Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Carmelo Anthony fits mold of washed-up former star

14 Comments

So much attention has been paid to Carmelo Anthony‘s fit with the Rockets. How does he fit on a team that loathes mid-range shots? How does he fit Houston’s switching defense? How does he fit a team trying to match up with the Warriors? How does he fit with Mike D’Antoni, his old coach on the Knicks? How does he fit with James Harden and Chris Paul?

But maybe we’re asking the wrong questions.

Perhaps, the first question ought to be: Is Anthony still any good?

Anthony performed terribly with the Thunder last season. He shot inefficiently from the field, fell way off in drawing fouls, defended like a sieve, rebounded poorly and did even worse at setting up teammates.

His box plus-minus was -3.8. Just how low is that? Since 1974 (the first season plus-minus can be tracked), someone played at least 2,500 minutes 2,478 times. Anthony’s box plus-minus is tied for 2,476th in that group.

Shouldn’t a player of his perceived caliber avoid a season that disastrous? They usually do – unless they’re washed up.

Previously,* 85 players posted a box plus-minus of -3.0 or worse after achieving All-Star status in a previous season (minimum: 41 games).** Of those 85, 84 never had another positive box plus-minus season.

*In addition to Anthony, Joe Johnson and Jameer Nelson did it last season. They are not counted here, though Johnson and Nelson are out of the league.

**Including Tony Parker, a current player who still has a chance to bounce back.

The lone exception: Rashard Lewis with the 2014 Heat.

Lewis’ box plus-minus was just +0.1 that year. He was on the fringe of Miami’s regular-season rotation, but he was OK then had some nice moments in the playoffs. It was hardly an exemplary year, but it was fine.

Maybe that should be the bar for Anthony.

Instead, he’s the most hyped minimum signing since Shaquille O’Neal with the Celtics in 2010.

Part of that was circumstance. Anthony got his name in headlines during a lengthy process to get from Oklahoma City to Houston. It became known he’d leave the Thunder. Then, he got traded to the Hawks. Then, he got bought out by Atlanta. Then, after a while, he finally signed with the Rockets. Each step brought more attention to Anthony.

But it’s also because of Anthony’s reputation. He’s a 10-time All-Star who was very good in his prime. His box plus-minus was steadily positive, peaking at +3.6 in 2014.

Yet, signs of decline existed even before last season. His box plus-minus tumbled from +2.6 in his penultimate season in New York to -0.7 his final year there. The drop to -3.8 in Oklahoma City might just be a continuation of a trend for the 34-year-old.

The Thunder didn’t present a perfect situation, but it wasn’t as bad as some – including Anthony – make it out to be. Remember, Oklahoma City was one of just a few places Anthony would waive his no-trade clause for. He clearly didn’t think it was such a boondoggle when traded there.

It’s hard to see how the Thunder defied reasonable expectations at the time of the trade. He had to adjust to playing with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, no doubt. But those other stars were already in place. Was Anthony really surprised his touches declined sharply? And will he get many more playing with Harden and Paul?

Harden and Paul are better passers than Oklahoma City’s stars. Anthony has expressed more openness about coming off the bench in Houston. The Rockets were his first choice all along. There are plenty of reasons this could work.

But don’t ignore this fact: If Anthony flourishes in Houston, it’d defy a long history of players like him being over the hill for good.

Report: Knicks not looking to make early-season coaching change with David Fizdale

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It didn’t take a Kremlinologist to read into what Knicks president Steve Mills said at his forced by the owner impromptu press conference 10 games into the NBA season:

Coach David Fizdale was in trouble. Big trouble.

It may not just be immediate, reports Marc Berman at the New York Post.

Mills wanted to see “consistent effort” and he’s gotten it. Indications are the coach’s hot seat is cooler halfway through this 10-game trial. Their record is 2-3 since the James Dolan-inspired conference, but could easily be 4-1 (they blew big leads to Charlotte, losing on a last-second 3-pointer, and, of course, had Philly dead in the water)…

The Knicks had to really sink south for a coaching change to be made by Game 20. Indications are it was far-fetched for a change to be made this early anyway. Was owner James Dolan, who has given Fizdale private reassurances, really going to let president Mills hire a new coach from the outside on a long-term deal with Fizdale still having at least one season fully guaranteed on his pact for 2020-21? Sources indicated the major deterrent to making a change at Thanksgiving was the sketchy alternative of promoting one of the assistants – Jud Buechler, Keith Smart or Kaleb Canales.

