Storyline: Carmelo Anthony Free Agency

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Carmelo Anthony is off to Portland! On Sunday, the NBA player’s ex, La La Anthony, posted an Instagram photo of their son Kiyan, 12, sharing a sweet goodbye with his father, who is moving to a new state after signing with the Portland Trailblazers last week. In the photo, Kiyan stood beside Carmelo, 35, as the preteen held a basketball in his hand. “He is his dad’s #1 fan & super excited for this new opportunity…but when it’s all said and done, he’s still a 12yr old that is going to miss his dad 😢🙏🏽🏀,” La La, 38, wrote. “Portland you got a great one 🏀🙏🏽#portlandtrailblazers #stayme7o.”

Lillard and McCollum both reached out to Carmelo Anthony after he agreed to sign with the Trail Blazers. Anthony has not played since Nov. 8, 2018, with the Houston Rockets, but he spent the past summer working out with McCollum and others. “He looks like he’s changed his body a little bit,” McCollum said. “Started lifting more on his legs, his lower half. He was dunking this summer. He doesn’t usually dunk, so that’s how I knew he was feeling good. I don’t know if it was because of the work or because he’s been off or a combination, but he looked like he had new life, more bounce in his step.”

Here’s the reality check, though: The other alternatives probably would have failed too. There’s a reason we call players like this “replacement level” and not “improvement level.” The Blazers might only have a 15 percent chance of this working, but that’s better than the zero percent chance they had with the status quo. Of course, it’s unlikely to pay off; in-season street free agents don’t make the All-Star team. Most of the time, they’re available for a reason.

However, they had to do something. For now, they’ll try Melo, but his non-guaranteed contract gives Portland the flexibility to try something else at the snap of a finger. If he doesn’t work they’ll try calling somebody up from the G League (some plausible names: Jarrod Uthoff, Marcus Derrickson, and Dedric Lawson), or turn to another veteran chilling on his couch (Dante Cunningham and Lance Thomas are waiting by their phones, among others), or work the angles for a low-stakes trade.

After the rest of the 2018-2019 season went by, many thought Anthony would have signed with a team over the summer and already be back on an NBA court this season. But strangely enough, the 2013 NBA scoring champion is still a free agent. On Thursday at the 25th Annual Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit, Anthony was in attendance as an honoree and expressed his desire to get back in the NBA when asked by media. “2000 percent. Make that the headline,” Anthony said.

You’ve been fortunate to still get calls from teams at this point in your career. Why do you think Carmelo Anthony hasn’t gotten the same chance? Vince Carter: Situations are different. I think it’s just timing at this point. I definitely think he deserves to be in the NBA. He’s one of the most prolific scorers this league has seen at many levels. Pure scorer. I think in time a team will grab him, a playoff team who needs a scorer with his ability. If he’s willing to come off the bench, I think he’ll help a team with his starters mentality.

Former NBA forward Stephen Jackson firmly believes NBA execs are blackballing Carmelo Anthony. In a recent edition of Jackson’s video podcast with Matt Barnes called “All the Smoke,” Jackson claims a mass text has been sent through NBA execs saying, “Don’t f— with Carmelo Anthony.” “It’s the same situation they did to a lot of players,” Jackson said. “They put him in a situation they know he’s not going to succeed, make it look like he can’t play no more, make it look like he’s a cancer and just push him out. And once they get you to that point where you’re a cancer or you can’t play no more, it’s a text that’s sent out to every team — it’s a mass text that sent out to every team, every team’s CC’d, ‘Don’t f— with him.’ “

Those in Anthony’s innermost circle are deeply wary of any information or narratives that might affect his ability to play in the league again. And while Anthony believes — or so he said on ESPN — that he’d be “at peace” if he never plays in the league again, he knows that this ending will haunt him, a former teammate over multiple seasons says: “He doesn’t want to go out like this.” Wade and Kobe Bryant received a farewell tour, both of them Anthony’s close friends. LeBron James, another longtime friend, will likely receive one too. “[Anthony] wants to go out like that,” his former teammate says.

