Is Carmelo Anthony to Lakers rumor just to prod the Knicks?

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Of course they feel that way. Suddenly reports coming of New York writers are saying that the Carmelo Anthony to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum rumors that sprung forth today are really about the Knicks.

Because it’s always about you, New York, isn’t it? Always.

First we have Alan Hahn at Newsday who writes:

A person with knowledge of the situation said Carmelo-Bynum talks actually took place last summer and nothing materialized beyond the initial discussion. The Daily News reported that Lakers executive Jim Buss, son of team owner Jerry Buss who feels strongly about Bynum’s potential, rejected such a proposal. The Los Angeles Times posted a story on its website that cited a Lakers source calling the original ESPN report “inaccurate.”

New York based Ken Berger of CBSSports.com is more direct (like a good New Yorker should be):

A third person connected to the situation said he found it “suspicious” that the Bynum-Anthony scenario would become public so soon after it was publicly revealed that the Knicks have found a willing participant in the Timberwolves to contribute to a three-team scenario that would send Anthony to New York. That person said he received some signals early last week that the Lakers and Nuggets were at least considering entering into Bynum-Anthony discussions.

“Someone is trying to scare New York,” the person said.

Thing is, they’re right. Part of this is obviously a ploy to gain some leverage on the Knicks, something they lost when the Nets walked away from the table. The Lakers could be that leverage.

Before the Knicks offer included two of the three of Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields, plus a pick they would trade for, and the expiring deal of Eddy Curry. Now, it’s Wilson Chandler and Eddy Curry in a less-thrilling package. The Nuggets need that Lakers leverage to get another player in back in the deal.

But would the Lakers actually do it? Is there any real threat there?

Depends on how the Lakers front office is thinking. If the thinking is to win this year, then this move hurt them. Figuring out how to integrate Anthony into the triangle offense with Kobe will take time. How Ron Artest would react to coming off the bench at the three and having fewer minutes could be an issue. Most importantly, Andrew Bynum is the defensive anchor of the Lakers and that is their weakest area. Anthony is not a good defender. The Lakers would improve an offense already best in the league but hurt a defense that already may be a stumbling block to a title.

But if the Lakers are thinking about three years from now, when Kobe would 36 and Anthony would be just 29, it makes some sense. Anthony would become the building block for the Lakers future, to build the post-Kobe Lakers around in a couple years, with the team being very good in the interim.

But would the Lakers risk sacrificing the now for what might be down the line? Especially when they will be a draw to future free agents as well (they can play out this cycle then look to the future).

Maybe the Lakers are thinking that way, but with Jim Buss (son of Lakers owner Jerry Buss and the guy at the top of the Lakers player/personnel pyramid) being a huge backer of Bynum, this seems unlikely. Buss pushed to draft and keep Bynum, he’s not going to abandon him now. There already have been reports Jim Buss shot this deal down.

But if the Nuggets are having those talks, no matter how serious, it makes sense for them to leak the info. Just to prod the Knicks and show they have leverage.

Knicks say they scouted Giannis Antetokounmpo in Greece

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s agent, Giorgos Panou, said the Knicks were the only team not to scout Antetokounmpo in Greece before the 2013 NBA draft.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

If the Knicks indeed scouted Antetokounmpo that thoroughly, it’s a shame they were smeared for not doing so.

Milwaukee took Antetokounmpo No. 13. New York had the No. 24 pick and kept it to draft Tim Hardaway Jr.

Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma scores 35, wins MVP, leads USA to victory in Rising Stars dunkfest

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CHARLOTTE — Nobody comes to the Friday night Rising Stars Challenge — the All-Star weekend showcase of first- and second-year stars — for the defense. Which is good, because there isn’t any. Zero. Nada. Your Saturday blacktop pickup game at the local park has guys that care more about defense than you see in this game.

What the Rising Stars has are dunks. A lot of big dunks. And some threes. Then more dunks.

For example, the Hawks’ John Collins was showing off why he was in the dunk contest, complete with a pass off the backboard to himself.

As for the game itself, the USA won 161-144 over the World.

The Lakers Kyle Kuzma raced out to 23 first-half points and finished with 35 to earn MVP honors.

“Last year I didn’t really play that hard,” Kuzma said of his first time in this game. “This year I just came out, one, I wanted to get some conditioning, and, two, why not MVP? You’re in the game. So might as well just try.”

Kuzma also broke out the windmill.

D’Aaron Fox said before the game he wanted to break the assist record for the Rising Stars, and while he fell short of that number he had 16 for the USA. Boston’s Jayson Tatum had 30 and Donovan Mitchell had 20 for the USA. Ben Simmons led the Word team of 28 points.

As for highlights, there were plenty.

Atlanta’s Trae Young hit six threes and had this dime.

He also had the play of the night, nutmegging Deandre Ayton.

Philly’s Ben Simmons had a couple of throwdowns.

The Timberwolves Josh Okogie had the putback of the night (teammate and All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns sat courtside wearing an Okogie jersey).

Hawks’ John Collins passes to self off backboard for dunk in Rising Stars

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CHARLOTTE — The NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge — the Friday night showcase of first- and second-year players during All-Star Weekend — has less defense than your lunch run pickup game at the Y. Even less than the All-Star Game itself.

Which leads to some monster dunks.

Enter Atlanta’s second-year big man John Collins, playing for the USA (vs. The World), who went off the backboard to himself for the best throwdown of the game.

That wasn’t Collins’ only quality dunk in this game.

He looks ready for Saturday’s Dunk Contest.

Report: Nuggets extend president Tim Connelly’s contract

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On the same day the Pelicans fired general manager Dell Demps, the Nuggets extended the contract of president Tim Connelly, who went to Denver from New Orleans.

Nuggets release:

Nuggets President and Governor Josh Kroenke announced today that the Nuggets have extended the contracts of President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and General Manager Arturas Karnisovas as well and also provided multi-year extensions for the entire basketball operations staff.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I don’t know whether Connelly used the threat of the Pelicans job as leverage. But he deserved this extension, anyway.

The Nuggets have only continued to rise since his previous extension three years ago.

Denver has yet to make the playoffs under Connelly, and he declared this season postseason or bust. Denver (39-18) is second in the Western Conference.

Connelly made a second-round pick so good in Nikola Jokic, it altered the course of the franchise. Connelly has done well to lock Jokic onto a five-year extension, surround him with young talent like Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez and get them a good coach in Michael Malone.

If Denver weren’t stuck barely missing the playoffs in the loaded West the last couple years, we might have been singing Connelly’s praises sooner. But his success is undeniable. The Nuggets are in great shape now and in the future, and Connelly should see that through.