‘Melo gives New Jersey a star, does not make them winners

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It’s plainly obvious why New Jersey wants Carmelo Anthony — they need a big star to sell their new Brooklyn home (opening in 2012, didn’t you see the pictures?). You don’t sell those luxury suits when the building’s doors open, you sell them this coming summer, a year out. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov needs his star now. Anthony is one of the brightest stars in the NBA firmament — and one of Brooklyn’s own. His name can sell suites and seats.

The fit is perfect. For marketing.

On the court, not so much.

The current proposed trade that brings Anthony to New Jersey makes the Nets a little better now, but leaves them a long way and a lot of moves away from really competing in the East. And with the salary they’d bring in — particularly if they foolishly accepted Al Harrington — they’d be less flexible to make the moves they need to make.

With all the contortions the Nets have made to make this move a reality, it is not a good basketball trade. The Nets would be better being patient, but with suites to sell this summer, that is not an option.

The trade being discussed is one of the biggest in NBA history. There are at least 15 players and three teams involved. The heart of the trade would send Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton to New Jersey (to reunite what could have been in Detroit); bring Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, some other players and a couple first-round picks to Denver; and send Troy Murphy and Johan Petro, some money saved and some picks to Detroit.

Some will try to sell it this way, but don’t confuse Anthony/Billups/Hamilton with the arrival of the big three in Boston and that turnaround. Boston’s turnaround was fueled by defense and Anthony is not bringing KG’s defensive intensity and leadership. He’s not bringing a quarter of it. What Anthony brings is scoring — he’s one of the best shooters of contested two-point shots in the league. But that is different than bringing victories. Also, Billups is 34 and Hamilton is 32 and showing signs of slowing down — these are not the players of the Nets’ future. They are a bridge to the next rebuilding around Anthony (26).

This move — which sends the promise of Derrick Favors out the door — would leave the Nets with a third-tier roster in the East. They would be nowhere near the level of Boston or Miami or Orlando (we can debate another day if Orlando is really on that level). The Nets would not be as good as the Bulls. They would still be chasing the Hawks.

That means even with this big trade, the Nets would be fighting the Knicks, Pacers, Bobcats, Bucks and Sixers for those final playoff spots in the East next season. Yes, next season — this season the Nets are five games out of the eighth seed in the East right now, with six teams between them and that spot. They aren’t going to the playoffs this year.

Over the coming several years the Nets will need to make a lot of moves to bring in more talent  — but that won’t be easy. In part because they will have shipped out so many good draft picks to get Anthony. But in part because of the salaries this trade brings in.

The big talk will be going after Dwight Howard and/or Chris Paul in the summer of 2012 (when both can be free agents) — but with this trade the Nets will have $43 million in payroll already on the books that season. And that is without an extension for Brook Lopez (probably in the $10 million a year range). So they are already near the salary cap under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and that cap probably will go down when they strike a new deal this summer (or this fall, or the coming winter). The Nets will have an older, not very athletic roster. Flat out, they will not be attractive to or have the money to throw at elite free agents. Not without a lot of other moves.

If this deal goes through it will look great in the power point that pitches companies on buying a suite in the new Barclay Center. But what fans will see from those suites is (as currently constructed) a pretty average team — one that is a step back (or two) from the Nuggets roster Anthony is leaving. One that will be more interesting to imagine trades for than to watch play. One that has no cap space this coming summer to make moves.

Anthony might get to go home, but you can’t always go home again.

Jimmy Butler: “So much more fun to play with these guys”

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Jimmy Butler is in Philadelphia now, but he is not done throwing shade at his former teammates in Minnesota.

Butler had 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting, including the game-clinching layup, as the 76ers beat the Jazz 113-107 Friday night. After the game, he got the walk-off interview with Serena Winters and took a dig at his former Minnesota teammates.

“It’s so fun to win. So much more fun to play with these guys… Everybody wants to win, and when somebody messes up, you talk to them and they do their job.”

Part of Butler’s issues with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins was he felt they didn’t want to win badly enough, that they didn’t measure up to his level of passion. Butler is still in the honeymoon phase with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the Sixers, but so far he likes the intensity so far and is happy to make a note of the difference.

By the way, they’re happy in Minnesota without him — the Timberwolves are 3-0 since the trade, Karl-Anthony Towns is back to playing like his All-NBA self, and he says the communication is better now and guys are taking responsibility.

