Amar'e Stoudemire's defense remains a problem

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Gasol_stoudemire.jpgThe Phoenix Suns made the right move when they held onto Amar’e Stoudemire at this year’s trade deadline. Amar’e is absolutely one of the best offensive big men in basketball, and he’s been a crucial part of Phoenix’s run to the Western Conference Finals. However, now that Phoenix has reached the Western Conference Finals, it’s beginning to look like it might not be possible to win a championship if your superstar power forward does not play a lick of defense. And Amar’e Stoudemire does not play a lick of defense. 

Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook put together some clips of Stoudemire’s pick-and-roll defense, and they’re not pretty. There’s Amare jogging back to his man after showing on the pick-and-roll. There’s Amar’e hedging out to give a weak double on Kobe at the three point line and giving Pau a wide-open lane to catch the pass and get the layup — it’s as though Amar’e forgets a basketball can move through three dimensions sometimes. After the game, Amar’e said that he was simply following the gameplan, and that the help defender was the one failing to do his job. That simply isn’t true — Amar’e wasn’t feeding his man to the helper, he was hanging the helper out to dry. Between that comment and calling Lamar Odom “lucky” after Odom destroyed Stoudemire in game one, the fact Stoudemire doesn’t seem to understand he’s bad at defense is almost as disturbing as his bad defense. 
Stoudemire is one of the biggest free agents available this summer, and somebody will give him a max contract. What will be interesting to see is if Amar’e will ever become a decent defender. For all the praise Alvin Gentry’s (rightly) received for the job he’s done in Phoenix this year, he’s not a defensive mastermind, and that is, was, and shall be an offense-first culture. (For all the lip service paid to defense by Terry Porter, he’s no defensive whiz either.) What would happen if Stoudemire played for a coach with a good defensive system who would hold him accountable on that ends of the floor at all times? Would that be enough, or is Amar’e a lost cause on defense? Would a frontline featuring Stoudemire and an elite shot-blocker with enough athleticism to clean up Stoudemire’s messes be passable defensively? 
These are the questions any team considering signing Stoudemire has to ask itself. Because if Stoudemire continues to play defense like this, there’s going to be a glass ceiling over any team that employs him. 

With John Wall and Bradley Beal, Wizards shouldn’t be this bad

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Entering the 2016-17 season, John Wall said he and Bradley Beal have a “tendency to dislike each other on the court.”

That year, the Wizards won 49 games and a playoff series – their best season in nearly four decades.

Dysfunction in Washington is nothing new. Losing through it is a change from the recent past.

The Wizards have not had a losing record in the previous five years. They made the playoffs in four of those years and won a postseason series in three.

Talent tends to win out, and with Wall and Beal, Washington has plenty.

But that hasn’t been enough this season. Washington is 5-11 and reportedly open to trading Wall and Beal.

This is the bottom falling out like never before in NBA history.

Wall and Beal have both proven themselves as All-Stars. Wall is just 28, and Beal is 25. Neither has missed a game this season.

Here’s every time since the NBA-ABA merger a team has had two prior All-Stars age 28-and-under play at least a third of team’s games and had a losing record, sorted by win percentage:

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Wall and Beal can blame their teammates – and they will. They can blame Dwight Howard‘s injury, as he fills a major hole on the team. They can blame the distortion of a small, 16-game sample. That’s all valid.

But Wall and Beal must be better. Every other team with two healthy prior All-Stars under age 28 has been better. Other such teams have had surrounding problems, too. They still found a way to top this.

I’m not convinced Washington will actually trade Wall or Beal. This seems more like testing the waters. But the pairing certainly isn’t worth insisting on keeping together.

As good as Wall and Beal seem on paper, this just isn’t working.

Report: Wizards willing to discuss John Wall, Bradley Beal trades

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The Wizards are 5-11, have poor chemistry and are on track to pay the luxury tax.

This might call for extreme measures – like trading John Wall or Bradley Beal.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

As the Washington Wizards’ season spirals, the franchise has started to deliver teams an impression that every player on their roster — including All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal — is available to discuss in trade scenarios, league sources told ESPN.

