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NBA PM: Trying to Trade Carmelo Anthony

Trading Carmelo Anthony is complicated. Tommy Beer goes in-depth to break down some scenarios.

Tommy Beer

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So, in full disclosure, I have previously avoided dedicating a column to potential Carmelo Anthony trades primarily because Melo had made it crystal clear time and again that he had absolutely no interest in waiving his no-trade clause. Accordingly, it seemed to be a fool’s errand to conjure up hypothetical trades when it appeared there was no way Melo would ever approve any such deal.

Welp, after four straight losing seasons, and the looming likelihood of a fifth, in addition to a terribly fractured relationship with team president Phil Jackson and purported issues in his personal life, it seems we may have finally arrived at a point where Melo would actually prefer to be traded.

Thus, here we are. Now, let’s gets down to business.

From a Knicks perspective, there should be three primary objectives in any trade involving Melo:
* Clear cap space, and/or
* Acquire young, promising players on affordable contracts, and/or
* Obtain draft picks

History tells us it is almost impossible to get equal value in return when trading a star. And while Melo is clearly no longer an elite all-around player, he remains one of the NBA’s most accomplished and skilled scorers. However, Phil likely lost leverage and devalued his asset during his divisive diatribe after the end of the regular season. And, of course, there is the looming no-trade clause, which gives Anthony ultimate power and the final say on any proposed deal.

One other impediment to a deal is the trade kicker in Carmelo’s contract. Before we get to the fun exercise of examining and deliberating potential trades, let’s get some bookkeeping out of the way so we know how much the team that trades for Melo will have to accept in salary.

Back when Melo initially signed his massive, $124 million contract in July of 2014, Phil Jackson not only decided to pay Anthony $25 million more than any other team could offer, Jackson also agreed to include a no-trade clause and a trade kicker (a decision that was derided soon after it was announced).

Melo is owed $26,243,760 million in 2017-18 and has an Early Termination Option for the following season. If he does not exercise that option and opt out, he will be paid $27,928,140 million for the 2018-19 campaign.

Thus, Melo is owed a sum total of $54,171,900 over the next two seasons. Melo’s contract also includes a 15 percent trade kicker. 15 percent of $54.2 million is $8.1 million. If we divide that number by two (the remaining years on Melo’s deal), we get $4.1 million.

$26,243,760 (Melo 2017-18 base salary)
+$4,062,892
= $30,306,652

Thus, when configuring trades involving Melo, we have to use an outgoing salary for Melo of approximately $30.3 million as opposed to just his base salary of $26.2 million.

The bonus money owed to Anthony would be paid by the Knicks but it would go on the acquiring team’s salary cap.

So, because Melo’s outgoing salary would count as $30.3 million with the trade bonus included, the team that acquires Anthony will have to send back $24.2 million (125 percent of Melo’s contract plus $100,000).

Two caveats here: As will be discussed below, if the Knicks wait until after July 1 (the start of the new NBA year) to trade Anthony, then the salaries may not necessarily have to match up evenly. For instance, if a team is $20 million below the cap, they can use that cap space to absorb/offset the difference in outgoing salary. Also, Melo has the option to waive his trade kicker to facilitate a deal, just as Roy Hibbert did when he waived his $2.3 million trade kicker when the Pacers traded him to the Lakers in 2015.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s now talk trades…

****

New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for J.J. Redick (via sign-and-trade), Austin Rivers and 2021 first-round draft pick.

Why it makes sense for the Clippers:
It’d be an easy decision for the Clippers. They would avoid overpaying an aging, slowing Redick and bring in a sublime scorer in Anthony, who just so happens to be BFF’s with Chris Paul, the free agent point guard who the Clips badly wants to keep in L.A. Assuming the Clippers re-sign Blake Griffin as well, that gives them an incredibly intriguing Big 4 of CP3, Melo, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Billionaire owner Steve Ballmer has already avowed he is willing to pay a hefty luxury tax bill for a superior product. This would be the best of both worlds for L.A.; they keep their core together but also infuse new life and shake things up with the exciting addition of 10-time All-Star.

