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The Opening Tip: Friday, March 11

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  • Sam Amick, NBA Confidential: “Carmelo Anthony joined Amar’e Stoudemire in New York, of course, with eight months of maneuverings mercifully ending with the nine-player trade with Denver that made Madison Square Garden his new home on Feb. 22. But a Monday visit from Utah brought with it a retroactive hypothetical, as Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor made Knicks president Donnie Walsh aware for the first time that it could have been Deron Wiliams wearing the Knicks jersey and not Anthony if those days and dealings had gone differently. As O’Connor told Walsh approximately an hour before the game and would later repeat in an interview with NBA Confidential, he targeted the Nets’ and Knicks’ assets and decided to play the waiting game. Somebody would lose in the Anthony sweepstakes, and that team would immediately hear from O’Connor to discuss a marvelous Plan B. New Jersey played that role in the end, jumping at the chance to give the Jazz the same package they’d presented to the Nuggets in order to land Williams after Anthony went to New York and signed a three-year, $65 million extension.
    O’Connor said other teams had inquired about the All-Star point guard in the days leading up to the deal, but not the Knicks or the Nets. New Jersey general manager Billy King said the possibility was first raised after Anthony was traded. … While Walsh is certainly thrilled to land Anthony, he admitted the notion of landing Wililams would have been appealing had he known he was on the market. Asked if things might have turned out differently if he was privy to that information, Walsh said with a shrug when asked by NBA Confidential, ‘it might have.’”
  • Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle: “Rockets center Yao Ming can’t know whether he will play again, but he is certain he’s not ready for his career to be over yet. Facing the possibility that his inability to play without injury would end his career or prompt him to choose to retire, Yao said for the first time since his injury he hopes to come back from the stress fracture that ended his season in November. ‘I’ll try continuing,’ Yao said Thursday. ‘A lot will depend on this foot.’ Asked if he believes he will play again, he said, ‘That’s the direction.’ In the final season of his contract, Yao added he hopes to be back with the Rockets.” Read More…

  • Published On 8:34am, Mar 11, 2011
  • Battling it out for East’s last playoff spot

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    Darren Collison and the Pacers have perhaps the best shot at earning the last playoff spot in the East. (AP)

    The race for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference is as pathetic as the race for the bottom four spots in the Western Conference is exciting.

    The Pacers, current holders of the eighth slot, have lost four straight games and have gone into a major defensive slump. The Bobcats, pursuing the Pacers as if they were lazy house cats and not predators, have lost five straight. Their combined ineptitude has allowed the Bucks to stay in it even though they’ve been declared dead several times and had lost four of five before blowing out the putrid Wizards on Tuesday.

    You know I have a soft spot for the Bucks, and that I’ve been rooting for them to find their 2009-10 groove, sneak into the playoffs and give the top seed some Andrew Bogut-style hell. But the more I watch Bogut struggle with a rib cage muscle strain and a right elbow that clearly still isn’t right, the more I wonder if it might be best for Milwaukee to miss the playoffs, get its core players healthy, take a swing in the lottery and hope Brandon Jennings makes a leap next season.

    Even if the Bucks were actually trying to tank (which won’t happen), the Pacers and Bobcats just won’t let them escape playoff contention. This battle for the eighth spot — combined with the sterling play of the Sixers, who are seventh and only a half-game behind the Knicks for sixth — has made it clear that whoever wins the battle for the top seed between Boston and Chicago will have a small but important edge in the playoffs.

    As things stand now, facing the Pacers instead of the Sixers or Knicks is a big deal, particularly for an older team such as Boston. Philadelphia and New York always seem to play Boston tough, and having an easy five-game series against Miami last year — as opposed to the bloodbath seven-gamers of Boston’s prior two playoff runs — helped set up the aging Celtics for a Finals run.

    So does any team have the edge in this three-team race? I’d rank them like this:

    1) Pacers: The heavy favorite, with a one-game lead in the loss column over Charlotte and a two-game lead over the Bucks — and the most favorable schedule of all three clubs.

