Carmelo Anthony wants to win now with the Knicks

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LAS VEGAS — Carmelo Anthony wants to win now, and he wants to win in New York.

Seemingly every year, the topic comes up: would both Anthony and the Knicks be better off if they went their separate ways? Such a move would allow New York to finally rebuild and give Anthony the opportunity he’s never had to play for a title contender. But Anthony has said repeatedly that he will not waive his no-trade clause to go elsewhere, and the Knicks haven’t come close to a deal to move him.

And this year, that option is once again out the window. Every move the Knicks have made this summer — trading for Derrick Rose, signing Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee — suggests that the mission is to get back into playoff relevance this year. And Anthony is completely on board.

“For me, the time is now,” Anthony said Monday, following his first practice with the USA men’s national team in Las Vegas, ahead of their trip to compete in the Rio Olympics in August. “For us as a city, as an organization, that should be the mindset.”

It’s no sure thing that the Knicks make the playoffs, but as of now, they have improved their roster.

“We have a very special team on paper,” Anthony said.

“Special” may be an overstatement, unless you believe that Rose will somehow revert to his 2011 self and Noah will rebound from two disappointing, injury-filled seasons in Chicago and both of those players will blend seamlessly with Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis takes a major leap in his second season and new coach Jeff Hornacek can figure out an offensive scheme that fits everyone’s strengths. Some of those things may well happen, but it would take all of them to put this Knicks team in any realm resembling a contender.

But after the last three seasons, simply not being an embarrassment anymore would be an improvement for the Knicks. Outside of the questionable decision to give Noah four guaranteed years, the Knicks have made some smart moves this summer. Signing Lee at four years and $50 million was good value on this market and provides a much-needed upgrade at shooting guard. They re-signed forward Lance Thomas after a breakout season in New York. They added Brandon Jennings on a no-risk one-year, $5 million deal as a backup point guard and brought over European prospects Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez. In Porzingis, they already have one of the most promising young up-and-coming stars in the world.

As ill-advised as the Noah contract is given his age and injury history, in the short term he’s the perfect center to pair with Porzingis for his rebounding, defense, passing and lack of needing touches on offense.

At least on paper, there is potential for major improvement from this Knicks team. If everyone can stay healthy, there’s no reason not to believe they’ll at least be a playoff team.

“I don’t want no credit,” Anthony said of the Knicks’ summer haul. “Phil (Jackson) did everything. Phil and Steve (Mills),”

If Anthony wants to win now, he has to be happy with what his front office did. They didn’t land any of the major free agents — and didn’t even get a meeting with Kevin Durant, despite Anthony’s lobbying of his Olympic teammate — but they did everything they reasonably could have been expected to do in a summer that would have been easy to completely mismanage.

The Knicks may not be contending anytime soon, but they’re on the right path, and that’s good enough for Anthony after everything that’s gone on the last three seasons.

Report: NBA could play next season at multiple regional bubbles

Warriors star Stephen Curry
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Other than waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to subside – a possibility – the NBA faces MAJOR challenges next season.

The bubble is working for finishing this season. But that’s with just 22 teams rather than the full 30. And this is just for a few months, not a full season. Players are already bristling about how long they’re separated from their families.

Yet, what’s the alternative to a bubble? It looks like the only safe way to play professional sports.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated

We’re a ways off from next season, but league sources have told me that the NBA is looking at options that include creating regional bubbles, should the COVID-19 pandemic still prevent normal business in the fall. Teams would report to a bubble for short stints—around a month—which would be followed by 1-2 weeks off.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Orlando is a consideration, and Las Vegas — a finalist for this summer’s restart — would reemerge as a possible site too, sources said.

This is an interesting possibility.

Smaller bubbles would reduce the odds of a coronavirus outbreak that undermines the whole league. But what happens if one bubble has coronavirus issues? Teams’ schedules could get significantly unbalanced quickly.

The shorter bubble lengths would allow players to spend time with family more frequently. But how many players would contract coronavirus while between bubbles? Look how many players got coronavirus during this last layoff.

There are no easy solutions amid this pandemic. This is one of many imperfect ideas that should at least be considered.

Report: NBA not bringing other eight teams to Disney World bubble

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The NBA bringing the “Delete Eight” teams to its Disney World bubble to train as other teams depart?

Like other plans for the Knicks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Hawks, Hornets, Timberwolves and Warriors… it’s not happening.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBPA has no interest in that idea, sources said. It’s a non-starter. The inevitable solution for the eight teams left out of Orlando: The NBA and NBPA agreeing upon voluntary workouts in the team facilities, sources said.

The NBPA won’t agree to mandatory reporting for players on the eight teams outside of the restart but will eventually allow it on a voluntary level, sources said.

