Dan Feldman

New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, left, passes the ball past Chicago Bulls' D.J. Augustin during the first half of the NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 13, 2014 in New York. The Knicks defeated the Bulls 100-89. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Report: Carmelo Anthony wants the Knicks to hire Tom Thibodeau

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Phil Jackson wants to keep Kurt Rambis as the Knicks’ coach.

Carmelo Anthony wants to be heard on the issue.

You think it’s just to support Jackson’s Rambis inclination?

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

A source close to Anthony insists that his preferred choice is Tom Thibodeau

Thibodeau reportedly wanted to coach the Knicks, but Jackson doesn’t seem interested in Thibodeau. After all, Thibodeau isn’t one of Jackson’s triangle disciples. If that’s not a deal-breaker to Jackson, it’s a major strike.

Melo’s desire for Thibodeau is logical. Thibodeau wins, and Melo is running out of time to lead a winner. Melo also hasn’t played for Thibodeau, so he might not understand the full burden of the experience. The immediate advantages are immense for a veteran like Melo.

But Kristaps Porzingis could alter the Knicks’ timeline. They, reasonably, might not want a coach who drives young players so hard at this point. Of course, they can also pass on Thibodeau for unreasonable reasons. But if they prefer a coach with more of a long-term outlook, where does that leave Melo?

On a related note, Melo – who holds a no-trade clause – stands to make about a $10 million bonus if the Knicks trade him after July 1.

Hornets, full of expiring contracts, pulling together

The Charlotte Hornets' Jeremy Lin, left, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, Nicolas Batum and P.J. Hairston celebrate from the bench their 107-84 win over the Atlanta Hawks during the last seconds of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
AP Photo/Bob Leverone
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Free agency stunned Jeremy Lin last summer.

He knew his value had slipped after a rough season with the Lakers, but some teams wouldn’t even offer a minimum contract. Lin couldn’t believe how far he’d fallen.

One team offered salvation: The Mavericks. They had agreed to terms with DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews, using all their cap space without addressing their need at point guard. With only the room exception available, Lin seemed like an ideal fit. You couldn’t find a better point guard for the money, and Lin would thrive running pick-and-rolls with Jordan while Matthews and Dirk Nowitzki spaced the floor and Chandler Parsons served as a secondary playmaker.

Lin was sold.

“I thought it was Dallas the whole way until the end,” Lin said.

Of course, that dream died when Jordan reneged and returned to the Clippers. With money pledged to him suddenly freed, the Mavericks signed Deron Williams.

Lin, knowing the marketplace had been unkind, was in a bind. He signed a two-year, $4,374,255 contract with a player option with the Hornets.

“Charlotte came out of nowhere,” Lin said. “Had I known it was going to go down the way it went down, I would’ve definitely planned things a little differently.”

If Lin seems like he might just be passing through Charlotte, he’s not the only one.

The Hornets have three starters (Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams and Courtney Lee) and two key reserves (Al Jefferson and Lin) on expiring contracts or deals with a player option. Yet, this potentially transient group is one of the NBA’s most cohesive.

In a situation ripe for selfishness and jealousy, Charlotte players share the ball and trust each other defensively. There’s a reason the Hornets went 48-34 – the franchise’s best record since reemerging as the Bobcats – entering a first-round series against the Heat.

“The way that guys get along, I literally – 1 through 15 – I could choose any two people, and I could see them hanging out off the court,” Lin said. “We all enjoy being around each other.”

In five other seasons with the Lakers, Rockets, Knicks and Warriors, Lin has seen the other side. Pending free agencies can rip apart teams.

But its roster construction hasn’t bitten Charlotte.

“This is rare,” Lin said. “I’ve been around long enough. This is rare.”

After the trade deadline, 60% of the Hornets’ minutes have gone to players with expiring contracts, including those with a player option for this offseason – the most in the NBA:

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In practicality, the Hornets are further ahead of the pack than the above chart indicates. The second-place Mavericks rank so highly, because Dirk Nowitzki holds a player option for next season, but he has already declared intent to opt in.  Lin is the only Hornet with a player option, and he seems likely to opt out.

Miami is the only other team doing anything near Charlotte – winning while willingly stocking the roster with expiring contracts. The Lakers, Nets and Wizards are done. The Clippers’ percentage was raised only because Blake Griffin, who’s locked up next season, was injured/suspended for most of the season’s second half. They’ll rely on players contracted long-term much more in the playoffs.

On the other hand, this is who the Hornets are.

They made a risky trade before the season, acquiring Batum – who could walk this summer as an unrestricted free agent – for the promising Noah Vonleh, who’s set to reach restricted free agency not until 2018. Then, Charlotte doubled down by dealing for Lee before the trade deadline.