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  • Published On 1:04pm, Mar 09, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Monday, March 8

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    • Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: “For all the flexing and preening, the third-person proclamations and South Beach parties, LeBron James finally delivered these Miami Heat something pure and authentic in the privacy of the locker room: Full of emotion, he apologized for his big-shot, big-games failures and promised redemption. ‘I told my team I’m not going to continue to fail them late in games,’ James told reporters in Miami. ‘I put a lot of the blame on myself.’ James has used the words ‘fail’ and ‘blame’ a lot of times, but seldom in context of his own performances. His idea of accountability has always been his cronies and him nudging you in the direction of the guilty parties – his coach, GM, teammates – but never the global icon in the mirror. LeBron didn’t promise to do different. LeBron promised to do better.”
    • Israel Gutierrez, Miami Herald: “When this talent-rich, superstar-heavy version of the Miami Heat was built, the only tears were expected to come as players wrapped their arms around a trophy or drenched themselves in champagne. They weren’t supposed to come from frustrated superstars soaked in failure. The only moving speeches given in the middle of a quiet locker room were supposed to be inspirational pre-game messages from a coach. It was never supposed to be LeBron James apologizing for repeated failures in critical situations. This much disappointment, this kind of emotion was never supposed to be part of the package deal that came with James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. And yet, there was crying Sunday inside the Heat locker room. There was a humbled James. There were crushed hearts and somber superstars. And it’s all because the Heat lost a fourth consecutive game, and for the third time in that stretch did so by missing last-second shots that could’ve changed the entire portrayal of the team. And the situation isn’t going away.”
    • T.J. Simers, Los Angeles Times: “Folks awoke here Sunday morning to shocking news. The front-page headline in the San Antonio Express-News read, ‘Alamo Falls at Dawn!” Forget the fact news travels slowly here in backwater country, as the day would only get worse for the locals. Their favorite sons, the San Antonio Spurs, would get wiped out by the Lakers playing at their season best. In a town noted for having no quit, Andrew Bynum added yet more embarrassing commentary on San Antonio’s collapse. He said the Spurs’ ‘starters definitely quit.’ They were certainly no match for the Lakers’ size. Bynum and those in attendance (Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Magic Johnson and George Lopez) were probably too much for these quitters. The Spurs’ starters combined to score 29 points, and although Bynum scored only four — a dunk to start the first half and another to start the second half — he took only two shots. It was his energy, his 17 rebounds for a second consecutive game and three blocked shots that seemed to take the zip right out of the Spurs, who had won 22 straight at home.”

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  • Published On 7:48am, Mar 07, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Wednesday, Feb. 16

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    • Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: “Several sources describe a locker room frustrated with [Carmelo] Anthony chasing shots and points over winning games, a resistance to listen to coach George Karl and a distancing of himself throughout the season from the rest of the team.  For these reasons — and a fear of losing him for nothing in free agency — few are buying the bluff of the Nuggets believing they can still convince him to sign a three-year, $65 million contract extension.  ‘With the way he’s distanced himself from the team, the organization, they’re kidding themselves if they think he’s signing a new deal,’ one league official told Yahoo! Sports. ‘He hasn’t checked out on the season because he never checked in.’ The Nuggets are working on a contract extension for Karl, and no one close to him believes he can muster much enthusiasm to keep coaching Anthony. Karl has played along with the company line on wanting to re-sign Anthony, but sources said he’s far more at peace with coaching a rebuilding roster than this mix of Nuggets.”
    • Al Iannazzone, Bergen Record: “Most NBA executives believe Carmelo Anthony will be traded by Feb. 24, with the Knicks as the front-runners. But the Bulls are a possibility as well as the Nets, if Denver decides to reengage them in talks. The two sides haven’t spoken since Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov directed general manager Billy King to end talks with Denver last month. But a source said the Nets could get involved again. They continue to have the most to offer in terms of salary-cap flexibility and draft picks. … Trade talks will heat up over All-Star weekend, when team owners and executives descend on Los Angeles for the annual event, to attend some meetings and exchange trade proposals. Prokhorov and King will represent the Nets. If the Nets and Nuggets reopen dialogue, it’s possible Prokhorov and Anthony, who was voted a starter for the West All-Star team, finally could meet and discuss a contract extension. The Nets won’t trade for Anthony if he doesn’t sign one.”

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  • Published On 9:14am, Feb 16, 2011
  • The time is now for the Bucks

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    Andrew Bogut and the Bucks seemed poised for a deep playoff run when the season started. (David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

    They were easily among the five or six teams I was most excited to watch this season — those pesky Bucks, with their ferocious defensive, their Squad Six fans, a center blossoming into one of the game’s great all-around big men, an exciting young point guard and a few free-agent signings designed to address their deficiencies on offense.

    This team went 22-8 in its final 30 games last season and gave the Hawks a seven-game scare despite the fact that Andrew Bogut was out with a severe arm injury.

