Carmelo Anthony sounds like LeBron, says he'll keep his options open

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Thumbnail image for canthony_arty.jpg“I’m here today… Whatever the future holds, it holds. I’m leaving my options open right now.

That was Carmelo Anthony today, sounding a lot like LeBron James a year before.

What the Denver Nuggets want to avoid is a LeBron repeat — an entire season of speculation followed by losing their best player and getting nothing in return.

But  Anthony came out Monday at Nuggets media day and took a page from LeBron’s strategy. He said he never asked for a trade, he planned to stay a Nugget this season and that he was “keeping his options open” until the end of the season. Which could really force Denver’s hand.

There are reports that Anthony is willing to sign off on playing for the Nets and that trade is picking up steam again, that it is now the Nuggets who are dragging their feet. If true — and that is a mighty big “if” — then Denver has to seriously consider it. Because there are not better deals coming from their end.

Here’s what he said. (The quotes are via tweets from Chris Tomasson of FanHouse and Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post, who live tweeted the press conference

“I never once said anything about trade talk…. There’s been a lot of speculation going on”

“I’m leaving my options open. At the end of the season, I’ll sit down with my team, I’ll sit down with the Nuggets”

“I’ve been a Nugget for seven years. This is where I started my career. Tomorrow the ball goes up and we get started.”

First, technically he did not request a trade publicly, if he did that he’d be fined. That’s why agents and back channel folks force these things. Be very clear that he did push for a trade, just not in public because he didn’t want to write a massive check.

Aside that, Melo sounded like LeBron about keeping his options open. And sounding like LeBron is not good for the Nuggets (see what happened to Cleveland).

If he is planning to wait until the end of the season to decide (if the Nets trade does not happen), Denver may be stuck in the situation they wanted to avoid. They would like to keep him, and if they are seriously close to geting him to sign an extension then trading him becomes hard. If they think he’s gone they’ve got to move him to get something back, but the days of driving a hard bargain like they did the last few weeks — demanding Joakim Noah from the Bulls, for example — may be gone.

The only teams that would take Anthony are the ones where he would sign an extension. If that really is just the Knicks and Bulls, then Denver has only a couple partners here. They can send him where he wants to go and get pennies back on the dollar, or they can do nothing and get nothing back.

Chauncey Billups admitted this all would be a distraction, but that he didn’t expect it to impact Anthony on the court.

George Karl spoke of making the NBA’s final four teams, while general manager Masai Ujiri gave the company line about adding players if needed to be a winner. Ujiri added, “I love Melo.”

We’ll see soon if Nuggets fans still feel the same way.

James Harden reiterates it was “false talk” he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.

Report: R.C. Buford moving on from Spurs GM role, Brian Wright taking over

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For 15 years, through championships and an unparalleled run of playoff berths and success, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich seemed to work as one brain. Popovich was the coach but also team president, Buford the GM, and together they built an NBA powerhouse.

Buford is moving on from that role. Or, more precisely moving up into a new management role, and assistant GM Brian Wright is taking over as GM, reports Jabari Young of The Athletic.

After a little more than 15 years serving as GM, Buford is getting prepared to bequeath the role to assistant GM Brian Wright, league sources have confirmed to The Athletic. Wright will report directly to Buford, who will officially get a new title that some around the NBA believe will be a role helping to oversee Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

When the Spurs initially hired Wright in 2016, he stayed behind the scenes and focused mainly on scouting. But sources have informed The Athletic over the last year Wright has been more involved, even fielding calls and packages for the trade of Kawhi Leonard the previous summer.

Wright came to the Spurs from the Pistons a couple of years ago. That said, don’t expect a big change in how things are done in the Spurs front office. For one thing, Popovich is still there. Also, Wright has an excellent reputation around the league as being smart and a straight shooter. On top of all of that, Buford will remain his ultimate boss, although Buford’s role will change into one of more of a business manager for Spurs Sports & Entertainment.

Young hints there could be more changes coming. Obviously, the biggest would be when Popovich decides to step back in his dual roles as coach and president, but there could be shifts in the assistant GM ranks as well.

Just don’t expect the Spurs to stop being the Spurs.