people to think like that, but [Monday’s incident] had nothing to do with it. It doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Rose told The Vertical. “The great thing is, [Knicks president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills], they knew exactly what it was and they knew where I was coming from. We had an understanding after I talked to [them].”

At every chance, Rose has been adamant about wanting to stay in New York after his contract expires this summer. Rose is hopeful that his brief disappearance won’t prohibit the two sides from reaching an agreement on a long-term deal. “When I was in the room, I felt like they understood where I was coming from,” Rose said. “I hope one incident didn’t change their mind. Who knows? This is a business. If it was to happen, I still would want to play the way I normally know how to play wherever I’m at.”

Here’s the problem with Rose’s explanation: If he had communicated better with the team, he probably wouldn’t have gotten fined. Players sometimes miss games for personal reasons, and it’s rarely a problem. This became an issue because he disappeared without telling his bosses.

Obviously, Rose will deny homesickness. In sports culture, that detracts from his desired image of toughness.

And of course this will dampen the Knicks, or any team’s desire, to sign him. He left his team in the dark during a game. The only question is how much – though no matter the answer, free agency will likely disappoint Rose if he’s seeking a max contract.

Chronically undervalued Zaza Pachulia key cog and sudden ‘star’ for Warriors

zaza
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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2004: Magic general John Weisbrod called Zaza Pachulia into his office and told Pachulia his value to the team.

It wasn’t necessarily much, but Pachulia had just finished his rookie season and was on a minimum contract. Charlotte was entering the NBA that summer, and Pachulia said Weisbrod assured him Orlando would protect him in the expansion draft.

The Magic didn’t. Charlotte picked him.

2016: Warriors coach Steve Kerr called Zaza Pachulia on the phone and told Pachulia his value to the team.

Golden State couldn’t offer much, just the room exception, but the team wanted Pachulia badly. Kerr assured him he’d start at center to complete a star-studded lineup that just added Kevin Durant to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

“I just told him, I knew that he could make more money elsewhere and that we were lucky that he was even considering coming here,” Ker said, “but that we had a real need for him.”

After being misled earlier in his career, Pachulia trusted.

“That was a deal-maker for me,” Pachulia said. “I kind of feel like I always wanted to go somewhere where I’m wanted.”

*****

Pachulia, who has spent about half his career as a starting center and most of the rest as a prominent backup, has never earned more than $5.3 million in a season. His salary this year: $2,898,000.

He won’t say how much he left on the table to join Golden State – he was reportedly discussing a two-year, $20 million deal with the Wizards – but calls it a “pretty significant amount” between repeatedly saying it doesn’t matter.

“The decision I made, I told myself, and I told my wife and close people who I’m with and my family members, that we’re not going to look back and say I wish,” Pachulia said. “Because it’s a risk. There’s nothing guaranteed. So, we’re never going to look back and say I wish we’d taken the other offer. I thought about it. I had time to think about it wisely, make the right decision.”

Pachulia will be a free agent next summer, and the Warriors will be squeezed to re-sign Curry, Durant and maybe Iguodala. Fitting in Pachulia will be a challenge, and the offseason could become another referendum on his value – if he chooses to test the market.

There are at least indications he’ll have suitors. Zach Lowe of ESPN:

But if those executives valued Pachulia so greatly, why did they never pay him more or trade for him? All those years as an undervalued commodity opened the door for the Warriors to poach him.

Pachulia is glad they did.

It helps that he spends most of his minutes with the Curry-Thompson-Durant-Green foursome on the floor, but Pachulia is doing his part. He plays sound positional defense, crashes the glass, sets effective screens and passes well out of the high post. He’s a little sloppy with the ball and his subpar athleticism limits him, but the Warriors will gladly take the entire package. Their starting lineup has been about as good as their vaunted death lineup (with Andre Iguodala in for Pachulia).

Pachulia does all the little things a super team needs, playing the role that never receives enough credit.

Except, paradoxically, Pachulia is getting outsized credit in All-Star fan voting.

With help from his native Georgia (the country), he ranks second to Durant among Western Conference frontcourt players. In previous years, Pachulia would be on track to start the All-Star game. But, likely with an eye on Pachulia’s stunningly strong finish in last year’s voting, the NBA changed its process this season. Now, players and media also have a say, making Pachulia a huge longshot to start.

“I respect it,” Pachulia said of the format change.

The league never appeared bothered by fans voting in Kobe Bryant years after he declined far below star production. Dwyane Wade getting similar, though far less pronounced, treatment now doesn’t cause an uproar.