    Skip ahead to October 2010, and Bogut was back, at least semi-healthy after a summer of rehab in Europe and Australia, and it seemed the Bucks were a lock to at least reach the postseason, and perhaps push for a top-four seed.

    But the season has been a disaster, a historic clank-fest that finds the Bucks at 20-31, three games out of a playoff spot in the loss column and stuck in a disturbing pattern of following every “is this the turning point?” win with a meek loss. In the process, the Bucks might serve as a reminder that what we don’t know about injuries trumps what we know — sometimes by a huge margin.

    But you know what? Don’t count this team out. The Bucks still have a top-five defense, they play 18 of their final 31 games at home and their remaining schedule is one of the easiest in the conference. John Hollinger’s playoff odds still give the Bucks at 24 percent chance of reaching the postseason, and if they get there, they are at least going to make an elite team work for it.

    If that’s going to happen, though, it needs to start now — as in this weekend, when the Bucks have a back-to-back in Memphis (on Friday) and at home Saturday against the Pacers, the current No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

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  • Published On 4:35pm, Feb 11, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Tuesday, Feb. 1

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    • Charles Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “A 105-98 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and rookie phenom Blake Griffin was cause for concern as the Bucks packed up in their Staples Center locker room and prepared to head to Phoenix. But just as worrisome was a right knee injury suffered by center Andrew Bogut in the fourth quarter. Bogut collided with Clippers guard Randy Foye and limped off the court with 4:20 remaining. Bogut said an X-ray taken immediately was negative but that he would have a magnetic resonance imaging exam on the knee on Tuesday. The Bucks return to action against the Suns on Wednesday and play at Golden State on Thursday. ‘He (Foye) fell straight on it,’ Bogut said. ‘I can walk OK but it’s just struggling to run and jump. I don’t think it’s too bad. Hopefully it’s just a knee bruise. It’s swollen up already. I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term thing. Hopefully it’s not a week or two thing; hopefully it’s just a day or two. … It’s just the latest setback for Bogut. He has worked to overcome last season’s serious injury to his right elbow and right hand. He also missed five games with a back injury in late November and has struggled after picking up a viral infection after being scratched on the arm in a game in mid-December.”
    • Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: “In the arena he could have called his temporary home, Carmelo Anthony added another layer of intrigue to the ongoing MeloDrama by saying he never received a text message from Amare Stoudemire telling him he wants Anthony to play alongside him in New York. ‘I’ve read that, that he supposedly texted me,’ Anthony said after scoring 37 points in a 115-99 loss to the New Jersey Nets. ‘I didn’t get it. I didn’t get that text.’ Anthony’s comment refuted a report by Yahoo! Sports from mid-January that the Knicks All-Star forward had reached out to Anthony via text message after hearing Anthony express doubts that the Knicks even wanted him. But Anthony limited his comments Monday night to whether a text message was sent and/or received, and he did not address whether he had spoken with any members of the Knicks. New York has continued to pursue a trade for Anthony, knowing they are Anthony’s preferred destination, but neither Anthony nor Denver coach George Karl would assign a probability percentage regarding where they expect the four-time All-Star to be playing on Feb. 25 — the day after the NBA trade deadline. Monday night’s loss ended a 3-2 Eastern road swing for the Nuggets, dropping their record to 28-20. They remain in playoff position in the Western Conference, and both Anthony and Karl spoke of the possibility that Anthony may end up finishing the season in Denver before re-assessing his options. ‘I have always felt from the way beginning of the season that the chance of that happening was far greater than all you all thought — of being with our team the whole year,’ Karl said. “I just felt that way from the first day of training camp, from September, I’ve always felt that way. I’m trying to be prepared for anything, but if that happens we can get excited about being a very, very good team.’”
    • Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: “The Lakers officially entered crisis mode Monday, when general manager Mitch Kupchak told NBA.com that the recent poor play by the two-time defending champions may drive him to make a trade to shake up an underachieving roster. ‘Regarding a trade, I may have to,’ Kupchak said at the team’s practice facility a day after the convincing loss to their heated rivals, the Celtics. ‘I’m not saying that I’ve made calls today or I’ll make them tomorrow. But I just don’t think that we’re playing as well as our talent level should allow us. I try to be as objective as possible, but I’m concerned that our performance is not living up to our talent level. Our record is certainly OK. But we’ve lost a bunch of home games. We’ve lost a couple of big games at home. And to me, those are red flags.’ … So, the Lakers may consider trades. ‘I wasn’t,’ Kupchak said. ‘But it looks as if we may have to. … It’s something I may do in the future. I just don’t think that our talent level is playing as well as they can play. We have an incredibly high payroll and we do that because we have players that normally produce at a high level. And I’m not sure I see that now.’”

