Agent: Lance Stephenson ‘was very close’ to joining Mavericks in free agency


The Pacers tried to retain Lance Stephenson in free agency this summer, but ultimately their offer wasn’t one that Stephenson’s camp viewed as being desirable.

Stephenson ended up taking less money to play for the Hornets, because two years guaranteed at $9 million per with a team option for a third year would have him once again hit free agency just as the salary cap begins to increase dramatically in light of the league’s new lucrative broadcast rights deal.

But at least one other team was interested in Stephenson, and willing to commit under those very same terms.

From Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report:

The Dallas Mavericks, though, were interested in Ebanks’ terms. By the weekend of July 11, both sides had verbally committed to a two-year contract worth slightly more than Stephenson’s eventual deal with the Hornets, according to Ebanks. But Dallas was in a holding pattern; the Houston Rockets first had to match Chandler Parsons’ Mavericks offer, or it wouldn’t happen.

“It was a domino effect,” Ebanks said. “Dallas did not think that Houston was going to let Parsons walk. Lance was very close to being a member of the Mavericks. When you’re a little further along into free agency, people are more in the position to pull the trigger when they see what they’re looking for.”

This is just another example of how frenzied the free agent process truly is.

While the more major players took their time deciding on where to sign, others were forced to wait, as teams weren’t ready to relinquish salary cap space until they heard whether or not they had a chance at landing one of the bigger names. That caused a variety of backup plans to be negotiated; Parsons was believed to be coveted by the Cavaliers if LeBron James didn’t choose to return to Cleveland, and Houston chasing Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh prevented them from locking up Parsons early on, at what would have been a more reasonable price.

Once all of those pieces fell into place, it was eventually Stephenson’s turn to be informed of his ultimate destination.

Tyson Chandler: Lakers not good enough to lure Carmelo Anthony


Carmelo Anthony spent part of last season talking to the Bulls.

But his then-Knicks teammate Tyson Chandler – apparently ignoring Melo himself – thought the Lakers were most likely to lure Melo from New York.

Michael Lee of The Washington Post:

This is very obviously true.

I mean, Melo certainly wanted the extra money the Knicks could pay him, but the Lakers’ sad state of affairs made them less desirable. The Lakers will probably be worse than even the Knicks this season.

The Lakers tried hard to get Melo – producing a movie, bringing in Kobe Bryant. It might have made an impression.

But that roster…

An aging Kobe just isn’t likely to lift the Lakers, even with Melo at his side, deep into the playoffs.

Melo obviously recognized that. Mitch Kupchak clearly realized that. Everyone realized that.

And that includes Chandler.

Few players go as far as saying something so negative about another team, though. Maybe Chandler catches a little heat for it, but he shouldn’t. It’s just truth.

On the bright side for the Lakers, that they overcame their weak roster to still contend for Melo shows how much their prestige works in their favor.

67RIEFNS No. 10: Phil Jackson’s influence


The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the doldrums of the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

Phil Jackson might be the most overrated coach in NBA history.

He also might be the best, which wouldn’t eliminate the overrated title from also being accurate.

Jackson has won 11 championships. In 20 seasons, he’s never missed the playoffs. Eighteen of those teams won at least one postseason series

But he’s also been blessed with some of the game’s greatest players. On every single one of his teams, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal or Kobe Bryant was the top player. The sidekicks – including Pippen, Kobe, Dennis Rodman and Pau Gasol – were pretty stellar, too.

And now Jackson has Carmelo Anthony and…???

Check that, Derek Fisher has Melo and someone else (Jose Calderon? Tim Hardaway Jr.? J.R. Smith? Amar’e Stoudemire?) as New York’s top two players.

As much as they deny it, Jackson is positioned to have a huge influence on this team.

Fisher might be more than a puppet, but Jackson carries too much coaching cachet to be ignored. Even indirectly, after years of coaching Fisher and grooming him for this job, Jackson will have his influence felt.

Of course, Jackson can get proactive and take a larger role – and I sure hope he does.

Finally, this could be our chance to see how Jackson – and his vaunted triangle offense – works with lesser players.

Melo is a star, but he’s no Jordan/O’Neal/Kobe. And whichever Knick emerges as the New York’s second-best player can’t hold a candle to Pippen/Kobe/Rodman/Gasol.

If Jackson coaches through Fisher, we’re going to see Michelangelo finger-painting. Maybe he’ll still produce masterpieces, or maybe it’ll all turn into a brownish sludge.