Yet, a little recognition for Pachulia turns the system on its head – and he doesn’t complain.

Pachulia doesn’t gripe about any of the times he’s received the short end of the stick.

Immediately after picking him in the expansion draft, Charlotte flipped Pachulia to the Bucks, and he embraced it.

“Milwaukee is a perfect place,” Pachulia said. “Nothing much to do there. It’s cold, so you’re thinking about basketball. You can spend as much time as you want in the gym.”

After one year with the Bucks, he signed in Atlanta and played a supporting role in the Hawks’ rise. He eventually signed back with Milwaukee and was quietly instrumental in the Bucks’ breakout 41-41 season two years ago. They outscored opponents by 6.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and got outscored by 3.1 per 100 when he sat – hardly a coincidence. Pachulia’s basketball intelligence boosted that team.

Yet, Milwaukee essentially gave away Pachulia, trading him to the Mavericks for a top-55-protected second-round pick – or, as new teammate Dirk Nowitzki joked, for “a case of Gatorade.”

Does Pachulia hold a grudge about the trade or feel insulted by the return? Nope. He still raves about Bucks coach Jason Kidd – “I learned so much from that guy. Genius” – and appreciates Kidd sending him to Dallas, where Rick Carlisle (who previously coached Kidd) taught Pachulia even more.

Pachulia stresses how badly he wants to keep improving, even at age 32. He finds the Warriors’ players and coaches to be a wealth of knowledge, and his fifth-Beatle status allows him to fly under the radar and enjoy Golden State’s strong basketball culture.

It’s a long way from Orlando and Weisbrod, who – seemingly to Pachulia’s delight – now works for the Vancouver Canucks (yes, the hockey team). Pachulia takes a rare moment to gloat about his staying power in a league that has only lately – and still reluctantly in important corners – revered him.

“The guy was obviously doing his own things,” Pachulia said. “Not necessarily was the smartest thing to do, I think about it looking back.”

James Johnson throws inbound pass off head of shoe-tying Tyler Johnson (video)

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 10:  James Johnson #16 of the Miami Heat in action against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 10, 2017 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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This happened in last week’s Heat-Lakers game, but it’s too good not to share.

Heat forward James Johnson inbounded the ball to teammate Tyler Johnson – even though Johnson was busy tying his shoe.

CJ Fogler:

Warriors president: Franchise will likely keep ‘Golden State’ moniker upon move to San Francisco

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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With their move from Oakland, the Golden State Warriors were reportedly considering changing their name back to the San Francisco Warriors.

But a championship, 73 wins and a repeat Finals appearance have influenced the franchise’s brass.

Warriors president Rick Welts, via Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area:

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” Welts said on the Warriors Insider Podcast. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made.

“But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that, yes, we should attach a city name to the team, that it would become a more global franchise,” Welts said. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world.

“What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

As long as they keep Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, it doesn’t matter what they call themselves. They’ll be immensely popular.

But the new arena will outlast these players. If the team declines in the future, will a name change follow?

Report: Carmelo Anthony unwilling to waive no-trade clause

carmelo
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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The Knicks have lost nine of 11. Derrick Rose went AWOL and is reportedly getting frustrated with coach Jeff Hornacek. New York’s defense is causing squabbling.

Does Carmelo Anthony – who holds a no-trade clause – want to stick around?

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A source close to Anthony says he’s unwilling to green-light a trade out of New York, even with how bad it’s turned.

This was before the Knicks lost to the 76ers and before Anthony got booed by New York fans, but I doubt a single game or single fan reaction will swing him. This is a big-picture decision.

Anthony appears happy in big-market New York, and he says he’s secure in his basketball legacy. You might think Anthony should leave so he can contend for his first NBA championship, but he doesn’t seem to think that way.

That said, if Anthony has second thoughts, he’s incentivized to explore those as soon as possible. The window for maximizing his trade kicker is now open. If dealt today, Anthony would receive a $10,076,089 trade bonus. That amount drops $21,670 daily until the trade deadline. It’d be $8,125,785 in the offseason and then continue declining throughout next season.

Obviously, a trade wouldn’t be up to just Anthony. The Knicks don’t have to deal him, and with 31-year-olds Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee locked up long-term, rebuilding around Kristaps Porzingis wouldn’t be a simple pivot. In fact, a belief Anthony wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause might have persuaded Phil Jackson to build on Anthony’s timeline. Plus, it’d take another team to deal for the highly paid star on the wrong side of 30.

Anthony has repeatedly said he won’t approve a trade from New York, but as the Knicks rot, it’s always good to get an update on his thinking.