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  • Published On 8:21am, Feb 01, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Thursday, Jan. 27

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    • Jerry Zgoda, Minneapolis Star Tribune:”Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn called a New York Times report this week on Ricky Rubio ‘much ado about nothing’ and ‘not worthy of a response.’ The report quoted an unnamed source close to Rubio asking why the Spanish guard would ever play in Minnesota and stating the Wolves draft pick wants to play for Boston, New York or Miami when he decides to come to the NBA. Kahn said he remains ‘absolutely’ certain Rubio will join the Wolves next season after a buyout with his Regal Barcelona team becomes affordable.”
    • Nick Friedell, ESPNChicago: “Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had the pin taken out of his right thumb on Tuesday and was back at practice Wednesday wearing a protective white guard over the thumb and hand. ‘He’s in good spirits,’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘He’s working out. [He] still can’t do anything on the court, but he’s doing his conditioning and his strength stuff.’ Thibodeau still isn’t sure when Noah will return, but is hopeful it is sooner than expected. Noah originally hurt the thumb on Nov. 27 in a win over the Sacramento Kings and had surgery to repair a torn ligament in the thumb on Dec. 16. ‘The encouraging thing is everything’s fine,’ said Thibodeau, whose Bulls are 15-6 without Noah. ‘He’s on schedule, maybe a little ahead of schedule. But now he has to strengthen the hand and we go from there.’”
    • Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports: “Over the last 13-plus seasons, no major U.S. professional sports franchise has enjoyed more sustained success than the Spurs. They’ve won 70.1 percent of their games during that time, a mark that ranks ahead of the NFL’s New England Patriots (68.3 percent) and the Spurs’ own rival, the Los Angeles Lakers (65.9). They’ve also won four NBA championships and seven division titles and may have produced their biggest surprise yet this season: At a time when many thought the Spurs would slip from the ranks of the league’s elite, they’ve surged to their greatest start ever with a league-best 38-7 record. ‘Everybody is surprised by that record,’ Manu Ginobili said. ‘But now we are here. We earned it and we want to keep the lead as long as possible and finish No. 1.’ The Spurs have benefitted from good health: They’re the only team in the league to use the same starting lineup for each of their games. But they’ve also won because of their remarkable balance. They rank fifth in the league in scoring, averaging 104.1 points per game, but don’t have a single player averaging even 19 points. Ginobili is the team-high with 18.6 while Tim Duncan, content now to steady the Spurs with his rebounding and defense, is averaging just 13.6 points.”

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  • Published On 7:51am, Jan 27, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Wednesday, Jan. 25

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    • Jimmy Golen, Boston Globe:  “Playing for the first time since injuring his knee in Game 6 of the NBA finals, [Kendrick] Perkins had seven points and six rebounds in 16 minutes as the Boston Celtics beat Cleveland 112-95 on Tuesday night, sending the Cavaliers to their 18th straight loss. ‘It felt good to be on the floor,’ said Perkins, who missed 43 games in all recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. ‘I know I can do better. I can do more. … I was a little winded and a little off-key. I can get better.’ Perkins received a standing ovation when he entered the game with 8:02 left in the first quarter, with his teammates joining in and [Nate] Robinson waving a towel to encourage the fans. Perkins scored on a layup less than a minute later, drawing another big cheer, and the fans again stood when he left the game for good with about 10 minutes remaining. ‘There’s people in the crowd that work hard every day, blue-collar, and Perk identifies with all those people. If you are a guy that works 9-to-5, you’ve got to love Perk because that’s who he is,’ [coach Doc] Rivers said, noting Perkins also got an ovation from his teammates before the game. ‘I kind of welcomed him back to the team. You could see it. They were clapping; they were really excited. And they saw how hard he worked.’”
    • Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk: “I have no doubt that ‘a person with knowledge of the Nuggets’ thinking’ told the respectable Alan Hahn of Newsday this latest tidbit — that the Nuggets may ask for Anthony Randolph in a trade. Hahn did not make that up, someone he knows and trusts enough to print it told him that.  That doesn’t mean it makes any sense.  What you would need to believe is that what the Nuggets — who rejected a deal involving Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields and the expiring contract of Eddy Curry — really want is a guy who Don Nelson found frustrating and who can’t get off the bench for Mike D’Antoni. Honestly, I could see the Nuggets taking the talented Randolph in a deal just as a flyer, but he is not a deal changer.” Read More…

  • Published On 7:21am, Jan 26, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Tuesday, Jan. 25

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    Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: “New Orleans general manager Dell Demps has discussed the framework of a multiyear deal with [David] West’s agents at Octagon, but the Hornets’ hopes of getting him signed prior to the Feb. 24 trade deadline is ‘not likely at all,’ one source close to the talks told Yahoo! Sports. West plans to opt out of the $7.5 million owed him in the final season of a five-year, $45 million contract and expects to command north of $10 million a season on the market, sources said. ‘It’s hard to see an extension happening here,’ one source said.”