Anthony’s headlong dive into basketball exile is partly the story of the game’s dramatic evolution that placed him on the wrong side of history. But it’s also partly the story about the pratfalls of greatness — and how stars often decline as steeply as they rise to dominance. “When you’re one of the top 10 players in our league for 10 years, you think it’s going to be there forever,” says one of Anthony’s former NBA coaches. “They’re always the last ones to know.”

In 2018-19, Anthony had an offensive rating of 102.3 and a net rating of minus-9.9 — both the worst of his career. “He just can’t play NBA defense anymore,” one Rockets source says, but the offensive woes ultimately calcified the Rockets’ thought that they had gambled and lost. Still, there remains a measure of guilt among some in and near the organization and within Anthony’s circle. “I feel awful that it ended the way it did,” says another Rockets source. “He would have been better off either going to Miami or just not playing. But those 10 games … basically ruined him.”

After losing Wilson Chandler to a 25-game suspension, Anthony and players such as Dante Cunningham, Lance Thomas and Luol Deng emerged as viable options to sign. There’s been a sense around the Nets that players are hopeful to bring in Anthony, but the trust belongs with the front office. However, the Nets are very unlikely to sign Anthony as of now, league sources told The Athletic.

SNY: Why do you think it didn’t work out with the Rockets and Carmelo last season? Fertitta: “You know, it’s really unusual because I never really got a chance to meet Melo but all I heard is what a gentleman he was and that he was going to play whatever part or role on the team that the coaches wanted him to play. And basketball ops decided to make a decision and, you know, it kinda surprised me too, as a fan of the Houston Rockets. But I know what I know and I know what I don’t know. And if my basketball ops thought that we should move on, then I sure wasn’t going to tell them not to, even though I thought that Melo’s one the greatest players to ever play the game.”

He was beloved by many as a Knick. Many of the public want to know: Will Melo latch on with a team this season? Well, we’ve got the voice of the Knicks on Line 1, literally! Insert MSG Networks’ hoops color commentator, Walt “Clyde” Frazier. “I hope so man,” Frazier, the NBA Hall of Famer, Knicks legend told me in a one-on-one interview on Monday. “I don’t like what’s happening to him. He should have a swan song. I’m confident that somebody will give him a chance.”

With injured Kevin Durant expected to miss most, if not all, of the season, Wilson Chandler suspended for 25 games for PEDs and Rodions Kurucs facing a possible suspension after being charged in an alleged domestic assault, the Nets have dire needs at forward. That makes Anthony more of a position fit. Sources had told the Post that several veterans were lobbying the front office on Anthony’s behalf. The Athletic reported that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were among them and that GM Sean Marks had taken a look at the former Knicks star recently.

So I asked a whole bunch of people around the league if there was a team, or teams, that made sense with regard to Anthony, and if he can still play. For the sake of argument, I told each to assume that a) ‘Melo was in viable NBA shape, and b) wouldn’t ask for something prohibitive contract-wise, so that any team, including those close to the luxury tax line, could fit him in. Here’s what they said. Current NBA head coach: “Yes, with the right team. A vet team. Also, a team that is not looking at analytics. He is still a talent.” Current NBA head coach: “Hall of Fame player.” Western Conference executive: “Miami, if he is willing to work with (Pat) Riley hard on conditioning. He can replace D-Wade’s scoring. Or, Portland. They play a lot of isolation basketball and they need another scorer. Carmelo is a dinosaur in today’s NBA. Everyone wants ball movement and three-point shooting; not Melo’s forte.”

“I tried, two years ago I tried to get ‘Melo to come to Portland, and he went to Oklahoma City,” Lilard said. “Then after that, I tried to get him to come to Portland again, and he went to Houston. So at this point…” “You’re not putting your hand out again,” Budden asked. “The team or me,” Lillard replied. “I’m like, ‘he ain’t coming here,’ you know what I’m saying? He deserves to be in the league, but he ain’t coming here.”

