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Just in the Knick of Time

The Knicks have sealed the deal bringing not one but two All-Stars to come alongside Amare.

Finally it’s all over. Carmelo Anthony is officially a Knick and he brings Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, and a familiar face in Renaldo Balkman along with him. New York departs with Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov as the four of them remain teammates in Denver (at least for the time being). The Timberwolves were the third team involved in the deal as they were needed to absorb Eddy Curry’s contract and get 21-year old Anthony Randolph from NY. Minnesota also sent Corey Brewer to the Knicks to round out the deal, and NY sent a 2014 1st round pick to the Nuggets as well.

So what does it all mean? Let’s start off easy, for Minnesota they get a young 7 ft prospect in exchange for Brewer who will be easily replaced in the rotation by the likes of Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington, and rookie Wesley Johnson. If Randolph ever develops to the potential as the lottery pick he was drafted as, then Minnesota has a very nice young core with Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Randolph, and Jonny Flynn (also Ricky Rubio whenever he’s ready to come over from Spain).

Denver, loses two stars in Melo and Billups (who was also the hometown hero) and sets them back into rebuilding mode. They start with a future 1st round pick, and solid rotation pieces in Chandler, Gallinari, and Felton who they can keep and resign or try to move elsewhere for more picks and/or prospects. It has been reported that the Clippers are interested in Gallinari and the Nets interested in basically anyone who has ever worn a Knick jersey in an effort to steal NY fans for the move to Brooklyn (remember they tried to grab David Lee this past offseason). They also get a 7 ft prospect in Mozgov and also finally will give Ty Lawson a more meaningful role as many believe he will be the starting point guard of the future. The Nuggets remain in talks with several teams including the Houston Rockets for center Nene whose contract expires at the end of the season and could be lost for nothing if he decides not to resign (a la Anthony all over again).

Despite the blockbuster for Anthony, Walsh and the Knicks continue to pursue a center and have contacted Portland about getting Camby back in a Knick uniform.

As for the Knicks, it’s everything they missed out on this summer with LeBron, but possibly better. Yes, they create some rotation holes but as the Heat are proving this season that will get replaced. They create their own “Big 3” in Amare, Anthony, and Billups and get the superstar power that has been missing for almost a decade. They again become relevant and revamped the city back into a basketball town. The Garden will be filled every night and the excitement can already be felt all over New York City. And according to Donnie Walsh, they are not done yet. They continue to look for a center and size to help them contend in the East this season and have reached out to the Trail Blazers about bringing back Marcus Camby. It should be noted that Billups and Camby’s contracts (should they acquire him) expire going into the summer of 2012 and allows them to go after their longterm goal of signing a top-tier point guard like Chris Paul or Deron Williams, or possibly even Dwight Howard.

Fantasy Focus:

Overall I see this trade as a negative for most players involved. Let’s take a look as to why…

Playing in D’Antoni’s system has never hurt any players value unless of course they don’t crack his rotation. This will not be a problem for Billups (seasonal averages of 16.5 ppg, 5.3 asts, 2.1 3s should stay consistent) and Anthony, who I believe has the most to gain (possibly up to around 27 ppg and 7.5 rebs as he will see time down low at the 4 position as well). His three-point shooting will undoubtedly increase and should improve his scoring as well. Shooters will be needed with the departure of Chandler and Gallo, and if Roger Mason or Andy Rautins can get minutes they will become a cheap source of three’s as well. If Brewer sticks around he has and will be a steady source of steals and maybe there is a chance we see his three-point shooting from the second half of last season return where he shot a career high 34.6% (playing at least 16 games) for the season. However he could go the exact opposite way and completely fall off the map it remains to be seen. Deeper leagues will want to keep an eye on Shelden Williams if you are in need of rebounding (think back to his value for the first month or so of the season) for the simple fact that he will have to play as the Knicks don’t have any other big bodies as of yet.

Lawson has always produced when given the chance and he could put up big numbers for fantasy owners heading into the playoffs.

Unfortunately I’m expecting the opposite for the players traded from the Knicks. Gallinari will shoot wherever he ends up and could even become a second scoring option depending on the teams, although I expect him to drive and be more aggressive offensively as he is a fantastic free throw shooter at 89.3% for the season. Wilson Chandler is a different story. His numbers have been on the decline for a couple of months now and I doubt Denver will use him in the power forward spots like the Knicks sometimes were forced to. I think his blocks should decrease to around one a game (still extremely valuable in leagues that have him with SG eligibility) which is right around his career average. But with Afflalo, and J.R. Smith ahead of him he could struggle to log big minutes and put up the scoring numbers he did in New York.  Same goes for Raymond Felton, who certainly will be in a time share with Lawson whereas he was the main man for the Knicks. Denver has a ton of mediocre players at the guard and wing position so playing time could be inconsistent and hard to find for some players. However if you have an open roster spot go get Ty Lawson before it’s too late. Lawson is currently available in 56% of yahoo leagues and 69% of ESPN leagues. Last night (although obviously Felton wasn’t available to play) he started and starred posting a line of 21 pts, 5 rebs, 7 asts, and 6 stls in 39 minutes. He obviously will not be playing that much a night but I can’t see how they would play him less than 25 minutes a night and we have seen his success when given time.

