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Three Things to Know: Carmelo Anthony isn’t worth the disruption anymore

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Carmelo Anthony is not the root of Rockets’ issues… and not worth the disruption anymore. There’s an easy narrative out of Sunday: Carmelo Anthony was out and the Houston Rockets looked better, picking up a 115-103 win against a quality Pacers team.

That narrative also would be wrong.

The reality is that the Rockets won because, for at least a night, they corrected one of the issues that has plagued them — they shot well, including 20 threes (on 47 attempts). Also, James Harden dropped 40 and looked like an MVP.

Whether the narrative is right or not, it looks more and more like Anthony is done as Rocket after 11 games (despite GM Daryl Morey’s denial).

The Rockets’ problems this season start with a defense that was sixth in the NBA last season and has “improved” in recent games to get to 19th in the league this season — Anthony certainly doesn’t solve that problem, but he’s not the sole cause of it, either. The next issue has been the Rockets’ shooting: Houston was taking a league-leading 41.8 threes per game heading into Sunday, but were hitting just 31.7 percent of them (28th in the league). Chris Paul came into Sunday shooting 38.5 percent overall and 29.4 percent from three, well off his career numbers. Again, Anthony is not the cause of the Rockets’ shooting woes, but he doesn’t help them solve it either.

That’s the theme with ‘Melo, he isn’t the root problem of the Rockets 5-7 start to the season, but he’s not solving any of their problems, either. And he’s not happy at all.

Which brings us to the recent issue of Anthony and the Rockets “negotiating” his role with the team. With everything going on around the Rockets, ‘Melo is a distraction the team doesn’t need from it’s sixth or seventh best player.

To be honest, I’m not comfortable writing about the fall of Anthony because too often lost in that is the simple fact he is a future Hall of Famer, for many years as good a pure scorer as there was in the league, a scoring champ, a six-time All-NBA selection, and a 10-time All-Star.

But right now he is, at best, the fifth best player on the Rockets. I would argue it’s more like sixth or seventh best. Maybe eighth. When a team’s elite players are a disruption it’s tolerated around the NBA because talent like that is in short supply. Anthony used to be that guy. He still expects that level of deference, but that’s not his place, his role anymore.

Would any team want to be in negotiations about the role of the sixth best player on the roster?

It looks like both sides are ready to move on.

Whatever happens, the Rockets need the ‘Melo distraction to go away so they can focus on solving their other, bigger problems.

2) Sure it was a one-point win over the struggling Hawks, the Lakers are over .500 and will take it thank you very much. In contrast to the ‘Melodrama above, Vince Carter and Tyson Chandler showed how veterans can adapt, accept playing a role, and thrive in the NBA longer than anyone expected.

Vince Carter is a legend, a high-flying dunker who was an eight-time All-Star and former All-NBA player. He’s playing in Atlanta now, where he is providing a veteran presence for a young team — oh, and he’s still making plays, too. He was guarding LeBron James at points down the stretch, and throwing down dunks in the final 1:30 of a close game.

“Vince is very bit of half-man, half amazing…” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “Who knew he’d be playing at 41 years old? Who knew he’d still be dunking? Who knew he’d be able to impact games at 41 years old?”

But it was another veteran and the newest Laker, Tyson Chandler, who saved the day for Los Angeles. On the final play of the game, Trae Young made a nice move, threatening to pull up from three and drawing Brandon Ingram out enough that Young could drive past him into the lane, put up the floater and…

(Yes, that may well have been a goaltend. It’s close. That, however, was not the worst call in the final minutes against the Hawks — a minute and a half earlier there was a clear kicked ball by LeBron, unintentional or not, and it didn’t get called. The kick led to a Laker fast break bucket, and when Kent Bazemore rightly complained, he got a technical. I know the league is focusing on “respect the game” technicals, but in the final two minutes of a close game you have to give the players some room to be emotional. It was a terrible decision that impacted the result.)

The Lakers care about none of that last paragraph — they are getting wins. We knew they would take a while to gel, we knew there would be some ugly early season losses, we knew there would be an overreaction to that, and we knew the team eventually would figure it out and find their level. Exactly what that level is remains to be seen, but with Sunday’s win the Lakers are the eighth seed in the West.

