1. Melo to Knicks: Is It Just A Matter Of When?
We asked ESPN.com writers for their reaction to a source saying Carmelo Anthony won't sign an extension unless he's dealt to the Knicks.
The question: Do you take Melo at face value, and how does this play out?
Here's what they had to say:
Henry Abbott, ESPN TrueHoop: Carmelo Anthony has leverage. And, per Sheridan's sources, he's using it to get himself to the Big Apple (where he evidently can't wait to partner with Amare Stoudemire in the NBA's worst defensive forward tandem). But you really expect me to believe he'd actually rather be unemployed -- to the tune of $65 million or so -- than play for 29 teams? It fails the smell test. In other words: OK, he'd like to be a Knick, but I 100 percent believe the Nuggets, Nets and others are still alive.
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: The worst thing that could have happened to the Nuggets was to hit Madison Square Garden when the Knicks were on a roll. By all accounts the energy in the building is back to 1990s levels, which had to feed Carmelo's hunger to be there. But he still doesn't get final say. There are other teams with more to offer than the Knicks, and they might be willing to take the risk that Melo won't re-sign with them. Their worst-case scenario is a big salary comes off their books heading into the new NBA economy.
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN TrueHoop: Al Harrington said that he couldn't sleep if there were $65 million on the table in front of him, but apparently Anthony has no such anxiety. That's his consolation prize -- at least until Denver takes it off the table -- if a trade to the Knicks can't be worked out. If that's not enough, Anthony's worst-case scenario is outright free agency. Even if we concede a new collective bargaining agreement will make a new contract for Anthony less lucrative than the deals procured by the free-agent class of 2011, he'll still get paid handsomely by a team of his choosing.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Carmelo's a big name for the Big Apple but he's not a good fit in Mike D'Antoni's system, aside from the fact that he doesn't play defense. Since he can't shoot 3s -- well, he can but not at a worthy percentage -- then it would mean the majority of the Knicks' offense comes from inside the arc. That's not to say the Knicks won't win games with the tandem, but I don't see them meeting banner expectations.
John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Take Melo at face value? Not exactly. Melo is basically trying to have his cake and eat it too, by saying he'll extend his contract only if he's traded to the Knicks. The implication is that if he becomes a free agent, he'll just leave and sign with New York after the season. However, that would likely cost him several million dollars, so I suspect he's bluffing. He's basically playing a high-stakes game of chicken with the Nuggets, and thinks he can win because they stand to lose more than he does. He's probably right.
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: Carmelo is using his leverage, and the Nuggets are absolutely not going to risk losing him for next to nothing like the Cavs and Raptors did with LeBron and Bosh. The Knicks know exactly where Melo stands and how strong his leverage is, and they are not going to gut their team to get him. Eventually it becomes a question of what is their best final offer. In my opinion it is Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields, Eddy Curry and a No. 1 pick obtained via an Anthony Randolph trade.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: I believe that the Nuggets won't abandon the fantasy of trying to convince Melo to stay in Denver until the moment that they finally agree to trade him. I still believe, as covered in a recent Weekend Dime, that there are a handful of teams out there that continue to be willing to gamble on a trade for Melo with or without an extension ... which means that Denver isn't obligated to trade him to the Knicks. And I know for a fact, based on weekend updates from sources close to the situation, that the Nets have never stopped pursuing a deal for Melo and that no one has told the Nets to stop wasting their time because Melo is in Knicks-only mode when it comes to an extension. In short? The trade deadline remains about 75 days away, so dare I say this Melodrama has a few twists, turns and chapters left.
Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: From the outside looking in, it's hard to see this any other way than Carmelo holding most -- if not all -- of the leverage. He's apparently set on taking his talents to Broadway, and he's willing to wait out the season and head to N.Y. as a free agent if he's not dealt there this season. The Nets -- or any other team looking for anything more than serious cap relief (perhaps Jordan's Bobcats) would be fools to trade for Melo without assurances he'd sign a long-term extension.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: This is a great litmus test for the strength of the Denver owners. Everyone will be watching how Josh/Stan Kroenke handle this. Right now, the owners' mood seems to be to play hardball with the star players as they attempt strong-arm tactics with trade demands plus tough CBA talk from the union. The ultimate question for Nuggets is this: Is a bad deal better than no deal at all? The answer may be no. They can always sign and trade Melo (pending the CBA) to the Knicks if all else fails. So why not see if all else doesn't fail?
2. Bass Giving Magic Added Power
LOS ANGELES -- Stan Van Gundy knows his numbers, so he had to notice that when Brandon Bass started at power forward the past two games he produced 31 points and 19 rebounds, including 13 points and 11 boards for his first double-double of the season Sunday in the Magic's much-needed victory over the Clippers 94-85.
Bass had eight points and three rebounds in the first quarter, when the Magic rolled out to a 35-14 lead.
"I thought he played very well early," Van Gundy said. "And he's done that several times for us. He's a guy that starts pretty quick. We've got to sort of figure out the whole second half with him. But he's gotten us off to some good starts."
"It's better to start," Bass said. "You're warm, you're into the game. Coming off the bench is cool. I've been doing it my whole NBA career, so I'm adjusted to it, but starting is always better.