Anthony Randolph could benefit most from this trade. He goes to a place where he should finally get the opportunity to grow and develop. His main competition for playing time will be Darko Milicic and Anthony Tolliver, players not exactly invested highly by the Timberwolves organization (although Darko did just sign a four-year contract this past offseason). Teams in need of rebounds and blocks will definitely want to take a look at a player drafted in almost all leagues at the beginning of the season. If given a consistent 25-30 minutes a night he could flirt with double-double numbers and at least a block a game. The departure of Brewer should free up time for rookie Wesley Johnson as he should get plenty of minutes moving forward in the Minnesota youth movement. He is a streaky shooter but maybe this gives him more time to work out the kinks and try to get into some type of rhythm in the second half. If so he could rack up decent point totals as well as develop into a solid fantasy three-point contributor.

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Talking Trade (Excluding Melo)

The NBA All-Star weekend is officially over which means the trade deadline is days away. With all the ‘MeloDrama we have dealt with all season long it’s easy to forget players not named Carmelo Anthony can get traded as well. This season the theme heading into the deadline (other than Carmelo obviously) is players on the block being shunned by their current teams (getting the Eddy Curry treatment). And I’m not talking benchwarmers but players that once played significant minutes in the league and may have even been All-Stars or NBA champions. Here is a list of my 5 teams most likely to make a move by the deadline and the possible players to be involved (it should be noted that the teams are not ranked in any specific order but rather just five teams with assets and motives to get a deal done).

The Pistons have some veterans with playoff experience that could draw interest from teams as the deadline nears.

Detroit Pistons: Joe Dumars has done wonders for this franchise but as it stands now this will mark the second straight year the team does not make the playoffs (currently 4 1/2 games out). He is not one to hesitate on a move (that’s the Nuggets job) and has a roster full of forwards and wings. He could make a move to rebuild, getting picks and young players rather than try to make a playoff push, when the reward for being successful would just be a 1st round exit to Boston or Miami. His main goal will be to unload underused Rip Hamilton (currently in Kuester’s doghouse) and his remaining three years/$38 million contract. The Bulls could be a team interested as they have been looking for starting SG but after committing money and a three-year deal to Kyle Korver this past off-season they certainly will not be willing to pay a high price, as the move will basically take away all cap flexibility for the next three years. The expiring contracts however of both Tracy McGrady and Tayshaun Prince could appeal to several contending teams however and also clear the way for more playing time for Ben Gordon (signed through 2013) and young forward Austin Daye.

New Jersey Nets: The latest reports are that NJ is still in Carmelo discussions and who knows how that will play out. But if the Nets miss out on Anthony (or Prokhorov decides to pull out again) I still expect them to make a move. Unhappy with his recent play, they seem motivated to move Devin Harris and now a potential trade with Portland is being proposed (more on them later). It would send disgruntled guard Rudy Fernandez and veteran PG Andre Miller to NJ for Harris and either Travis Outlaw (who started his career with the Blazers and just signed lengthy contract this past summer) or Anthony Morrow. Other names like Joel Przybilla and Johan Petro have been mentioned but talks are still preliminary. But what could be the Nets biggest asset is the expiring contract of exiled forward Troy Murphy. Another player in another doghouse (this time first year Nets coach Avery Johnson) Murphy has been on the block since he was acquired and his $12 million would come off the cap at the season’s end helping any team looking to clear space to rebuild (like teams did for the summer of 2010) not to mention he can play a bit to. A three-point shooting power forwards sounds like someone who would fit the Orlando Magic scheme and GM Otis Smith has already looked into it despite revamping the roster already this year. He decided the asking price was too high but if they could work it out, there’s a possibility Murphy is starting for Orlando come playoff time.

Rudy may finally get his wish and an exit out of Portland.

Portland Trail Blazers: The problem with the Blazers making moves is that despite the injury woes to Roy and Oden, they are right in the middle of a playoff race in a tight Western conference (or at least seeds five through eight). Not a bad problem to have except the pieces they have are selling pieces, the expiring contracts of Miller and Przybilla as well as the two years left on Marcus Camby’s contract. However, if they were to include Rudy Fernandez, who has wanted out of Portland before the season started, and some of those pieces they could make a move at a player who could help significantly help a postseason run. One such player reportedly on the blocks is Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace. With three years remaining on his contract (two years with a player option), it seems as though Jordan and company are ready to move forward without him and with Fernandez, the expiring contract of Przybilla, and a 1st round draft pick it could be enough to force Charlotte to part with their longest tenure player (remember it was reported the Bobcats were in talks with Cleveland about trading Wallace and that was for just a 1st round pick alone). The Nets deal for Harris seems more likely however at this point, as Harris would be a more athletic point to help them compete against a Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, or Chris Paul they might find in the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers: The team with the worst record in the league (although did just beat the Lakers heading into the break) will certainly be active sellers in hopes of getting anything to excite the city moving forward and try to erase the painful memory of LeBron. Antawn Jamison might be their best player right now but with two years and roughly $28.5 million left on his contract it will be hard to move let alone get anything more than expiring contracts for him. Again the Magic are looking for a power forward but the only contract that will make the numbers match would be the expiring contract of Jason Richardson and I can’t see them parting ways after just acquiring him.  With the way Ramon Sessions has been playing lately the last two weeks- 19 ppg, 4 rebs, 9 ast, 2 stl, and with three years left on a decent contract it makes Mo Williams and/or Daniel “Boobie” Gibson expendable. Williams will be the trickier sell as he has a player option after this year and could walk out not only on the Cavs but whichever team he’d be traded to as well. Gibson on the other hand is making slightly more than Sessions but also has three years left on his contract and would certainly appeal to any contending team looking to add a three-point shooter.

