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NBA Sunday: Knicks Facing No-Win Situation With Carmelo

Carmelo Anthony may remain with the Knicks until December, a scenario that could be bad for the club.

Moke Hamilton

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Carmelo Anthony hurt the New York Knicks on his way in, and make no mistake about it, he’s going to hurt them on his way out.

In the future, when the obituary of Anthony’s career as a member of the Knicks is written, let it be known that while he is far from perfect, the organization’s failure to achieve more with him as its franchise player was more about it failing to surround him with the pieces he needed than it was his individual shortcomings.

As media day and the openings of training camps near, news on Anthony and his status with the Knicks has predictably slowed. Both the player and the franchise have let it be known that they want a divorce, but with Anthony’s no-trade clause, the Knicks find themselves in the unenviable predicament of getting Anthony’s approval on any trade.

Anthony’s desire to end up in Houston would allow him to team up with Chris Paul and James Harden while also securing him the best opportunity at one final huge contract—something discussed in this space long ago.

At this point, though, unless Anthony suddenly (and surprisingly) becomes interested in waiving his no-trade clause to join the Portland Trail Blazers or another team that could send the Knicks a combination of contracts and future assets to make a trade worthwhile, he will likely be in New York through December 15, at least.

On December 15, players that signed contracts this past offseason become trade eligible, and traditionally, the mid-December date has marked the beginning of the trade season. By that point, most teams will have played between 25 and 30 games and will have an idea of which players and rotations they like and which they don’t.

Concocting the type of multi-team trade that is likely to lead to Anthony’s departure would become much easier to do come mid-December, but that’s bad news for the Knicks.

When Anthony’s obituary as a member of the Knicks is written, it will absolutely include the fact that he has worn as a Scarlett Letter since his arrival in New York—rather than opting to face the uncertainty of the new collective bargaining agreement and sign with the Knicks as a free agent, he chose to muscle James Dolan into executing a trade with the Denver Nuggets. In the process, the cupboard in Madison Square Garden became bare. There were simply no assets left to build around Anthony, and the Knicks had a difficult time finding complementary pieces that could be used to build a contender with him.

The value in signing a player as a free agent as opposed to trading for them is easily seen within the Atlantic Division—just take a look at the Boston Celtics. Danny Ainge struck gold in signing Gordon Hayward this past summer. Although signing Hayward did indirectly cost the Celtics Avery Bradley, they were able to obtain Marcus Morris in return from the Detroit Pistons.

More importantly, though, is that the Celtics were then able to execute a paradigm-shifting trade for Kyrie Irving. Had the Celtics sought to acquire Hayward via trade during last season, or if they were able to pull off a trade for either Paul George or Jimmy Butler, one could argue that they would have been set back. Either of those scenarios could have made a trade for Irving more difficult, if not all together impossible.

The biggest “What if?” that will remain from Anthony’s Knicks career will be what could have been if he had the opportunity to team up with the likes of Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph and the draft picks that the Knicks sent out in exchange for him. Or, more appropriately, what the Knicks may have been able to attain in return for those assets had they not sent them out in exchange for Anthony.

For now, though, the burning question will be how and to what extent Anthony’s presence on the Knicks will impact the 2017-18 team. His mere presence alone gives him one final opportunity to hurt the franchise on his way out—though not in the way that would seem to be more obvious.

* * * * * *

The Knicks are rebuilding.

With Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez and Frank Ntilikina, the club is hoping to form some sort of young nucleus that can give the franchise hope for the future.

Anthony, who will turn 34 years old during this coming season, sees the sun setting on his career. At this point, he is playing for his final multi-year contract and for his legacy and brand.

Seen as a one-dimensional player whose own selfishness has undercut his career’s success, Anthony has been deemed to be the 64th best player in the NBA. The publication that ranked Anthony there, over the years, has been guilty of producing commentary that is purposefully inflammatory. Part of the media’s purpose, after all, is to create content that encourages discourse. The best way to accomplish that is to appeal to an emotional fan base and to target a polarizing subject. That is clearly the design here.

Let’s be honest: Anthony can still be argued as being a Top 30 player in the NBA. That the likes of Danny Green, Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Covington and George Hill are ranked ahead of him is nothing short of a poor attempt at humor.

The problem, however, is that there are at least some people who have allowed the Knicks’ failures with Anthony as its franchise player diminish his perceived value.

At this point, on his way out the door in New York, the only way he can restore some of that value is to show up and compete, day-in, day-out.

Based on the talent on their current roster, the combination of over-the-hill pieces and a team that will be searching for an identity, there’s no reason to believe that the Knicks will be a playoff team this coming season. In the NBA, the goal should be to either be a championship contender, or to be as bad as possible to secure the highest draft pick possible. Winning 28 games and securing the 11th pick in the draft serves an almost futile purpose.