 

Pelicans Elfrid Payton returns, starts, injured again

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) —The New Orleans Pelicans say point guard Elfrid Payton has a fractured finger on his left hand.

Payton injured his finger in the first quarter of his first game back on Friday night after he’d missed New Orleans’ nine previous games with a right ankle sprain.

Soon after, Payton was ruled out for the remainder of the game against the New York Knicks.

Acquired as a free agent this past offseason, Payton has played in six games for New Orleans. He entered Friday night’s games with averages 11.6 points and 6.4 assists through his first five games, but did not have a point or assist in eight minutes against New York before his latest injury.

 

Kyrie Irving scores 43, Celtics beat Raptors 123-116 in OT

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BOSTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving had 11 straight Boston points down the stretch and scored 17 in all in the last 8:06 of the fourth quarter.

Then in overtime, he really turned it on.

The Celtics guard made or assisted on every basket in the extra period, finishing with 11 assists and a season-high 43 points on Friday night to lead Boston to a 123-116 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

“Man, he made some shots tonight where you’re just like, `Wow,”‘ forward Gordon Hayward said. “You catch yourself being a fan. When he gets into that mode, the whole arena knew where we were going, and so did the Raptors. They just couldn’t stop him.”

It was the first time Irving has scored at least 40 points with 10 or more assists in a game. He was the first player do it in the NBA this year, and the first Celtics player since Antoine Walker in 2001.

“Kyrie did a great job in the fourth quarter knocking down shots,” said Kawhi Leonard, who scored 31 points and had a season-high 15 rebounds for Toronto. “We fought hard tonight, they played a better game and we’ve just got to keep playing better.”

Jayson Tatum had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Celtics, who evened the season series at one game apiece against the only team to finish above them in the Eastern Conference last season. The home team has won nine straight matchups.

Serge Ibaka scored 21 and Pascal Siakam had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost three straight since opening the season with 12 victories in their first 13 games. Toronto never led in overtime.

“It was just a veteran game out there, just great competition for a Friday night in the NBA,” Irving said. “You’ve got to appreciate that, two great teams going at it. And I’m pretty sure we’ll see them down the road.”

 

Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid lead Sixers past Jazz 113-107

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jimmy Butler had the sellout crowd chanting his name and singing his favorite theme song.

Butler scored 28 points in his home debut, Joel Embiid had 23 and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz 113-107 on Friday night.

Butler, the four-time All-Star acquired Monday from Minnesota in a five-player trade, got a loud ovation during introductions and quickly made an impression as the Sixers built a 16-point lead in the first quarter.

Fans serenaded him throughout the game and he got to hear the team’s “1-2-3 Sixers” theme song after the win.

“I already knew this crowd would be excited,” Butler said. “Now that I have them on my side it’s better for me. Y’all, we, have some great fans. Y’all have the catchiest song. I used to sing it in my head when I came in here.”

The Jazz rallied after a rough first quarter and the teams went back-and-forth in the fourth quarter. Jae Crowder‘s put-back after Ricky Rubio‘s stole the ball and missed a lay-up gave Utah a 107-105 lead with 1:37 left. JJ Redick tied it on a pair of free throws. Ben Simmons‘ driving lay-up gave the 76ers a 109-107 lead.

Butler then hit a jumper to extend the lead and drew an offensive foul, sending the crowd into a frenzy as Hall of Famer Allen Iverson jumped up to celebrate from his courtside seat.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Embiid said.

The 76ers are 29-1 in last 30 regular-season home games.

Redick had 16 points and Simmons had 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Embiid scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter after he played less than a minute in the third because he had four fouls.

Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 31 points.

“We competed but we have to be smarter,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We had some mistakes where we have to think more. They add up against a team like this.”

After the Jazz made the first basket, Butler scored on a reverse layup to begin a 12-0 run. He also nailed a 3-pointer during that stretch as Philadelphia dominated early.

But Utah closed to 54-52 at halftime following Derrick Favors‘ alley-oop dunk.

Redick and Mike Muscala hit consecutive 3s early in the third quarter. However, the Jazz came back and went up 81-80 on Mitchell’s jumper late in the quarter.

“Up until the end, we made a few mistakes, but we played passionate,” Mitchell said. “Honestly, they’re a great team, but we had the game in the bag except for a few mistakes. I think the game just got away.”