If Denver moves Melo, what will happen with the rest of the Nuggets?

Denver Nuggets: It would be hard not to mention the Nuggets as they have headlined trade talk since this past summer. We all know the deal on Anthony, and if he does get traded what does that mean for the rest of their roster? Denver currently has the 5th highest payroll in the league and are well over the luxury tax. If Anthony is moved, I expect a total rebuilding project to occur. JR Smith, Nene, and Kenyon Martin all have expiring contracts and although the Kroenke’s have expressed interest in resigning Smith, I can’t see them committing money longterm to the other two. Meaning they could be acquired on the cheap just so the Nuggets can get something for them (sounds familiar for this team huh?) whether it be picks or young prospects. Billups is also a player the Nuggets would like to get off the cap although he has expressed his desire to want to retire in his hometown as a Nugget. However, this is a business and even if they do decide to keep him I cannot see them accepting the over $14 million team option, as a new deal is far more likely. It should be noted he could be traded, the other team denies his option, and then he returns to Denver next year via free agency. The biggest concern though should be moving Al Harrington and his recently signed five-year contract. If they go into rebuilding mode, they should listen to anybody who would be willing to take on his contract and accept any offer no matter what it is. $33.5 million  is committing to much for a team that will be looking to get younger and cheaper unless of course they plan to build around him- not a chance.

Other Possibilities:

OJ Mayo would be another dissatisfied player that wouldn’t mind a fresh start, but with the Grizzlies actually in the playoff race and with Rudy Gay now being sidelined for four weeks, I can’t see them moving him now as they will need his scoring and he basically will get a second chance to try to revive his career in Memphis.

Mark Cuban has been active around this time and with Caron Butler done for the year he could be looking for a starting small forward.  Right now they are using Peja in that role, but this is one place I could see Gerald Wallace ending up. With Butler’s contract expiring at the end of the season, they can just stick with Wallace and it would basically give them a three-year window as serious contenders.

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The World’s Greatest

In the words of R. Kelly….

Ray, you made it

Mmm…

You’re the worlds greatest…

Ok not exactly how the R put it, but still catchy. One thing that is for certain however, Ray Allen is the worlds greatest three-point shooter and it shouldn’t have taken last night for you to realize that. It wasn’t a matter of if he would break Reggie Miller’s career record of 2,560, but rather when. Since arriving in Boston for the start of the 07-08 season, Ray has taken his game forward as opposed to slowing up. This year he is shooting some of the best percentages of his career -.505% from the field and .459% from 3-pt which would both be career highs. To make the moment even better, Ray hit number 2,561 with Miller on hand commentating for TNT. To break it down Allen has surpassed Reggie in exactly 315 fewer games (about 3.8 fewer seasons) and 53 fewer shot attempts.

The 15 year veteran has arguably the purest shot the NBA has ever seen. He broke Kenny Smith’s NBA Finals record of most three’s in a game and set the mark at eight in last years finals versus the Lakers. So it only seemed right that he broke this record against that same squad. The 10-time All-Star gets his shot off faster than anyone with a simple flick of the wrist. But what people don’t realize is the incredible footwork he has to square his feet to the basket coming from any angle. Here’s how the historic moment went down:

After a highly successful college career at UConn including winning Big East Player of the Year in 1996, Ray moved to the NBA and onto the big screen. Filmmaker Spike Lee (also known as one of the biggest Knick fans on the face of the planet and simply put not a fan of Reggie Miller), decided to have Ray co-star in the 1998 film He Got Game with Denzel Washington. Ray played Jesus Shuttlesworth, a high school star whose father tries to convince him to choose the school that will help lower his prison sentence. The only reason I bring this up is because Spike obviously saw something special in Allen (and I don’t mean an upcoming movie star) as he could have casted any other bigger name star for the role (like maybe the face of basketball himself Michael Jordan, especially after the success in films before with Space Jam). So did he know that this second year kid was going to ultimately break his arch rival and hated villain’s three-point record, probably not. But I can guarantee you he was sitting at home screaming “Jesus” last night cheering on Ray as he moved past Reggie for number one all time. Here’s a clip of just some of the beef between Spike and Reggie:

In conclusion, let me just say congratulations to Ray Allen, you are well deserving of this honor and it couldn’t have happened to a more humble individual. You are a future Hall of Famer and true role model to basketball fans everywhere. I wish you future success and hope you can continue to play and build on your record. And not that you needed the title but make no mistake you are the Three-Point King and will wear the crown for a long time coming.

