Carmelo’s Decision Coming Soon?
According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, citing a close friend of Carmelo Anthony who is with him in Los Angeles, Anthony is staying in the Big Apple.
“I believe in Phil Jackson,” Anthony said to the close friend of his, which was relayed to Isola.
The Knicks have long been viewed as the heavy favorites to retain Anthony. They have a max contract offer on the table of five years and $129 million, and Knicks president Phil Jackson has sold him on his vision, which apparently is centered around trying to compete immediately. It was believed at first that Jackson wanted to keep the status quo of the previous regime, ride things out through 2014-15 in order to have basically a clear salary cap outside of Anthony’s contract to work with in free agency 2015. However, Jackson has been shopping the trade market aggressively, trying to shed the expiring contracts of Amare’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani to get under the salary cap and try to get help in immediately. His top target is Pau Gasol, who has been waiting to see what Anthony does while strongly considering following him wherever he goes. Isola states that Anthony will make his decision known Thursday.
Anthony and his camp refuted the report, with his agent Leon Rose telling ESPN that no decision has been made and that it is still up in the air whether he will choose the Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers. This is somewhat typical, though, as players prefer to put the message out themselves and always refute leaks. Isola is one of longest-tenured beat reporters in the business and wouldn’t put his credibility and reputation on the line without feeling extremely confident about his report.
Assuming Isola’s report is true, the Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets will be forced to move onto their Plan Bs, which our Joel Brigham went over in detail last week. Meanwhile, the Knicks will be able to move full steam ahead with their rebuilding plan, which becomes much more promising with their star player locked up.
With Anthony’s decision close to being made and LeBron James not far behind him, free agency is going to pick up significantly over the next couple of days. James and Anthony have been holding up the market, but business will start to proceed as normal very shortly. The league’s moratorium will be lifted at midnight eastern and agreements and trades will start to become official early Thursday.
Spurs, Popovich Agree to Extension
In an unsurprising development, the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a contract extension with head coach Gregg Popovich. This follows suit with the rest of their offseason so far, as the Spurs have gotten a commitment from Tim Duncan to return next year and re-signed their own free agents Boris Diaw and Patty Mills.
While the rest of the league is looking to make wholesale changes, in typical Spurs fashion they’re staying intact and gearing up for another run. The terms of Popovich’s extension were not released, but Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that he was making it known that he’d like to coach another four-to-five years.
The Spurs have made it clear that they’ll have him for as long as he wants, so the terms of the agreement could possibly for that length, and likely include a raise as a reward for his fifth championship.
Cavaliers’ Blatt Wins Euroleague Coach of the Year Honors
After leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to a surprising Euroleague Basketball Championship in May, newly appointed Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt was voted by his peers as the Euroleague Coach of the Year.
“I will be forever grateful to my staff, players, Maccabi management, and the great fans of Maccabi for helping me to achieve the wonderful accomplishments that we had together,” Blatt said in a statement. “I am so honored by this award. I am particularly proud of the great people I have worked with, and the legacy we have left in the special tradition of Maccabi Tel Aviv.”
Maccabi entered the Euroleague Final Four as a tremendous underdog. Not only did they endure late-season injuries to key starters, Maccabi was the only team in Milan without a player on the All-Euroleague First Team, and was the only qualifier that had lacked home-court advantage in the playoffs. Despite all of this, Maccabi was victorious against all odds, in large part due to Blatt’s ability to get the most out of his role players, reinvent the team’s playing style to take advantage of mismatches and inspire dramatic comebacks throughout the playoff run.
Maccabi managing director Danny Federman believes that Blatt will have similar success in the NBA.
“He certainly deserves this award,” Federman said. “David’s innovative style, insight into opponents and ability to maximize his players’ talents will serve him well in the NBA. This will definitely not be his last Coach of the Year award. I look forward to celebrating this with him in Cleveland this October.”