One reason it works: Hornets coach Steve Clifford, who confronted the challenge head on with a speech on day one.

“You want to make money,” Clifford said, “play on a team that wins.

“For every player, at the end of the day, winning is the best way for them to make more money and have more worth. People are always wary of guys who put up numbers on teams that don’t win.”

Clifford gave his team specific examples, and though the coach declined to reveal them, Jefferson brought up two: Monta Ellis and DeMarre Carroll. Both players signed four-year contracts last summer coming from different circumstances the season prior.

Ellis:

  • Scored 18.9 points for the Mavericks, who lost in first round
  • Got $43,981,000 from the Pacers

Carroll:

  • Sored 12.6 points per game for the Hawks, who reached conference finals
  • Got $58 million from the Raptors

“You want guys who compete well, and I think the good competitors are going to play better when their contract is on the line,” Clifford said.

Compare that attitude to Randy Wittman, who was just fired after overseeing the disjointed Wizards. Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post:

Beyond using his players’ contracts to motivate them rather than shrinking from the challenge, Clifford had another advantage. He’s a good coach. His players could reasonably trust that, if they sacrificed for the team, they’d win. It might be difficult to enter free agency with lower numbers, but it’d so much harder without winning on the résumé, either.

As much credit as Clifford deserves, don’t underestimate the professionalism of the players involved. They made this work.

Jefferson’s teammates took notice when he returned from injury and suspension. In Jefferson’s absence, Cody Zeller came into his own as the starting center. So, Jefferson embraced a reserve role rather than sulking about his opportunities.

“I’ve been around too long. I’ve made a lot of money,” said Jefferson, who’s in the final season of a three-year, $40.5 million contract that followed a five-year, $65 million extension. “I can’t have that type of attitude. You’ve got to do what’s best for the team.”

Jefferson admits he probably would have handled this differently when he was younger, but…

“I’ve never been on a team like this,” Jefferson said.

Neither had Batum, though for different reasons. He’d always taken a complementary role behind Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard with the Trail Blazers. Charlotte has given him the ball more than ever and asked him to run the offense. So, how could he complain when  a little sacrifice was necessary from time to time?

Like Jefferson, Batum has enough experience to understand the bigger picture. All five Charlotte rotation players who can become a free agent this offseason are in at least their sixth NBA season. They’ve seen other similar circumstances and learned from them.

For Batum, it was while he was playing in Europe and trying to impress NBA scouts before the draft.

“I was playing for my own situation,” Batum said. “I said, maybe if I played that way, people are going to look at me differently. So, I started playing bad. I can’t do that.”

Lee has seen more than most. The Hornets are his sixth team in eight NBA seasons, and he doesn’t wish for stability. “That’s boring,” Lee said. Instead, he welcomes the uncertainty that surround this team.

Multiple players recounted Clifford’s preseason speech using similar terms. Even Lee, who began the season with the Grizzlies, parrots a the theme after a couple months in Charlotte.

“I just think you have a lot of mature players on this team and that we all understand that, if the team does good, we’ll do good,” Lee said. “If we win, everybody wins. So, that’s just our mindset – to go out there and compete for a championship, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Lee said he’s happy Hornets have his Bird Rights, and he likes his situation in Charlotte. But, with so many Hornets entering free agency, what if the outlook looks dramatically when Lee is ready to sign somewhere?

“As team change, scenario changes. So, just have to wait it out and see how it goes in free agency,” Lee said. “But I’m pretty sure a lot of guys will be back.”

Report: Mike Conley wants to be considered for Team USA despite injury

Utah Jazz's Derrick Favors (37) reaches in on Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Conley (20) in the fourth quarter of the USA Basketball Showcase game, Thursday, July 25, 2013, in Las Vegas. The White team beat the Blue team 128-106. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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Mike Conley is out the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

But the 2016 Olympics?

Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley will not withdraw his name from consideration for Team USA even though he’s out for the season with an Achilles injury, a league source told cleveland.com.

There’s no harm in remaining under consideration. But it seems unlikely Conley makes the Rio roster.

Even without Chris Paul: The Americans are loaded at point guard: Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard. Do they really want to take a chance on Conley – who, even healthy, ranks behind at least Curry and Westbrook – without him returning to the court first? Even though the Games aren’t until August, Jerry Colangelo said he planned to pick the roster in late June without a tryout.

And if Conley is somehow selected, would he play? He’ll be a free agent this summer, and he can’t talk to teams until July 1. Though he’ll probably have a new deal by the start of the Olympics, he’d have to commit to Team USA before free agency. That’s a tricky timeline.

The bigger question: If Conley believes it’s possible he’ll be healthy enough for the Olympics, could he return in the playoffs if the Grizzlies last long enough?