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A Class Act

Yesterday the NBA said goodbye to the longest tenured coach in professional sports.

On Monday he agreed to a one-year contract extension. Yesterday, he resigns. I was not even a year old, the last time someone not named Jerry Sloan was manning the Utah Jazz sidelines. In fact, in their entire existence the Jazz have only had six coaches dating back to when they joined the NBA back in 1974. For 23 of those seasons, it was ’09 Hall of Fame inductee, Sloan running the show and had it not been for Michael (how many times have we heard that one before?) he may have won back-to-back championships from 1996-1998. Sloan will most be remembered for Utah’s championship years (although they never actually won an NBA Finals) and the famous combo of Stockton/Malone who without question ran the pick and roll better than anyone in NBA history (yes, kids better than Nash/Stoudemire in Phoenix). He then seemed to find new success under another All-Star PG Deron Williams and big man Carlos Boozer (the modern version of his Stockton/Malone pick and pop combo,) and getting the most out of role players like Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur. However, despite 23 years at the helm, two NBA Final appearances, 1,127 wins (not counting his short stint with the Bulls), being the 3rd winningest coach of all time, and the longest tenure in professional sports, Jerry Sloan has never won Coach of the Year honors. Taking a look back now, it seems like a crime.

Although one could not have predicted Jerry’s resignation to come in the middle of the season, much less a season in which the Jazz will be in the playoffs (currently sitting seventh in the West as of Thursday night), the end was nearing for Sloan. In 23 years, not much has changed in the way he ran Utah, but it seems as if everything else in the NBA has. No I don’t mean the league wide 245 coaching changes since he took over on Dec. 9, 1988 (13 of which were by the Clippers alone). I mean the game itself including the role of coaches taking a backseat to players and agents demands especially those by Creative Artists Agency. I’m talking about players choosing who they want to coach and where they want to play. The “Decision,” Chris Paul wanting out of New Orleans, and Carmelo wanting to go to New York, none of this was imaginable back in ’90’s when Jerry’s Jazz were the team to beat out West.

Sloan was an old school coach, he would often get in the face of Karl Malone and confront his superstar getting the most out of him whether they agreed or not. Can you imagine what would happen today if Erik Spoelstra got on LeBron publicly about playing defense or anything else for that matter? Holy cow, he’d be fired and Pat Riley would take over quicker than he could say “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.” It became evident over the past couple years as players were leaving Utah (and Sloan) for the bigger markets and the rifts between Sloan and D-Will seemed to be getting worse, that his time was coming to an end. Yesterday, we heard as an emotional Sloan stood in front of the world saying, “I had a feeling this time was the time to move on. ” Explaining that “My time is up.”

It should be noted that he is not walking away alone. Assistant coach Phil Johnson will also resign and after sticking by Sloan’s side the past 18 years it should come as no surprise, saying “I came with him and I’ll leave with him.” Both men will be 69 this year. It sounds cliché to say, but Jerry Sloan simply was a class act and will truly be missed. He leaves behind him almost a quarter century of memories not just for Utah fans but for the entire NBA. His legacy is the success of what the Jazz have become and I find it hard to imagine that a coach who never won a championship can ever become a symbol to a franchise, like Jerry was for Utah. He resigns as the only coach in history to win over 1,000 games with one team and is one of three coaches with 15-plus consecutive seasons with a winning record. Phil Jackson and Pat Riley, both with 19, are the others.

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‘Melo Down Everyone

There has been a ton of trade talk this week involving Denver Nuggets superstar, Carmelo Anthony. Earlier in the week it was reported that a deal had already been agreed upon sending the 6″8 Brooklyn born forward to the Nets, (who plan to open the 2012-2013 season in the Brooklyn based Barclays Center) along with Nugget teammate, Chauncey Billups and  3-time All-Star Richard Hamilton, meaning Detroit would also have to get involved. Who would get back the expiring $11.97 million contract of Troy Murphy but would have to put up with Johan Petro’s contract until the end of the 2012-2013 season. They would also get a 2nd round pick from New Jersey. The Nuggets in return would get two future 1st round draft picks, Nets prized rookie Derrick Favors, ’09 All-Star Devin Harris, 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow, and money matching throw-ins Ben Uzoh, Stephen Graham, and Quinton Ross.

Confusing?

Don’t worry about it, cause it’s not going to happen. Which is why it hasn’t already happened. With the Pistons on-board, the Nets of course in, and the Nuggets got their wish of expiring contracts, young players to help build around (Favors and Harris-who they can trade with Ty Lawson waiting to eventually supplant Billups or keep), and two 1st round draft picks.

So what’s the holdup? Suddenly Denver wants more cap relief and wants someone (or a new team) to take on the contracts of either Al Harrington (expires 2015) or Renaldo Balkman (expires 2013). Really? We’re supposed to believe Prokhorov and the Nets is this close to getting Melo but refuse to work Harrington (a NJ native) or Balkman into the deal? After all, with the amount of players the Nets are trading away, wouldn’t they need players like Harrington or Balkman just to fill roster spots?  I’m not buying it.

Trading for Iguodala could allow the Nets to possibly keep Favors and Harris.