Why it makes sense for the Knicks:
It doesn’t. But before we break down this potential deal, let’s first discuss why a sign-and-trade with Blake Griffin is extremely unlikely. Assuming he opts out of his contract this summer, he can sign a max contract with the Clippers (who own his Bird Rights) for $175.7 million over five years. If he inks a deal with any team other than the Clippers, he can sign for “only” $128.5 million in guaranteed money over four years. When a player agrees to a sign-and-trade, they lose their Bird Rights in the process. Thus, the Knicks would be able to offer a max amount of $128.5 million. It’s extremely difficult to imagine Griffin willfully choosing to sacrifice nearly $45 million in order to leave a team that has won more than 50 games in five straight seasons so he can join a team that has won more than 50 games just once since 1996-97. Moving on…

A deal centered around J.J. Redick would be an awful move for the Knicks. Redick will be 33 years old when he signs his next contract. It’s been rumored Redick will be seeking around $16 to $18 million annually. While he is still an elite shooter, a skill that has increasing value in today’s NBA, Redick is on the downside of his career. Last season, he averaged less than 15.2 points per game and shot below 45 percent from the floor for the first time since 2012-13. In the 2017 postseason, Redick averaged 9.1 points on 38.0 percent shooting. In the two most important games of the Clippers season, Games 6 and 7 vs. Utah, Redick was invisible. He scored a total of seven points on 2-for-9 shooting. As noted above, if/when the Knicks move on from Melo, the team needs to embrace a complete rebuild and focus on the future, i.e. building a young foundation that can grow with and around Porzingis. If the Knicks clog up their cap space going forward by overpaying a defensively deficient guard creeping towards his mid-30’s because he would be a great fit in the Triangle Offense, it would be a major mistake that sets the franchise back years. Furthermore, it would likely force the Knicks subsequently trade Courtney Lee, New York’s current starting shooting guard. While Lee had an up-and-down season in New York, a young 3-and-D wing on an affordable contract is preferable to Redick.

Rivers is a decent player, but obviously not a difference maker. While his 2017-18 salary ($11.9 million) isn’t terrible considering his skill set, he has a player option for 2018-19. Thus, even in the best case scenario of him playing very well and exceeding expectations, the Knicks would be forced to offer him a raise and long-term contract next summer to keep him in New York.

Would Anthony accept a trade to L.A: We have to assume the Clippers would be one of his top choices, if not his preferred destination.

****

New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Boston Celtics in exchange for Jae Crowder, Tyler Zeller and Memphis’ 2019 first round draft.

Why it makes sense for the Celtics:
There are a lot of unknown variables that have to play out before Boston considers trading for Carmelo. If the C’s advance past Wizards and put up a strong fight vs. the Cavs in the Conference Finals, they may be unmotivated to make a major move, especially considering they will be adding a top-tier prospect via a top-three pick in the 2017 Draft (courtesy of the Nets). Also, because they will have upwards of $30 million in cap space to spend this summer, Danny Ainge and company will likely target a younger, max-level player. Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately under Brad Stevens at Butler, is presumably the apple of their eye.

But what if the next few weeks and months play out differently? Maybe the Wiz come back and knock off Boston in round two. Or the Cavs crush them in the Conference Finals by shutting down Isaiah Thomas, with Boston unable to produce offense elsewhere. Then, come July, Hayward re-signs with Utah. At that point, maybe Ainge is willing to roll the dice and bring in Anthony. Maybe a hungry, motivated Melo is viewed as the piece of the puzzle that takes Boston over the top.

Why it makes sense for the Knicks:
It’s a no-brainer for the Knicks. While not nearly as gifted as Melo offensively, Crowder is a terrific defender with an improving offensive game (he shot a career-best 39.8 percent from 3-point territory this past season). Best of all, Crowder is just 26 years old and locked into one of the more attractive contracts in the league, which would clear a ton of cap space for New York. Crowder will make a total of $21.9 million through 2020, or an average of just $7.3 million annually over the next three seasons.

