This Is What He Signed Up For
New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is frustrated. After another gut wrenching loss last night, Anthony vented to the media that he was struggling to stay positive. Anthony said the losing was getting to him and that he needed to get away from the team last night to decompress. Knicks fans are starting to feel the same way.
Losing is never easy. Losing as much as the Knicks have lost over the past few years only compounds the issue. For Anthony to put a voice to the situation shouldn’t be altogether surprising; after all, he expected a lot more out of this season than he’s gotten. Some of that is his fault, most of it is on his team, but the reality of the situation is this is what Anthony signed on for.
Anthony did the free agent dance in the summer of 2014. He met with playoff contenders like the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets. He considered other big-market teams like the Los Angeles Lakers. In the end, Anthony opted for the $125 million deal the Knicks had on the table despite coming off a 37-win season. He took the money rather than the chance to join a would-be contender. He signed knowing there was a big rebuild coming and the Knicks made no secret of that. This was not a bait and switch. The plan for the future was laid out for Anthony and he signed on anyway.
It’s been a downward spiral since.
Anthony missed a huge chunk of the season last year due to a knee injury and while the Knicks did a respectable job in free agency a summer ago, they did not land a big fish free agent. The Knicks have Anthony and rookie Kristaps Porzingis to build around, and that’s frankly not enough. There have been moments for other Knicks players this season, but no one has really risen to the challenge and that’s part of Anthony’s frustration.
During the All-Star break, it was suggested that maybe it was time for Anthony to consider waiving the no-trade clause in his contract and let the Knicks find him a better fitting home. Anthony, for his part, refused the idea saying he’d rather remain with the Knicks and that wining a single championship in New York would be sweeter to him than winning multiple championships somewhere else.
Anthony has long had an emotional connection to living and playing in New York. He prides himself on being a Knick and despite those in his inner circle conceding that winning in New York may not happen, Anthony continues to say he does not want to leave. However, as the season slides away and the playoffs become more of a reach, is Anthony’s frustration with the situation going to overcome his love affair with the city?
Wanting something to work does not mean it will work. That’s something Anthony is going to have to face as a reality. Would missing the playoffs this year be the turning point in the relationship? Will watching his friends compete in the postseason again while his season is over finally push Anthony to the point where he would entertain being somewhere else?
Anthony is frustrated. And it’s fair to say that he is not the only one that is not happy with where the team stands today, but this is what he signed on for.
The Knicks are 24-34 on the season, which is the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference and six and half games out of the eighth seed. New York has 24 games remaining on their schedule with 11 of those being home games and 12 games versus teams currently with a record above .500.
If the playoffs do not materialize, is it fair for Anthony to be upset or is that why the Knicks agreed to pay him so much to stick around?
Losing is never fun, but Anthony had a choice and he chose this situation. This summer, he’ll have another choice and if chooses to stay in New York, he only has himself to blame.
Voiding A Trade
Yesterday, the Detroit Pistons opted to void the three-team trade that brought them Houston’s Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton. Also included in the deal was veteran big man Joel Anthony, who was sent to Philadelphia, and a first-round draft pick that was sent to Houston.
The Pistons did a thorough medical review of Motiejunas’ bothersome back and felt that the issues surrounding it were too significant to approve the trade.
So how does something like this happen?
During trade negations, it is fairly common that if a player has a known medical issue that teams swap medical information to ensure that the teams involved are not sending out damaged goods. The Pistons were completely aware of Motiejunas’ medical condition and had seen the Rockets’ medical reports on Motiejunas. However, part of the trade process is that each team is permitted to conduct their own physical of an arriving player and for the most part these go off without much of a problem. However, in the case of Motiejunas, the Pistons saw some issues and had Motiejunas see a specialist who did not view the injury as positively as the Rockets doctors did.
Each team is allowed to interpret the long-term health of a player under their own terms.
The Pistons wavered pretty significantly on keeping the trade intact; however, they ultimately decided the risk on Motiejunas was not worth the first-round pick they were sending out or the salary they were absorbing.
This trade brings to light an ugly part of the trade process and that’s the unintended consequence of a trade going bad. The 76ers waived forward JaKarr Sampson to create roster room for the incoming Joel Anthony. With the trade having fallen apart, the 76ers lost Sampson to the Denver Nuggets (who signed him to a two-year deal yesterday when he cleared waivers). This means the 76ers not only lost the guy they wanted in Anthony, they also lost Sampson and had to pay him the balance of his $845,059 salary.
Said differently, not only did the 76ers not get their player, they paid $268,000 to not have Sampson.
For the Rockets, who did not trigger other deals at the deadline, they thought they had gotten under the luxury tax line with the Motiejunas/Thornton deal and now find themselves back above the tax line, which has consequences this year and going forward with the NBA’s repeater tax system.
