Carmelo Should Get Out of New York Before It’s Too Late

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PER ESPN:

“I would leave today [if I were Carmelo],” Roberston said on SiriusXM NBA radio Thursday. “… Let me tell you why: wherever that kid has gone, when he was at Denver, they had a team that fooled around with the ball, fooled around with the ball, then all of the sudden when they needed a basket, threw it to Carmelo. Then, when he shot the ball, they said he shot too much. Then when he didn’t shoot they said he didn’t shoot enough…No matter what he does in New York they’re going to criticize him, the people are going to criticize him, because you got guys on [the Knicks] that cannot play. You got guys that are hurt all the time.” He continued with, “If he goes to Houston, they’re gonna win everything,” Robertson told host and well-known Knicks fan Spike Lee. “You look at LeBron [James], LeBron’s got a great game and the kid down at Oklahoma, [Kevin] Durant’s got a great game — they can’t out-shoot Carmelo. … I’ve seen him in a lot of basketball games over the years and I’m telling you right now the kid, he just can get that shot away. Now he’s gotten smarter, he’s going to the basket a lot. But what gets me is that everyone thinks that everything that happens bad is his fault.”

So Oscar Robertson believes Carmelo should ditch New York for Houston. Is he right?

Absolutely.

While Carmelo doesn’t necessarily have to go to Houston, there is no point in staying in New York. The only reason I can think of is money. New York can sign Carmelo to a maximum contract worth 129 million dollars over the course of 5 years if he stays. If he leaves he can only sign a 95.8 million contract for 4 years. So yes, the extra 33.2 million dollars is definitely enticing – think of all the things you could buy and the lifestyle you could live with that kind of money. However, Carmelo Anthony is for the most part already living that life. With endorsements and his 21 million dollar salary this year, there isn’t much more that he needs. Take into account his wife’s salary from TV and her book, The Love Playbook, and the Anthony family is living pretty.

Phil Jackson has made statements regarding superstars taking less money to help the team as a whole, but if Carmelo is going to be taking less than a max contract with New York why not take less with a team that has a better chance of winning a championship in the future. The Knicks have made “power moves” toward the end of the year to try and make New York a more attractive destination for Carmelo but what they have now and what they accomplished this season leaves anything but optimism in Carmelo’s mind.

The team was by far the most disappointing team of 2014. After a pleasingly surprising 2013 campaign, finishing 54-28 and 2nd in the East. Of course they lost in the 2nd round to the up and coming Pacers but not only was it the playoffs, it was something to build off. This year they played like a completely different team. J.R Smith had one of his worst years ever, full of marijuana, shoe-lace untying, and chucking. Raymond Felton almost shot his wife. Tyson Chandler broke his leg. Iman Shumpert faced a slump. Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t really start playing till the end of the season. Andrea Bargnani was hardly worth his contract, proved that white men could jump and hurt his elbow in the process. Carmelo Anthony, if he were to come back next season, would have absolutely nothing to work with except for an abysmal 2014 season, a new coach that would need to “gel” with the whole roster and then a rebuilding project starting in 2015 when all the big contracts are gone.

Carmelo has two viable options in my opinion. One more than the other. He can either not opt-out this season and be an unrestricted free agent in 2015, the same year all the big names would be free agents. I’m talking the Lebrons of the world. That would involve probably one more year of not making the playoffs considering the up and coming teams in the East (Wizards, Raptors, Hawks) as well as the power teams on the top (Bulls, Nets, Heat, Pacers). Then a free agency summer in 2015 where he could pair up with another big name free agent and try win with whoever that may be.

