Carmelo Anthony: "I never said I want to play for the Nets."

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Thumbnail image for CAnthony_stares.jpgAn exchange yesterday from training camp gives us a little insight into Carmelo Anthony’s thinking.

And how it’s really about moving where he wants, not winning.

Anthony’s people (never Anthony publicly) have been pushing for a trade to get him out of Denver and he said there is a 50/50 chance he is gone before the season starts.

Anthony holds leverage in this process because he is in the last year of his deal and no team is going to trade for him — to give up key young players and picks — if they can’t sign him to an extension. If he doesn’t agree there is no deal. Anthony’s people have pushed for him to go to New York or Chicago, and now we know why, thanks to this exchange reported in the Denver Post.

“As far as marketing, it comes from winning. If I ain’t winning, then nobody wants me to market their product.”

So he was asked: “Then why would you want to play for the team that won 12 games last season?”

Anthony then said: “I never said I want to play for the Nets.”

The Nets pushed hard for a four-team deal that would net them Melo, but one of the holdups was rumored to be Anthony’s hesitation at signing an extension in New Jersey.

No matter what he says, it is not all about winning for Anthony.

Because if it was, he’d stay in Denver and play for a team that with him may be the second best team in the West (they are on that tier with a few other squads). In Denver they reached the Western Conference finals two seasons ago and have been winners and on television a lot for years.

The Knicks are a long ways from winning — with Amar’e Stoudemire or not. Anthony and Stoudemire would mean a lot of points for the Knicks but that team is without depth (after the trade) and there would be defensive questions. They are not going to be better than the Heat, Celtics or Magic. They may not be better than the Bulls. Maybe not better than the Bucks. Or even the Hawks.

Simply put, the Nuggets are closer to the Lakers and a West title than the Knicks with Anthony are to the elite in the East.

This is about him getting to a market he wants to be in. Which is fine, he has the right to go where he wants within the system. His actions so far are within the system and frankly more fair than what LeBron James did to Cleveland (leaving them on the hook until it was too late, so they got nothing for him). Anthony can be a free agent and sign wherever. As it should be. But don’t pretend this is just about winning (and the marketing that comes from it), because Anthony’s actions speak differently.

Report: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith expected to return around Christmas

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76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.

A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.

But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.

Kevin Love launches “Love Fund” to bring more focus to mental health issues

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The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.

In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.

Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.

Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.

Sixers hire Elton Brand as new General Manager

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Filling the 76ers vacant general manager position dragged out all summer for one main reason:

They liked what they already had in-house. The Sixers were an especially collegial and collaborative group with their decision making, and if they brought in a big name from the outside — former Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin, or the two guys who went deep into the interview process Utah assistant GM Justin Zanik on Rockets VP Gersson Rosas — it would change that dynamic.

Which is why they have decided to keep this in the family, and will promote Elton Brand from vice president of basketball operations to general manager. It’s a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.

Brand, a former Philadelphia player, was the general manager of their G-League team, the Delaware Blue Coats, before becoming the VP of basketball operations. He will replace Bryan Colangelo, who was forced out following a Twitter scandal involving his wife.

There were other title changes within the organization as well.

What this means on the ground is don’t expect any significant changes with the Sixers’ plans — nor should there be. They are banking on Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz — now with a functional jump shot, they hope — to be at the core of a contending team, then next summer they will go big game hunting again for an elite free agent. (There is more pressure to get a deal done this summer before the big extensions for those young stars start to really kick in.) That said, this is a team poised on the brink of a great run.

And if things are going well, why make a dramatic change? Brand can help them on the course already set.

Pat Riley: Dion Waiters not recovered for start of training camp, “unlikely” for start of season

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This is a setback.

When Dion Waiters had ankle surgery 30 games into last season, the hope was that he would be healthy for the start of this season and return to the post All-Star form of 2017, when his hot play (15.6 points per game, 41 percent from three and carrying a heavy offensive load) led the Heat to offer him a four-year contract.

Turns out, that’s not going to happen.

It was Pat Riley who made the announcement, speaking to the media.

Waiters was not healthy last season, and while he averaged 14.3 points a game he was not nearly as efficient — 30.6 percent from three, shooting 39.8 percent overall, a PER of 10.5.

This could move Dwyane Wade into the starting lineup to open the season. Beyond that, the Heat have the guard depth to survive this with Wade and Wayne Ellington at the two, plus Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Malik Newman, and Briante Weber heading into camp.

Waiters being out also is bad news for the player but could save the franchise money on another front: Waiters receives a $1.1 million bonus if he plays in 70 games this season. If he misses the start of the season, he becomes far less likely to make that threshold.