Nuggets new owner dances around Carmelo Anthony question like a vet

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josh-kroenke.jpgThe thought of an NBA team owner intimately involved in player/personnel decisions instantly brings up thoughts of Michael Heisley. And that’s not a good thing.

But Josh Kroenke — who will soon take control of the Nuggets from his father Stan — is the exception to the rule. He comes in with a basketball background.

Kroenke was a high school player recruited by major colleges who went on to Missouri where he was team captain for two seasons as well as an all-academic Big 12 player. It was Kroenke who, after Mizzou beat Iowa State, escorted former Cyclones coach Larry Eustachy to a party with undergrads, leading to published photos that led to the coach’s ultimate dismissal.

From there Kroenke did a six-month internship with the NBA’s Player Development Department and since has had a series of jobs in the Nuggets front office. Most recently, he was the vice president of team development and was the primary team negotiator on contracts.

He’s not just a kid with a toy — he gets it. Or maybe better phrased, he could be someone who gets it. The proof will be how things go with the team under his reign.

How the team will do under him starts with the Carmelo Anthony question. Anthony has a three-year, $65 million extension sitting unsigned in front of him. Anthony is debating what to do.

Kroenke flew out to talk to ‘Melo last weekend, and told the Denver Post, “We love Melo. We want him here in Denver, make no doubt about that.”

But what if Anthony hints (or outright says) he wants to leave. Does the team have to move him to avoid the fate of Cleveland?

“That’s a fair question. We want Melo in Denver, and I think that Melo has enjoyed his time in Denver, but we all have tough decisions to make, and I’m from the perception that we have to protect the best interest of the franchise. The message I want to get out to the fans is — we’re going to do what’s best for the city of Denver and the Denver Nuggets.”

That was the “answer without answering the question” kind of response we expect out of veteran owners. Well done, Josh.

But read between the lines and it sounds like he is not going to let Denver get LeBron’d. Another sign of a smart owner.

Rumor: Bulls’ belief in Zach LaVine waning

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Zach LaVine was the centerpiece in the Bulls’ return for trading a star. Chicago was reportedly willing to match a max offer sheet for LaVine in restricted free agency.

But maybe the Bulls have at least somewhat soured on him.

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

I don’t know why the Bulls would be down on LaVine now. I also don’t know why they were so high on him the first place.

LaVine is a good 3-point shooter and impressive dunker. But, despite his athleticism, his all-around contributions are lacking. He also hasn’t looked completely over his February 2017 ACL tear.

This leak could just be strategy. Instead of trying to scare off teams with the threat of matching any offer to LaVine, Chicago could be trying to dissuade suitors by projecting its own reluctance.

The Bulls don’t want to overpay LaVine. But they also don’t want to lose him for nothing.

Will anyone make a hard push for the 23-year-old? He surely wants a lucrative long-term contract, whether he re-signs directly with Chicago or gets an offer sheet. But, if the Bulls aren’t sold on him, I’m not sure any team will is.

LaVine’s qualifying offer will be $4,333,932. That might wind up his next salary.

PBT Extra: Grading the top of the NBA Draft

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The Phoenix Suns got it right at the top of the draft — they took Deandre Ayton.

But what of their move to trade for Mikal Bridges, the No. 10 pick, surrendering a valuable pick and the potential of Zhaire Smith for what should be a solid “3&D” wing to go with their athletic stars?

How did the Kings do at No. 2? What about Dallas’ big trade up to land Luka Doncic at three, or the Atlanta bet on Trae Young?

In this PBT Extra, I grade the top 10 picks in the draft, from the moves I like (I think Dallas did well) to ones I’m not sold on (sorry Chicago).

 

Have questions leading up to free agency? Submit your questions via e-mail for our PBT Mailbag feature. Drop us a line at pbtmailbag@gmail.com.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.