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NBA PM: Bulls Make Sense for Carmelo Anthony

Joakim Noah is recruiting Carmelo Anthony, but the Knicks still have more to offer financially… Patrick Beverley talks about how great life is with Dwight Howard

Yannis Koutroupis



Bulls Make Sense for Carmelo Anthony

With every day that passes, Carmelo Anthony’s pending venture into free agency becomes more and more complex and intriguing.

From a financial standpoint, it’s pretty cut and dry. Anthony stands to make the most by staying with the Knicks. They retain his bird rights and have the ability to offer him a max, five-year contract.

However, the Knicks are enduring one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. At 22-40, they’re lottery bound without the rights to their first-round pick, which is headed to the Denver Nuggets – as a part of Anthony trade, ironically.

Recently, reports surfaced that Anthony wasn’t too keen on the Knicks’ big plan to hit free agency 2015 hard, when the likes of Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo could be obtainable. At 29 years of age and set to turn 30 in May, Anthony doesn’t have another season in his prime to spare for a non-contender. His top priority is going to be putting himself in a position to win for the duration of his contract. While he’s been clear that he would like for that to be in New York, it’s going to be very difficult for them to make significant upgrades before next season.

Playing with a similar surrounding cast is not going to be appealing at all to Anthony because even his most herculean efforts this season have not been enough to get them back in the playoff mix. Anthony is playing some of the best basketball of his career, yet only has 22 wins to show for it at this point, which has to be quite discouraging.

Meanwhile, Anthony probably can’t help but notice that the Chicago Bulls are surging despite being without their All-Star point guard and former Most Valuable Player winner in Derrick Rose. For the second straight season, they’re proving to be as resilient and tough a team as the league has to offer. They’re currently 34-27, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Joakim Noah is playing like the best center in the league and due to the Luol Deng trade earlier in the season, they could potentially be in a position to make a strong run at Anthony in free agency.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Twitter, the recruitment already started during All-Star Weekend, with Noah and Anthony having serious discussions on what it’s like to play for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau along with what their potential would be together.

Anthony reportedly voiced a mutual admiration for Noah and the Bulls, impressed by their effort and hunger. Additionally, Anthony revealed that his son’s favorite player is Rose, while Noah told him coming to the Bulls will help him win a ring and secure a winning legacy.

If asked, Rose would be willing to help in the recruitment of Anthony, something he was unwilling to do in season’s past, Broussard tweeted.

If the Bulls were able to offer the same contract the Knicks are able to this offseason, the Syracuse product would have a lot easier decision on his hands. However, they’re not in a position to do such. In order to just make Anthony a respectable offer in the neighborhood of $16 million, they’d have to amnesty Carlos Boozer and trim additional salary to get any higher than that. Not only will they be south of what the Knicks can offer in year one, they also can only offer four years to their five. Anthony would be walking away from over $20 million to join the Bulls, but it’s not an unset precedence. Just last offseason, Dwight Howard made the same sacrifice to join the Houston Rockets instead of staying with the Los Angeles Lakers. Like the Knicks, the Lakers’ recruiting pitch relied heavily on their history and popularity, but that wasn’t enough to turn down the opportunity to play with a better supporting cast, albeit in a smaller sized market, in Houston.

The situation with Anthony, the Knicks and the Bulls is eerily similar – and they aren’t going to be the only two teams after him either. The aforementioned Lakers are also expected to at least show interest in Anthony and you can never discount a dark horse team getting involved in the process late.

With the Knicks’ best chances to improve another potentially nightmarish season away and the losses continuing to pile up, the reasons to stay in New York are really only financial related. When it comes to competing, teams like the Bulls, even with Rose’s injury history, offer the better opportunity to win a championship.

All eyes are going to be on Anthony come July 1. There are going to be plenty of other big name free agents, like LeBron James and Luol Deng, but with so much uncertainty surrounding his future, Anthony’s free agency brings the most interest of them all.

Rockets Running Smoothly

Speaking of Dwight Howard and the Rockets, everything has been smooth sailing on their end here in 2014. They’ve been one of the league’s hottest teams in the New Year. They’re only four games back of first place in the West at 42-19.

Howard, who has talked to Anthony about his pending free agency and talked about his experiences, gives credence to the notion that the grass may be greener on the other side.

“We’ve got Dwight,” Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley responded to Basketball Insiders when asked what the key to this season has been. “We’re able to establish some post offense and some paint defense, with Dwight and [Omer Asik] on the same team that makes it much tougher for the opponent to score around the rim.

“We’ve been playing together and we’ve been sacrificing on defense, making a big emphasis on defense so we’ve been getting stops which leads to early offense. That’s the way we play.”