Report: 76ers might fire Brett Brown, promote Mike D’Antoni

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Not only did a report say Brett Brown’s job was safe with the 76ers, new general manager Bryan Colangelo put strong thoughts on the record.

Colangelo, via Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:

“I said, ‘If it was merely for the sake of what he’s gone through and what he’s been through, he deserves a chance to see this through,’” Colangelo said. “What I’ve observed and what I’ve been impressed with, is a guy that is passionate about what he does, he seems to have a great idea and sense for the game. His team, from an analytics standpoint, actually plays the right way, they just haven’t played well, in that regard.”

Then Colangelo doubled down.

Colangelo on CSN Philly, as transcribed by Derek Bodner of Philadelphia Magazine:

“I told the ownership Brett Brown is the coach of this basketball team going forward. I left no question [to that],” Colangelo told the Breakfast on Broad team. “Brett Brown deserves the opportunity. He toed the company line for the last three years, he’s done everything this organization needs him to do, he’s been in the community, coaching clinics, coaching kids. He’s a lifer. He’s a basketball guy.

But not everyone is convinced – with assistant Mike D’Antoni, who has been linked to the Suns and Wizards, the potential wedge issue.

Ken Berger of CBS Sports:

if D’Antoni, the Sixers’ associate head coach, gets offers elsewhere — besides Brooklyn, he could be a fit in Washington or Phoenix — then Colangelo may be tempted to let Brown go and bump D’Antoni up to head coach in order to keep him, sources say. Ownership may have other ideas, remaining firmly supportive of Brown.

Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times:

The source called it “50-50” that Brown is the head coach to start the 2016-17 campaign, but believes there’s only a 20 percent chance Brown finishes next season in that capacity.

The source expects associate head coach Mike D’Antoni, who was hired by ex-Sixers chairman of basketball operations Jerry Colangelo in December, to succeed Brown.

The first source said Jerry Colangelo, who stepped down as chairman the day Bryan was hired and is now a special adviser to managing owner Josh Harris, didn’t like it when he found out Brown’s two-year extension was a done deal upon joining the franchise Dec. 7.

Brown’s extension won’t save his job (unless the 76ers owners are that cheap). It might just get him more money on the way out the door, which isn’t a terrible parting gift.

Brown has done a nice job teaching the young 76ers. Can he coach a team trying to win? Don’t know. He hasn’t had the opportunity.

I generally believe he deserves the chance in Philadelphia, but deserve has only so much to do with it. If the Colangelos believe D’Antoni is the best man for the job, they should dump Brown and elevate Colangelo. They shouldn’t lose someone they deem a better coach just to give Brown a turn. This isn’t little league.

The ideal strategy might be testing Brown while keeping D’Antoni in reserve. But D’Antoni could force the issue by getting a head-coaching offer. Plus, having the next coach assisting the current coach can undermine the current coach.

It might be hard for Bryan to walk back his public statements, but Philadelphia needs the best coach it can get – whether that’s Brown, D’Antoni or someone else. Getting the optimal coach would far outweigh a few hurt feelings now.

2016 PBT Awards: Sixth Man of the Year

Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) dunks against Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) during the first half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
AP Photo/Eric Risberg
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Kurt Helin

1. Andre Iguodala

2. Tristan Thompson

3. Enes Kanter

This was the toughest award to hand out this season. Early on it seemed that Manu Ginobili and Iguodala had separated from the pack, but both suffered injuries and missed time. To me, Ginobili missed too much time, but Iguodala did not (even though he missed his games late). I know Iguodala doesn’t want this award, but he settles down the Warriors second unit and is key to the devastating “death lineup.” I know Jamal Crawford will get a lot of votes, but not mine: the Clippers are 6.9 points per 100 possessions worse when Crawford is on the court compared to sitting, and even the Clipper offense e is better when he is out. I understand the noise in those numbers but I can’t get past what often feel like empty stats from Crawford.

Sean Highkin

1. Andre Iguodala

2. Tristan Thompson

3. Cory Joseph

Iguodala doesn’t want this award and has been very vocal about that, but he gets the nod here. When you’re a part of the famous “death lineup” on the greatest regular-season team of all time, that’s enough to me. Thompson will be starting at center for the Cavs in the playoffs, but he’s anchored them off the bench and helped them get the best record in the East. And Joseph has given the Raptors some much-needed backcourt depth and solid play at both ends of the floor.

Dan Feldman

1. Tristan Thompson

2. Andre Iguodala

3. Enes Kanter

Iguodala and Manu Ginobili, in that order, were the NBA’s best reserves when on the court this season. But they missed so much time to injury. On my sliding scale that weighs both contributions per minute played and total contributions, that allowed Thompson to pass Iguodala and Kanter to pass Ginobili.