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Carmelo Anthony not a central figure to Steve Mills’ Knicks

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New/old Knicks president Steve Mills opened his introductory by saying the team was committed to building around:

“And,” Mills said before pausing and unwittingly building suspense, “fortunately for us moving forward, we still have all of our first-round draft picks.”

No mention of Carmelo Anthony.

Of course, Mills – who preceded, worked under and now succeeds Phil Jackson – faced numerous questions about Anthony. Mills was tight-lipped on many topics, none more so than the high-priced star.

The Knicks reportedly hope to urge Anthony, who possesses a no-trade clause, to expand his list of acceptable destinations beyond Houston and Cleveland. Anthony reportedly still expected to be traded to the Rockets (though Rockets owner Leslie Alexander selling the team might put a wrench into the works).

“Carmelo could easily be a part of our team next year,” said Mills, who stressed veterans will still be important as mentors in the new direction.

“We’re going to move forward. It may be with Carmelo. It may be without Carmelo.”

Asked about buying out Anthony, Mills gave a one-word answer: “No.”

Mills just didn’t sound too concerned about the 33-year-old who’s due $26,243,760 this season and $27,928,140 if he opts in next year.

“If Carmelo is with us, we will continue to develop our young players,” Mills said. “If he’s not here, we’ll continue to develop our young players.

“[It] will take longer to do. But I think it’s something that the fans of New York are ready for and will accept as long as the guys come together and play hard.”

Long-overdue patience or a way for Mills to retain job security even as the team loses? Probably some of both.

But as usual, the Knicks sound all-in on the plan as it’s introduced. They also introduced new general manager Scott Perry, who’s on a five-year contract.

Though it’s believed Mills will still hold final authority in running basketball operations, it still remains to be seen how he and Perry will balance power. Decipher Mills’ explanation however you’d like:

“I’m going to give Scott the room to make basketball decisions and make recommendations to me,” Mills said. “He’s going to have a chance to manage the coaching staff, manage the scouting staff and make recommendations as to where we should go as a basketball organization. I think we’ll be partners in that in the sense that he’ll come to me with his recommendation, and we’ll debate it back and forth. But, at the end of the day, I’m giving him room to make those decisions.”

Mills made one big move before Perry arrived – signing Hardaway to a four-year, $71 million contract. In his first public appearance since, Mills defended the shocking price tag by saying he believed Hardaway is a starting shooting guard – an exceedingly low bar for someone making $17.75 million annually.

Perry piped in: “We applauded the move from afar when I was in Sacramento at that time.” So a team run by Vivek Ranadive and Vlade Divac supported the signing? Cool, cool, cool.

Mills said he has spoken with Porzingis, who seemed unhappy late in Jackson’s tenure, a few times this offseason. Mills also said he would have selected Ntilikina, whom Jackson drafted No. 8, if he were drafting himself.

The new general manager praising a signing that occurred before he was hired. The new president defending the drafting of the old president, whose mess the new president and new general manager are left to clean up.

There’s all the usual intertangled drama in New York – even without considering Anthony, which Mills’ Knicks might not have to do for much longer.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.

Report: LeBron James not planning to sit for elaborate pitch meetings in free agency

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LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.

But maybe once is enough.

Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.

If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.

This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Nikola Jokic to five-year max after declining team option

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.

But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.

Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.

That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.

Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.

As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.

Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.