The other option, and the one Oscar Robertson is a firm believer in is ditching this summer for Houston or Chicago. Chicago is expected to amnesty Boozer and then would probably have room to sign Carmelo this summer. Carmelo has previously stated his respect for Tom Thibodeau and the way the Bulls play defense. Joakim Noah has also talked about possibly bringing Carmelo to the windy city next year. The Bulls would be bringing Derrick Rose back next year as well as defensive player of the year Joakim Noah. Along with a team full of hard-working defenders and two-way players, and a consistent coach of the year candidate in Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls would love to have Carmelo and for Carmelo’s defense a move to Chicago could be the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

If not the Bulls, the Rockets who look like they’ll be going down fast to the Blazers this year. The Rockets and Carmelo fit together perfectly. They both like to shoot the ball, and they both want to win. With Dwight Howard down low, James Harden handling the ball and Melo spreading the floor on the wing they would have a very very dangerous trio. They’d most likely have to get rid of Parsons, Lin and Asik to get this deal done but for Carmelo it would be worth it. I think with Dwight and Carmelo they’d both be in stages of their careers where they know they can’t play isolation ball for their teams to win. With the fast paced offense and strong role players for Houston, Carmelo would finally have a team that not only fits his skills but he would have people he wouldn’t mind deferring to and thus probably ridding him off all criticism. The Rockets are right in the thick of things in the Western Conference as opposed to the Knicks who have nothing to work with and will most likely need a rebuilding project in the near future.

Phil Jackson’s hiring and the Mike Woodson’s staff firing was a nice try but Carmelo has to see past the bright lights and the dollar signs and realize New York is and has been for a while a toxic place for basketball. The team is full of big overpaid contracts, no coach at the moment and a team that is going through an entire culture and roster change. For Carmelo, in the prime of his career at 30 years old has no time to start over. He needs to be somewhere he can win and whether it be Houston, or Chicago, Carmelo has to get out of New York as soon as possible.

 

Award Season

Awards. Mom’s love them. Athletes like to keep track of them. Trophy cabinets would die without them. It’s that time of year. The regular season has dawned, and the playoffs are on the rise. So before the official winners come out, here’s my take on the deserving winners and their not as happy runner ups in each category.

Coach of the Year: Gregg Popovich.

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Runner Up: Tom Thibodeau.

Pop deserves the prize for this one. He’ll likely say…”Thanks,” and nothing else in his acceptance speech, or some other one liner representative of his dry humorous personality, but Gregg Popovich has out coached everyone this year. For a team to lose in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and come back with a better record the next year is pretty exceptional. Especially when a lot of critics were ready to say the Spurs dynasty of Parker, Duncan and Ginobli were done for good. It’s especially easy for a team to come back the next year less intense, justifying their play with something like, “We made it last year, it’s too hard to do it again.” However, Popovich got his team to better themselves and raise the bar even higher for a team that is usually flawless in their execution. Even more than that, an old team like the Spurs whose best players are in the last few years of their careers could’ve let that Game 7 defeat be the end of them. They could’ve taken their past championships and hit the road. However, they’ve all raised their level of play. Popovich has even brought in new guys and has been able to play 10 or 11 men deep every game and win without his stars, who I’ll mention again are not in the prime of their careers like those on other contenders (Miami Heat, OKC Thunder). The Spurs went on a 17 game winning streak, clinched the best record in the league, and have secured home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Thibs garners my runner up selection simply because the Bulls remain one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and manage to upset the big dogs in the league without Derrick Rose for a second season, but this year without Luol Deng, their leading scorer and arguably their best player.

Most Improved Player: Goran Dragic

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Runner Up: Anthony Davis

The Suns have made the biggest turnaround in the NBA from last season. After an embarrassing 25-57 season last year, the roster was transformed and Jeff Hornacek was put in office. The result? A faster, more energetic young team that outcompeted its opponents on a nightly basis. Everything went right for this team except the playoffs, which may not even be a bad thing given their plan for the future and the fact they’ll now receive a higher draft pick. Their backcourt tandem of Bledsoe and Dragic worked perfectly when both were healthy. Their young players developed like they should’ve, and even exceeded some expectations. However, the leader of this team from the beginning till the end was Goran Dragic. He played 76 games, and raised his PPG average, FG% and 3Point% all from last year (20.3 ppg, 50 FG%, 41 3Pt%). I think there are two distinctions that can be made about Goran Dragic that justify his earning of this award. The first is that he was the best player on his team and the leader. He had the team on his back the entire year, even more so when Eric Bledsoe got injured. With added responsibility, he stepped up. Additionally, and probably the most important thing is that Goran Dragic did not “improve” because of added opportunity, or a drastically different system. He is playing 1.5 minutes more a game, on the same team with someone people thought would take opportunities away from him. He’s actually improved. People point to someone like a Gerald Green and say easily most improved player, just look at his stats. Yes, it’s true he’s had a career year, but has he improved, or was he given 10 more minutes a game and an additional 40 starts from last season on an extremely faster paced team than the Indiana Pacers? Think about that.