Personally, I don’t even like the trade for the Nets. With five 1st round draft picks in the next two drafts, help is right around the corner. Even if they believe Favors and Harris are not the answer you can use them as trade bait later and still draft whoever you want to build around. Even with Carmelo it’s no lock the Nets make the playoffs this year in this top-heavy (only six teams above .500) Eastern Conference. Why not keep your core guys and trade for a cheaper player on the block, like maybe Andre Iguodala or Gerald Wallace? They would come at much reasonable price and would in all likelihood allow them to keep Morrow, Harris, or Favors or maybe all three. Then at least you have other players to go around Iggy or whoever you bring in right away. As oppose to restarting the build again with an already in his prime, Carmelo.

According to Yahoo Sports, Billups has already stated that if traded he would seek a buyout so he could return home and retire in Denver. Rip will be 33 this February and is no longer the All-Star caliber player he once was. Theres no way Anthony believes he has a better chance of winning a ring with Rip in Jersey over what he already has in Denver. Instead I think it’s his agent Leon Rose (who is also Hamilton’s agent) just trying to get Hamilton’s name out and on the block because his client wants out of Detroit. Carmelo will be fine and he has options which is not necessarily the case for the Pistons shooting guard. He could be the force pushing these talks, not Anthony. For the Nets, is Melo worth losing picks, Favors, Harris, and Morrow for? Yes, they would have him for three years, but is it worth it for Melo to go there and rebuild while in the midst of his prime?

That may be why this trade hasn’t gone through. Although Carmelo hasn’t listed the Nets as a team he would not sign an extension with (a list that includes the likes of Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Washington) he hasn’t said he would either. He has publicly only mentioned one team on his list of teams he would sign an extension with; the New York Knicks. Maybe the reason this latest Melo trade (remember the one involving Charlotte and Utah back in September) was a “done deal” and didn’t go through was because Anthony didn’t want it to. That seems to be the logical explanation to me. If Carmelo refuses to sign an extension with the team trading for him, a deal is practically impossible to get done. What team would give in to the Nuggets high demand to see the prize of their trade walk away in free agency at the end of the season. So in the end it’s up to Anthony to choose where he wants to go and as currently demonstrated, when.

If the Knicks do end up trading for Anthony, they could be welcoming back an old friend as well.

Anthony controls his own destiny, which keep Donnie Walsh and the Knicks in play. New York is where Carmelo wants to go, it’s as simple as that. If Carmelo says he will only sign an extension with the Knicks or walk in free agency guess what? Denver has one team to try to trade with otherwise they could very well lose out like the Cavaliers did last year (unless, of course, new Denver executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke decide to handle the fate of the franchise by calling Anthony’s bluff). So even if the likes of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Landry Fields are not what the Nuggets want for Anthony (as they have stated), they are surely better than nothing. Not to mention the Knicks wouldn’t have a problem taking on Balkman’s contract, given his popularity in New York, the team that drafted him. D’Antoni would find use in him as a three or four and could essentially take minutes from Bill Walker or Shawne Williams off the bench.

Walsh and the Knicks have and always had the upper hand in the negotiations which is why I believe they will ultimately wait until Denver comes to them.  Donnie is an experienced general manager which is the reason he was brought in to fix the Knicks in the first place. While Amare publicly endorses Anthony to pair with him in New York, Walsh can keep his poker face and take a back seat knowing that in the end, Carmelo will end up with the Knicks if that is truly what he wants. If Melo waits five more weeks (and he has waited this long already,) will he be willing to potentially leave $65 million on the table to sign in the summer under a new CBA? With the recent events of this latest deal, it certainly would seem so. What would he do to make up for his financial losses in that case,  probably go to a place where he can be marketable – billboards and jerseys; all over advertisements and endorsement deals; take the city by storm and what better place to do that than in the Big Apple?

Now in his third season in the league, playing time is all the 21-year-old Randolph needs to reach his promising potential.

Now in order for the Knicks to get a trade done by the February trade deadline, they need to make at least one other deal first. The will need to get at least one 1st round draft pick and there are some teams that have picks to spare. Most noticeably the Nets and the Timberwolves. I’d say the NY Giants have a better chance of winning the Superbowl this year than the Nets helping the Knicks get Melo. However, Minnesota becomes a very interesting situation. They are already rebuilding with pieces in place like Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, and Ricky Rubio (a player on the original Knicks wish list, who remains in Spain). So trading one of their picks is possible for say a young big man to put next to Love. Assuming Minnesota officials and GM David Kahn doesn’t truly believe Darko is an All-Star waiting to blossom, 21-year-old Anthony Randolph could very well an answer. It works out for the Knicks as they work on getting pieces Denver wants. It gives the T’Wolves a young seven footer who has been waiting to see consistent minutes since he arrived in the league and also allows them to identify talent and see what they have for when Rubio does (if he ever) comes to Minnesota.  Randolph benefits with the playing time he needs to develop on what seems to becoming the NBA’s “Island of Misfit Toys” (remember Beasley was exiled from Miami after “The Decision” for practically nothing) in Minnesota. Either way the Knicks have said they can acquire a 1st round pick for the Nuggets when they need to whether it is this route or another. Most recently, at the end of this week we are hearing rumors about the Knicks trying to get Memphis into the talks, with the hope that O.J. Mayo (whose had a disappointing and controversial season thus far) could be a young talent Denver would be interested in. More importantly than whether NY can get something done now with the Grizzlies in the picture, is the fact that they are showing interest and in essence are reaching out to Melo saying “of course we want you!”

