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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.

Magic Johnson just explained he didn’t understand his Lakers job

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The Lakers spring of dysfunction continues, and every time you don’t think things could get much worse…

This time Magic Johnson went on ESPN’s First Take and went Daenerys on the dragon on the Lakers, saying what he thought made him look good, or at least what made him seem the victim. If you think it was an accident Magic did that on the day the Lakers were hosting a press conference to introduce Frank Vogel as their new coach, well, I know a Nigerian prince who just needs a few of your dollars.

True or not, Magic genuinely believes everything he said on that show — that GM Rob Pelinka stabbed him in the back by questioning Magic’s work ethic and commitment to the job. That Jesse Buss and Joey Buss are trying to grab more power (maybe they should have more power). That Tim Harris has been encroaching from the business side to the basketball side. That his good friend Jeanie Buss was not keeping all those people in their lanes.

While this is Magic’s word, those are all issues (or, to my eyes, symptoms of the Lakers’ dysfunction).

What Magic doesn’t understand: Dealing with all that was EXACTLY his job.

This is what it means to be the President of Basketball Operations (POBO) of an NBA team. Yes, you get to make draft picks, hire/fire coaches, and have the hammer on trades, but that’s just a part of the gig. You manage the entire basketball side of the business. Manage being the key word here. This is a job more about organization and setting a culture than it is basketball decisions.

If Pelinka is calling you out, get in a room with him and Jeanie Buss and deal with it.

Or, you know, actually show up to the office more. Magic said he told Jeanie Buss he would be “in and out” because he wasn’t giving up is other businesses, and she okayed it. That showed a lack of understanding on both their parts as to what this job actually entails. Magic was not a consultant who got to parachute in for a few days once or twice a month and make decisions. He was the POBO — this is the job for a grinder. It’s long hours of mostly of thankless work. It’s culture setting. It’s scouting mid-major college games to know who to draft in the second round. It’s talking to everyone from other teams to have a real understanding of the value of your players in the market, and the value of other players you may want. It’s understanding the chemistry makeup of your own team enough to know that if things go public with your efforts to land Anthony Davis midseason — and they will go public, one way or another — it could devastate your team. It’s much more than that, too.

If the younger Buss brothers were angling for more power, it’s Magic’s job to keep them in line. If CEO Tim Harris is getting out of his lane, put him back in it. If it takes help from Jeanie Buss to do those things, then you better be able to manage up and get her to handle it. For a POBO, managing the owner is part of the job (and a harder job in some markets than others).

It’s understandable why Magic wanted out of this Lakers’ job, it was not a good fit for him from the start. He enjoyed his celebrity too much, he wasn’t going to put in the kind of hours needed to do the job properly (there are certainly other GMs/POBOs around the league who do this as well but don’t get called out for it this way, welcome to the Lakers). Him stepping aside was the right move.

But what we saw on ESPN Monday was a quality encapsulation of the Lakers dysfunction right now — a lot of people stepping out of their lanes and nobody shaping a culture.

I could write (or say in on a podcast/in a radio interview) for what feels like the 487th time that what the Lakers need to do is hire a go outside Jeanie Buss’ tight circle of friends, outside her comfort zone, outside the “Lakers way,” and go get a very good POBO with experience from somewhere else — this is where being the Lakers is an advantage, go poach someone, this is a coveted job — and then give that person all the power. Stay out of the way. Let this person shape the culture. I could write that, but the Lakers will not be replacing Magic. So what you see is what you get.

And all of this might not matter — the Lakers may back their way into a good summer.

LeBron James (who showed up at Frank Vogel’s press conference) may help them recruit a quality free agent, or maybe the Anthony Davis trade talks turn their way after all. One way or another, expect the Lakers to get someone (whether that someone is good enough is another question for another day). Maybe this time the Lakers will put shooters and a good fitting roster around LeBron and this other star. Despite the dysfunction, this could all work out.

That doesn’t mean the Lakers are doing things the right way as an organization, how they operate will hurt them in the long run. It’s just in the short run it may work out.

And the Lakers will take that as a sign they are doing things right. Despite the fact Monday showed they clearly are not. Even if it came from the fact Magic didn’t really get what he was hired to do.

Sebastian Telfair’s sister charged with threatening witness who testified against him

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NEW YORK (AP) The sister of former NBA player Sebastian Telfair was accused on Monday of threatening a woman who testified against him at his New York City gun-possession trial.