The problem for the Knicks, however, is that their long-term interests and Anthony’s short term interests are no longer aligned. For Anthony, each game he plays from this point forth will be about reasserting his value, restoring his brand and proving to his future team that he still has what it takes to be a winning player in the NBA. Anthony is playing for himself and his own personal future; he will likely have no concern as to how that will impact the Knicks in the long term.

Showing up, going through the motions and sulking is not what Anthony is about, and doing so will hurt him more than it will hurt the Knicks. So if you’re curious as to how exactly it is that Anthony can hurt the Knicks on his way out, it’s simple: by being the best player he can be.

* * * * * *

As the 2017-18 season tips off, it’s quite possible that the Knicks will finish fifth in the Atlantic Division, though it is also possible that they could finish as high as third.

With the playoffs not seeming realistic, though, the manner in which they do so will make all the difference in the world.

At this point, Anthony may no longer be capable of being the primary option on a championship contender, but he is still fully capable of being the difference between a team winning 15 games and winning 30 games.

Heading into the season and leading up until December 15, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of impact Anthony has on the Knicks. And when his obituary is finally written, it’ll be just as interesting to see what kind of long-term impact these next few months will have had on the franchise.

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NBA Daily: Georges Niang’s Big Break

After dominating the G-League for a year, Georges Niang has more than earned this big opportunity with the Utah Jazz, writes Ben Nadeau.

Ben Nadeau

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For Georges Niang, reaching professional stability was always going to be a tall order.

Even after four dominant seasons at Iowa State, the tweener forward was viewed as a draft risk. At 6-foot-8, the versatile playmaker has always scored in bunches but also struggled to find his place in the modern NBA. Despite excelling as a knockdown three-point shooter, the fundamentally sound Niang has bounced around the country looking for a long-term opportunity.

In the two seasons since he was drafted, Niang has played in 50 G-League games for three separate franchises and had his non-guaranteed contract waived twice.

As a summer league standout for the second straight offseason, Niang’s determined efforts officially paid off last week after he signed a three-year deal with the Utah Jazz worth about $5 million. Now with a fully-guaranteed contract under his belt for 2018-19, Niang has been eager to prove his worth both on and off the court — a newfound skill-set he happily attributes to Utah’s excellent system.

“In the Jazz organization, from top to bottom, they do a good job of nurturing guys and forming them into good leaders and things like that,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, it was really easy to transition to summer league, [I’m] really just trying to lead by example, not with just my words.

“And I think playing hard, being a good teammate and doing the right thing –I think those are three things that the Jazz really stand for.”

But his meandering path toward year-long job security wasn’t destined to end up this way — no, not at all.

Selected by the Indiana Pacers in the 2016 NBA Draft with the No. 50 overall pick, Niang was correctly projected as a hard-working, high-IQ contributor that could put up points on almost anybody. Unfortunately, following a low-impact rookie year with the Pacers — and some short stints with their G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, as well — Niang was waived the ensuing summer. Shortly thereafter, Niang latched on with the Golden State Warriors, where he participated in training camp and four preseason games — but, again, he was waived before the season began.

With the Santa Cruz Warriors, Niang flat-out dominated the competition for months, up until he grabbed a two-way contract from Utah in January. In total, Niang played in 41 games between Santa Cruz and the Salt Lake City Stars in 2017-18, averaging 19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals on 45.7 percent from deep over 33.9 minutes per game.

Once attached to Utah’s affiliate franchise, Niang averaged a team-high 22 points per game and finished the campaign as the 13th-best scorer in the G-League. On top of all that, Niang was both an All-Star and honored with a spot on the All-NBA G-League First Team at season’s end.

Although he would ultimately play in just nine games for the deep Western Conference roster, Niang was simply laying important groundwork for the days ahead.

This summer, Niang averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in three contests during Utah Summer League. Given the golden opening to impress his future would-be-employers, Niang kept things rolling in Sin City and posted similar numbers over five games. On the back of a 20-point, eight-rebound performance early on in Las Vegas, Niang embraced the chance to fight and compete for his team — five full days before the Jazz signed him to a guaranteed deal.

“It was a real physical game, but those are the games you want to play in during summer league,” Niang said. “You want to play in those types of environments, where every possession matters and you gotta make plays down the stretch — and I think we did a really good job doing that.”

Those scrappy aspirations have been a staple of Niang’s since his collegiate days at Iowa State, too. During an ultra-impressive senior year, Niang tallied 20.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Cyclones, leading their roster to 23 wins and an eventual trip to the Sweet Sixteen. That season, Niang took home the 2016 Karl Malone Award as Division-I’s top power forward and finished with 2,228 points, the second-best mark in school history.