3) Portland knocks off Boston; after game Celtics’ Marcus Smart calls team out, says “no more excuses.” Getting out of Boston turned out not to be how the Celtics would figure everything out — after a loss to Portland Sunday the Celtics went 1-4 on a road swing. That was enough for Marcus Smart to call the team out.

Smart is the emotional leader and longest-tenured Celtics player, he’s the right guy to step up and call out a team. It’s better than what Kyrie Irving said.

Nice shade at Al Horford there.

Boston’s defense was impressive to start the season, while the offense stumbled trying to integrate Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward again. Now, the offense is improving (although Hayward has a long way to go) but the defense has not been as consistent.

Losing to the Trail Blazers in Portland has no shame — the Blazers have won 7-of-8 for a reason. It was more the way it happened. Portland wants opponents to shoot from the midrange, focusing on protecting the rim and the arc, and Boston happily played right into that. And struggled to score consistently when they did (76 offensive rating in the first half, for example). Then there was Al-Farouq Aminu hitting a couple of key threes, and Damian Lillard doing this.

It’s early, there’s plenty of time for Boston, but they need to get down to the work of figuring this out sooner rather than later. The Celtics are already five games back of the Raptors and that is not going to be easy ground to make up.

Three Things to Know: Kyrie Irving would like to remind you he is clutch

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Kyrie Irving would like to remind you he is clutch. Kyrie Irving has hit big shots before — he’s hit bigger ones on much bigger stages than he did Wednesday. This was just a reminder that Irving has that thing all the great clutch players have: He’s got the same stroke with the same confidence, the same mentality, in the final minute of a close game he does in the second quarter of a blowout. Irving doesn’t flinch. Nothing gets bigger or smaller, he just makes his play.

Against the Wizards Wednesday Irving made his play in overtime, scoring a dozen points in the frame and draining two clutch threes to get Boston its seventh straight win, 130-125 over a pesky Wizards team.

There’s nothing John Wall could have done better on either of those (and Wall had his best night of the season with 34 points and 13 assists). On the first three he was right up on Irving, into his jersey and taking away space right at the arc, and it didn’t matter. Good offense beats good defense. On the second three, Irving has range but only Stephen Curry gets guarded that far from the hoop.

The final minute of overtime — with neither team calling time out — was rare and a thing of beauty.

It should be noted, Irving doesn’t get to play the hero without big nights from Marcus Morris (27 points, nine rebounds) and Marcus Smart (18 points, nine rebounds, some quality defense).

Boston has won seven in a row, and while they’ve done it against a softer section of the schedule: 1) you’ve got to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat; 2) it’s building confidence for when the schedule gets tougher again.

The Celtics look like a team that is back. It’s just a lot more crowded at the top of the East than we expected.

2) Anthony Davis makes his MVP case willing Pelicans to victory over Thunder. It’s not fair to say that Anthony Davis single-handedly beat the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night. Jrue Holiday did have 20 points and 10 assists — but he also had two crucial turnovers late that almost sank the Pelicans.

New Orleans is not deep, has holes in its roster, but when Anthony Davis plays like this — 44 points on 16-of-32 shooting,18 rebounds, and he got to the free throw line 11 times and hit every shot — they can hang with anyone. Because Davis is that good. He is in the early MVP conversation for a reason.

This was Davis’ second straight game of 40+, he did that to Boston a couple of nights earlier. He is just a joy to watch this season because he is playing at such a high level on both ends.

3) Toronto makes its case, sweeps season series by crushing Golden State at Oracle. Warriors fans went full on peak Shaq/Kobe spoiled Lakers fans Wednesday night — they just left the game early. Better to beat the traffic and go get some drinks/go home and go to bed rather than watch Toronto just pick apart the Warriors any longer.

And make no mistake, the Raptors picked apart the Warriors. Their game plan was well crafted, executed even better, and the Raptors defended beautifully all night.

