Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul talks about his return to New Orleans, his first All-Star game and his teammate Blake Griffin’s outstanding season.
Carmelo Anthony Seems Committed to Knicks
Less than five minutes into Carmelo Anthony’s All-Star press conference, the conversation shifted from the weekend’s festivities to the superstar’s uncertain future.
“How likely is it that this will be your last All-Star game as a New York Knick?” one reporter asked.
Upon hearing the question, Anthony grew frustrated and shook his head.
“Man, why do you want to start that?” Anthony responded. “I can’t sit here and say this is my last All-Star game as a New York Knick. I would be shooting myself in the foot by saying that, so I won’t go down that path.”
While initially it seemed like Anthony didn’t want to discuss his looming free agency, the 29-year-old eventually opened up about his future and spent a large portion of his 30-minute media session discussing that topic. Anthony has an early termination option for next year, and he has made it clear that he’ll opt out to become an unrestricted free agent and secure a new long-term deal.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Anthony is leaving New York. In fact, he was adamant that his preference is still to finish his career as a member of the Knicks.
“I came to New York saying that I want to retire a Knick and that’s not something I was just bullshitting about,” Anthony said. “I said it, I meant it and that’s how I feel. I still feel strongly about that. That’s why, at the end of the season, that’s the time that everything has to be laid out on the table, from both parties. If there’s something we can grow or build on to compete at the highest level, then we’re rolling. If that’s not the plan, then we have to talk about something else. At the end of the day, that’s my first priority – to stay. That’s my first priority. Let’s figure it out. Let’s figure it out together, what we have to do. Just because I said I want to be a free agent doesn’t mean that I want to leave. I’ve never been a guy that comes into a situation and then, when it’s not going well, leaves. That’s not my character. That’s not my personality.”
Perhaps the biggest revelation to come from Anthony’s press conference is that he’s open to taking a pay cut in order to help the Knicks surround him with talent.
“Without a doubt, without a doubt, without a doubt,” Anthony said when asked if he’d be willing to agree to a pay cut. “Any opportunities that I can have to kind of build that up in New York, I’ll do it. I tell people all the time, if it takes me taking a pay cut, I’ll be the first one on Mr. [James] Dolan’s step saying, ‘Take my money, and let’s build something strong.’ … As far as the money man, it don’t really matter to me. If I go somewhere else, I get paid. If I stay in New York, I get paid. So as far as the money goes, that’s not my concern. My concern is being able to compete at a high level, at a championship level, coming at this last stretch of my career. I want to be able to compete at that level.”
If Anthony were to re-sign with the Knicks and take a pay cut, New York could emerge as a serious player in free agency as soon as the summer of 2015. That’s when the contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire ($23,410,988), Tyson Chandler ($14,596,887) and Andrea Bargnani ($11,500,000) come off the books and the Knicks would have just $290,000 in guaranteed commitments (before Anthony signs). That’s when Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge and Roy Hibbert among others can all become unrestricted free agents.
This is the type of plan that Anthony wants the Knicks to put on the table after the season. He wants to see the front office’s blueprint, a detailed look at how they plan on turning the team into a contender.
“Honestly, I haven’t had any in-depth conversations with management about who I want to play with or what kind of team we should have,” Anthony said. “That time will come, and when that time comes everything will be laid out on the table. If they can counter that, then we have a long future ahead of us.”
Anthony also put to rest any rumors that he would be moved before the trade deadline on Feb. 20, saying that the Knicks don’t want to move him and he doesn’t want to be moved.
“It happens,” Anthony said of being mentioned in trade rumors. “I don’t think I’ll be traded. When is the trade deadline? Tuesday? Thursday? Yeah, see, I don’t even pay attention to it. I don’t think there’s any way it’s possible that I’ll be traded. I don’t even think they’re considering me being traded. … If they feel like they want to get rid of me, then I think we would have already had that conversation. I know for a fact I’m not being traded. It’s two things: I know for a fact I’m not being traded, and I know for a fact I’m not going in there saying I want to be traded.”
While Anthony seems hopeful that things will work out in New York long-term, he did make it clear how frustrating this season has been for him. He truthfully believed that the Knicks were going to take the next step this season, building off of last year’s 54-win campaign. New York brought back much of the same core, yet they’ve dropped from the second seed in the Eastern Conference to 10th with 30 games remaining.
“I wasn’t ready for this season and the way that this season has gone,” Anthony said, and later added: “Coming off of last season, I was expecting us to take another step forward. Obviously, we took some steps backwards.”
It’s clear that the team’s struggles have taken a toll on Anthony, who has received plenty of criticism throughout the year. When asked to describe how his stint in New York has gone, it’s clear that he’s having a hard time dealing with the extreme highs and lows in New York.
“For the most part, I’ve had a fantastic time,” Anthony said about his time with the Knicks. “I mean, up until now. This has been a roller coaster first half to the season for me. But for the most part I’ve had a lot of fun, especially after coming off the season like we had last year. That right there really showed me how New York can really be, especially when we have good players and we have everybody feeling good about themselves. There’s no better place to play than New York when it’s going like that. But then it’s a gift and a curse too. Because on the flip side, you’re like, ‘Damn, I got to go through this today, I got to go through that.’ So for me, I got to be strong for the other guys that are on the team, because a lot of them haven’t experienced stuff like this before.”
Anthony later added: “There’s no better place in the world to play, on a good night, than Madison Square Garden. It’s electrifying. The energy that goes into that building when the fans are on and we’re on, you can’t even explain that feeling that you have.”
Fans in New York have to feel giddy after reading Anthony’s latest quotes. Not only does it sound like Anthony is still committed to the organization, it seems like he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to help the Knicks become a championship-caliber team.
Trey Burke Still Adjusting to NBA
Around this time last year, Trey Burke was becoming a household name with his dominant performances at Michigan. He was preparing to lead the Wolverines on an outstanding postseason run that would culminate in an appearance in the national championship game.
Now, Burke is a member of the 19-33 Utah Jazz and he’s still trying to adjust to the NBA. The college-to-pro transition isn’t easy, especially for a point guard in 2014 since today’s league is overflowing with star floor generals.
However, the 21-year-old is doing a solid job, averaging 12.5 points, 5.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds. The Jazz are clearly a much better team with Burke than without, as evidenced by their 1-12 start to the season while he was sidelined with a fractured finger. Burke was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for December and January, becoming the first player in Jazz history to win the award multiple times.
Even though he’s had some success, Burke is the first person to admit that he still has a lot of learning to do as a player.
“I’m still adjusting to the pace of the game and the speed of the game,” Burke told Basketball Insiders. “Really, it’s not just about natural talent anymore. You have to have a high basketball IQ out there on the court to really get you to that next level because everyone is athletic and talented at this level. It’s just all about learning, and I’m going to continue to do that.”
This weekend, Burke is New Orleans competing in several All-Star events. Last night, he played in the Rising Stars Challenge and tonight he will appear in the Skills Challenge. Burke is enjoying himself and after getting a taste of the All-Star experience, he wants more.
“It makes me very hungry,” Burke said. “It makes me very hungry, motivated and eager to work not only throughout the rest of the season, but also to work over the offseason to get back into this position next year. It should be fun, I’m looking forward to it.”