The second leg of the pitch Anthony is making to teams could prove to be appealing when it comes to those concerned that Anthony would be a locker-room distraction: He’s a good distraction. “That’s the idea,” the source said. “He’s got a lot of friends in the league, he is liked by other players. He’s got friends in the media. He doesn’t get into trouble off the court, he never has. They’re really disputing this whole idea that he’s a team cancer.”

Nets stars interested in Carmelo Anthony?

Carmelo Anthony is scheduled to work out on Thursday with a group of New York Knicks in Manhattan but it’s the other team in town that continues to closely monitor the 10-time All-Star.The Brooklyn Nets remain interested in potentially signing Anthony, who recently trained with a group of their players in Los Angeles, including Kyrie Irving. In fact, one source told The Athletic that Irving and Kevin Durant, who both joined the Nets in July, are “pushing” the club to sign Anthony.

Nets General Manager Sean Marks will have the final say, and it’s unclear if Marks is willing to take a chance on Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn and remains a popular player among New York basketball fans. Anthony has not played in an NBA game since being banished by the Houston Rockets last November. Marks, according to a source, did watch Anthony train recently in what was described as an informal workout. Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has also watched Anthony play this summer.

Gilbert Arenas: I remember the reports named Houston as a possible destination for him to land. I said ‘Hell no’ don’t go there it is going a disaster and it is not going to work. You just for the first time in your career played with two ball-dominant players and it made you the third option. So, to go right back to a team that is going to make you again the third option is a disaster. Go to the Lakers where you might come off the bench, but you are going to be the first option in the fourth quarter because that is what they are going to need from Melo. They need a 6’9 guy that can open up the floor, play your iso basketball, and that helps the rest of the Lakers. LeBron passes to everyone else, and you play iso basketball it all works. He goes to Houston and after ten games he is gone. Melo needs to me in a position where the last five minutes of the game he is the go-to guy. If you are not the go-to guy what are you on the court for because don’t have any other skill to be used. You are a fourth-quarter last five-minute iso guy that is your skill.

But All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both spurned the Knicks for Brooklyn. The latter has organized a number of Nets for workouts in Los Angeles, including Caris LeVert and Taurean Prince, and Anthony has joined in. But neither the Nets nor Knicks have shown any interest in bringing Anthony in for next season, with Brooklyn’s roster at 15. “Nothing to it,” a source close to Anthony told The Post. “There’s several guys (playing) that aren’t Nets, but friends and other NBA players.”

You played with Carmelo Anthony in Denver and New York. He recently sat down with Stephen A. Smith and talked about how he still loves the game and wants to play in the NBA again. How was Carmelo as a teammate and do you think he can still help an NBA team? Kenyon Martin: My experience with Melo was cool because I understand Melo. I understand basketball, I understand people and I understand situations, so my with Melo experience was fine. Can he still help an NBA team? Of course. It’s unfortunate that he’s in the situation that he’s in. Him sitting down with Stephen A. Smith? Oh well, it is what it is. I wouldn’t have done it, but it is what it is. He definitely deserves a spot in the NBA. I do think “farewell tours” are f*cking overrated. He wants to play the game of basketball. That’s what it should be about.

Anthony said he reached out to the Lakers about playing for them next season. “Melo is easily better than half the league right now,” Kuzma said. “There’s no question about it. He should be on a team right now. He’s still one of the best players. The slander people throw at him is something I don’t really understand. Maybe that’s just the way today’s society is right now. “It would be great to see him in L.A., but I don’t make those decisions. That’s up to Rob [Pelinka] to make those decisions as far as what he thinks is best for the Lakers. He’s done a great job so far putting this team together.”

Kuzma also has been working with Carmelo Anthony, a 10-time All-Star who has won three gold medals with Team USA and is trying to get back into the NBA after playing just 10 games for Houston last season. “It’s been amazing working with Carmelo,” Kuzma said. “He’s one of the greatest players of all time and one of the best scorers of all time. Getting to learn little things from him that will hopefully help my game will be big for me this season.”
6 months ago via ESPN

Anthony said of his conversation with Morey that he “didn’t like how that went down” and it let him to have doubts about himself. “That was an ego hit. That was a pride hit,” Anthony said. “I started questioning myself after that. Can I still do this? What did I do? I asked him this. … He just said it wasn’t working out. “When somebody in power that tells you that they no longer need your services … I’ve been utilizing my services for a long time. For you to tell me you don’t need that no more. I honestly felt that I was fired. I felt like [what] other people go through on a day-to-day basis. People get fired. I honestly felt like I got fired.”