The Celtics are swimming in extra picks. The Knicks would benefit greatly from any additional draft selections they can acquire. The salaries don’t match, but Boston would be able to absorb the excess salary into their cap space. (Safe to assume that Phil Jackson was hoping that Rajon Rondo had not gotten hurt and the Celtics flamed out in round one, as it would have increased the chances Boston would be willing to deal.)

Would Anthony accept a trade to Boston?
The C’s would seem to check a lot of boxes for Melo. Boston is a major market on the east coast and just a few hours north of NYC. And, with a top rookie and Melo added to an already stellar collection of talent, the Celtics would enter next season as a legit contender for the crown.

****

New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Toronto for DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Pascal Siakam and Toronto’s 2018 first-round pick

Why it makes sense for the Raptors:
The Raps have a solid nucleus, which has carried them to playoffs in four consecutive seasons. The problem is they have stalled once arriving in the postseason, unable to get past Cleveland, the cream of the crop in the East.

Toronto will almost certainly make every effort to re-sign Kyle Lowry and keep Serge Ibaka in Toronto by inking him to a new deal. Obviously, they are in “win now” mode. Much like the aforementioned Celtics, the Raps might believe they are just a key player away from dethroning the Cavs. A starting five of Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Melo, Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, with Norm Powell and Delon Wright coming off the bench would surely have to excite fans north of the border. Furthermore, they’d rid themselves of Carroll’s onerous contract, which was a rare swing-and-miss by GM Masai Ujiri.

Why it makes sense for the Knicks:
Carroll’s contract ($14.8 million in 2017-18 and $15.4 million in 2018-19) is certainly not cap-friendly, but it will be off the books in two years. In addition, Carroll is owed far less than Melo and obviously doesn’t have a no-trade clause. A gaggle of smaller pieces will be easier for Phil Jackson to flip in future deals down the road.

Cory Joseph is an above-average backup point guard. He is owed $7.6 million next season and has a $7.9 million player option for 2018-19. He’ll most likely opt out in July of 2018, clearing cap space in the process. Assuming the Knicks draft a point guard with their lottery pick next month, Joseph can serve as a starter for a season and help mentor the Knick neophyte. Siakam was the Raps first round pick in 2016 and showed flashes of promise as a rookie, starting 38 games. If those pieces don’t fit for either side, the Raps have plenty of other attractive assets to dangle in a deal. I’m sure New York would be very interested in adding Delon Wright or Jakob Poeltl as opposed to one of the other principles in the deal.

Would Anthony accept a trade to Toronto?
Toronto is further away from NYC, but much of what was said above about Boston applies to Toronto. If he values winning, Melo has to be at least intrigued by joining a stacked Raptors lineup.

****

New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Kevin Love and Kay Felder

Why it makes sense for the Cavs:
This is another hypothetical trade dependent upon future events. If the Cavaliers defend their title this season, they would have no reason even to consider breaking up a core coming off back-to-back titles. However, if they were to get knocked off in the NBA Finals, or, especially, if they were tripped up in the East, the Cavs might investigate shaking things up.

One other factor in play here is the fact that both Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade have the opportunity to become free agents this summer. All four friends have been open about their desire to team up and join forces at some point in their careers. While LeBron somehow figuring out a way to make “Team Banana Boat” a reality in Cleveland is extremely unlikely, it’s not impossible to envision him pressuring Cleveland management to trade for his buddy Melo.

Why it makes sense for the Knicks:
Yes, Kevin Love has some flaws, but he’s also an extremely skilled big man who is five years younger than Anthony. Granted, he’s not an ideal fit alongside Porzingis, but if you’re Phil, you make the trade and figure out how to realign the remaining chess pieces later in the game. Love is not only younger than Melo, but he also has a lower annual salary.

Would Anthony accept a trade to Cleveland?
Melo has nearly every individual accolade a player could hope for. At this stage of his career, considering the toxic work environment in New York and the roster assembled around him, one has to assume he’d now jump at the opportunity to join his friend LeBron and compete for a championship.