Bringing those other eight teams to the Disney World bubble was always a ridiculous idea. Why would the NBA jeopardize its highly profitable setup just so some lousy teams could train and maybe hold glorified scrimmages?

Voluntary team workouts are a reasonable allowance. Though it’s difficult to ensure players coming and going from a team facility won’t spread coronavirus, some players are playing basketball in groups, anyway. At their own facilities, teams can at least enforce protocols to increase safety. And players who’d rather be more careful wouldn’t be forced to participate.

There’s no reason to make anything mandatory. These eight teams’ seasons are over.

Suns keep winning, T.J. Warren keeps scoring, Nuggets outlast Jazz in 2OT

Suns star Devin Booker vs. Heat
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The Suns are unbeatable. T.J Warren is unstoppable. And the NBA is unapologetically fun.

Just another day in the NBA bubble.

Phoenix – already the NBA’s only undefeated team at Disney World – moved to 5-0 in seeding games with a 119-112 win over the Heat.

The Suns are still a half game outside play-in position with a tougher closing stretch than the ninth-place Trail Blazers.* But Phoenix sure is making the race interesting, and Portland isn’t closing the door.

*Both teams still play the 76ers and Mavericks. The Suns also play the Thunder. The Trail Blazers’ last seeding game is against the Nets.

Whether or not they make the playoffs, the Suns should absolutely be encouraged by this stretch. Unlike an early-season surge, when Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio carried big loads, Phoenix’s young players are leading the charge now. Devin Booker scored 35 points tonight. Jevon Carter added 20 points on 6-of-8 3-point shooting off the bench. Deandre Ayton (18 points and 12 rebounds) continues to impress. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson have steadily contributed at forward.

Expectations are rising for next season.

First, the Suns aren’t ready for this season to end soon.

All the best bubble stories were in Phoenix last season.

Pacers forward T.J. Warren – whom the Suns dumped with a draft-pick sweetener last summer – continued his scoring binge with 39 points in a 116-111 win over the Pacers.

Warren could always get buckets. But he has been on another level lately.

The Nuggets (somewhat safely in third place) and Jazz (who might prefer to finish sixth) had few obvious reasons to care about beating each other.

But then the game got going, and both teams’ competitive juices took over.

Donovan Mitchell drove for a layup to force overtime. Nikola Jokic converted inside to force double overtime. Finally, Jamal Murray – who scored 23 points in his first game of the resumption – put Denver up for good with a jumper then 3-pointer in a 134-132 victory.

Bubble games have featured such great energy and competitiveness.

Damian Lillard to Paul George on Instagram: ‘keep switching teams … running from the grind’

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Damian Lillard missed a pair of clutch free throws in the Trail Blazers’ loss to the Clippers today. Patrick Beverley and Paul George let Lillard hear about it. Lillard boasted in his post-game interview about his series-winning shots over Beverley’s Rockets in 2014 and George’s Thunder in 2019 (which literally came over George).

Now, the conflict has spilled onto Instagram.

Bleacher Report:

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Dame, PG and Pat Bev went at it in our comments 👀

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George:

And you getting sent home this year 🤣 respect✊

Beverley:

Cancun on 3😂😂😂

Lillard:

keep switching teams … running from the grind . You boys is chumps

George:

@damianlillard respect that too in my stint with my first team I had more success… Dame time running out g

George did lead the Pacers to Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, losing to the eventual-champion Heat. Indiana also pushed Miami to Game 6 in the 2014 Eastern Conference finals. George doesn’t get enough credit for those achievements.

Though Lillard’s Trail Blazers peaked in the 2019 Western Conference finals, they got swept by the team that lost in the NBA Finals.

But George forced his way out of Indiana despite that being the only place he could earn a super-max contract. He also re-signed with the Thunder, announcing his plan at a big party thrown by Russell Westbrook, then requested a trade to join Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers only a year later.

Lillard just has different sensibilities. He said he’d stick with the Trail Blazers rather than join a super team. Lillard even talked disparagingly about players who get pressured into bypassing super-max contracts in order to be viewed as a winner elsewhere.

So, this clash makes sense.

Maybe it got too personal for George, who has overcome major injury and returned even better. He surely doesn’t want to be called a chump at this point in his career.

But I disagree with George’s championships-only argument. There is plenty of room for major achievements that fall short of a title – like the Pacers’ deep playoff runs George cited. And Lillard’s series-winning shot last year. George was the casualty on that play. There’s no way around it, and it’s likely still a sore spot. That was a high-profile moment that supersedes missed free throws in a seeding game.

Lillard and George can go back-and-forth about their accomplishments. Both have done plenty in this league. Their individual routes to success show their contrasting values. Neither are wrong. They’re just different.

That’s perfectly fine and – when it leads to spats like this – fun.