Anthony Davis garners runner up recognition because many players run into a sophomore wall and after a stellar rookie campaign, can’t break through any more barriers in their careers. Anthony Davis is still improving and becoming one of the most dangerous players in the NBA. He’s still a 2nd year man, and that’s why he doesn’t get my vote, because his improvement is supposed to happen – especially with a guy loaded with as much potential as Anthony Davis. His minutes didn’t increase that much (only a 6 minute difference from last season) but his production in every statistical category improved.

6th Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford

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Runner Up: Taj Gibson

Jamal Crawford wins the honors once again after missing out last season to J.R Smith. Jamal Crawford is one of the most lethal and instant offenses in the entire league, averaging 18.6 points, 3.2 assists, and 2.3 rebounds a game, shooting 41% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Simply put, Jamal Crawford knows how to put the ball in the hoop and every team needs that off their bench, not only to keep the defense honest but to give the bench a spark when the starters aren’t doing their job. By having a scoring machine playing against 2nd units, it gives the team a huge advantage. Jamal Crawford, for his respective role, probably does it better than everyone in the league. His scoring average (18.6) is the third highest for a 6th man in the last 20 years. He also dabbled as a starter this season when Chris Paul and or J.J Reddick were injured and averaged 20.6 points those 23 games. He’s had six 30+ point games and has hit or eclipsed the 25 point mark 13 times. It’s no question that Jamal Crawford is someone Doc Rivers can rely on, and Crawford has been called to the plate numerous times in the 4th quarter where he averages a 3rd best in the NBA 6.7 points a game, on 9.5 minutes. Beyond the statistics, Jamal Crawford is a spark plug – someone that can bring the fans to their feet quickly, and can start a run with an ankle breaking crossover or a deep three pointer. He has the edge against the other 6th men candidates, because yes, his statistics are better, and he plays in the Western Conference on a better team and is relied on heavier than most of the other candidates in this category.

Taj Gibson garners runner up recognition because he has surpassed Carlos Boozer as the go to Power Forward in the 4th quarter. He plays 10 minutes a game in the final quarter, and defensively and energetically Taj Gibson brings another multi-fasceted weapon to the Bulls game. He is active in help defense and in protecting the rim, and has developed a nifty offensive game around the rim and as far out as the free throw line for jumpers. Along with Joakim Noah he has become the 2nd emotional leader of the team, a humongous part of why they are in 4th in the Eastern Conference even without Derrick Rose and the mid-season trade of Luol Deng. The only thing that held him back from winning in my eyes, is the competition. The Eastern Conference was historically bad this season, home to 8 losing records, and the 4 worst teams in the entire league. Taj Gibson did what was asked from him and more but its the teams he played against which may have prevented him from winning this award.

Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah

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Runner Up: Roy Hibbert

Joakim Noah is the epitome of energy when on the court – playing with more passion and fire than some teams altogether (Knicks, Pistons, etc..) Defensively, it’s his presence on the court, his protection of the paint and his versatility to be able to guard every player has brought Chicago to the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference even without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. The Chicago Bulls were 1st in opponents points allowed per game, only allowing 91.8 points throughout the season. They were 2nd in opponents FG% with 42% and in the top 10 in opponents 3 Point%, holding teams to only 35% from beyond the arc. They say anybody has the ability to play great defense, all you need is energy and the desire and Joakim Noah lacks neither. His passion is contagious and has many times won Chicago games or secured them the ball on big possessions down the stretch. Joakim is a fierce rim protector, but what garners my vote over Roy Hibbert is his ability to guard every position on the floor. Unlike most defensive centers, Joakim Noah has no problem switching pick n rolls, or going out to the perimeter and guarding quicker guys. Joakim is agile, quick and disciplined on defense and has been seen many times stuck on someone like Lebron James on the perimeter and given him trouble. That kind of versatility isn’t seen often in 6’11 guys and it gives the Bulls more leeway defensively knowing Joakim Noah can do everything on that side of the court.

