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Carmelo Anthony, would you come off the bench? “That’s out of the question”

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In the playoffs, having a superstar player matters (if they step up), but what truly sets teams apart is their weaknesses — in the playoffs, those are exposed teams hammer them. Put a minus defender out there for extended periods and teams will isolate and attack him. Put a non-shooter out there and teams will help off him and make scoring much more difficult for the better offensive players.

Enter Carmelo Anthony. He averaged 11.8 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting overall and 21.4 percent from three. On defense late in the series, the Jazz went right at him on switches whenever they could (often with Donovan Mitchell attacking off the dribble and blowing right by him), to the point that coach Billy Donovan had to sit him for key stretches the last two games of their eventual first-round loss to the Jazz. The Thunder were -9.7 points per 100 possessions in that series when Anthony was on the court.

This summer Anthony has a $28 million player option, one everyone expects he will pick up (there is not near that kind of money available for him on the open market). He will return to the Thunder.

At his media availability after his exit interview on Saturday, Anthony was asked if he would take a lesser role, maybe coming off the bench (via Royce Young of ESPN).

So… there’s that.

Attitudes can change and shift over the summer. Billy Donovan was hired in part for his ability to relate to players, connect with them, and get them to buy into his plans. Donovan is also a smart coach, he saw what the rest of us saw, he understands what is happening on the court. It’s not some just-discovered secret around the league, mid-season a scout I knew used the term “washed” to describe Anthony. However, it’s not that simple. Anthony is one of the leaders in that locker room, someone highly respected by his peers, and a guy players don’t want to see just bumped to the side. Donovan has a lot of work ahead.

And that’s not even getting into the challenges around Paul George and his free agency. It’s going to be an interesting summer in OKC.

There’s a mural in L.A. of Alex Caruso dunking over Harden, Leonard, Doncic

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It’s hard to overstate how popular Alex Caruso is in Los Angeles. Seriously. This isn’t just cult status popular, when he enters the game off the bench Staples Center explodes in cheers like LeBron James just fed Anthony Davis for an alley-oop.

Now Caruso has his own mural in Los Angeles.

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This is legit, it’s on the side of SportieLA, a clothing/apparel store on Melrose Ave. in the trendy heart of Los Angeles. Artist Gustavo Zermeño Jr. has done murals in the past for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and other Los Angeles sports icons such as Vin Scully.

This one plays off a huge Caruso dunk from earlier this month when Dallas’ Maxi Kleber was the victim.

It’s good to be Alex Caruso in Los Angeles right now.

Kawhi Leonard just destroyed Boston’s Daniel Theis on dunk

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Daniel Theis‘ play as a rim protector is one of the reasons Boston has a top-10 defense this season. He has anchored the Celtics’ defense in the paint.

Kawhi Leonard is a two-time Finals MVP, and if he wants to go to the rim nobody is stopping him. Theis found out the hard way.

After the game, Leonard was asked about the dunk and he responded in about the most Kawhi way possible.

This was the first game Leonard and Paul George played together and they combined for 42 points, and they both made key play down the stretch of a 107-104 overtime win.

It took Luka Doncic 25 minutes to put together 35-point triple-double (VIDEO)

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DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 33 of his 35 points in the first half and had yet another triple-double to help the Dallas Mavericks rout the short-handed Golden State Warriors 142-94 on Wednesday night.

Doncic fell a point short of matching Dirk Nowitzki’s team record set Nov. 3, 2009, against Utah. In just 17 minutes, Doncic was 10 for 11 from the floor, making 6 of 7 3-pointers, and hit 7 of 8 free throws.

The second-year star from Slovenia had 22 points, five assists and five rebounds in the first quarter alone. He played only 25 minutes total, but still managed 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Doncic was coming off a 40-point triple-double Monday night against San Antonio, and has an NBA-best seven triple-doubles in 14 games this season.

The Mavericks never trailed and tied a franchise record with 22 3-pointers while sending Golden State to its worst loss since a 1973 playoff game.

The Warriors, who ended a seven-game losing streak by beating Memphis on Tuesday night, are an NBA-worst 3-13. Their five-year run of at the top of the NBA has collapsed under a weight of injuries, with Draymond Green out Wednesday because of right heel soreness.

With Green out, Golden State dressed only eight players, none of whom suited up for the team last season when it made the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive year.

Eric Paschall led the Warriors with 22 points.

Tim Hardaway Jr. added 20 for Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth-straight double-double.

 

Bulls’ Otto Porter Jr out 2 weeks with bone bruise in foot

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls say forward Otto Porter Jr. has a bone bruise in his left foot and will be reassessed in two weeks.

The Bulls say a second MRI on Tuesday revealed the bruise, something “not apparent” on the first MRI.

“He had a second scan, and something showed up that didn’t show up on the first scan,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen told NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s tough, tough for him, feel bad for him. But we’ll treat him and move on.”

Chandler Hutchison had been filling in Porter’s spot in the rotation, but he is out indefinitely now with sore shins.

Porter, averaging 11.2 points in nine games, has been sidelined since he sprained his left foot at Atlanta on Nov. 6.

The Bulls were 4-10 with three straight losses heading into Wednesday’s game against Detroit.