Good luck finding anyone who thinks Fizdale is safe long term in New York (and for the record, Smart has been an NBA head coach before, there are worse choices).

However, making a mid-season coaching change should really only happen for a couple of reasons. One is that the situation is so bad, so toxic, that it could poison the team into future seasons. The other is that there is a coach available on the sidelines that the team sees as “the man” going forward and they want to snap him up before someone else does (the Kings hiring George Karl comes to mind, although he turned out not to be “the man” they needed).

Not sure either of those situations applies to the Knicks and Fizdale. A move is more likely in the offseason.

However, predict James Dolan’s moods at your own risk.

Cavaliers’ new jerseys feature a big ol’ feather

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Cavaliers rank near the top of the NBA by taking 19% of their total shots outside the restricted area while still in the paint. But Cleveland has converted just a middling 41% of attempts in that floater/runner range.

Maybe these uniforms will help the Cavs find a more feathery touch.

Though not in so many words, the Cavaliers actually stuck a feather on their jerseys and called it macaroni.

Jarrett Allen denies Kyrie Irving rumors, “He acts like a normal teammate”

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
2 Comments

It hasn’t taken long for the “Kyrie Irving isn’t a good leader in Brooklyn” rumor mill to start up. The Nets 6-8 start combined with a desire in some corners of the NBA (and NBA Twitter) to pile on Irving has started the talk. Whether those rumors are just smoke or there’s some fire there depends on who you ask.

It was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith who brought the topic to the forefront again on First Take.

Just as a refresher, anything Smith says should be taken with a full box of Morton’s Kosher salt. His job is to stir things up. That doesn’t mean he has no connections.

Nets center Jarrett Allen did an AMA on Bleacher Report and shot down the idea Irving is a bad influence in the locker room.

He acts like a normal teammate. People say that he has mood swings, but that’s a complete lie. He wants to see us succeed and do well if anything.

Allen added this when asked to compare playing with Irving vs. D'Angelo Russell.

They’re kind of different. Kyrie can score from anywhere, even without me setting up the pick-and-roll. DLo…we worked well; if he didn’t score, he’d kick it to me to score.

The Nets are a franchise inhabiting a strange space this season. First, this ultimately is Kevin Durant‘s team, but he doesn’t really get the keys until he can play, which almost certainly means next season. That makes Irving an interim Alpha on that team, but that’s an unusual dynamic.

Second, this is a Nets team that has rebounded from as low as it can get in the NBA to being a place Irving and KD wanted to play by establishing a culture, an identity. This is a lunch pail group of players who were selfless and bought into the team’s ideas and concepts. Nobody was a superstar, it was team first. Except, in come two superstars who bring their own ways of doing things — and the Nets can’t mess with that. There are compromises that need to go on for both sides, with Irving/KD bending to the Nets some, but the Nets giving them superstar treatment.

All of that creates friction that is going to rub some people the wrong way. Plus, Irving is a unique personality who is going to do things his way, and that will bother others. Some of those people will talk to the media, but that doesn’t mean everyone — or even a majority — feel the same way. It’s usually people who feel aggrieved who want to vent.

How all this plays out in Brooklyn is going to be something to watch. But the ultimate test is next season, not this one.

Matt Barnes: ‘We Believe’ Warriors celebrated by smoking weed with Woody Allen at Don Nelson’s place

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
5 Comments

The No. 8-seeded Warriors upset the 67-win Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 NBA playoffs. That Golden State team had some characters, including coach Don Nelson and forward Matt Barnes.

Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times:

Woody Allen! Jessica Alba! Kate Hudson! Owen Wilson! Snoop Dogg!

(Just a hunch, that was Woody Harrelson, not Allen. But it’s Barnes’ story.)

This story is incredible!