Federman was referring to the highly anticipated matchup between Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Cavaliers, which will kick off Maccabi’s Euroleague US Tour on Oct. 5. As the Cavs’ preseason opener, this will be Blatt’s first game as an NBA coach – against a very familiar foe. Maccabi will then go on to play against the Brooklyn Nets on Oct. 7 as part of the Euroleague US Tour.
For more on Blatt, including comments from his former players, and his transition to the NBA, check out this profile that Alex Kennedy wrote about him when Cleveland first announced the hire.
Andrew Wiggins Officially Joins adidas: The adidas hoops family added another big name on Wednesday, when Cleveland Cavaliers No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins inked an endorsement deal with the company.
While official terms of the agreement weren’t released, the deal is reportedly a five-year pact that will pay him $12-13 million over the length of the contract. It’s the largest deal that adidas has ever signed with a rookie, according to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
The 19-year-old expressed his excitement in a statement released by adidas this afternoon.
“Joining the adidas family is a blessing and an honor and I am extremely excited for what lies ahead,” Wiggins said. “Knowing that this elite brand is welcoming me into the family with such esteem gives me a great deal of pride. Our collaboration couldn’t be more organic both personally and professionally and I look forward to moving to the next level with the brand.”
Wiggins, who is a Toronto native, racked up an impressive list of accolades during his freshman campaign at Kansas. The highly anticipated NBA prospect was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, first-team All-Conference and second-team All-American. During the 2013-14 season, Wiggins averaged 17.1 points per game, the highest scoring average ever for a Jayhawk freshman. Prior to his career at Kansas, Wiggins earned 2013 Naismith Prep Player of the Year, Gatorade National Player of the Year and McDonald’s All-American honors.
“Partnering with an elite talent of Andrew’s caliber continues our momentum and investment to the future of adidas,” said Chris Grancio, adidas’ head of global basketball sports marketing. “With our recent partnership success with first-time NBA All-Stars Damian Lillard and John Wall, and cultural icons Kanye West and Pharrell Williams joining the brand, we’re excited to welcome Andrew to the adidas family and we look forward to him contributing to our brand’s success for years to come.”
Wiggins is the second member of the 2014 draft class to join the adidas team alongside Danté Exum, who was drafted by the Utah Jazz as the No. 5 overall pick.
Wiggins and Exum join a group that already includes athletes Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets, Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, John Wall of the Washington Wizards, Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets, WNBA MVP Candace Parker of the LA. Sparks and four-time FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona.. Recently, adidas has also inked deals with celebrities like Kanye West and Pharrell Williams too.
Wiggins will be featured in a variety of upcoming adidas initiatives and will play a critical role in the development of basketball footwear and apparel, according to the release.
adidas is the official uniform and apparel provider for the NBA, the WNBA and the NBA Development League (D-League) after inking an 11-year global merchandising partnership with the NBA back on April 11, 2006.
NBA PM: Hornets Rookies May Become Key Contributors
Some key injuries may force Charlotte’s rookies into becoming effective role players earlier than expected, writes James Blancarte.
As the NBA finally gets underway tomorrow evening, the 2017 rookie draft class will get their first taste of regular season action. Teams reliant on young rookie talent might produce an exciting brand of basketball but that rarely translates into a winning formula. Having rookies play a key role for a team hoping to make the playoffs can be a risky endeavor.
Out West, the Los Angeles Lakers are relying on both Lonzo Ball as well as Kyle Kuzma, who may have worked his way into the rotation with his surprising preseason play. However, the Lakers are, at this point, not realistic contenders in the competitive Western Conference. In the East, the Philadelphia 76ers have more realistic playoff hopes. The team is relying on this year’s top overall draft pick, Markelle Fultz, and 2016’s top pick, Ben Simmons, for meaningful production. Although Simmons has been in the league for over a year, he is still classified as a rookie for this season since he didn’t play last season.
