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.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

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.