****

New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Portland Trailblazers in exchange for Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier and Portland’s 2018 first-round pick.

Why it makes sense for the Blazers:
After going on a shopping spree last summer and doling out $350 million in long-term contracts, the Blazers will be bumped up against the cap for the foreseeable future. They will have to wheel and deal if they want to substantially improve their roster, just as they did in acquiring Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round pick from the Nuggets in exchange for Mason Plumlee. After stumbling out of the gate last season, Portland made a remarkable run to qualify for the postseason. Nonetheless, they squeaked into the playoffs and were quickly swept by Golden State. Afterward, Dame Lillard, the face of the Blazers franchise, discussed how the organization needs to find a way to compete with the vaunted Warriors. Procuring a talented veteran in Melo would provide an upgrade and allow the Blazers to start three elite scorers (Lillard, Anthony, and rising star C.J. McCollum) and a big man in Nurkic. Basketball Insiders’ own Moke Hamilton broke down this intriguing possibility last month.

Why it makes sense for the Knicks:
Making the salaries match would be difficult. Inserting Allen Crabbe in place of Harkless would get the job done, but Crabbe is owed $56.3 million over the next three seasons. That would be a tough contract for the Knicks to swallow. Harkless, who was born and raised in Queens, NY, is set to earn just $30.9 million over the next three seasons. Considering both players are comparable, Harkless is the more desirable option. In this scenario, a third team would be needed to absorb some of the excess salary.

Noah Vonleh hasn’t lived up the hype after being selected ninth overall in the 2014 draft. However, he’s still just 21 years old and played the best basketball of his career this past April, averaging 8.7 points (shooting 57.1 percent from the floor) and 9.1 rebounds. Shabazz Napier hasn’t had a chance to play consistently since his rookie season in Miami. The Blazers have a glut of picks they can include to spice up any deal. Portland has three first-round selections in the 2017 draft (15, 20 and 26th overall picks).

Would Anthony accept a trade to Portland?
A couple of factors to consider regarding Melo waiving his no-trade clause. First, he has a player option for the 2018-19 season. Thus, Anthony would only have to option of spending only one year with his new team before opting out and becoming an unrestricted free agent. Secondly, he gets to collect a cool $8 million via the trade bonus if he approves any deal. In Portland, Melo could revive his career playing alongside young, hungry players on a team with a high ceiling.

****

Here are a few more potential (albeit somewhat unlikely) trade scenarios.

New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson, Corey Brewer and Larry Nance Jr.

If the old management group were still in place (the one that handed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov $136 million last summer in a desperate attempt to become an adequate team), it would be easier to imagine the Lakers trading away a couple of their young pieces to net a notable name such as Carmelo. However, with Rob Pelinka now calling the shots in L.A., it’s safe to assume they would have no interest in renting Melo for a year or two on a team that is nowhere near a title contention. The Knicks could surely pique the Lakers interest by discussing a deal that included the dead-weight contracts of Deng and Mozgov along with young talent, but that would be counter-productive for New York.

****

New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Miami HEAT in exchange for Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts

This would only be possible once the HEAT cleared Chris Bosh’s salary off their books. It also assumes McRoberts exercises his $6 million player option for 2017-18.

Miami was rightfully ecstatic when Winslow fell to them at No. 10 in the 2015 draft. He was immediately viewed as a cornerstone piece for the franchise. However, his first two NBA seasons have not gone according to plan. He appeared in only 18 games during the 2017-18 campaign before a torn labrum in his right shoulder ended his season prematurely. In the 18 contests he played in, Winslow shot 35.6 percent from the floor, 20.0 percent from three-point territory and 61.7 percent from the free throw line. All that said, he is still only 21 years of age and projects as a terrific perimeter defender with a high basketball IQ.