The Charlotte Hornets are looking to return to the playoffs after narrowly missing the cut this past season. The team will likely feature not one, but two true rookies as a part of their regular rotation. Like the Lakers, the Hornets feature a highly touted rookie with the talent and poise to contribute right away in Malik Monk. The team also features Dwayne Bacon, a rookie that has flashed scoring potential as well as maturity — key attributes that will allow him to quickly contribute to the team.
Both players will be given the opportunity to contribute as a result of the unfortunate and untimely injury to forward Nicolas Batum. Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow in an October 4 preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. Initial speculation was that the injury would require surgery. However, it was announced on October 10 that surgery would not be necessary, and that he is projected to return in six to eight weeks. Assuming that there are no setbacks in Batum’s recovery, the Hornets will be looking to replace his perimeter scoring, playmaking abilities and perimeter defense. Enter Monk and Bacon.
Monk and Bacon have both shown the ability to score the ball, which is not exactly a common trait in Hornets rookies. Bacon, the 40th pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has made it a point to look for his shot from the outside, averaging 7.8 three-point shots per game while knocking down 33.3 percent of his attempts. As Bacon gains more experience, he presumably will learn how to get cleaner looks at the basket within the flow of the team’s offense. Doing so should help him increase his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, which would turn him into an even more effective contributor for Charlotte.
Bacon spoke to reporters after a recent preseason game against the Boston Celtics. Bacon was placed in the starting lineup and went 4-4 from three-point range in 34 minutes of action.
When asked what are some of the things he wanted to work on, Bacon focused on one end of the court in particular.
“Definitely defense. I’m trying to perfect the defensive side, I want to be one of the best two-way players to ever play the game,” Bacon stated. “I feel like I got the offensive side so just keep getting better on defense, I’ll be fine.”
Lack of consistency and defense are key factors that prevent many rookies from playing and being successful on winning teams right away. Based on Bacon’s size (6-foot-6, 221 pounds with a long wingspan) and physicality, he has the physical tools necessary to play passable defense. Combine that with his ability to score (he led the team in scoring in three of its five preseason games) and the unfortunate injury to Batum, it’s apparent that Bacon will get an opportunity to make the rotation and contribute.
Reliable two-way players on the wing are crucially important, but are not always readily available and are even less common on cheap contracts. The Los Angeles Clippers went through the entire Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era swapping small forwards on a nearly annual basis, struggling to find this kind of contribution from the wing. With little cap flexibility, the Clippers were unable to acquire a forward that could effectively and consistently play both end of the court, which caused issues over the years. As a second round pick, Bacon is set to make $815,615 in his first year. If Bacon is able to contribute at even a league average level, that will be a major boost for the shorthanded Hornets. Bacon is smart to focus on improving as a defender as Steve Clifford is a defensive-minded coach who will leave talented players on the bench if they aren’t making a positive impact on the defensive end of the court.
In fact, Clifford offered some strong simultaneous praise and criticism of Monk when it came to his scoring and defense.
“He can score, he can score, he can score [speaking of Monk],” Clifford stated. “I think his defense will come because he’s willing, he’s a good guy. I think that being a good player is very important to him.”
It’s apparent in Clifford’s comment that he values scoring, but that defense is also extremely important and essential to any player that wants to be a “good player.”
“He knows and understands that the way he has played in the past [in college], he can’t play in this league if he wants to be a good player,” Clifford said about Monk. “The big thing is, I told him, when people say, ‘he’s a talented offensive player’ that is a lot different than somebody saying, ‘he’s a talented NBA player.’”
Point guard Michael Carter-Williams also suffered an injury (bone bruise in his left knee), which received less attention than Batum’s injury. While Carter-Williams is not the same caliber of player as Batum, the Hornets are alarmingly thing at backup point guard. Without Carter-Williams, the team was going to lean on Batum to act as a playmaker more than he has in the past, which would have, at least in part, addressed the lack of an established backup point guard. But with Batum sidelined, Coach Clifford has given Monk time at the point guard position. If Monk proves capable of playing both guard positions and playing alongside Walker, that could go a long way towards mitigating the loss of Batum and Carter-Williams. It’s not reasonable to expect Monk (or Bacon) to produce as consistently as a seasoned veteran, but having them contribute at a league average level would constitute a big win for a Charlotte team with serious playoff aspirations.