I expect this to drag on at least another week or two and quite possibly right until the trade deadline and for a couple of reasons. For one, since getting picks is what Denver is about at this point, why not wait as long as you can to try to gain more clarity about where the picks will end up (whether it will be a high/low lottery pick, top 20, or end of the 1st round). It will allow them to evaluate the value of the picks better. Another reason, is despite the Nuggets poor play of late (which if it continues would be the reason a trade is made earlier) they are right in the thick of the playoff race in the West and could actually have a chance to make it even if they trade their superstar. That would allow them to rebound from losing Anthony and start the rebuilding process much quicker helping them go forward, especially from a fans perspective. Something the Cavs are clearly not going to be able to do for a while. And lastly because, like Carmelo has acknowledged, the Knicks are playing too well for Walsh to make any changes right now. If this is where Melo will end up, it will be on Donnie’s terms and when he’s ready, something Denver executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke can agree upon as they took discussions “underground” because they felt they were being pressured by the media. It comes down to what Anthony really desires. Will he pass on guaranteed money for a chance to win a ring and be happy in a destination of his choice? Or will he settle and take a trade to the Nets, creating what could be an eerily similar situation in Denver to that of Cleveland this year: loss of a legacy, status as a sellout, turned on by the city he once ran.

FANTASY FOCUS:

Anthony is currently averaging a career best in boards during his eight-year career (8.3) by nearly one a game. And it’s efficient as his playing time is down three minutes a game compared to last year. If he were to get traded though, I believe his rebound totals may suffer slightly, down to probably around six a game which is closer to his career average (of course this depends on where he goes and whose cleaning the glass when he gets there). However, there is room for his scoring to increase despite a current 23.9 ppg which is actually below his career average and five points a game down from last year. A trade to the Nets or Knicks should help to increase this mark and if he winds up in NY, I would expect an up-tick in 3’s as well, simply because in D’Antoni’s system everyone shoots more and better from downtown (as they spread the court and leave room for shooters on the perimeter).

If Carmelo leaves town, J.R. Smith could shoulder the offensive load for the Nuggets.

It’s hard to tell how the players traded for Melo will fair until we know who they are, but we can start to speculate who would pick up the scoring deficit the Nuggets would be left with. Aaron Afflalo’s career year should continue and although more shots could open up for him, I can’t expect an increase in his already 35.2 minutes a game. So now would probably be the time to go and try to cop J.R. Smith as a great buy low candidate. He will by default have to come out of coach Karl’s doghouse and could be inline for over 30 minutes a night. That means he could put up Nick Young numbers and would be a great source of 3’s and points, not to mention he is also averaging a career high in rebounds and may average over five a game with starters minutes.

Ask any Knick fan about Al Harrington and they will tell you he loves to shoot, like a lot. He would have no problem taking up the shots left over from Melo granted that he is not moving himself. If he stays, whether he comes off the bench or starts he will certainly see an increase in value as well, in points and 3’s which could be especially useful coming out of your power forward (and in some leagues center) spot on your roster.

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Talk is Cheap

Last week the NBA trade deadline came and passed as teams were looking to either shape up their rosters for a playoffs run or more likely try and dump salary to get under David Stern’s new luxury tax. After last season’s deadline deals of Shaq, Kidd, and Pau the biggest name on the market this year was Amare Stoudemire. Phoenix seemed almost certain to trade the all-star center before the break, but then after the firing of Terry Porter and the change of style with new coach Alvin Gentry (not to mention scoring 140 plus points 2 games in a row against the LA team that doesn’t matter,) trading Stoudemire seemed as smart as Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Well isn’t hindsight 20/20, a day later we learn that Amare will be out at least 8 weeks after having surgery to repair a partially detached retina. I bet all those offers are looking pretty promising right now. But with all the hype, Phoenix didn’t do anything. Shaq stayed put and Steve Kerr wasn’t able to clear any cap space.

Why would the playoff bound Hornets seperate these two?

Why would the playoff bound Hornets separate these two?

Yet the Suns weren’t the only losers at the trade deadline. New Orleans was another team scared by the new taxes Stern imposed and try to get under the cap as well. In fact, it seemed as if they were more focused on doing just that, than doing what was best for the team. They initially sent there prized defensive minded, Tyson Chandler to the Oklahoma City Thunder, for the expiring contracts of Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith. The move would have given the Thunder the low post presence they have been searching for (and wasting draft picks on) since the departure of Shawn Kemp. The young lineup  of Durant, Westbrook, Green, and now Chandler would ensure a promising future. However, the trade was rescinded because the Thunder doctors didn’t pass Chandler on his physical. Chandler has been battling turf toe all season and we are lead to believe that is the reason Oklahoma City made a double take. For a team that was going nowhere this year and already in rebuilding mode, why wouldn’t you use your assets (2 expiring contracts) and go get a piece to help for the future? Chandler’s injury is by no means career threatening and even if he were not to play the rest of the season, it would do nothing but ensure a higher lottery pick for the Thunder. If Chandler can do anything for New Orleans the next two years, we know at least one organization that will be very regretful. As if not pulling the trigger was bad enough, lets talk about the mess of the deal they did make. Malik Rose for Chris Wilcox? Wilcox is still a young player with talent and plenty of upside. Not to mention a proven rebounder in the league, whereas Rose is old and probably won’t even have a job in the league next year. The only positive for the Thunder after last week was the acquisition of Thabo Sefolosha from the bulls. The 2-guard is a young athletic defender, who should finally be given the playing time he deserves in Oklahoma and could be an important player down the road for the organization.