Thanks to the leadership that Howard has provided, Beverley and the Rockets aren’t making more of their strong start than what it is. Howard has been a part of great regular season teams that have come up short in the postseason and has his new teammates focused on what they haven’t accomplished, not what they have.

“It’s a long season still, 20+ games left,” Beverley said. “So we have a lot of work to do, we haven’t really reached our potential. We’re working everyday we’re focused on getting better everyday. That’s the key.”

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.


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Monte Morris: Waiting for his Chance

Nuggets two-way guard Monte Morris talks to Basketball Insiders about his time with Denver.

David Yapkowitz



Monte Morris has only seen action in three NBA games with the Denver Nuggets this year. While most players who receive little playing time spend most of their time at the end of the bench cheering their teammates on, Morris’ situation is a bit different. He’s spent the majority of his rookie year in the G-League.

The NBA’s minor league has grown tremendously since it’s inception in 2001. All but four NBA teams have a G-League affiliate now. There are plans for the New Orleans Pelicans to have their own team by next season, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has spoken about having a team in Mexico.

As part of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, they expanded the partnership between NBA teams and their G-League affiliates even more by adding two-way contracts. Essentially creating a 16th and 17th roster spot, two-way players are allowed to split time between an NBA team and the G-League.

For Morris, two-way contracts are an added opportunity for players to make an NBA roster.

“It’s a good chance for guys to make a roster, especially second-round picks to get a chance,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “With two-way contracts, I feel like they’re going to get a lot better as far as rules and things like that go. This is the first year so they’re testing it out, but it’s a good opportunity. It’s a blessing at the end of the day.”

Morris was drafted by the Nuggets with the 51st overall pick in last summer’s draft. Second round picks are not afforded the guaranteed contract stability that comes with being a first-round pick. He was tabbed for a two-way contract almost immediately after he was drafted.

He had a stellar four years of college at Iowa State, where he was one of the top point guards in the nation as a senior. He also had a strong showing in Las Vegas with the Nuggets’ summer league team.

The Nuggets were a little crowded in the backcourt to begin the season with Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay ahead of Morris in the rotation. When Mudiay was injured and out of the rotation, Mike Malone opted to go with Will Barton as the backup point guard. The Nuggets’ trade deadline acquisition of Devin Harris pushed Morris farther back on the depth chart.

“The toughest thing is just staying mentally tough, staying true to yourself, and developing your own craft,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “Just not losing that self-confidence cause you might not play when you go up. When you come down here [G-League], take advantage of it, have fun, and keep getting better.”

Morris has definitely done his part to stand out in the G-League. The Nuggets are without a sole affiliate, so they’ve used the Houston Rockets G-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, to get Morris additional experience. In 36 games with the Valley Vipers, he’s put up 18.2 points per game on 47.8 percent shooting from the field, 35.6 percent from the three-point line, 4.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.8 steals.

He believes that if called upon, he can be a major contributor for the Nuggets. There are certain aspects he can bring to the team and he thinks it’s possible for him to play with Murray in the backcourt together.

“I think I can bring energy off the bench. I feel like me and Jamal Murray, the way the game is going you can play small ball. I feel like I can bring pace to the game and play defensively,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “I like getting after it when I’m up there with those guys on defense and getting guys open shots. I know we got a lot of scorers, my goal would be getting everybody their shots.”

Morris has been able to show he can produce at the NBA level, even if it’s a small sample size. On Feb. 9, only the second game he’s played in with Denver, he scored ten points on 4-5 shooting from the field, dished out six assists, and nabbed three steals against the Rockets.

Players on two-way contracts are allowed a maximum of 45 days with the NBA team. Those days are not solely game days; they include practices and travel days as well. Once those 45 days are up, NBA teams have the option of converting a two-way contract to a standard NBA deal provided they have roster space.

If a player uses up the 45 days and does not have their contract converted, they go back to the G-League. They can rejoin their NBA team once the G-League season ends but are not able to play in the playoffs.

For now, Morris is just biding his time, waiting for his opportunity. He’s staying ready for when the Nuggets might need him. In the meantime, he’ll continue to take advantage of what the G-League has to offer.

“It’s definitely a good starting point. It’s just all about how guys attack it on and off the court,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s just being a pro and not losing confidence in your ability when you go up and don’t play. You just got to be ready, you’re really one injury away, one call away to step on and have to play.”

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Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close

Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies



Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.

You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?

Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.

With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?

Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.

For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?

I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.

Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.

I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.

Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?

Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.

Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?

I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.

Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?

Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.

Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.

Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?

Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.

Would you welcome that rematch?

I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.

What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?

Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.

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NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense

The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.

Buddy Grizzard



The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].

“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.

“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”

Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.

“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”

Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.

According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.

The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.

“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”

Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”

Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.

“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”

While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.

“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.

The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.

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