Teams Refuse To Back Down To Stacked Warriors
Golden State got better over the summer, but that didn’t stop others from trying to stop them from repeating as champions
Opening week is finally upon us.
Appropriately enough, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will kick off the 2017-18 NBA season tomorrow night, as will the defending champion Golden State Warriors when they host the improved Houston Rockets.
The clear-cut favorites to win the league title are the ones who have done so two out of the past three years, and rightfully so. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has done a masterful job of assembling a juggernaut. They’ve kept their insanely talented core intact and—aside from Ian Clark and Matt Barnes—haven’t lost any of their key bench pieces to free agency.
In fact, Golden State has added to that dangerous second unit. Jordan Bell was bought from the Chicago Bulls and will bring another Draymond Green-esque impact almost immediately. Nick Young and Omri Casspi were brought in to fill the void of backup wings, which is an improvement at the position anyway. With the same roster as last year and better reserves to give the starters a breather, there’s no reason Steve Kerr and company can’t repeat if they stay healthy.
Knowing what the Warriors are capable of and how well they are set up to truly be a dynasty, there are some league executives out there who are hesitant to make significant moves that could potentially flop against such a powerhouse.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported back in middle June that select teams don’t want to risk a big play because of it. What that basically translates into is: We’re throwing in the white towel until that ball club disbands.
But luckily for fans and for parity’s sake, there was a handful of general managers that refused to take that path. Just looking down the list in the Western Conference, there were organizations that swung for the fences this summer.
The aforementioned Rockets are one of them.Daryl Morey pieced together multiple trades to allow him to land Chris Paul to play next to James Harden and form a dynamic backcourt tandem. Houston also signed a pair of veteran two-way players in Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker to provide depth and defense.
What about the Oklahoma City Thunder? Just when we thought Russell Westbrook’s MVP season was enough to maybe build off, the unthinkable happened. Sam Presti unloaded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana after just one season with the team to add All-Star forward Paul George, who is in a contract year.
That blockbuster move was followed up with another two months later, as Presti decided to deal fan favorite Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to the Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The creation of a Westbrook-George-Anthony big three forms an elite trio that is determined to prove championship worthiness.
Top tier Eastern Conference counterparts did their due diligence as well. The Cavaliers and Celtics are essentially rivals and became trade partners in an attempt to re-tool their respective rosters, in addition to gaining important pieces outside of that.
Boston inked Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract to create a bolstered starting unit alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford until madness happened.
Firstly, Bradley got moved in a swap with the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to address the hole at power forward. After that—with reports of Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland swirling around the basketball universe—Celtics general manager Danny Ainge acted immediately and swung a deal for the All-Star point guard in exchange for his All-Star point guard, a vital member of his team in Jae Crowder and the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick.
It’s almost a brand new squad, but Brad Stevens has a versatile group to work with to try and finally dethrone the conference champions of the last three years.
As for the East’s cream of the crop, the Cavaliers moves are well known because wherever LeBron James goes the spotlight follows. Thomas and Crowder were huge gets for first-time general manager Koby Altman, especially after the outside growing doubt in the franchise’s front office. The rookie executive was also instrumental in signing Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, and Dwyane Wade to veteran minimum contracts.
Rose and Green have plenty of motivation because their critics think they’re washed up, meaning Tyronn Lue won’t have to give them a reason to play their hearts out. Wade simply made the decision to come to Cleveland because he can play with his best friend and potentially add to his collection of championship rings.
Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, and Jose Calderon are also now a part of the roster that all-of-a-sudden is now deep at almost every position. It’s a new flavor for a team that may have only one year left to compete for a title with James’ pending free agency next summer.
