Carmelo Anthony tackles LeBron, but story is Heat’s bounce-back win over Knicks (VIDEO)

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NEW YORK — Late in the third quarter of the Heat’s 15-point win over the Knicks on Saturday, the game was not yet out of hand, and with Miami leading by single digits, Carmelo Anthony wasn’t about to let LeBron James get to the basket for an easy two points in transition.

Anthony wrapped up James and then let him go, causing the reigning MVP to go tumbling to the floor. The ruling was a personal foul as it should have been, with no flagrant called and no hard feelings between the two superstars when all was said and done.

It was a small moment in a greater performance from the Heat, who put together a solid effort on both ends of the floor, but especially defensively in bouncing back from a blowout home loss to the Thunder three days earlier, and beating a Knicks team that had won four straight.

The story was the Heat, not the battle between Anthony and James. And LeBron wanted to make sure we were aware of that when speaking to reporters afterward.

“It’s not the first time I’ve been tackled,” he said. “I don’t know. It shouldn’t be a personal foul, because it’s not a basketball play. But at the same time, he sees me with a full head of steam, he’s just trying to wrap me up. I don’t think he intended for me to hit the ground.”

When pressed on the issue and asked whether or not it should have been a flagrant, James didn’t have any interest in assigning additional significance to one interesting but ultimately meaningless play.

“I’m not going to be caught up in that and try to make that the story of the game,” he said. “The way we played tonight was the story of the game. The way we came out with aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, the way we shared the ball offensively — that’s the story of the game, not that one foul.”

James was magnificent in finishing with 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but his activeness on the defensive end in grabbing six steals is what truly made life miserable for the Knicks.

The performance was particularly impressive considering the way the Heat lost to Oklahoma City in their previous outing, and Erik Spoelstra noted how James set the tone for his teammates in the days that followed such a demoralizing loss.

“I think this performance started two days ago,’ Spoelstra said. “After the OKC game, typically we would have had a day off. We all came in to own the film, but before practice he was in for an hour and a half in the weight room and then on the court for about 45 minutes drilling, sweating, letting everybody know that [the loss] wasn’t acceptable. And then a full team practice yesterday where he was much like he was tonight. His actions were speaking louder than his words, and I was really pleased to see that go from the practice court on to the game.”

This is the time of the season where the Heat typically would begin to flip the switch, and start the process of regaining focus for another postseason run. The victory over the Knicks could be a starting point, and while the one small moment between two of the game’s biggest stars is of interest, it wasn’t something either of them lingered on for very long — and both were all smiles when discussing it long after the game was finished.

As front office looks toward free agency, starless Clippers winning now

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CHARLOTTE – The Clippers have no All-Stars here.

Not Danilo Gallinari. Not Montrezl Harrell. Not even Tobias Harris, who spent most of the season with L.A. before getting traded to the 76ers.

Heck, nobody who has played for the Clippers this season – including Gallinari, Harris and Lou Williams – has ever made an All-Star team.

No Clippers are participating in All-Star Saturday Night events, either. Their only representative here is rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the Rising Stars Challenge.

Yet, the Clippers are an impressive 32-27.

“When you just have a bunch of guys that are selfless and just want to play for each other and just want to ultimately win,” Gilgeous-Alexander said, “things like that happen.”

The Clippers are on pace for one of the best-ever records for a team with no past or present All-Stars. Here all the all-time leaders (counting only seasons with an All-Star game):

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The Clippers’ success is particularly surprising because this was supposed to be a transitional year for them.

They moved on historically quickly from the Chris PaulBlake Griffin-DeAndre Joran Lob City era. Everyone from the Clippers’ 2012-17 teams was gone before the season even began. Since the early 1950s, only these Clippers, the 1996 Mavericks and 2003 and 2004 Hawks completely turned over their rosters within two seasons.

The Clippers have made no secret of their interest in Kawhi Leonard. They’re also reportedly pursuing Kevin Durant. Jimmy Butler could be in the mix.