While it’s fun to talk about trades and trade speculation is one of the biggest interest drivers in the sport, the truth of the matter is there is a reason some teams stay out of the trade market at the deadline and why some trades that make a ton of sense never get very far. That’s because not all trades work out as planned.
In the case of this blown deal, the Rockets and 76ers got hosed pretty significantly, which illustrates the risk involved in waiting until the 11th hour to make a deal.
Had this deal gotten done several days earlier, there may have been room to find alternate deals.
There is risk in every transaction and as the Pistons proved this week, nothing is truly done until the doctors sign off on it.
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Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal
Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.
Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.
So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.
You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.
With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.
He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.
But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.
Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.
Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.
These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.
Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.
The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.
Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.
The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.
NBA Daily: Zach LaVine Has Solid Debut With Bulls
Zach LaVine put together a solid performance for the Bulls in his first game back from injury.
The Chicago Bulls are turning a corner this season. Zach LaVine is healthy after completing a year of rehabilitation from an ACL injury. LaVine’s return comes at a critical moment. The team is 13-7 over the last twenty games. Many of the wins in this stretch are over current competitors for a potential spot in the playoffs. This includes wins against the Charlotte Hornets (in overtime), the Philadelphia 76ers and three wins (one in overtime) against the New York Knicks. The stretch of winning ties into the return of forwards Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic. Having these key players back and winning this many games recently has changed the dynamics of what had been shaping up to be a losing season.
LaVine played in his first game of the season on Saturday and hit three of four three-point baskets while scoring 14 points in 19 minutes played. LaVine described how he felt physically and about the team’s recent run.
“I thought I did pretty good. I was tired as hell at first. But, we got the win,” LaVine said. “We’re going to keep this thing going.”
The team went into this season having parted ways with their franchise player, Jimmy Butler, in a trade that was derided by many for being lopsided. The trade netted the Bulls LaVine, point guard Kris Dunn and the sixth pick in the 2017 draft in exchange for Butler and the number 16 pick. The trade also allowed Butler to be reunited with coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. For the Bulls, Dunn has greatly improved from the poor play of his rookie season in Minnesota. In addition, the Bulls selected Lauri Markkanen, whom has already displayed some serious talent and potential. Now with LaVine in the lineup, the Bulls can see the total value of the trade on the court.
So, where do the Bulls now stand? According to FiveThirtyEight, as of January 14, the Bulls are projected as having a three percent chance of making the playoffs with a projected record of 32-50. This is a jump from less than one percent (essentially zero percent) back on December 11, 2017. Still, three percent is not the most reassuring projection.
In addition, the recent shift to winning basketball also puts Chicago’s 2018 draft pick in a more precarious position. On December 6, 2017, the Bulls were 3-20 and were on pace to have one of the worst records in the league, if not the worst. Now every win moves the pick further away from a likely top three or even a potential number one pick and moves it closer to a top-10 selection or even middle of the first-round pick.
At the moment, the team is 16-27, good enough for 12th place in the Eastern Conference behind the Hornets, Knicks, 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. Being 6.5 games back and having seven more losses than the Bucks means the Bulls will need to continue winning at a high rate to make up the difference in the time left in the season.
LaVine didn’t hold back when it came to expressing his optimism regarding the team’s potential.
“I think we can make a push for this thing,” LaVine said. “That’s our job to do. That’s our job to do that,”
LaVine isn’t paying much attention to skeptics who still don’t believe the Bulls have much change to win anything meaningful this season.
“You know, we can’t control outside thoughts or anything,” LaVine said. “We’re ball players, we go out there and try to win every competition. You know, I think we’re good. I think we’re going to be good.”
In LaVine’s absence, Mirotic and Portis (despite their offseason scuffle) have emerged as two of the team’s best players. In addition, center Robin Lopez has done an admirable job keeping up his effort all season long while fulfilling his role as a veteran leader for the team. Lopez described the atmosphere on the team as positive recently in an interview with Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders.
Despite the reason for optimism, it must be noted that the franchise might make another big trade that would diminish the team’s ability to be competitive this season. Despite his recent on-court success, reports are that Mirotic would like to be traded and that the Bulls asking price is a first-round pick.
Until such a move occurs, the Bulls appear poised to maintain their recent rate of success. Every win could cost the Bulls what could be a top overall pick in 2018. Regardless, the Bulls are surely feeling better about the results of the Butler trade, especially after LaVine’s impressive Chicago debut.
NBA Daily: Lopez’s Enjoys “Old Guy” Role on Young Team
Robin Lopez is the old man on a very young Chicago Bulls team, but he says the camaraderie is a big reason why he’s happy there, and why the team is overachieving so much this year.
When the Chicago Bulls started the season 3-20, nobody was surprised that they stunk. Everything was fine. They were supposed to stink. That was the entire reason they traded away Jimmy Butler for younger players in the first place. They wanted got their rebuild underway in earnest. (more…)