Carmelo Anthony trade talks slowly picking up steam

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Haven’t we — and all the parties involved — been talking about this since last summer? If so, how can things be dragging out so slowly now?

But it is. Nothing has been quick or painless about the Carmelo Anthony trade situation. But now something is going to go down in the next week. It has to, there’s a deadline on Feb. 24. While there has been plenty of talk so far, finally the talks seem to have a real substance to them. Here is the roundup of where we are (as of Wednesday morning).

The Knicks and Nuggets have reached the parameters of a deal, according to Alan Hahn of Newsday.

The Knicks are willing to part with Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari and a source with knowledge of the situation said that including a Raymond Felton-Chauncey Billups swap would not be a deal-breaker.

The issue at hand is the precarious decision to complete a blockbuster deal that involves even more players, perhaps rookies Timofey Mozgov and Landry Fields, and dramatically jumbles the roster, the starting lineup and the rotation with 28 games left — and very little time for practice — after the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

I’m not sure why Denver would want Felton when they already have Ty Lawson, but that may be part of the problem — the Nuggets don’t know what they want and keep changing the trade. The moving goal line on a deal was a complaint when the four-team Nets deal was discussed and not much has changed, Adrian Wojnarowski, of Yahoo is saying.

“This is like the Nets talks all over again: Denver keeps moving the goal posts,” one league source said. “They don’t know what they want there.”

As the Daily News reported, the wild card is Knicks owner James Dolan and the looming possibility he could overrule his president and cut a deal with Denver himself. There are fears that Dolan is listening too much to former president and coach Isiah Thomas and possibly agents and representatives for Anthony who have agendas to undermine Walsh.

“Donnie isn’t going to make a one-sided deal and gut his team to get this done now,” said one league source who regularly speaks to Walsh. “He’ll end up with two unhappy stars because they have no supporting cast. But if Dolan gets more involved in this, he could really makes a mess of this.”

The other wild card is the Nets. Plenty of people around the league expect Denver and New Jersey to start talking again, and if a package based around Derrick Favors and the expiring deal of Troy Murphy is still on the table, they would just to the front of the pack again. As is pointed out at the Bergen Record, with All-Star weekend in Los Angeles all the key players will be in the same place, from Carmelo Anthony to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. People start talking and… who knows?

The idea that the Nuggets may not move Anthony and he would stay and consider an extension — which always felt like an effort to gain negotiating leverage more than reality — is dead Wojnarowski adds.

“With the way he’s distanced himself from the team, the organization, they’re kidding themselves if they think he’s signing a new deal,” one league official told Yahoo! Sports. “He hasn’t checked out on the season because he never checked in.”

Nobody thinks this is getting done before the All-Star game. But come the couple days after, look for things to move fast. The Nuggets should — should! — want to leave themselves time to make another couple deals after the ‘Melo one. Then again, predicting what they want has been impossible for everyone so far.

LeBron James, Dion Waiters’ son engage in a little trash talk

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“Yeah, right.”

That was Dion Waiters Jr.’s response to pretty much everything LeBron James during the Lakers’ practice on Saturday before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

LeBron was getting up some corner threes and told Waiters Jr. he would make 100 straight.

“Yeah, right.”

When LeBron missed one, “I missed that on purpose.” 

“Yeah, right.”

“I missed that on purpose, so you’d think I’m human,” LeBron joked.

Got to love Dion Waiters Jr. — he’s got some of his dad’s spunk.

Families have been allowed in the bubble for teams for a couple of weeks, although LeBron’s sons are not there, with LeBron saying it’s not a great place for kids (he’s right, for anyone over about 7 or 8, there would be little to do).

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game on Saturday night.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward warming up, available to play in Game 3

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The Celtics are getting their X-factor back — Gordon Hayward is available for the must-win Game 3 for Boston.

This had been expected, but he was out warming up pregame as reports he would be available started to bounce around the web.

Even 20 minutes of Hayward would be a big boost for the Celtics. Hayward suffered a grade III ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. He’s been out ever since, even leaving the bubble for a while to get treatment.

Hayward’s return gives the Celtics another versatile player who can create his own shot and knock down the open looks others create for him. Hayward can run pick-and-rolls with the second unit while Tatum and Walker get rest. He’s the Celtics’ fourth-best scoring option right now, but he’s more dangerous than any other team’s fourth scorer.

Miami leads the series 0-2. If Boston doesn’t find a way to break down Miami’s zone defense and defend the rim better themselves this series is going to be short. Maybe Hayward can help with that on Saturday night.