Report: Phil Jackson’s mind games have Carmelo Anthony wanting to stay a Knick

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It was maybe Phil Jackson’s greatest gift as a coach. Every great coach — from Red Auerbach through Gregg Popovich — has the ability to get his players to buy into a system, to sacrifice for the good of the team. Jackson’s gift, through his ability to read people and play mind games, was to get the players to think it was their own idea. Everyone pours more into something they think is their own idea, rather than one handed down from on high.

However, it’s one thing to play mind games as a coach, in the room with the players every day where they can see you and respond to you. It’s another to do it from a distance as a team president.

Jackson’s recent efforts to get Carmelo Anthony to want to bolt New York and offer to waive his no-trade clause are making it more likely Anthony stays, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“[Jackson’s underestimating ‘Melo’s willingness to stay,” a source familiar with Anthony’s thinking told The Vertical…

Anthony has privately told teammates, too: He refuses to let Jackson run him out of the Knicks. The Knicks have contacted three teams – the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers – about possible Anthony trades. The Clippers and Cavaliers have interest, but only in cobbling together packages that include role players, league sources told The Vertical….

Jackson has resisted a transparent approach of simply meeting with Anthony and his representative and telling them that the organization prefers to trade him and wants to work to find an agreeable solution. That approach might have convinced Anthony to be more open to accepting a trade, league sources said, but Jackson’s insistence on public over private communication has severely damaged the relationship – likely beyond repair.

Because he has a no-trade clause, Anthony has the power. That’s a no-trade clause that Jackson gave him in the last contract negotiations, although how much of that was Jackson’s desire and how much of that came from owner James Dolan depends on who you ask.

Jackson’s public motivational tactics served him well as a coach, but in a different era and in a different role it’s not been the same in New York. Few expect Jackson to be able to find a deal by the Feb. 23 trade deadline, although this talk could be re-opened around the draft or next July. Jackson needs to have a direct conversation with Anthony and his representatives about what he wants to do.

The problem is, Anthony is 33, his game is heavy on isolation on one end and he’s not great defense on the other, his skills are starting to fade, and he is owed $50.6 million over the two seasons after this one (player option on the 2018-19 season) — plus don’t forget a 15 percent trade kicker if he is moved. No team in contention — most notably the Cavaliers, Clippers, or Celtics — are going to give up real value to take Anthony on. Look at it this way, if I were in the Cavs front office and Jackson calls about an Anthony for Kevin Love swap, I’m going to want at least a first-round pick and maybe Courtney Lee too in the deal. And even then I’m hesitant. Love is the better player right now and especially going forward. The Cavs aren’t about to make that deal straight up.

Jackson has put himself in this corner. Meanwhile on the court, the Knicks have fallen to 22-31, the 12 seed in the East and 2.5 games out of the last playoff slot.

Knicks’ former player, G-League GM Allan Houston could get promotion

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There was a time when former Knicks All-Star player Allan Houston was seen as the rising front office star of the team. Since then, he has risen to assistant GM (before the Phil Jackson era), survived multiple management changes, and bounced around to different roles, most recently as the GM of the G-League Westchester Knicks.

Now he could be seeing a promotion under soon-to-arrive team president Leon Rose, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

As Leon Rose prepares for his imminent takeover, Garden constant Allan Houston has emerged as a candidate for a front office promotion, a league source told the Daily News…

According to a source, Craig Robinson, the current Knicks’ vice president of player development, has already had his responsibilities cut. Robinson, who is Michelle Obama’s brother, was hired by his Princeton buddy Steve Mills to oversee a comprehensive player development initiative…

The future of GM Scott Perry is unknown but it’s worth noting he has a strong relationship with Rose’s confidante, William Wesley.

Nobody knows exactly what the Knicks front office will look like after Rose officially takes the reins (he is still finishing up commitments to his CAA clients before coming over). We know William “World Wide Wes” Wesley will not have a role with the team, staying with CAA, but he will likely still have Rose’s ear. There will be a host of changes.

A deep house cleaning is in order in New York as the Knicks need to change their culture, not just their players. There is a lot of work to be done to develop players and build a foundation that will attract star players — right now the Knicks are not that kind of draw.  Houston apparently is going to get a chance to be part of whatever is next.