LaFrentz was one of the most sought after trade pieces this deadline.

LaFrentz was one of the most sought after trade pieces this deadline.

However, the biggest loser at the deadline were the Portland Trail Blazers. After losing out on 9 million to spend on this upcoming off season because of the Daruis Miles debacle, the Blazers needed to make their splash at the deadline. With all the young talent they’ve accumulated over the years guys like Travis Outlaw, Sergio Rodriguez, Channing Frye, and Martell Webster and maybe the best trade piece in Raef LaFrentz $12.75 million expiring contract, Portland had the pieces to make something happen. But didn’t. The Suns never wanted to trade Amare to Portland or any other western team, but Portland had other options. They should have landed either a solid starting point guard (,maybe a Raymond Felton or try and grab Nate Robinson from the Knicks) or a small forward (, like a Vince Carter or Richard Jefferson) to help try and strengthen their playoff run and make something happen. But they did nothing, and had the most pieces and options to work with making them the biggest loser at the deadline.

I really like the moves the Knicks made, although none of them cleared cap space for the free agent signings of 2010 with LeBron & Co. none of them hurt the cap either. They traded guys like Rose and Anthony Roberson, both of whom played minimal minutes along with Tim Thomas who they just received back in getting rid of Zach Randolph for players that will actually make an impact on the remainder of the season. Wilcox is much needed depth down low to help out David Lee and Larry Hughes is a veteran who’ll add more scoring on the wing. Both players will be reasons if the Knicks are to make a run for the playoffs.

Let us not forget about the Marion/ O’Neal trade that went down a week prior to the deadline. This deal is going to give Miami the low post presence they’ve been missing both offensively and defensively, and now gives them a chance to compete with some of the best in the league deep into the playoffs. Toronto is going to allow Marion to run up and down in a tempo he was more used to in Phoenix. They’re hoping to get the most out of him for the rest of the season as he is a free agent and playing for a contract this summer. With him, and a healthy duo of Calderon and Bosh if Toronto should somehow make the playoffs, they could make things very interesting for one of the top teams in the East.

onealmarion1Some of the minor trades before i go:

– The Magic got suckered into losing a 1st round pick for Rafer Alston, but with Nelson’s season done this finally gives them a starting point guard for the playoffs

– The Bulls fixed some needs but adding Salmons and Miller doesn’t necessarily make them a threat. They did however dump Nocioni’s bad salary. On the opposite side the Kings have cleared room for the future, we will see what Francisco Garcia, Rashard McCants, Donte Green, Jason Thompson, and Spencer Hawes can really do

– The Grizzlies picked up a 1st round pick for Kyle Lowry, which is nice but now what was once a strength at the beginning of the season with Crittenton, Lowry, and Conley leaves them with just Conley

– The Timberwolves lose McCants and get Shelden Williams? Houston lets a point gaurd go to just grab another? How far can a team that just lost McGrady for the year go in the western conference?

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Greatest Weekend in Sports???

The major story in sports over the past weekend was the NBA All Star Weekend at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. This is always one of the most entertaining weekends in all of sports. Events like the 3 Point Shootout and the Slam Dunk Competition are skills competition to showcase the individual talents in the NBA for fan amusement. Other events include the Skills Challenge,  which is a times obstacle course focusing on the players ability to shoot, dribble, and pass, and the Shooting Stars Competition, which takes a retired and current player from a team and put them with a WNBA player from that same city to compete in a shooting competition. This year, they added the classic playground game of H-O-R-S-E. For those who don’t know, H-O-R-S-E is a shooting game where the players try and imitate a made shot and if they can’t they receive a letter. The last to spell H-O-R-S-E wins. They chose 3 players to participate: Kevin Durant (OKC), O.J. Mayo (Memphis), and Joe Johnson (ATL)

Durant came back and defeated Mayo in the finals to win the 1st ever H-O-R-S-E competition. I realize this was a recent addition to the weekend but i mean they were able to find a sponsor fast enough in GEICO can they do a better job of finding a trophy to give the winner. Poor Durant looked like a fool holding up this toy “My Little Pony” sized trophy. If the Shooting Star Competition winner gets a real silver basketball, then there’s no excuse for the H-O-R-S-E competition. I realize this was new but I think many people enjoyed it and i hope they keep it for years to follow. Although outside is more challenging, they should move the competition inside and fit it in after the Shooting Stars and before the Skills Challenge. Having it earlier in the day will not draw the audience it could if it moves to Saturday night. Also environmental factors such as sun and wind can effect the event and not give all the players the same playing field. They should use retired players as well, wouldn’t it be awesome to watch guys like Bird, Michael, or Reggie going at it?  It would make the competition more interesting and keep us remembering the history of the NBA and some of the greats. The perfect combination of old school being show cased during the new school’s weekend. Move it inside and get a real trophy and I think David Stern might have a winner here.

