Associated Press

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.

Draymond Green reportedly to switch agents to Rich Paul

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This summer, the Golden State Warriors need to deal with the free agency of Klay Thompson (expected by sources around the league to re-sign and stay) and Kevin Durant (those same sources think he leans toward leaving).

The following summer of 2020 it’s Draymond Green who is up. Will he have a max offer waiting from the Warriors?

In anticipation of what’s to come, Green is reportedly switching agents to Rich Paul, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green is close to hiring Rich Paul of Klutch Sports as his basketball representation, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

He was previously repped by Wasserman.

Paul most famously represents LeBron James and Anthony Davis, although he has a number of other clients.

I’ll say about this switch what I said when Davis switched to Klutch at the start of this past season: Rich Paul is not the guy you hire if the plan is just to automatically sign the contract put in front of you.

Green is a former Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time All-NBA player, and this season he is averaging 7.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game. However, there has been debate around the league about whether his next contract should be a max, or more accurately, should it be a max at the full five years? Or at the four years other teams can offer? The defensive versatility Green brings Golden State is unquestioned — the Warriors are not the Warriors without his ability to guard fives effectively — he is a fantastic passer, and he is the emotional bellwether for the team in many ways. However, he’s shooting 25 percent from three this season (and teams dare him to take that shot now), doesn’t really create on offense (the Warriors can easily hide that with their starters right now), and there are thoughts that he hits free agency at age 29 and his game will not age well. Green also has had a very public clash with Kevin Durant.

What the Warriors will do with Green may hinge in part on happens this summer. If Durant decides to re-sign with Golden State could they then look to trade Green? Also, Green is extension eligible this summer, but with the Warriors cap situation, the raise the Warriors could offer Green will be well below what he likely makes on the open market in 2020. There are a lot of moving parts in the Warriors’ future. And Green’s.

It looks like Rich Paul will be part of that future now as well.

Grizzlies’ standout rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. out indefinitely with deep thigh bruise

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Jarren Jackson Jr. looked like a future franchise cornerstone in Memphis this season. He’s averaged 13.8 points a game, shot 35.9 percent from three, grabbed 4.7 points per game, played good defense as a rookie, been improving, and as the Grizzlies enter a rebuild he will be what the team is building around in the paint.

However, he’s going to miss some time now with a thigh bruise, the team announced Friday night. From the official announcement:

Grizzlies forward/center Jaren Jackson Jr. suffered a deep thigh bruise and will be out indefinitely. He is expected to make a full recovery.

Expect the Grizzlies to be cautious and take their time bringing him back, he may no return this season. In part because they should be cautious with an injury to a future cornerstone, but also in part because they are trying to hang on to their draft pick this year, which is top eight protected (otherwise it goes to Boston). Currently the Grizzlies have the sixth worst record in the league and only a four percent chance of losing their pick, but fall farther back in the standings and the odds get even better they keep it.

Watch Paul George drain game-winning floater in 2OT, lift Thunder past Jazz

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul George floated in a basket with less than a second remaining in double-overtime, capping a 45-point night with the winning shot in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 148-147 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday.

George dribbled out the final seconds before splitting the Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio double team then hitting a rainbow floater over Rudy Gobert 0.8 seconds left that gave the Thunder the win.

Kyle Korver got off a desperate 3 for Utah, but it went long as the buzzer sounded.

Russell Westbrook added 43 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists, helping Oklahoma City overcome 38 points from Donovan Mitchell. Westbrook fouled out with 1:09 left in the first overtime, ending his NBA streak of 11 consecutive games with a triple-double.

The game went to overtime after the Thunder’s Jerami Grant completed a tying three-point play, then blocked Mitchells shot at the other end. Grant had 18 points.

In the first overtime, Abdel Nader hit a 3-pointer to give the Thunder a 139-137 lead in the final minute after Westbrook and Terrance Ferguson had fouled out. Utah’s Rudy Gobert tipped in the tying basket with 33.7 seconds left, and George and Mitchell eached missed jumpers in the closing seconds.

Gobert hit two free throws with 1:10 left in the second overtime for a 147-146 lead, but Utah went cold from there. Mitchell’s driving shot off the glass missed the rim, and Joe Ingles missed on a long 3-point try as the shot clock expired with 13.2 seconds left.

Steven Adams played a game-high 47 minutes for Oklahoma City, returning from a pre-All-Star break ankle injury to score 16 points and grab 10 rebounds to go along with five steals.

Derek Favors hit his first 10 shots, finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds for Utah. Gobert had 26 points and 16 rebounds for the Jazz.

The teams were physical throughout. Westbrook got a flagrant foul for crashing into Gobert while defending a layup, and there was a fracas late in the first half after Jae Crowder fouled the Thunder’s Dennis Schroder.

 

Jeremy Lin says “at times it kind of sucks” being only Asian-American in NBA

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When Jeremy Lin landed in Toronto — after being bought out and waived by the Hawks, clearing the way for him to sign with the Raptors for the playoff push — the number of cameras and reporters in the Raptors locker room instantly ballooned. Lin remains one of the most popular players worldwide in the NBA, he’s a social media phenom, and there are cameras there to track his every move and send it around the world, particularly back to Asia.

Lin isn’t in the NBA because he’s famous and sells tickets — he’s a quality guard who can help a team, there’s a reason the contending Raptors picked him up — but he inhabits the role of both player and groundbreaker.

Lin talked about that (and Asians in popular culture) with Cary Chow of the Undefeated in an interesting Q&A at The Undefeated, where he said being the only Asian-American in the NBA is not easy.

At times it kind of sucks. At other times it’s amazing. Amazing because you get to challenge everyone’s viewpoints and perspectives. I’m rooting for so many more Asians to come in. Last year, when I was with Brooklyn and we had Ding [Yanyuhang] on the summer league team, I was like, ‘Dude, please make the team. We’d have so much fun together during the season.’

On the feeling that he has to represent an entire race.

Yeah. At first it was something I ran from and really struggled with. Now I embrace it way more and am more equipped to handle it. I’m not perfect, but I kind of know who I want to be at this point in my career, so I keep trucking along and doing things the right way and stay above all the distractions.

Lin has handled his fame deftly over the years. He has challenges and opportunities not open to other players, and that’s the balancing act. It takes someone smart, but also grounded and balanced to pull it all off. The Raptors got all that, along with the extra cameras around the team.

Mostly, though, the Raptors got a player who is going to help them make a deep playoff run.