Any way you slice it, whether at college or in the G-League, Niang can play, the moment just needs to reveal itself — and maybe it finally has.

Of course, this new contract — one that’s only fully guaranteed in 2018-19 — doesn’t ensure Niang any playing time and he’ll have some stiff competition. Just to get on the court, he’ll need to squeeze minutes from Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder and Joe Ingles — a tough task in head coach Quin Snyder’s defense-first rotation. No matter what his role or obligations end up amounting to, Niang is ready to meet that challenge head-on.

“In the NBA, everyone has a role,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, obviously, things are gonna be peeled back and you’ll have a defined role. My role is just when I get the ball, and if I do, play-make for others or get guys open, defend multiple positions, play multiple positions on offense and knock down open shots.”

Although his past resume certainly speaks for itself, it’ll be up to Niang take his big break even further. But given his efficiency and execution at every other level, there’s little reason to doubt the forward now. Days before they signed Niang, he was asked if Utah was somewhere he could see himself for the foreseeable future — his response was precise and foreboding.

“I’d love to be here — what [the Jazz] stand for is what I’m all about. I’ve had a blast with all these guys and I’d love to keep it going.”

And now, he’ll get at least 82 more games to make his case.

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NBA Daily: The Carmelo Anthony Trade is a Rare Win-Win for All Involved

It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation.

Shane Rhodes

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The Big Three Era in Oklahoma City came and went rather quickly.

On Thursday, the Thunder reached an agreement to trade Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks for guard Dennis Schröder, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. As part of a three-team deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Thunder will also walk away with Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot while the Hawks and 76ers swap Mike Muscala and Justin Anderson.

It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation. Just as well, the trade is perhaps even more beneficial for the players involved.

While Anthony may have wanted to stay with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the trade is more than beneficial for him. After the trade goes through, the Hawks plan to buyout Anthony’s contract and he will reportedly receive the entire $27.9 million he is owed next season. Even better still, Anthony is free to join any team he wants, whether it be the Houston Rockets and friend Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Lakers and friend LeBron James, or elsewhere.

With his money already in hand, Anthony could sign on the cheap as well, making negotiations with any franchise that much easier.

For the Thunder, clearing Anthony’s massive salary from their books was of paramount importance. Staring down a $150 million luxury tax bill, Sam Presti managed to move Anthony and improve the team or, at the very least, make a lateral move depending on how you look at Schröder. Even as they take back the remaining $46.5 million owed to Schröder, the Thunder will save more than $60 million next season alone. That makes the trade worth it for Oklahoma City all by itself.

Still, the move allowed them to fill a need, perhaps more important than the cash savings as they look ahead to next season. Schröder not only fortifies the Thunder bench but the point guard position behind starter Russell Westbrook as well; he is another athletic playmaker that Oklahoma City can play on the wing with confidence. And, after averaging a career-high 19.4 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists last season, Schröder provides the Thunder offense with more firepower to compete against the other top teams in the Western Conference, a necessity if they hope to make a long playoff run.

For Schröder, the move to Oklahoma City is just as beneficial for him as it is for the team. Schröder is no longer the starter (he was unlikely to be the starter in Atlanta with Trae Young in the fold), but he can still make an impact and now he can do so for a contender.

The Hawks, as they should be, are playing the long game here. They acquired Jeremy Lin, an expiring contract, from the Brooklyn Nets earlier this offseason. After drafting Young, their guard surplus afforded them the chance to move Schröder’s deal off their books, netting them a first-round pick in the process and opening up playing time for the Young right away.

While the pick is top-14 protected (the pick becomes two second rounders if it doesn’t convey in 2022, every asset counts as the Hawks will look to add talent through the draft for years to come. With the addition of the Thunder pick, the Hawks now are owed an extra three first-round picks between the 2019 and 2022 drafts, a benefit for the Hawks whether they use those picks or trade them for already established talent. Meanwhile, Anderson, 24, presents another intriguing, and more importantly, young, option alongside the core of Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and Taurean Prince.

Anderson will almost certainly receive more playing time in Atlanta as they figure out who and who can’t help the team. His time in Philadelphia was mired by injury and he never had the opportunity to show what he could do. So, whether they use him as an asset in a future trade or plan to keep him on the roster, Anderson, at the very least, will have the opportunity to show what he can do.

For the 76ers, Muscala is essentially insurance for the reneged deal with Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the team but the stretch-four never signed his contract and backed out of the deal. With him out of the picture along with losing Ersan Ilyasova, Muscala was one of the few remaining options for the 76ers in that specific, stretch-big role.