Either way, we’d have living legend back in the league, trying to fix one of the league’s most stubborn rosters.

If Jackson continues to take a back seat, though, I guess I can settle for a version of the triangle that should be better than Kurt Rambis’. Fisher will bring those familiar elements of Jackson teams.

At this point, just those subtle reminders of those great Bulls and Lakers teams is enough. The triangle has been rarely duplicated and even more rarely duplicated well since Jackson’s heyday.

No matter what he does this season, Jackson is bring his influence back to the NBA.

I just hope he pushes Fisher to make that influence as strong as possible.

Derek Fisher praises J.R. Smith’s “great” work ethic in Knicks training camp


The Knicks were always going to have some growing pains this season. They have a new head coach in Derek Fisher, a new grand overlord in Phil Jackson, and a new offense in the triangle, which most of the players have never run before. But one player who seems to be picking up the new system quickly is J.R. Smith, who drew praise from his new coach, per ESPN New York:

Fisher said his decision to start Smith over the other candidates at shooting guard had to do both with injuries to Hardaway Jr. (hip) and with Smith’s impressive play in training camp.

“J.R. has been consistent in practice, his work ethic has been great,” Fisher said. “He’s picking up the system as well as you possibly can expect a guy in the first week or so.”

The words “J.R. Smith” and “great work ethic” don’t often appear together these days. After winning Sixth Man of the Year in 2013, he was more notable last season for repeated shoelace-untying offenses that resulted in his being fined $50,000 than for his play.

Fisher’s comments seem like a vintage Jackson tactic, publicly praising a player for behavior that’s unusual but that he’d like to see more often. For Smith’s part, he says it’s going to be a process for the Knicks to learn the triangle:

“It’s going to take a few months,” Smith said after the Knicks’ 20-point loss to Boston in their preseason debut. “Over the course of the year, understanding where everybody is going to be, [understanding that] ‘some like it here, [some] like it like that.’ It’s going to take awhile.”

The new system is one reason it’s difficult to predict a playoff run for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony should thrive in the triangle, but it’s going to take a while for everybody to learn, and even then, they probably don’t have the talent to compete. Still, if the system motivates Smith to play more like 2012-13 J.R. Smith and less like 2013-14 J.R. Smith, so much the better.

Jim Boeheim reveals Carmelo Anthony’s Syracuse grades: four Cs and a D


Former Syracuse basketball player Carmelo Anthony, who led the Orange to the 2003 national title, was a part-time student while on campus.

His chosen field was basketball, but Melo still saw his way to attending a few classes during his lone season in college.

Do you care how Melo performed in those classes? I care as much as I care how professors performed in their pickup basketball games while in school.

But for those of you wondering, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim wrote in his new book:

Carmelo did his work, went to class and never gave us any trouble. He made four Cs and a D in his first semester, and if anyone wants to roll his eyes at that, plenty of freshmen who aren’t carrying a basketball team on their back do a lot worse. But we couldn’t put him in for the Wooden Award because his grades weren’t good enough. Nevertheless, this much is certain: No college basketball player in America was better than freshman Carmelo Anthony over the course of the 2002-03 season.”

Boeheim, via Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:

“The point I was trying to make, and maybe did not succeed in, was that I was impressed with how he did as a first-semester freshman,” Boeheim said, adding that he had previously spoken to Anthony about mentioning his grades in the book.

“We had talked about this before, but I’ll call him again to explain what I was getting at,” Boeheim said. “I wanted to try to make clear that he did do his work, and that he was engaged as a college student.”

Boeheim probably didn’t make his point well, but I got it. I wouldn’t have blamed Melo for blowing off classes entirely. He was a basketball player moonlighting as a traditional student for a few hours each week. Academics weren’t his focus, which is totally understandable considering his vast earning power came through basketball. The more effort he put in on the court – even at the expense of in the classroom – the more financial security he’d gain. It was a wise tradeoff.

But – and Boeheim should have realized this before broadcasting Melo’s grades to the world – it will probably get taken differently. Many will just see Melo’s grades and feel superior. Congratulations to those folks.

More troubling, Boeheim‘s apparent disregard for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which states:

Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record.

There are a few exceptions, but none of them include trying to boost book sales.

Did Boeheim violate federal law? Probably.

Will he face any consequence? Probably not.

Melo’s right to privacy is diminished. He’s a very famous and successful basketball player.