Carmelo Anthony: “So then I started taking it even deeper. He told me I wasn’t going to make a nine-men rotation. I’m like ‘I can’t make a nine-man rotation, that’s what you’re trying to tell me?’ I’ve already started to accept the fact that I gotta come off the bench, which is very hard for me — I accepted that and I’ve moved on from that, right? But now you’re telling me that I can’t make a nine-man rotation on this team? It’s deeper than basketball.”

Anywhere you look around, a pathway to a deal seems tough. Several of the league’s playoff-contending teams — such as Philadelphia, Denver, Golden State, Utah, Milwaukee, Boston, Brooklyn and Indiana — have proclaimed respect for Anthony’s career but have not pursued signing him and have essentially full rosters now. Then there are the perceived Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, two possibilities, because of Anthony’s history and relationship with LeBron James and ties to the Knicks franchise.
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If the Clippers don’t believe they can win with a 6’7″ center, especially one hoping for what is believed to be a $20 million-per-season payday, then they risk losing Harrell as a free agent. (Multiple executives believe the Atlanta Hawks could be a summer destination.) Los Angeles would have his rights and the ability to sign-and-trade him to another team, but that’s a move entirely dependent on Harrell’s participation.
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Another possibility for Harkless and considerations, one NBA source suggested, could be Thaddeus Young of the Chicago Bulls, who has $34.6 million of his $40.6 million guaranteed through the 2021-22 season. “They could go after Drummond, but if they’re sending out Zubac, Harkless and filler [like Rodney McGruder], they still have the issue that they’re not going to play Drummond with Harrell,” the Eastern Conference executive said.

Clippers eyeing Aron Baynes?

“They take up the same space on the court. The Clippers simply don’t play them together,” the Eastern Conference executive said. “Montrezl is getting 29 minutes a game, so even if the Clippers added on another center, where would those minutes come? They would need a floor-spacer.” In part, that’s why the Clippers have had their eye on Aron Baynes of the Phoenix Suns (17-24), though they are still looking to make a playoff push, just two games behind the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies (20-22). Baynes is a strong, experienced defender who can space the floor. Giving up Zubac for Baynes could make sense if the Clippers reinvest in Harrell, but would the Suns have any interest in Zubac’s four-year, $28.5 million deal as a backup for Deandre Ayton?
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I don’t have any data to immediately quantify this, but I can say with certainty that LeBron has never spoken less frequently to reporters than he has this season. I’m going to leave last year to the side because he missed a career-high 27 games. He’s healthy this season, just not nearly as available. I’m not criticizing him for this, it’s simply true. Between the Lakers’ lack of practices and shootarounds, and LeBron’s being more willing to share the spotlight with veteran teammates, we’re just hearing less from him on a daily basis than ever before.
When the Hornets head to France next week, there will be a familiar face awaiting their arrival. As in the one who wore the No. 9 in purple and teal last season. Tony Parker is expected to be at some of the festivities, soaking up the retired life. Other than native Frenchman Nic Batum, there probably will not be anyone more thrilled to give Parker a bear hug than Willy Hernangomez. The two became tight during Parker’s 10 months in Charlotte. Hernangomez was almost like a little brother to Parker and they still communicate frequently.
“He helped me out a lot,” Hernangomez said. “Honestly, hanging with Tony on and off the court is always unbelievable. He’s always given me good advice. Even right now we are pretty close. Almost every two weeks we are in touch to see how the situation is and how he can help me. I’m looking forward to seeing him in Paris. He’s a really close friend of mine. It’s a really good thing that happened to me last year. A legend in Europe, a legend in the NBA. We really enjoyed playing together and I missed him this year. And hopefully, I can see him and spend time with him.”
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