Knicks should be wary of giving the reins to Melo over Amar’e

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Amar’e Stoudemire was given a “mental break” this week by Mike D’Antoni. Moving aside the fact that Amar’e seems to miss a lot of practices this year for non-injury reasons, there are some interesting dynamics on the Knicks being reported by the New York Daily News:

“Looks like Amare is in a funk,” said one Eastern Conference GM this past week, after watching Stoudemire play without his normal maniacal intensity in the Knicks wins over Orlando and New Jersey, while Anthony was putting up more than 30 points and getting the shots in crunch time in both games. “But you could expect that when they made the trade for Carmelo.”

Of course you could. For the first 54 games of the season, Stoudemire was having the time of his life in New York, enjoying his role as King of the Knicks and the teams lone star. Finally, he had the big stage he craved and his own team he could never have in Phoenix.

Now he’s got Anthony, who loves being a star and a celebrity, who is easier to get the ball to on the perimeter, and, as you may have noticed, to hold it. For long stretches. Before he shoots.No wonder Stoudemire needed a couple of days this past week to get a break. It’s not easy getting passes inside, or competing against Anthony, another “alpha dog,” to use Mike DAntoni’s term.

“I think it makes a difference, it could be for good or for bad, you’d have to ask him about that, exactly,” DAntoni said. “But we’ll try to make it for the good so he doesn’t have to carry the load down the stretch.”

via Amare Stoudemires feelings must be mended as Carmelo Anthony takes over as Knicks go-to player.

The weird thing is: Amar’e Stoudemire is way more important to the Knicks’ future than Anthony. Anthony’s an elite player, don’t misunderstand me. But what Anthony does, many players in this league can do. But as far as a power forward that can nail the elbow jumper face-up out of the high-post, drive inside, finish off the pick and roll, tap in putbacks, and work over opponents in the deep post? Those guys are harder to come by than gun-and-gun (the running is optional) wings. Anthony’s a fantastic component to add to the Knicks. But with a complimentary player, even if he’s considered better, in Nash next to him, Stoudemire made multiple Conference Finals, challenged champions, made his mark on the league. Anthony, apart from one magical run in a down year for the conference, mostly just came into the first round, shot a lot of jumpers, and then was quietly asked to leave. If you want to buy into the clichéd “some guys are just winners” model (which I don’t), Stoudemire fits that better than Anthony.

The Knicks were only in a position to gamble on a trade for Melo because of where Stoudemire had taken them. It’s undeniable that Stoudemire still leaves gaping holes on the floor in defense and rebounding. But in terms of elite big men in the league, it’s hard to find a power forward outside of Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki more valuable right now. As well as Carlos Boozer has played, the Bulls would be better with Stoudemire finishing off Rose lobs and taking some of the pressure off as a multiple-post offensive player. As … nice as Chris Bosh has played, the Heat might be the actual fearsome threesome they were supposed to be had they had Stoudemire’s no-nonsense aggression versus Bosh’s wafting wavering. That the Knicks are likely first-round fodder does not speak to Stoudemire, and in fact, speaks to how Anthony, at least in terms of this season’s hopes, was too high a cost to maintain the Knicks’ momentum.

Anthony’s going to continue to get the ball because he’s more of a power player in terms of politics as a member of the CAA group that includes LeBron and Wade. He orchestrated his way out of Denver for half the Knicks’ roster, is a perimeter player, and has shown he and his agent will get their way. But the Knicks need to realize that Stoudemire isn’t a role player. He’s the best overall player they have. That’s what got them into the playoff race to begin with. Melo’s a great player. But giving him the reins could put the Knicks on a bad path.

 

Is FIBA’s decision to move World Cup to year before Olympics reason for USA drop outs?

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FIBA made a mess of World Cup qualifying moving the games from the summer to during the season for the NBA and all the major European leagues. The USA qualified thanks to a team of G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy, but the process was not pretty. For anyone.

Now it could be another FIBA decision that has led to the rash of stars — James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and others — deciding not to play for Team USA this summer.

Traditionally, the FIBA World Cup took place every four years, on the even-numbered year between Summer Olympic cycles. For example, the last World Cup was 2014, the Rio Olympics were 2016 with the Tokyo games in 2020. However, FIBA pushed this World Cup back a year to 2019 (instead of 2018) and that has changed the calculus for players, something Michael Lee of The Athletic speculated about.