Those four teams feel great about their chances to get in the way of the Warriors. It doesn’t stop there though. The West in general loaded up.
The Minnesota Timberwolves executed the first big move of the year when they traded for Jimmy Butler. The Denver Nuggets signed Paul Millsap to provide leadership and a veteran voice in a young locker room full of talent. The San Antonio Spurs lost Jonathan Simmons but brought in a very capable Rudy Gay under-the-radar as Kawhi Leonard’s backup.
Nobody expected the league to completely fold and hand Golden State another championship, but it was surprising (and relieving) to see so many teams have the fortitude to pull off the moves that they did. There was definitely risk involved for some of them, however, one thing is for certain.
The Warriors will not have a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. They will have to go through a rigorous set of teams in the West throughout the regular season and the playoffs.
If any team is up to the task, it’s Golden State. But we’ll see how it plays out starting about 24 hours from now.
See you at tip-off.
NBA League Pass Debuts for 2017-18 Season
NBA League Pass has launched for the 2017-18 season. Basketball Insiders has the details.
The NBA and Turner Sports have launched NBA League Pass for the 2017-18 season, with several new features and pricing options available. NBA League Pass, a subscription-based service, will be available to users across 19 different platforms, from television and broadband to tablets, mobile and a plethora of connected devices.
In addition, an important note: As of Monday, NBA League Pass subscribers who have already purchased their access through a TV provider (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, etc.) are now able to link their account to the NBA’s streaming service at no additional charge. The link to do this can be found here.
Basketball Insiders has you covered with a breakdown of all the new details immediately available. We will also be bringing you a detailed breakdown of certain important technological areas later in the week.
New or improved features of NBA League Pass include:
- Improved video quality for streaming League Pass content developed by iStreamPlanet, a high-level video streaming entity working in partnership with NBA Digital. Included among these improvements are faster delivery time for live feeds, reducing notable lag time present in previous versions. More detail on these video quality improvements will be featured in our breakdown later this week.
- A new premium package that includes continuous in-arena coverage, even during commercials. This allows fans to view team huddles, live entertainment and other venue features that make them feel closer to the experience.
- A season-long virtual reality subscription package via NBA Digital and NextVR, available to all premium and traditional NBA League Pass subscribers (also available to international subscribers and single-game purchasers beginning in week two of the NBA season). Access will be available across Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and Windows Mixed Reality.
- Coverage of pre-game warmups and other in-arena events.
- Spanish-language video coverage for select games, as well as Spanish-language audio continuing for select games.
- NBA Mobile view will contain a zoomed-in, tighter shot of game action that’s optimized for mobile devices.
Pricing for NBA League Pass has not changed for traditional access, and will remain at $199.99 for the full season. New monthly-based subscriptions are now also available, both for the full package and for individual teams. Full pricing will be as follows:
- Traditional NBA League Pass (full league): $199.99
- Premium NBA League Pass: $249.99
- NBA Team Pass: $119.99
- Single Game Pass: $6.99
- Virtual Reality package: $49.99
- Premium monthly subscription: $39.99
- Traditional League Pass monthly subscription: $28.99
- NBA Team Pass monthly subscription: $17.99
As previously reported by Basketball Insiders, upgrades are also expected on the TV side of NBA League Pass, particularly through Comcast, which has had the largest share of customer issues for this product in recent years. While only a single nightly HD channel was available via Comcast XFINITY League Pass previously, sources tell Basketball Insiders that all games will be available in HD through Comcast’s Beta channel package by the end of November (or earlier).
This Beta package does have limitations, however, including users’ inability to record, pause or rewind games. The package that was available in previous season will continue to be available until (and after) the Beta package is active, and subscribers will get access to both for no additional charge.
Check back with Basketball Insiders later in the week for a full rundown of the technological improvements being made to NBA League Pass.