Toronto came into Golden State in what was touted as a potential Finals preview, but right now only one of these teams is playing like a team hungry and building toward a championship. And it’s not the reigning champions. The Warriors had one of their disinterested nights, a game where they turned the ball over 17 times and shot 23.1 percent from 3-point range.

Do that against the Raptors right now and they will thrash you — which is exactly what happened. Even without Kawhi Leonard (out for a second straight game with a hip injury). The Raptors are defending and executing at a high level right now, so much so they are 7-1 without Leonard in the lineup. Serge Ibaka’s redemption tour continued with 20 points and 12 rebounds as he destroyed anyone the Warriors threw at him. Kyle Lowry had 23 and is all the way out of his slump (that showed against the Clippers the night before).

Danny Green may have been the most underrated pickup of the summer (coming from San Antonio in the Kawhi trade) and added 15.

But mostly, it was the Raptors defense, which held the Warriors to a 93 points per 100 possessions pace, that got them the win.

If these two teams meet in the Finals — and that is a real possibility, with Leonard this should be a different Toronto team in the postseason — the game will not look like this. It will be a fully engaged Golden State squad, one that can also roll out DeMarcus Cousins. But right now, the Raptors are building good habits and building confidence toward that moment.

The Warriors are just waiting to flip the switch.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Jeremy Lamb drained a game winner… that his teammates almost screw up with celebration. Usually we’d just be celebrating Jeremy Lamb’s game-winner — and marveling that someone other than Kemba Walker could hit a clutch shot for Charlotte.

But in this case, it’s the celebrations of Bismack Biyombo and Malik Monk — running out onto the court with 0.3 seconds left and getting a technical that put the result in doubt again — that became the story.

First, that’s an amazing shot by Lamb because he has to adjust, Walker’s pass is not on target.

But if you watch the video, you can see Biyombo almost out at midcourt to grab Lamb before the ball is inbounded. He was so far out on the court that the refs probably didn’t see him and called the technical on Monk. Michael Jordan was none too pleased.

But because the Pistons were out of time outs, the Hornets survive and get the win.

Phoenix council postpones vote on Suns arena renovation

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PHOENIX (AP) — The City Council has postponed a vote on a proposed $230 million renovation of the Talking Stick Resort Arena that would keep the Suns in downtown Phoenix.

The council agreed unanimously Wednesday to postpone a decision until Jan. 23 so residents can attend five public meetings to be held around Phoenix to discuss the project.

Suns owner Robert Sarver reportedly threatened to move the franchise to Seattle or Las Vegas if not given enough public funding.

Suns President and CEO Jason Rowley says the organization looks forward to the public discussions and to answering any questions about the proposed renovation.

The deal would revamp the nearly 30-year-old arena, the oldest in the NBA that is not currently being renovated.

The Suns agreed to a 40-year lease in 1992, but the deal included a provision for the team to opt out at 30 years.

Final minute of Celtics-Wizards featured five-possession, 10-point, no-stoppage stretch (video)

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Crunch time of a close NBA game is awesome.

It’s exponentially better when nobody calls timeout.

The Celtics and Wizards finished with a flourish tonight, Boston coming out ahead in a frenetic final minute. The last minute included two Kyrie Irving 3-pointers (one tightly contested, one extremely deep) and a sharp drive by John Wall (who had just returned to the game from an injury).

After a flow-killing foul in the final few seconds, the Celtics won, 130-25.

More games should be like this.

Jeremy Lamb hits game-winner despite Bismack Biyombo, others Hornets prematurely running on court to celebrate

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The Hornets sure were excited for Jeremy Lamb‘s game-winner against the Pistons tonight.

Too excited.

After Lamb hit a jumper to put Charlotte up two with 0.3 seconds left, several Hornets ran onto the court. Bismack Biyombo was nearly at halfcourt as Detroit tried to inbound! He was so far onto the court, I’m not even sure officials noticed him when dinging Malik Monk – closer to the bench –for the violation.

Ashley Holder:

The Pistons made a technical free throw to cut their deficit to one, but they still had to inbound from under their own basket. Their desperation pass was intercepted, and Charlotte held on for a 108-107 win.

Several Hornets were certainly relieved.

Crazily enough, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this.