Kurt Helin

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: Phil Jackson’s handling of ‘Melo could hurt Knicks ability to lure free agents

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Rule No. 1, 2, and 3 of free agency is this: It’s all about the money. Players almost always go where they get paid the most. All the other considerations — family, lifestyle, climate, taxes, etc. — are secondary.

The Knicks will have north of $23 million (or more, depending on moves) to spend this summer to bring in free agents. They are expected to be buyers.

But will how Phil Jackson has done Carmelo Anthony this season hurt the Knicks chances? Some agents say yes, according agents who spoke to Ian Begley of ESPN.

Multiple prominent agents said on Tuesday afternoon that the way Jackson has handled Anthony would turn off their clients and others to the idea of signing with Jackson’s Knicks.

For a team that has many holes to fill, that’s a problem.

As stated at the start of this article, some of this is overstated because if the Knicks come in with a bigger offer for free agent X than anyone else, and do it early enough, they will land their man. Jackson’s Tweets only becomes a potential issue if the Knicks are one of multiple suitors in the same financial ballpark, so the player has options (and even then the agent will try to play the teams off each other to get the best deal).

Thing is, the best players tend to have options. And agents certainly have influence.

What becomes more interesting is the direction the Knicks choose to go this summer. In past years they have gone for quicker fixes, trying to put a veteran team around Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis that could win more now and teach the young star how to win. Instead, Porzingis gets to see another season where the losses pile up and there is a lot of drama. Will the Knicks go the quick-fix, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah route again, or will they try to get younger players who are more athletic and can develop on the same timeline as Porzingis? Jackson’s efforts to trade Anthony hint at the latter, but we need to see more.

About the reduction in LeBron James’ minutes, that’s not happening for a while

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At age 32, LeBron James is averaging 37.6 minutes per game, second most in the NBA (he’s 11th in total minutes at 1,768 due to some missed games). Only two other players 30 or older — Kyle Lowry and Wesley Matthews, that latter of whom missed time this season due to injury — are in the top 20 in minutes played per game. A heavy workload is usually a young man’s game.

However, this was by design. Coach Tyronn Lue has said previously the plan, in consultation with LeBron, was to have him around 38 minutes a game to start the season, but to taper that starting in late January or so, making sure he is rested and fresh for the playoffs.

Except that’s not happening. LeBron has averaged 39.7 minutes a night the last 10 games. And it’s not going to change anytime soon, reports Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal.

“He’s being bull-headed about it,” Lue said Wednesday. “He doesn’t want to back down because he says he’s in a good rhythm right now.”

 

“I’m fine,” James said. “Coach is going to do a good job of looking at my numbers and trying to get me rest throughout the game, but I don’t see me having slowed down. My numbers are up. We’ve been in a good groove and if I get rest (a) couple minutes here throughout the game, couple minutes there, off days, things of that nature, it helps the body. But it’s whatever coach wants to do.”

Competitors don’t want to come out and take nights off, LeBron is not going to push for extra rest unless he feels his body really needs it. Right now, he doesn’t.

But this is where Lue and team management need to step in, thinking ahead to both the playoffs and the rest of LeBron’s career. The Cavaliers are going to need peak LeBron James to have a shot at a title repeat, and that means getting his body more rest over the next few months, whether he wants it or not. And long term, the Cavaliers just need LeBron.

There is another consideration here: The Cavaliers have just a 2.5 game lead over the Celtics for the No. 1 seed in the East. Cleveland wants that home court to ease their path back to the Finals (they are not going to catch Golden State, and likely not even San Antonio, for best record overall). While the Cavs can rest LeBron and still get wins, Lue needs to be careful playing with fire. And the Celtics are a very not team right now.

 

 

Nets to add jersey patch next season after deal with software firm Infor

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets will wear an Infor logo patch on their jerseys next season after signing a deal with the business software company.

The red-and-white patch will be on the front of the jersey near the left shoulder. The NBA is allowing teams to begin wearing logos on jerseys beginning with the 2017-18 season.

The Nets said Wednesday that Infor will provide the team with analytical data to improve player performance, as well as arena and business operations.

It’s Infor’s first partnership in North America combining and sports. The New York-based company has similar relationships overseas with Ferrari’s Formula One team and with New Zealand’s BNZ Crusaders, the rugby squad that also wears its logo on its jersey.

So far four teams have announced the sale of jersey patch ads: Boston, Sacramento, Philadelphia, and now Brooklyn.

Hornets’ Ramon Sessions has knee surgery, expected to miss 4-6 weeks

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Having lost seven games in a row before edging by the lowly Brooklyn Nets Tuesday night, the Charlotte Hornets could use all hands on deck. And on the bright side, they should get Cody Zeller back in the next couple of games.

However, backup point guard Ramon Sessions is going to miss at least a month following surgery on Wednesday, the team announced. His injury had been known before, but the extent and treatment were not known. From the official press release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that guard Ramon Sessions has undergone successful surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee. The surgery was performed by Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NY. Sessions is expected to miss approximately four to six weeks.

That timeline has him back in the second half of March, in time to get his conditioning and feel back before the playoffs start. If the Hornets can climb back into the playoffs.

Sessions has been a solid, shot creating (although mostly for himself) backup point guard behind Kemba Walker this season, a veteran who can hold things down while the All-Star gets some rest. Basically, Sessions has been exactly what should have been expected of him. He’s not bringing what Jeremy Lin did a season ago, but he’s been fine scoring 6.2 points per game.

With Sessions out, Brian Roberts has been getting more run behind Walker.