For American players, the Olympics are the bigger draw, when more people watch. We grew up with the Dream Team at the Olympics, not the World Championships. That means if players have to choose, despite the allure of the Chinese market, they will choose the Olympics next year.

The other factor: The NBA feels wide open, with as many as eight teams heading into the season believing they can win the title. A lot of those contending teams have new players, which is leading players to prioritize club over country this time around.

This is different from 2004, when the NBA’s top players stayed home from the Athens Olympics because of a combination of terrorist concerns and players not liking coach Larry Brown. Today’s players love Gregg Popovich, but other concerns are weighing on them more.

It has left team USA without the biggest stars of the game — Kemba Walker is the only All-NBA player on the roster — but USA Basketball has such a depth of talent that they are still the World Cup favorites. The margin for error just got a lot smaller, however.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was working on jump shot with Kyle Korver (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s jumper is getting better. Last season after the All-Star break he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs that jumped to 32.7 percent. He struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games after the ASG, shooting just 16.7 percent, but off the bounce he shot 33.8 percent after the break. Also, all of last season he didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

What would make his jumper better? Working on his shot with the newest Buck, Kyle Korver.

Which is happening.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.

Antetokounmpo recently said he is only at about 60 percent of his potential. If he can start to consistently hit threes off the bounce when defenses sag back off the pick-and-roll (trying to take away his drives), he might become unstoppable. Or, more unstoppable. If that’s a thing.

Zion Williamson signs shoe deal with Nike’s Jordan Brand

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Russell Westbrook. Jimmy Butler. Blake Griffin. Chris Paul.

And now Zion Williamson has joined them as a Jordan Brand athlete. Williamson announced that he had signed with Jordan on his Instagram.

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Let’s Dance #JUMPMAN

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Williamson was probably the biggest shoe free agent on the market this summer. While still a rookie, he already is a huge marketing presence — Summer League in Las Vegas sold out to see him the first two nights (people ended up disappointed) — and it was estimated he would make north of $10 million a year on his rookie shoe deal.

While we have not heard official numbers yet, the rumors are he did get that money.

If true, this is the second-largest rookie shoe deal in history. LeBron James got seven-years, $87 million, however, Williamson is second and bumps Kevin Durant to third (seven years, $60 million).

There are rumors Puma had offered even a larger contact, but Williamson wanted to be a Jordan brand guy.

“I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family,” Williamson said in a statement. “Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league & having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had & continues to have today. He was one of those special athletes I looked up to.”

“Zion’s incredible determination, character and play are inspiring,” Michael Jordan said in a statement. “He’s an essential part of the new talent that will help lead the brand into the future. He told us he would ‘shock the world,’ and asked us to believe him. We do.”

Nike continues to dominate the NBA and basketball shoe market, with more than two-thirds of NBA players wearing Nikes. Even still, landing Williamson — who will play for the New Orleans Pelicans — was such a big score that Nike stock jumped up one percent on the news. He has the potential to be the next LeBron or Durant for Nike, if he can live up to the hype and weight of being the most discussed No. 1 pick in a decade.

He’s the kind of player who could sell a lot of shoes, and Jordan is betting on just that.

Al Horford calls Celtics’ reported tampering allegations ‘ridiculous’

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The Celtics have reportedly complained about the 76ers tampering with Al Horford.

Horford opted out, and it seemed he could return to Boston. But more than a week before free agency officially began, a report emerged he’d leave the Celtics while expecting a four-year, $100 million contract elsewhere. He committed to the 76ers on the first day of free agency, getting $97 million guaranteed and up to $109 million over four years.

What did Horford make of tampering allegations coming from Boston, where Danny Ainge runs the front office?

Horford on The Dan Patrick Show:

It’s pretty ridiculous. But it is what it is. Danny – I love Danny. Danny was always really good to me. I know that he’s definitely frustrated with things didn’t work out with us.

Notice the lack of a denial.

But Horford is right: It’s ridiculous. Because the Celtics are hypocrites who locked up Kemba Walker before free agency officially began.

Though Boston’s specific complaints don’t hold water, there are legitimate issues with the wider landscape.