    Ken Berger, CBSSports: “Though the Mavs have not yet engaged Denver officials in conversations about Carmelo Anthony, [Mark] Cuban clearly is open to the idea of exploring a rental deal for the three-time All-Star if it makes sense. Unfortunately for him, [Caron] Butler and his expiring contract would’ve been one of the key pieces in a cost-saving Anthony proposal to the Nuggets. But until Anthony has successfully leveraged his way to New York, don’t count the Mavs out of at least exploring a player who could give them so much needed scoring punch.”

    Chris Tomasson, FanHouse: “With expiring contracts of Mike Dunleavy ($10.56 million), T.J. Ford ($8.5 million) and Jeff Foster ($6.66 million), Indiana is finally in position this summer to have oodles of cap room. But [Larry] Bird, the Pacers president, said his preference is to use his assets to swing a deal by the Feb. 24 trade deadline to acquire a key player. ‘I would do that,’ Bird, 54, who is contemplating retiring from the NBA after this season, said in an interview with FanHouse. ‘I’ve got my draft choice (a 2011 first-round pick). The thing I always say is, ‘Do you save it and see what the rules are (under a new collective bargaining agreement) or do you use it?’ But, if get that opportunity, I’m going to use it (by the trade deadline). … Do you wait or do you do it? I’ve made my mind up and I’ve talked to (Pacers owner Herb) Simon about it, and I’ve told him what I want to do, if we can get a good player.’ Bird also said coach Jim O’Brien, despite the Pacers (16-25) having lost 15 of 20 games, will finish out the season and then be evaluated when his contract expires. And, while there have been rumblings Indiana’s top player, forward Danny Granger, could be on the trading block, Bird said his desire is to retain Granger.”

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  • Published On 8:06am, Jan 25, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Friday, Jan. 21

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    • Marc Stein, ESPN: “The Mavericks have received a verbal commitment from the just-released Peja Stojakovic that he intends to sign with Dallas upon clearing waivers, according to sources close to the situation. The Raptors formally waived Stojakovic on Thursday afternoon after completing a buyout of the 33-year-old’s $15 million expiring contract.  Sources told ESPN.com that the Mavericks, meanwhile, are closing in on a separate trade with Toronto that would send little-used center Alexis Ajinca to the Raptors to create a roster spot for Stojakovic without having to let newcomer Sasha Pavlovic go. A trade call with the league office to secure final approval, originally scheduled for Thursday night, has been pushed back to Friday at the earliest, with Ajinca sent back to the team’s hotel in Chicago after initially traveling to the United Center on the team bus for the Mavericks’ game against the Bulls.”
    • Chris Tomasson, FanHouse: “So what did the home fans do Wednesday when [Carmelo] Anthony spoke in a post-game interview that was broadcast throughout the Pepsi Center? They booed. ‘That’s stupid,” star guard Kobe Bryant said in speaking with FanHouse and the Denver Post after the Lakers practiced Thursday at the Pepsi Center in preparation for Friday’s game against Denver. ‘That’s not very smart.’  Bryant believes Nuggets fans are hurting whatever chance there might be that Anthony, who likely will be dealt by the Feb. 24 trade deadline, might want to re-sign with the team. ‘Put yourself in his shoes,’ Bryant said. ‘If you’re teeter-tottering about going somewhere, he’d be more inclined to go to another place where they’re going to cheer you instead of boo you.’ The Nuggets are likely to trade Anthony because he has yet to sign a three-year, $64.47 million contract extension that is on the table and he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer. But Bryant said Nuggets fans need to respect how Anthony, who did not make himself available to the media Thursday, is playing. ‘I don’t think it helps,’ Bryant said of the boos. ‘Obviously, it’s hard to trade him. It’s hard. So maybe he won’t be traded. Who the hell knows? But you got to show support for him. He’s still playing hard.’ … Either you ride with him or you don’t.’”

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  • Published On 8:42am, Jan 21, 2011


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