The biggest event of the weekend was undoubtedly the Slam Dunk Contest. After the show, Dwight “Superman” Howard put on last year this was a highly anticipated event and it would live up to the hype. Nate Robinson did his thing and thanks to Howard (for agreeing to let Nate dunk over him), won his 2nd Slam Dunk title. In my opinion, even though Dwight’s last dunk stepped in from the foul line there should have been co-winners. Dwight put up a hell of an encore getting the fans into anything he did, and his creativity was awesome not just bringing out a telephone booth and changing in it, but bringing out a 12ft hoop and the one off the side of the backboard was ridiculous. Never have we seen a big man with ups like Howard he’s a freak of nature. However, he lost to another freak of nature on the opposite side of the spectrum, who also brought back creativity to the contest. KyptoNATE was able to out-duel Superman changing outfits as well and his last dunk was the highlight of the night.

The part that upset me about the dunk contest was not the controversial fan voting but the actual judging itself. The question i have for David Stern, is why is he having former point guards judging the contest? Get former winners and players who have actually participated in a contest judge, they have the experience and realize what a player put into his dunk and how to grade it. Rudy Fernandez get robbed bad. It was obvious they were holding a bias against him either because he was the last dunker voted in by the fans or because he’s an international player from Spain, but either way there was no reason for it. His 1st dunk was sick and because it went so fast i don’t believe the judges saw it properly. Did they realize the pass off the backboard was behind his back? He threw it with his right hand going behind the back to hit the opposite side of the backboard and slam it down with one hand….and received a 42. In fact i dont think they even paid attention to his 2nd dunk because they just gave him the same score. He did struggle many times before he actually got it down and your score should be lowered because of that i agree. He also didn’t have a teammate pass to him and instead used Pau Gasol (another international Spainish player), maybe the judges didn’t like that move either. Whatever the reason, his dunk was I thought one of the best of the night. Very very similar to Andre Iguodala’s dunk in the 2006 competition, where he too struggled a few times at first but then eventually nailed it, Fernandez completed his off the back of the backboard dunk with one hand.

How come one dunk received a 50 and the other received a 42? Now im not saying Fernandez was going to win the competition or even advance to the finals, but the judges were throwing 50’s at whatever Dwight did the first round and this kid got no love. Seeing it in Spain from the other side of the spectrum, and realizing how excited these people were to have a player of there own participating in not only the NBA All Star Weekend but the Slam Dunk Competition, it was very disappointing. But i haven’t heard much complaining saying how bad Rudy was robbed or how horrible TNT bashed the whole country and made fun of Rudy for not having another Trail Blazer assist him on his dunk, nope i haven’t heard any negativity. Just people excited and grateful for the chance to be a part of the event and how proud they were of both Rudy and Marc Gasol both of whom participated in the Rookie vs. Sophomore game Friday night, and especially how proud they were of their All Star Pau.

Sunday nights game was a great end to the festivities. I couldn’t remember the last time i saw defensive being played in an All Star Game in the 1st quarter. These guys came out focused and ready to really play for the fans. Duncan was blocking shots early and players were getting stripped left and right. It wasn’t the showboating, T-Mac, Vinsanity games i remember from the past, where the objective was to shoot and make a highlight, in order to rack up the best stats possible for MVP. Now it wouldn’t have been an All Star Game if somebody didn’t come out and start firing randomly and in the early goings of this game it was Kobe (he was 2 shots shy of a new record for most shots in a quarter).  The East got off to a great start and Iverson left yet another great memory we wont soon forget and neither will Yao. But it soon became Shaq’s show and his pregame dancing was just setting the stage for what was about to come. 17 points couple really nice assists and the man who this time last year everyone was questioning when he’d retire wins co-MVP awards with former teammate Kobe. Speaking of these two, it’s a shame we will never know how many titles they could have won, because there were maybe the most dangerous combo ever. Who knows if there friends now or if Shaq is going to rip Kobe another new one in a freestyle this summer, but at least the differences were put aside for one weekend and created a nice reunion between the two of them and Phil Jackson.

Before i get out of here, i do need to shout out Kevin Durant. The man broke a new scoring record in the Rookie vs. Sophomore game scoring 46 points earning himself MVP honors. The next day he goes out and wins the H-O-R-S-E competition and he should have been playing Sunday. By the end of the year, i think he can be a top 10 player in this league. He has grown so much in a year offensively it’s scary and he is developing quite a defensive game as well. Like Danny Granger had last year watch out for Durant in the second half. Also need to shout out Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls. The number 1 pick in last years draft, has had a hell of a season, and this weekend he won the Skills Challenge. Going up against well established point guards like Mo Williams and Devin Harris and winning with ease, the sky is the limit for Rose and luckily for Chicago that means them as well….

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