"Everybody wants to start. But I don't mind coming off the bench, either. I just want to help the team win." So if Bass responds well to starting, and Van Gundy notices Bass is best at the beginning of games, doesn't it make sense that he continues to start?
Van Gundy indicated that the problem for Bass isn't starting it's sustaining. That was an issue for the entire Magic squad when Dwight Howard went to the bench with his fourth personal foul early in the fourth quarter ... although it should be noted too that Bass was out as well when the Clippers pulled within 12 points at the end of the third quarter. In the fourth quarter Bass had a put-back dunk off a Howard miss, helping the Magic end their four-game losing streak.
Bass is more of a traditional power forward than Rashard Lewis, who slid to small forward the past two games. The starting lineup Van Gundy used the most frequently this season had Lewis at power forward and Quentin Richardson at small forward. In the month of December it hasn't mattered where or how much Lewis played; he hasn't scored more than 15 points.
Bass is asked to defend and rebound, and he's been second on the team to Howard with 5.4 rebounds per game. But he's practically doubled that output the past two games. The numbers seem pretty clear.
3. Rose Taking Better Aim This Season
CHICAGO -- From the time he set foot in the NBA more than two years ago, Derrick Rose's game has always been predicated on speed. He is without question one of the fastest players in the league with the ball. His ability to race up and down the floor leaves both opposing players and fans in awe. Over the summer, though, it wasn't just his legs that he was trying to speed up -- it was his shot.
The Bulls' point guard spent countless hours in the gym working with head coach Tom Thibodeau, assistant coach Ron Adams and trainer Rob McClanaghan on speeding up his shot. The validation of that hard work has come this season; Rose has added a reliable long-range dagger to his already impressive repertoire.
"I'm trying to show everybody what I've been working on," Rose said after Saturday night's win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in which he knocked down a career high five 3-pointers. "You want to show opponents or people that you play against new things so that you know that it's going to be a hard night. They were leaving me wide open on the shots, I was just taking my time, my teammates were passing me the ball when I was open and I was just shooting."
Rose heard the criticism that he didn't have the type of long-range game that so many other point guards posses so he worked for months on the mechanics of his jumper. He credits Adams with helping him achieve the goal he set before the summer of becoming a more consistent long-range shooter.
"He's been huge, man," Rose said. "Just making sure that I work on my shot every day. Just going back to the basics. Just making sure I follow through ... just speeding up my shot, so that I can get the ball, shoot it more in the air, have more arc on it."
4. Mavs Find Unlikely Treasure With Stevenson
They wanted DeShawn Stevenson, a dude who played a total of less than two minutes in the first five games, to move into the starting lineup.
Carlisle granted the veterans' wish, and he's glad that he did. A team that was 3-2 with Stevenson riding the pine has won 16 of 18 games since he became a starter.
"For them to want me in the starting lineup on a championship-caliber team is just a blessing," Stevenson said. "What I try to do is work my butt off to not let them down."
Stevenson has performed so well that Carlisle could have a tough decision once Roddy Beaubois finally gets healthy. Do you change a starting lineup that wins so often?
5. Extreme Behavior
Amare Stoudemire, Knicks: Stoudemire scored 24 of his 30 points in the second half, pacing the Knicks past the Nuggets 129-125, their eighth straight win. He set a franchise record with his eighth straight 30-point game.
Willie Green, Hornets: Accepting this award on behalf of the stingless Hornets, it's Green. He went 0-for-7 in a 88-70 loss to the Sixers. The Hornets have lost eight of their past 11, and shot just 14 percent FG in the first half.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"As the minutes continue to drop and I'm not in the fourth quarter, I'm going to become unbearable on the bench and pretty much annoy him to the point where he has to put me in."
-- Spurs forward Tim Duncan, whose sub-30 mpg often sees him relegated to rest his 34-year-old frame on the bench near coach Gregg Popovich. He played his 1,000th game Sunday.
6. NBA Video Channel
7. C's Looking Livelier This Season
How is Boston performing compared to last season? We all know the Celtics faltered after Christmas last season, going 27-27 over their last 54 games. But the Celtics started 23-5 before the wheels came off. So we compared Boston's pre-All-Star numbers last season (50 games, 32-18) to where the Green stand through 23 games this season (19-4).
The Celtics are up in scoring (100.7-98.7), rebounds (39.7-38.8), assists (25.9-23.5) and field goal percentage (50.9-48.4). Boston is attempting five fewer 3-pointers per game and its efficiency rating is seven points higher than it was at last year's break.
Boston is slightly off pace in steals and blocks, but about the only category it is really underperforming in is free throws. The Celtics attempted nearly two more freebies per game last season.
8. Scram, Quinton
9. Points Not Taken
The 76ers held the Hornets to 23 points in the first half of their 88-70 victory at Wells Fargo Center. That was one point more than the lowest total recorded in one half against the Sixers since the 24-second clock was introduced in 1954. Philadelphia held Denver to 22 points in the first half of a 9371 victory in 2002, and the Syracuse Nationals (predecessors of the 76ers) led the Milwaukee Hawks, 44-22, at halftime on Feb. 12, 1955.