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Carmelo Anthony’s camp reportedly “aggressively” pushing back on idea he’s not a team player

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Joe Johnson was out of the NBA last season after a stint in Houston where things did not go as he or the Rockets envisioned. However, after an impressive summer in the Big3, Johnson is getting another look from teams — he’s already worked out for the Sixers and the Bucks, Nets, and Pistons reportedly are bringing him in for workouts.

Carmelo Anthony is not getting that break. While he has worked out hard this summer and campaigned for a spot — and had friends such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving campaign for him — teams have not brought him in for formal workouts.

The difference: The perception of willingness to play a role. Teams think that Johnson would be willing to accept a smaller role, happily come off the bench for limited minutes (with the odd DNP being possible), mentor young players, and contribute positively to the team culture. Sources around the league have said teams are not convinced Anthony would accept that role after his time in Oklahoma City and Houston (where he didn’t do so willingly).

Anthony’s camp is pushing back hard against this perception, reports Sean Deveney, writing for Heavy.com.

His representatives are fighting the perception that Anthony can no longer be a functional team player, that his scorer’s mentality and past complaints about his roles make him a net negative for any team with high aspirations. According to league sources, his representatives are fighting that perception, “aggressively.”…

The case is two-fold, the sources said. First, there is the idea that Anthony was used as a scapegoat, which began in New York after the 2016-17 season, then for the Oklahoma City Thunder the following year. Last season, it was Anthony who took the fall for the 4-6 start in Houston. He was let go after 13 games and no other team re-signed him. But Anthony’s camp has been pushing the line that he got more blame than he deserves in each case…

The second leg of the pitch Anthony is making to teams could prove to be appealing when it comes to those concerned that Anthony would be a locker-room distraction: He’s a good distraction.

The pitch is that he’s a guy liked by fellow teammates — very true, ‘Melo is one of the most respected and popular veterans in the league — and that he would draw media attention but be a positive on that front.

Anthony made a media tour this summer saying he would willingly play whatever role a team wanted from him. His camp is now apparently working that angle behind the scenes. However, the narrative that he has been a scapegoat with three teams — if he’s not accepting responsibility for part of what went on — will not necessarily help his cause with other teams. (To be clear, maybe Anthony taking some responsibility is part of the pitch, I’m simply saying it needs to be.)

Nobody question’s ‘Melo the player — he’s a future Hall of Famer. First ballot. Anthony, at age 35, can still get buckets but in recent years has worked (and wanted the ball) more in isolation (something that really started with the Knicks). He’s long been a guy who thrived that way because he’s a difficult matchup and he was one of the best tough shot makers in the league. However, as age has eroded his skills, his efficiency has dropped and teams want him in a different role. Anthony has not slid seamlessly into that role.

At some point, maybe before training camp or maybe after the season starts, an NBA team is going to give Anthony a shot. There are teams that need bench scoring, and Anthony should be able to provide that. Whether we will see that again with a contending team or not, some team will make an offer.

Then we’ll see if Anthony will accept a role.

Luka Doncic Terance Mann land fists, but not necessarily punches, on each other (video)

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How much force is required for a punch?

That was the question NBA referees had to consider in an altercation between Mavericks rising star Luka Doncic and Clippers rookie Terance Mann last night.

Mann’s physical defense forced Doncic into travelling. After the whistle, Mann swiped the ball from Doncic so L.A. could have it. That’s when the altercation really got heated.

Doncic stuck a fist into Mann’s chest. Mann responded by putting his fist on Doncic’s neck.

I wouldn’t describe either action as a punch. Neither players really swung through. But both landed fists on their opponent. They’re fortunate referees let this go with only a double technical foul. Doncic and Mann left themselves open to bigger penalties.

On a grander sense, the NBA should do something about the initial problem – a player grabbing the ball from an opponent after a turnover. This happens frequently and too often leads to dust-ups. Only a referee should get the ball from a team that lost it. An opposing player trying to take it should receive a tech. A player holding the ball too long should receive a delay of game. Enforcing those rules would end a lot of tension.