Washington’s preference remains to reshape the team around Wall and Beal, but poor play among key teammates is limiting their trade value and paralyzing the Wizards’ efforts to make meaningful changes to a roster that no longer appears functional together, league sources said.

In other words: The Wizards are finally acting rationally. There’s no good-enough reason they should have refused to discuss Wall and Beal trades before. That doesn’t mean Washington should have traded Wall or Beal. They’re good players, and the inertia of NBA trades discussions would have made a trade unlikely. For the same reason, trading those stars now remains unlikely. But what was the advantage of not even considering trading those two? Maybe the Wizards would have gotten an offer so good, they would have taken it. There’s almost no downside to discussing trades, especially after setting a tone to players that trade talks are inevitable and not a reflection of a player’s importance to the franchise.

But, under Ernie Grunfeld, Washington has been far more reactionary to proactive. Considering dealing Wall or Beal now – when every Wizard’s trade value has sunk due to the team’s collective stink – is too typical of this stale regime.

Wall’s value is extremely low relative to his star status. His super-max extension kicks in next year and pays him $42,728,000 per season through age 32. That is a terrifyingly large contract for someone who already appears to be slowing down. Trading for Wall now could trigger a huge trade bonus that gives him a big raise this season, too.

Beal remains an elite trade chip. He’s just 25 and locked in the following two seasons at a reasonable $27,922,396 per year. But he hasn’t looked as sharp on the court this season, lowering his value.

Washington’s other planned top players – Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre – have also underwhelmed. Porter is on an unappealing max contract, and Oubre is headed toward restricted free agency next summer. There’s only moderate reason to trade for either now.

So, dealing Wall or Beal could be the Wizards’ way out of their jam.

Or a way into an even bigger jam.

Report: Warriors aren’t interested in Carmelo Anthony

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It’s unclear where Houston Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony will finish the season this year. He won’t return to the Rockets, and nobody has stepped up to complete a deal with Daryl Morey for the aging superstar.

The most logical place for Anthony to land appears to be the Los Angeles Lakers, a team of former stars now lumped around LeBron James. But the Lakers haven’t seemed eager to do so, nor has anyone else.

Jokes around the league about where Anthony could go have been plenty, and one of the most popular refrains is that Carmelo should go to the Golden State Warriors to get his first ring. It’s a ridiculous supposition on its face, but after the Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins, it oddly doesn’t seem completely out of the question.

However, according to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, Golden State is not considering Carmelo.

Via The Undefeated:

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green believes there is an NBA team out there for his old USA Basketball teammate that will be a better fit. Anthony previously turned down the Miami Heat and also the Portland Trail Blazers twice, sources said. As for Green’s Warriors, a source said the two-time defending champs have no interest despite having a roster spot open.

“Of course, he can still play in this league,” Green said. “There is no doubt in my mind.

“He’s still Melo.”

I honestly don’t know where a good basketball fit for Carmelo is anymore, largely because of his attitude about himself. It’s not clear that Carmelo can be the type of player he used to be on offense, and defense is sort of out of the question. While he did take to shooting more 3-pointers with the Rockets this season, he needs to go into full Vince Carter mode in order to stay on an NBA floor. That seems unlikely moving forward.

All this leaves us with the same question: If Golden State isn’t interested in Anthony, who is?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Watch the Nets’ hype video for their Biggie Smalls-inspired ‘City’ jerseys

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Look, the NBA City jerseys are not good. Most of them are gray, which is the most boring trend in uniform design in any of the four major sports over the last decade or so.

A bunch more are just straight up ugly, or run on motifs that make sense contextually but don’t push the right buttons aesthetically.

But the Brooklyn Nets jerseys? Those are beautiful.

On Saturday the Nets debuted their City jerseys, inspired by Brooklyn native Biggie Smalls, and published an incredible hype video that featured several players and locations around the borough.

Via Twitter:

The coloring on the jersey is Coogi-inspired. Coogi is a fashion brand known for similar patterns, which Biggie was fond of wearing both in music videos and on stage.

What do you think? Is this Nets jersey the best City uniform?