Carmelo Anthony says nice things about Denver, but does that change anything?

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Denver has a good basketball team right now. We were reminded of that last night when they hung with the Lakers in a scoring fest, got good play off the bench (I could swear I saw Al Harrington on help defense) and played enough defense late to hand Los Angeles its first loss. The capacity crowd at the Pepsi Center ate it up. They want to believe.

But the cloud of Carmleo Anthony’s trade demands loomed over the night. It looms over everything with the Nuggets.

Anthony keeps saying the right things publicly, and that includes Thursday. That doesn’t really change the bottom line, the underlying issues are the same, but he says the right things.

For one, he tried to diffuse the talk around Chris Paul’s toast back in July at Anthony’s wedding a toast that included the thought of Anthony and CP3 joining Amar’e Stoudemire in New York. From Chris Tomasson at FanHouse:

“It was at my wedding,” Anthony said. “Everybody was having fun. The Miami Heat thing was the hot topic at that point in time. There were a lot of guys, a lot of players there, just laughing and joking about it. It is what it is. … It wasn’t set up. It wasn’t staged or anything like that. It was just everybody was having a good time laughing and joking.”

Anthony publically is saying that he wants to keep his options open and Denver is one of those options.

“I think as far as my situation goes or anything, I think (VP of basketball operations) Masai (Ujiri) and (team president) Josh (Kroenke) and myself, we have great communication,” Anthony said. “The lines are open right now between us. If anything is happening, if anything is being said, we sit down and talk about it. So that’s a good thing. Then I can be able to go to them or they come to me. Being that they’re the leaders of this organization and we need to sit down and talk it out.



“What’s going on in my head, they know. They know what’s going on in my head. So, as far as any of that stuff goes, we’re all on the same page.”

Anthony even asked Kobe Bryant for advice, as Kobe told FanHouse.

“I said, ‘Make sure you’re sure about what you want to do,”’ Bryant told FanHouse on Thursday before his Lakers were to face Anthony’s Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. “That’s the only advice I gave him.”

The hype around ‘Melo is going to get ratcheted up in the next week, as the Nuggets host the New York Knicks next Tuesday. You can bet through it all Anthony will keep saying the right things, he’s practiced at it.

But this was never about what Anthony said publicly — the pressure has come from his agent and the people at CAA. It has been done through back channels. And that has not changed either. They continue to say — other teams around the league certainly believe — that Anthony is not going to sign that three-year, $65 million extension with Denver. That Denver knows it and that they will have to move him or risk being Cleveland and Toronto.

Ujiri and Kronke have been the ones to move slowly, patiently on this. Hoping they can change Anthony’s mind, waiting for better offers to come in. Denver is not moving quickly on this, not yet anyway.

Nothing has really changed. There has been — and there will be in the next week — a lot of talk about Anthony in Denver, Anthony on the trade block. But the song remains the same. The extension sits unsigned. Anthony speaks of loving Denver but keeping his options open. Behind the scenes his people push for a trade to New York or Chicago. Denver’s front office is patient and cautious. All the way things have been for months.

Things are going to have to change at some point, maybe after Dec. 15 with signings from this summer can be moved. But right now, it’s status quo.

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.