“The front office and coaches and teammates are all competitive guys and want to be good for a long time,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”

Here’s the rub: Many of Gilgeous-Alexander’s teammates might not be around for that ultimate goal.

To open a projected $57 million in cap space this summer,* the Clippers had to stock their roster with expiring contracts.

*Based on the Clippers renouncing all their free agents and not having a first-round pick. L.A. owes the Celtics a lottery-protected first-rounder.

Beverley will be a free agent this summer. So will Harris and likely Avery Bradley, who got dealt to the Grizzlies shortly before the trade deadline and has just $2 million of his $12.96 million salary next season guaranteed. So will Marcin Gortat, who got waived around the trade deadline.

Yet, these players put aside personal agendas to help a franchise that’s transparently looking past them. It’s a tribute to the players. It’s a tribute to Clippers coach Doc Rivers, too. This team has played hard and shown great camaraderie.

It won’t get easier even after moving Harris, L.A.’s top player this season who’s entering free agency. Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple and Wilson Chandler – acquired before the trade deadline – also have expiring contracts.

Don’t assume the Clippers will fall off now. They added solid vets who could fit this culture.

The Clippers’ identity – starless, transient – remains intact. The winning could, too.

It’s not that the Clippers got snubbed. I thought none deserved to be an All-Star.

That’s the beauty of this team.

Pelicans reportedly fire GM Dell Demps

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Dell Demps has been on the hot seat for a few years now, just scraping by while making short-term moves that appeared more about keeping his job and winning games now over planning for long-term success around Anthony Davis.

This season that all seemed to catch up with him — Davis demanded a trade and the Pelicans are well out of the playoff chase in the West.

That has cost Demps his job after nine seasons, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Frustration with Davis leaving the building is more the last straw that cost Demps his job rather than the sole firable offense. Demps has been on thin ice for a while, what happened Thursday was just enough for New Orleans to pull the trigger now rather than wait until after the season. But the sense around the league is this was coming no matter what.

If Demps had traded Davis to the Lakers at the deadline he would have been fired anyway. Also, sources have told me that it wasn’t Demps’ call, that ownership and upper management (the people above Demps) did not want the Laker trade and he couldn’t have pulled the trigger on the deal even if he wanted to. Ownership and upper management didn’t want to feel “bullied” into a deal.

It was thought by many around the league that there would be a housecleaning in New Orleans after the season and that the new GM, whoever he or she is, would be the one making the call on the trade and the direction the team takes next. The question is, will coach Alvin Gentry be out, too?

Expect the Pelicans to move reasonably quickly on finding a replacement, whether it is internal or external. They want someone in place to have a strategy for the team heading into the draft, a strategy that includes what to do about a Davis trade.

Anthony Davis reportedly plans to play in All-Star Game after shoulder injury

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Fortunately, the injury was “nothing too bad,” just a bruised shoulder that Anthony Davis suffered Thursday night against the Thunder. He didn’t play the second half of the game, but he did fly to Charlotte afterward, home of the All-Star Game this year.

Will Davis play in Sunday’s showcase game? Probably, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Expect him to play. Minutes are limited for everyone in the All-Star Game anyway, and one request to coach Mike Malone will see Davis with even fewer minutes (10? Less than that?).

Davis injured his shoulder on the final play of the first half in the Thursday night’s game against the Thunder. Davis contested a Nerlens Noel shot and in fouling the Thunder big banged up his shoulder.

Davis didn’t play the second half, leaving the building with agent Rich Paul to get an MRI.

Kemba Walker says Michael Jordan trash-talked him during draft workout (VIDEO)

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Kemba Walker has been with the Charlotte Hornets for eight years now, and he’s an institution. He might just be the best player the Hornets have ever had, and now he’s headed to the All-Star Game as the hometown hero this weekend.

Walker has had to deal with quite a few coaches, a changing rotation of players around him, and one of the most personally-demanding owners in NBA history in Michael Jordan.

To that end, Walker told Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix that the first time he met Jordan was during his draft workout. True to form, Jordan trash-talked Walker despite his apparent desire to draft him.

Via Twitter:

The legend of MJ knows no bounds.