Octavia Telfair was charged in federal court in Brooklyn with transmitting an interstate threat. There was no immediate response to an email seeking comment from her lawyer.

Sebastian Telfair – a once highly touted point guard with a disappointing NBA career and a history of brushes with the law – was convicted last month of carrying loaded guns in his pickup truck. Witnesses included his estranged wife and a girlfriend.

Shortly after the guilty verdict, Octavia Telfair made threatening phone calls to one of the witnesses in California, according to a criminal complaint that didn’t identify the alleged victim. The sister told the woman she either was “gonna die” or going to have to live with a “rearranged face,” the complaint says.

The Brooklyn-born Sebastian Telfair was a first-round draft pick out of high school in 2004. He started with the Portland Trail Blazers and spent time with the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves and other teams before ending his career in China in 2014.

Telfair and a friend were arrested in 2007 after a traffic stop during which police found a loaded handgun in the vehicle. He pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon and was sentenced to three years’ probation.

Telfair faces 3 + to 15 years in prison at his sentencing next month for his current gun case.

James Ennis opting out of 76ers contract

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James Ennis was the 76ers’ lone reliably good backup this postseason.

He’s hoping to parlay that success into a salary above $1,845,301 next season.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

James Ennis will decline his player option and become a free agent, his agent, Scott Nichols from Rize Management, confirmed Monday morning.

Teams can’t get enough versatile forwards like Ennis. He can defend multiple positions and, sometimes, shoot adequately from outside. The 28-year-old should remain a helpful player.

With his Non-Bird Rights, Philadelphia can offer him a starting salary up to 120% of his minimum salary. That projects to be about $2.3 million. Paying Ennis more would require using another exception (like the mid-level) or cap space.

Of course, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are the main priorities in free agency. But the 76ers sacrificed a lot of depth to acquire those two. Philadelphia must build back up its roster.

So, whether or not they re-sign Ennis, the 76ers should keep pursuing more capable reserves.

Rob Pelinka: Magic Johnson saying I betrayed him ‘simply not true’

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Frank Vogel – at was ostensibly his own introductory press conference – sat quietly while Lakers general manager Pelinka fielded six straight questions.

Finally, at Pelinka’s urging, Vogel chimed in.

“What I’d like to add, quite frankly, is the perception of our organization is very far from the reality,” Vogel said, “from my experience coming in here, of just the thoroughness of the work, the collaboration of how things are being done with the decision-making.”

Vogel has worked one week for the Lakers. His claims of stability carry far less weight than the description Magic Johnson – who ran the front office for two years before stunningly resigning last month – gave in an explosive interview earlier in the day.

Johnson said Pelinka betrayed him. Johnson said business-side executive Tim Harris interfered in basketball operations. Johnson said mid-level employees Joey Buss and Jesse Buss thought they should be general manager or president.

And Johnson said Lakers owner Jeanie Buss enabled this toxic environment.

Pelinka stressed how much he enjoyed working with Johnson. Pelinka said he had spoken positively with Johnson several times in the last month. So, Pelinka called Johnson’s characterizations “saddening and disheartening.”

“They’re just simply not true,” Pelinka said. “I stand beside him. I stand with him as a colleague and a partner. I’ve always supported everything he’s done and will continue to.”

Pelinka is fighting an uphill battle on his reputation. Johnson remains so popular because of his greatness as a player and endearing personality.

Johnson effectively admitted today to being an absentee executive. He even contradicted his own tweet:

But most still view Johnson as more credible than Pelinka.

Really, this whole saga was sad for Frank, who was clearly excited about this opportunity after failing with the Magic. He was often a bystander at his own press conference.

Ultimately, it won’t matter Johnson-Pelinka drama upstaged Frank. He still takes over a team with LeBron James. a good amount of young talent, the No. 4 pick and max cap space. Vogel can succeed in this job.

If he does, everyone will come around. Pelinka was right about one thing: Winning will solve most of the Lakers’ issues.

But it’ll be harder for them to win because of their issues.

Frank can do his part by coaching well and, as he said he was up for, instilling energy and cohesion around him.

He can’t simply say the Lakers have their act together and expect us to believe him. Neither can Pelinka. And Johnson is obviously saying the opposite.

The next big question: How will they pitch free agents and stop these problems from spiraling even further?