Roy Hibbert gets runner up because the Pacers were right behind the Bulls defensively in opponents points per game. I think his reputation was tarnished slightly toward the end of the season due to the Pacers’ rough end to the year and his being taken out of many games due to foul trouble or attitude. However, Roy Hibbert is the best rim protector in the NBA and plays the verticality game to perfection.

Rookie of the Year: Michael Carter-Williams

 

Runner Up: Victor Oladipo

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While it’s acceptable to argue against MCW’s rookie campaign and deny him the ROY because of the historically fast pace at which his team plays with, and the embarrassingly scarce, inexperienced and untalented roster he had around him, the talent was obviously there and for a rookie MCW definitely took the most of the opportunities he was given. His team was the 2nd worst in the league and in tank mode like we’ve never seen before, but throughout it all, he was the beacon of hope for a franchise looking toward the future. MCW led all rookies in points per game (16.7) assists (6.3), rebounds (6.2), steals (1.9) and usage rate (25% of his teams possessions) – some fantastic numbers for a first year guard. He is also the first rookie since Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson to average at least 16 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.

Victor Oladipo is the close runner up, and had a great season in his own right. He was second amongst rookies in usage rate (24%) and averaged 13 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. He played 31 minutes a game for a team with a slower pace than the 76ers and still averaged numbers that somewhat resemble those of MCW. But it’s really his energy, athleticism and aggression to the basket that have the Magic smiling about this guy.

Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant

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Runner Up: Lebron James

Finally Kevin Durant surpasses Lebron James and wins an MVP. Kevin has been chipping away and sprinting on Lebron’s heels for years now and finally he should be awarded with the MVP. His individual season has been historic. I’ll repeat what I said in an earlier post about Durant in terms of some eye-opening statistics:

Kevin Durant is averaging career highs in points (32.2) and assists (5.6) a game. With Russell Westbrook struggling with knee injuries, Kevin Durant has often had the entire team to carry by himself, and that has led to two 50-point games, twelve 40+ point games, three triple-doubles and an Oklahoma City Thunder record of 59-23 good for 2nd in the Western Conference. In comparison to previous great individual seasons, Kevin Durant surpassed Michael Jordan’s record of consecutive 25+ scoring games with 41 in a row. He’s the first player since the 1988-89 season to average 32 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists per game – the last to do it was Michael Jordan. To further the comparison with Jordan, Kevin Durant is the first player since MJ’s 1991-1992 season to average 30+ points, 5+ assists and 5+ rebounds a game while shooting 50% or higher from the field. 

Lebron James obviously is a close 2nd, and like every season he’s ever had he’s been consistent and amazing. He is still probably the best player on the planet but this year was Kevin Durant’s year, and I’m sure it won’t be his last.

 

Finals: Game 2 Notes

It looked all but over. The Heat had a 15 point lead with 7 minutes to go. They have three all stars on their team and they were looking like they would cruise to the finish. Then after Dwyane’s big three, their hollywood that Joakim Noah talked about came out. There was the premature celebration, the punches, the cheering and everyone including myself believed it was over.

Never doubt a veteran team.

The Mavericks closed the game out on a 22-5 run, they came back and won the game by 2 points. Lebron and Wade had so many opportunities to finish the game off, but they played along the three point line and took rushed shots. This dates back to critique on their clutch play and their ability to finish games off. This is not just another game, they just lost game 2 of the finals. They could’ve had a 2-0 lead going into the three games in Dallas which are almost impossible to lose all three. They could’ve won the series in Dallas, or come back to Miami with a 3-2 lead. Now it’s basically 0-0. The first game means nothing. Nothing has happened except for the momentum shifting to the Mavericks.