Steve Kerr says Stephen Curry will play this season once healthy

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“What’s the point? The Warriors have 12 wins, the worst record in the NBA, and are not sniffing the playoffs this season, so why bring Stephen Curry back this season at all? Why risk the injury? Why not tank?”

Steve Kerr has no use for that attitude.

Curry started practicing with the Warriors again on Wednesday. He will be re-evaluated the first week of March and could return to play soon after — and Kerr wants that. He wants Andrew Wiggins to get used to playing with Curry. Kerr defended the idea at Warriors practice on Wednesday (quotes via Monte Poole at NBC Sports Bay Area).

“It’s important for Steph and Andrew to get to know each other and to play together,” coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday night after practice at Chase Center. “It’s important for Steph to play without all of the guys we’ve lost who are not going to be back next year: Kevin (Durant) and Andre (Iguodala) and Shaun (Livingston). Steph in many ways has depended on those guys as sort of a giant security blanket.

“For a guy who is so skilled and talented, this has still been a team effort over the years. And he’s been blessed with some of the smartest players and most talented players in the league…

“He’s perfectly healthy. If the point is he might get hurt, what’s the point of ever playing anybody? I guess the argument is we’re not making the playoffs. So, are we not trying to entertain our fans?”

Kerr wants to build some familiarity and some momentum heading into next season. They might win a few more games, but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not going to hurt the Warriors in terms of position. Beyond that, this is a down draft — in our podcast last week, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons — so Warriors fans may want to temper expectations about how much help this draft can provide.

Curry wants to play, he’s healthy, he should play. Load management has a role in the league, but this is not it.

Target score ending likely returns to All-Star Game next year

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It seemed obvious this is the direction the NBA would go after the most competitive All-Star Game in recent memory, after it generated an incredibly positive buzz. Now we have some confirmation.

A league executive told Zach Lowe of ESPN that yes, it’s highly likely the target score idea will be back next All-Star Game.

It is a “good assumption” the NBA will use a target score to end next season’s All-Star Game after experimenting with the concept for the first time Sunday, Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, told ESPN on Wednesday in New York…

“The intensity popped,” Spruell said. “The guys really bought in…”

If the NBA uses the target score at next season’s All Star Game, they may tinker with the rules so that the game cannot end on a free throw, Spruell said. They have already discussed taking points away from any team that commits a shooting foul on a potential winning shot instead of awarding free throws, Spruell said. They could also force that team to remove the player who committed the foul and replace him with someone else for a certain number of possessions, Spruell said.

If this were used in a regular-season NBA game, then essentially sending a player to the “penalty box” after a foul on a game-winning attempt would have some impact. In the All-Star Game, not so much. For example, if Kyle Lowry had been sent to the bench after fouling Anthony Davis, then Nick Nurse could have replaced him with Jimmy Butler or Trae Young or some other elite player. It’s not that damaging.

Removing points makes more sense.

While the Elam-style ending was a success in the All-Star Game (and next season they may bump the point total up from 24, even though it took 15 minutes of game time to play the quarter, because that is an outlier for the All-Star Game), it’s not coming to the NBA. Which means it’s not coming to the G-League either, Lowe was told. A discussion about Summer League doesn’t seem to be on the table, either.

Where could the target score ending pop up? If/when the NBA starts playing a mid-season tournament, Lowe was told — and those playoff games could be just 40 minutes. Also, the G-League showcase every December makes some sense, Lowe was told.

The target score ending was a huge hit in the All-Star Game, it only makes sense to bring it back. But for the NBA, it will remain more special occasion gimmick than a daily part of the league.

Clint Capela still weeks away from making his debut with Atlanta

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Atlanta traded for Clint Capela at the deadline thinking about the long haul — he is the pick-and-roll big man they want to pair with Trae Young for seasons to come.

Just not much of this season. Capela missed the four games before the All-Star break with a heel bruise and plantar fasciitis, and the All-Star break was not near enough time to get that right. He’s going to be out into March, it appears.

Atlanta would love to start the process of Capela and Young getting used to each other on the court this season, but they are not in a playoff fight, so there is no reason to rush the recovery.

Capela averaged 13.8 points and 13.9 rebounds a game this season in Houston. He sets a good pick, rolls hard to the rim, has good hands if he gets a lob, plus he’s a quality shot-blocker in the paint on the other end. He should pair well with Young.

Eventually, once he gets healthy.