Muscala doesn’t have the same shooting chops that Bjelica has, but he is younger and might have more upside alongside Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and co. Last season, Muscala, in addition to career highs in points and rebounds, averaged a career-high 3.2 three-pointers per game and hit 37.1 percent of them. While he likely won’t see the playing time he saw in Atlanta, Muscala should easily slide into a role off the bench for the 76ers. Moving Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot clears a logjam on the wing as well and will afford more minutes to Markelle Fultz (when he is ready), T.J. McConnell and rookies Zhaire Smith and Furkan Korkmaz.

As it stands, this trade made sense for all parties involved, and that alone is reason enough to consider it a win all around. While things could certainly change and hindsight is 20/20, this deal is beneficial for all three teams right now and could positively impact all three squads both next season and beyond.

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NBA Daily: Grayson Allen Ready for NBA Challenge

Making it in the NBA alone is quite an impressive feat, which is why Grayson Allen is doing the best he can to prepare for the big stage.

Matt John

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Grayson Allen may not be the most hyped-up prospect to come out of this year’s draft, but he is one of the more experienced rookies coming into the league this season.

Allen spent four years learning under the tutelage of Coach K at Duke University while also playing with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, and Marvin Bagley III. He’s been through it all at the collegiate level, but he knows that if he’s going to make it in the pros, he’s going to have to adapt as quickly as possible.

“I have to set the tone for myself where I have to know playing in the NBA as a rookie, guys are going to be physical with you,” Allen said. “They’re going to come at you, they’re going to test you and see what you got. You’re gonna get beat. You’re gonna fail, but you gotta come right back at ‘em the next time.”

Since debuting in the summer league, Allen’s been the perfect storm for the Jazz. His shooting numbers have not been encouraging, but his numbers across the board have shown how impactful a player he can be. These have been his stat lines in both the Salt Lake and Las Vegas summer leagues.

July 2 vs. San Antonio: 11 points on 4/16 shooting including 2/6 from three, eight rebounds, seven assists
July 5 vs. Atlanta: 9 points on 2/13 shooting including 0/2 from three, six rebounds, eight assists
July 7 vs. Portland: 16 points on 6/17 shooting including 2/9 from three, six rebounds, six assists
July 19 vs. Miami: 17 points on 7/17 shooting including ⅕ from three, seven rebounds, three assists

Maybe it’s been the dry climate, or maybe it’s been the high Utah elevation that has caused Allen’s struggles shooting-wise, but the fact that his all-around game has shined despite his shooting woes should excite the Jazz. After his summer league play, Allen says the biggest adjustment he’s had to make offensively is acclimating himself with the pace of the game.

“Offensively, it’s a lot easier when you slow down,” Allen said. “I’m starting to see the space of the floor a lot better and finding the open guys. There’s still a few plays out there where I think I got a little antsy but it’s human nature and I’m trying to fight it right now. As a rookie playing in his first couple of games, I’m trying to fight that and play under control.”

On the other side of the ball, Allen says the biggest adjustment is the increased level of physicality in the pros.

“Defensively, it’s physical,” Allen said. “You gotta fight guys. You gotta get through screens. I mean, the bigs, they really set great screens, so you gotta be able to fight through that… If you’re tired on defense, they’ll find you.”

Allen knows that he needs to commit if he’s going to make it in the NBA, which requires eliminating all bad habits. In order to eliminate any habit that Allen has, which in his case is fatigue at the moment, Allen believes that he needs to be more mindful of himself when he’s physically drained.

“I try to be really self-aware of my habits when I get tired out there,” Allen said. “On defense, I have a habit when I’m tired, I stand up and my feet are flat. On offense, I’m not ready for the shot… I try to be really self-aware of that stuff so that in practice or in August, September, October, leading up to the regular season, I can have good habits when I’m tired because we got a short leash as a rookie. You don’t have many mistakes to make.”

In Utah, Allen will be playing for a team that exceeded all expectation last year and has a much higher bar to reach this season. He believes the summer the league should serve him well as he fights for minutes in the Jazz’ rotation.

“I’m joining a playoff team, so I gotta carve out a role with the guys they already have,” Allen said. “When I’m playing in summer league, I’m trying to play the right way. Don’t take too many tough shots, find the right guy, make the right pass.- Because when you come and play for Quin Snyder, that’s what he’s gonna want. He’s just gonna want you to play the right way.”

When Adam Silver announced that Utah was taking Allen with the 21st overall pick, the general masses laughed due to Utah, a state with a white-bread reputation, took a white player. Given that Allen just played four years of basketball at one of the best college basketball programs in the nation and will be starting his career playing for one of the most well-run organizations in the league, he may be the one laughing when it’s all over.

In other words, Grayson Allen playing in Utah could be quite the trip.

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