This was a big let down for the Heat. They looked like they were coasting to an easy series, their superstar firepower was taking over and everyone thought this series was in the Heat’s hands. This is not the play we should be seeing from a champion. Champions don’t lose concentration for 7 minutes in game 2 of the finals, at home, with a 15 point lead. It’s not a champions type of game.

This game also showed us how persistent and valuable the veteran experience is on this team. They never gave up. They scored bucket after bucket and dug into the Heat defensively. It showed us that maybe a champion doesn’t have to have two or more stars on their team like the 2010 Lakers, or the 2008 Celtics, or the 2007 Spurs. All you need is will, heart and determination and that’s what got them back in this game.

To close out this game, they needed Dirk Nowitzki. His 9 points in the last 2 or so minutes showed Lebron what it takes to be a real champion. His late game antics, his shooting when it counted and his reading of the defence on the last possession won Dallas this game. Never mind his contest of Dwyane’s prayer shot at the end of the game.

This game showed us a lot about who we’re watching in the finals. A team that cruises after a lead,and a team that doesn’t give up until the buzzer sounds. Hmm, I wonder who will won the NBA championship.

Help!

13 seconds were left on the clock. The crowd was silent, anxiously awaiting the shot that was supposed to take the Bulls a step closer to the championship. They waited 8 more seconds, until the ball was put in the hands of their saviour. Derrick Rose. He dribbled to the left wing. He bent his knees, and released. The Chicago fans opened their eyes to see the ball being blocked by Lebron James, the enemy in their minds. The buzzer rang, and that was it. The end for Chicago.

A shame, losing this series was a real disappointment to Chicago. They thought this was their year. Coach Thibodeau won Coach of the Year. Derrick Rose won MVP. They were the #1 seed in the NBA. Even Michael Jordan said they were going to win the championship.

Every team has to go up the mountain before their at the top.That’s the step the Bulls are currently taking.

It was clear to me in the last 5 minutes of game 5 that Derrick Rose needed help. Defense can win you as many games as you like but when your team is in crunch time, with the ball in your hands, it’s offense you need.

Derrick Rose did everything he could possibly do in the last 5 minutes. He drove in and tried to get the call. He passed to the open man on the pick and roll. He passed it to Kyle Korver for one of his invaluable threes. Nothing would break the Heat’s defense. D-Rose is amazing, he is a wonderful young talent, but no player can go one on 5 in crunch time and win a game. He tried but unfortunately failed.

He needs help. On offense, D-Rose needs help. Luol Deng will produce a solid 18-20 points per game, Joakim Noah gets a solid 10 but where is the offensive force that could help D-Rose when he really needs it. Which brings me to my point.

Last offseason, the free agency market was filled with all-stars. Joe Johnson, Amar’e Stoudemire, the Big 3, Ray Allen, Manu Ginobli and many strong role players

The Bulls were in need of a low post offensive presence to battle with the elite teams. Or so they said. I believed they didn’t need to invest their money in a low post threat when they have Taj Gibson developing into a low post force. When there are 6+ all stars on the market, and your team has apparently the best presentation of most teams with cap space. You don’t waste your money on Carlos Boozer. You just don’t. He may be a good post player, and may have been a 16 and 10 guy in Utah but you evidently need scoring at the shooting guard position. Why didn’t they fish for those types of players.

They may have went a bit wrong with their choice last offseason. That’s ok, it’s part of being a young organization. Carlos Boozer missed half of the season this year and only produced about 14 points and 8 rebounds when he was playing. He didn’t help Rose offensively, or beat players down low like he was supposed to. If you compared Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer this season you’ll see that they’re numbers are very similar. Maybe Taj will be the next Boozer, who knows.

For now, I think the Beatles said it best. ” Help, I need somebody, help!”