Coach of the Year predictions: Quin Snyder, Brad Stevens, or maybe Doc Rivers?

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With the start of the NBA season just more than a week away — it’s predictions time. We’ll be covering most of the postseason awards between now and the opening tip of the NBA season.

As a disclaimer, we get it: making NBA preseason awards predictions is like nailing Jell-O to a tree. We’ll be wrong. But it’s fun, so the NBA staff here at NBC is making our picks. Today…

COACH OF THE YEAR

Kurt Helin Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz). This race, like the NBA itself this season, is wide open. And also like the NBA this year, don’t sleep on Utah’s coach picking up some hardware. Outside of that guy in San Antonio, no coach has built a better system and culture than Snyder has in Utah. He has constructed an elite defense around Rudy Gobert owning the paint. On offense, the Jazz can’t just throw the ball to a Stephen Curry or James Harden, so Snyder has implemented a ball and player movement system that keeps defenses off balance. Utah won 50 games last season and this season adds quality veterans in Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic — guys who will fit in with that culture. The Jazz are a high profile, potential contending team this season because of what Snyder has built, and the improved status will have voters wanting to recognize Snyder.

Dan Feldman: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics).  Stevens is a good coach. He has flaws, most notably recently his inability to connect with a star like Kyrie Irving. Irving can be particularly difficult to coach, but some of his issues follow most top talents. Stevens will have to show growth in his ability to guide a championship contender. But with these Celtics, Stevens can coach to his strengths — communicating clear roles to his players in a sound scheme. There’s a clear path for Boston to have a good record in the East, and credit for Stevens would likely follow.

Dane Delgado: Alvin Gentry (New Orleans Pelicans). The New Orleans Pelicans have a tough road ahead, with several new players and an outstanding rookie that still needs to get accustomed to life in the NBA. But there’s a lot of hope in The Big Easy that Zion Williamson and the Pelicans will be a postseason team this year, and you can count me in the camp of folks who believe New Orleans will make that leap in it 2019-20. If that’s the case, head coach Alvin Gentry will be tops on the list out west to take home the award for best coach in the NBA. Gentry has a bit of a head start — he’s a proven coach, and last year his team battled admirably through the Anthony Davis trade fiasco. If Gentry can go from 33 wins to the playoffs, one season removed from losing a franchise cornerstone player, I’m not sure who else would even challenge him for Coach of the Year.

Harrison and Brittany Barnes to pay for funeral of Atataina Jefferson

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Harrison Barnes now plays for the Sacramento Kings, but he and wife Brittany still have ties back in Texas. Barnes played for two-and-a-half seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, and now the couple is stepping in to help the community back in Dallas in a big way.

According to multiple reports, the Barneses have offered to pay for the funeral of Atatiana Jefferson, a Texas woman shot and killed by a Forth Worth Police Department officer last week.

That officer, Aaron Dean, has since resigned and been charged with Jefferson’s murder.

Via Twitter:

Jefferson was reportedly watching her 8-year-old nephew when a neighbor called in a welfare check to the non-emergency police line. The neighbor noticed her door was open, and police responded at 2:25 a.m.

From NBC News:

Body camera footage shows the perspective of the officer outside the home, peering inside a window using a flashlight, spotting someone inside standing near a window and telling her, “Put your hands up — show me your hands,” before shooting seconds later. At no point does he identify himself as an officer.

This is extremely generous on the part of the Barnes family and another example of how players can come to grow close to the places they play in.

Lakers exercise 4th-year contract option on Kyle Kuzma

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Lakers have exercised their contract option on forward Kyle Kuzma for the 2020-21 season.

The Lakers made the move Thursday on Kuzma, who is currently out with a foot injury suffered while playing for USA Basketball during the summer.

Kuzma was the 27th overall pick in the 2017 draft out of Utah. He has become a solid NBA scorer, putting up 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds last season while starting 68 games for the Lakers.

Kuzma will make over $3.56 million next season in the fourth-year option of his rookie contract. He is making $1.97 million this season.

The Lakers expect Kuzma to return to action soon. He has been cleared for noncontact basketball activities.

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