Nevertheless, might Pat Riley be tempted to trade his prized youngster for a player that would be able to provide significant help right away. The HEAT went 30-11 over their final 41 games last season. The Golden State Warriors (33-9) were the only team in the entire league to tally more victories over the second half of the season. The HEAT have to believe they are close to being a real threat in the East. Miami would be able to trot out a starting five that included Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Anthony, and Hassan Whiteside, with Tyler Johnson coming off the bench. The issue for Miami is that they would not only have to part with Winslow, but they’d also have to use most of their coveted cap space to absorb Melo’s contract.

For the Knicks, it’d be a no-brainer. As for Melo, one would think he wouldn’t mind spending a (tax-free) season on South Beach.

****

New York sends Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah and Kyle O’Quinn to the –
Detroit Pistons in exchange for Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.

How desperate is Stan Van Gundy shake up things in Motown? Would he be willing to dismantle the roster he built?

Based on preseason predictions/expectations, the Knicks were quite possibly the NBA’s most disappointing team last season. You could make a strong argument that the Pistons were a very close second. After winning 44 games and qualifying for the postseason in 2015-16, Detroit was expected to take that “next step” in their progression this past year. Instead, they took a major step backward. The team appeared to quit down the stretch and failed to make the playoffs. Van Gundy was outwardly optimistic at the end of the year and said all the right things, but he had to have been incredibly frustrated. Playing in the first season of a five-year $130 million contract, Drummond was not nearly as impactful as he should have been. Reggie Jackson, who is owed over $51 million over the next three seasons, fought through knee tendinitis all season. He missed the first 21 and the final nine games of the year. Even when Jackson was active, the team was often better with Ish Smith running the point. Still, there would be little motivation in trading away their flotsam for the Knicks jetsam.

On the flip side of the coin, New York would love to get out from under the Noah contract, but how enthused would they be about trading for Drummond and Jackson, knowing that dynamic duo would account for approximately 40 percent of their cap going forward? More importantly, Melo would likely squash this before it even got serious. Moving on…

****

New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Kent Bazemore, Mike Dunleavy, and Malcolm Delaney.

The Hawks are stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference and appear to be trending in the wrong direction. Paul Millsap is a pending free agent. Dwight Howard is unhappy with his role in the offense. The organization consistently has trouble selling tickets. Anthony could be appealing on a number of fronts.

It’s not an overly exciting package from the Knicks perspective, but they do get younger and upgrade defensively. Bazemore struggled to locate his stroke for much of the season but has a relatively high floor due to his solid perimeter defense. Delaney is a backup point guard on a cheap deal. The final year of Dunleavy’s contract is non-guaranteed.

****

New York sends Carmelo Anthony to the –
Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Khris Middleton and Matthew Dellavedova

At first blush, it seems unlikely that Melo would consider moving to Milwaukee; but, upon further inspection, maybe he would entertain the possibility.

The Bucks are a fresh, up-and-coming team that features one of the game brightest young stars in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Anthony also has a good relationship with Bucks coach Jason Kidd. Melo enjoyed his greatest success as a Knick playing alongside Kidd back in 2012-13. And, again, Anthony would pocket millions by agreeing to the trade, and he’d have to spend just one season there if he was unhappy.

Milwaukee would obviously hate to give up Middleton but would be happy to dump Delly’s deal. Dellavedova signed a four-year, $38 million pact last summer but was replaced in the starting lineup by Malcolm Brogdon in late December. Brogdon, who is favored to win the Rookie of the Year award, is clearly the Bucks PG of the future.

The PG-starved Knicks would be more than willing to add Dellavedova if that was the price to pay for acquiring Middleton as well.

Tommy Beer is a Senior NBA Analyst and the Fantasy Sports Editor of Basketball Insiders, having covered the NBA for the last nine seasons.

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NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise

The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.

Moke Hamilton

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He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.

He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.

Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.

The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.

“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.

“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.

So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.

As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.

In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.

But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.

So is Porzingis.

Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.

In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.

Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.

And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.

“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.

“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”

Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.

Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.

The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.

So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.

Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.

If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.

So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.

Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.

To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.

When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.

He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.

And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.

With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word. 

It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.

For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.

In this town, that’s more than half the battle.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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