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.

 

Heat camp arrives, and Goran Dragic says he’s more than ready

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MIAMI (AP) — This time last year, Miami’s Goran Dragic was already tired and the season was just getting started.

It’s very different now.

When the Heat hold their first practice of the season Tuesday, Dragic expects to be as rested and ready as he’s been for any training camp in years. The point guard who went to his first All-Star Game last season wore down as the year went along, in part because of the grind he put himself through last summer while leading his native Slovenia to the European championship.

This summer, he played less – and is hoping that pays off this season.

“I feel amazing. I feel great,” Dragic said. “I think one of the smartest moves I made was retiring from the national team, because I feel energized and pumped for this season. I always kind of hit a wall toward the end of a season, but I feel like this season is going to be a totally different story.”

At 32, Dragic is Miami’s third-oldest player – among those in the Heat locker room, only Udonis Haslem (38) and the entering-his-final-season Dwyane Wade (36) have seen more birthdays. But Dragic is still a starter, still a very intregal part of everything Miami envisions for this season, and is coming off a year where he averaged 17.3 points.

“The band is still together,” Dragic said. “I’m very happy that I’ll be part of this last dance with Dwyane.”

The biggest malady Dragic was dealing with at the end of last season was tendinitis in his right knee, something that bothered him for several weeks. He still led Miami in scoring during its five-game playoff appearance against Philadelphia, averaging 18.6 points.

He wasn’t the only Heat starter ailing when last season ended. Josh Richardson was playing through a bad shoulder, Hassan Whiteside had knee problems, James Johnson had a sports hernia and Tyler Johnson‘s thumb needed surgery. The Heat – who are one of the many teams that have been talking to Minnesota about a trade for Jimmy Butler – are hoping some health luck comes their way this season.

“I think we’re going to be good,” Dragic said.

If nothing else, he’s not coming into this season as harried as he was last fall. Dragic has been back in Miami for about a month, after spending most of his offseason in Slovenia. A year ago, the European championships meant Dragic was still playing right up until the start of Heat camp.

It wasn’t a popular decision in Slovenia for Dragic to stop playing for the national team, which didn’t qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup of Basketball in China and now faces an uphill climb if it’s going to reach the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“But it was the right decision for me,” Dragic said.

The Heat sat out this past June’s NBA Draft in part because of the deal they made in 2015 to bring Dragic to Miami. The package sent to Phoenix included two first-round selections, the first of which was used this year at the No. 16 overall spot. The other will be used in 2021.

The price was steep, and the Heat aren’t complaining.

“I’d much rather have Goran Dragic than those two picks,” Heat President Pat Riley said.

Dragic is hoping to give Riley even more bang for his buck this season.

The All-Star nod – even though it came as an injury replacement – was particularly meaningful for Dragic, and he felt that last season was one of his better seasons anyway.

His goal for this season is simple: Be even better.

“I want to be at a high level for as long as possible,” Dragic said. “If you come into a season without goals, you’re just going through practice and it doesn’t mean anything to you. But if you set goals, you’re pushing yourself. And for me personally, my goal is to have a better season than I did last year. I don’t want to drop a little bit at the end this season. I want to be energized, fresher, more consistent the whole way this time.”

Dwight Howard challenges Shaq on Instagram, Shaq roasts him

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Shaquille O’Neal is still not Dwight Howard‘s biggest fan. And Shaq still loves the tired “ringzzzz” argument.

It all started because Shaq was watching a couple of guys roast Howard on MTV’s Wild N’ Out. Shaq liked it so much he decided to post it to Instagram.

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Dam lol

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Howard took the bait and responded in the comments. He should have known better.

Let’s be clear: Dwight is a future Hall of Famer. No question. The Orlando version of Howard was an MVP-level player who was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, eight time All-NBA and All-Star, who was a beast on the boards and averaged 17.4 points and 12.7 rebounds a game for his career.

And yet Shaq’s right, Howard’s not on his level. Not close.

As Sunday winds down, Miami heats up talk of Jimmy Butler trade

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There has been much speculation over the past 48 hours about where disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler will end up once owner Glen Taylor finds a suitable trade partner for him. We have already discussed at length where Butler might fit best, and Sunday morning saw an influx of new teams ready to come to the Timberwolves with an offer now that it is known that Butler is on the table.

As Sunday came to a close, it became apparent that yet another team is trying to work their way into the Butler sweepstakes.

According to multiple reports, the Miami Heat have been active and are trying to get a deal done for Butler. Once thought of as a middle-of-the-pack suitor, the Heat have apparently been one of the more engaged teams as a deal for the Timberwolves guard is sought before the team opens training camp on Tuesday.

Via Twitter:

Miami joins the Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Cavaliers in teams looking to exchange parts for the next season on Butler’s contract.

No doubt league GMs are trying to weigh the risk vs. reward when it comes to Butler. His contract has a player option for the 2019-20 NBA season, which he will almost certainly opt out of in order to become a free agent. That means that without a guarantee that Butler will re-sign, any team trading for him will need to be careful with what young assets they leverage for the present.

For example, one report out of Portland says that the Blazers are unwilling to give up who they see as their young main core for a one-year rental on Butler. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic are all off the table for the Blazers.

We still don’t know what the asking price for Butler will eventually be, or how the Timberwolves prioritize getting a solid return for him vs. shipping him outside of the Western Conference. For now, we have to wait and see what happens.

At least until Tuesday.

Elton Brand on 76ers contending for a championship: ‘I think we still need a piece’

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Elton Brand last played in the NBA in April of 2016. Now, in September of 2018 he is the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 17-year NBA veteran helms one of the best young teams in the NBA, and takes over a GM position that has previously been under turmoil. Brand has perhaps been blessed with the departure of LeBron James from the Eastern Conference, but so too will other teams try to take over that perennial top spot.

The Boston Celtics have similar assets to Philadelphia, with proven stars mixed with an excellent supporting cast and young players who could develop into stars themselves. The Toronto Raptors are a very good team who just added a Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard. The road ahead will be tough.

But the Sixers still have cap space and they are still looking for a third star to fill a necessary role on their team. Brand said as much during a recent appearance on ESPN, and from all indications it looks like he’s not going to be shy about pulling the trigger either in free agency or in the trade market if he feels he can solidify the Sixers’ position in the east.

Via ESPN:

Everyone talks about free agency, but we may have to pull the trigger on something else before free agency. If we feel we can’t get one of those stars that I can’t name. I still think we need a piece. We’re close. If you ask Joel [Embiid] we have enough and if you ask Ben [Simmons] we have enough, because that’s the chip they have on their shoulder … they don’t want to hear that, but I think we still need a piece.

Brand went on to say that he felt like development was also important in this process, and that it’s possible that Philadelphia has their additional star in Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, or both.

Philadelphia has reportedly been one of the teams that has jumped into initial conversations with the Minnesota Timberwolves about trading for Jimmy Butler. Whether or not Butler is the right move for the Sixers notwithstanding, that Brand appear is ready to wheel and deal certainly is interesting.