How Carmelo Anthony trade talks are like CBA negotiations

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Right now there is more posturing around the NBA than after a Chris Bosh dunk.

It is coming on two fronts — the Carmelo Anthony trade talks and the negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and owners.

Two very different things that have one thing in common — with no imminent deadline everyone is posturing. Deadline pressures drive deals, and right now there is plenty of time in both those situations. So everyone plays hardball and asks for the ridiculous. And that’s not going to change until hard deadlines impose reality on the sutuations.

For example, there is the latest rumor on the Anthony trade front — Denver is asking for five future first round picks from New Jersey as part of a Carmelo Anthony trade, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

If this is true — and with all the rumors swirling around the Carmelo Anthony trade talks right now we are skeptical of everything — then it confirms reports the Nuggets are overplaying their hand. If true, it would make sense to hear the Nets are backing away from negotiations.

But there are still two months until Denver has to make a deal — right now Nugget management can afford to ask for the moon. Nets management can play the “we’re not interested” game. Carmelo Anthony and his people can privately demand New York only because the chance of losing out of millions in free agency is not yet a reality.

But as the deadline gets closer, Anthony may well reconsider the swamps of New Jersey. Denver will temper its demands and other teams will make their real best offers. (Maybe, it is possible that teams start lowballing the Nuggets as they realize Denver is under pressure, that is the risk the Nuggets are taking.)

The good news is that with Anthony, there is an end in sight — the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

With the CBA negotiations, it’s more nebulous. Right now owners can take the hardline of wanting 1/3 player salary rollbacks while the players can say that the song should remain the same. Right now the threat of lost paychecks and lost team revenue is not a reality.

Technically the current CBA expires and the lockout begins on July 1. But that deadline is not the real pressure point because a lockout in the middle of summer just means no Summer League and free agency gets pushed back. The casual fan doesn’t really care about that and will forgive those.

The pressure really comes as we get into September — when the opening of camps might be pushed back and, more serious yet, games become lost. When games are lost, fans are lost. That is when paychecks and gate revenue are missed. That is the real deadline pressure.

And it takes deadline pressure to make deals happen, to impose reality on a negotiation. Right now we don’t have that, so we have a lot of posturing.

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.