Are you optimistic about Bargnani?

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
12:15
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Andrea BargnaniJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesLast season, the 'Bockers were better off with Andrea Bargnani on the bench. But Phil Jackson says he might "surprise" next season. Agree?
By most measures, Andrea Bargnani's season with the Knicks last year was a forgettable one.

New York’s offense was 6.8 points better (per 100 possessions) when Bargnani was on the bench. On defense, the Knicks allowed one fewer point per 100 possessions when Bargnani was off the court.

And then there’s this: The Knicks went 15-27 before Bargnani went down with an elbow injury and finished the season 21-18 after he got hurt.

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It's unfair to put that all on Bargnani, but it doesn't reflect well on the former No. 1 overall pick.

"He just never seemed to be a good fit," one NBA scout said of Bargnani last season.

But when viewed through the prism of individual statistics, Bargnani’s 2013-14 season doesn’t seem so terrible. He averaged 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, numbers the Knicks probably would have signed up for when they acquired Bargnani last summer.

The bigger issue last season for Bargnani was that he never fit well on the floor with Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks hoped Bargnani could be a strong secondary scoring option. That didn’t happen.

New York outscored teams by 3.5 points per 100 possessions when Anthony was on the court without Bargnani. But when Anthony and Bargnani shared the floor, the Knicks were outscored by 3.9 points per 100 possessions.

Maybe that was one reason, along with his salary, that Bargnani was deemed expendable earlier this summer by the Knicks. The Knicks’ hierarchy tried to ship Bargnani out, along with one of their guards, in an effort to shed his $11.5 million salary and free up some money for then-free agent Pau Gasol, sources say.

Either New York couldn’t find an amenable trade partner or couldn't construct a deal to its liking because Bargnani is still a Knick and Gasol is with the Chicago Bulls.

It is unclear if Bargnani is still on the trading block.

Phil Jackson said last week he thinks Bargnani will “surprise” some people this season. He also called the seven-footer “overlooked.”

“We think he's going to really do well in the kind of system we have,” Jackson said in an interview on MSG Network. “We've got a couple guards he likes to play with in Jose [Calderon] and Pablo [Prigioni] because he's played with them before in situations. I think he's going to be a surprise and I think he's going to be a pleasant one for our fans.”

Some see Jackson and Derek Fisher's triangle offense as a panacea for Bargnani. If he can knock down the open shots produced by the triangle, the theory goes, maybe Bargnani can have a successful run in his second season in New York?

(That theory ignores that Bargnani isn't a strong passer and doesn't move well -- two essential skills in the triangle.)

Offense, though, hasn't been Bargnani's biggest issue over eight years in the league. Defense and rebounding have also held him back -- maybe to a larger degree than any drawbacks he has on the offensive end.

So Fisher and the Knicks will have to figure out not only how to get Bargnani open looks on offense but also how to overcome his porous perimeter defense and spotty rebounding.

And, oh yeah, they’ll also have to find a way to incorporate him on offense without hindering Carmelo.

Is that possible? Sure. Anything's possible. But, based on last season, it doesn't seem all that likely.

Question: Do you agree with Jackson when it comes to Bargnani? Do you think Bargnani can be a “surprise” for the Knicks this season? Or should they look to trade him?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

McDermott, Butler picked for Select Team

July, 22, 2014
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Fresh off an impressive showing at the Las Vegas Summer League, rookie Doug McDermott will join Chicago Bulls teammate Jimmy Butler on the USA Select Team that will practice against the national team as it prepares for the FIBA World Cup.

Butler
McDermott
McDermott and Butler were chosen for the Select Team along with the Golden State Warriors' Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green, the Utah Jazz's Trey Burke (Utah Jazz), the New York Knicks' Tim Hardaway Jr., the Orlando Magic's Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo, the Brooklyn Nets' Mason Plumlee, the Phoenix Suns' Miles Plumlee, the Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart, the Cleveland Cavaliers' Dion Waiters and the Charlotte Hornets' Cody Zeller.

McDermott, drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the 11th pick in last month's draft and then traded for two picks to the Bulls, was a first-team pick for the summer league all-star team along with second-year swingman Tony Snell. McDermott averaged 18 points a game and shot 44 percent from three-point range in Vegas.

Butler, 24, averaged a career-best 13.1 points a game last season, his first as a starter. The young Bulls duo will train with teammate Derrick Rose, who is expected to participate in Team USA practices.

"USA Basketball's Select Teams are critical for getting some of the game's brightest and most promising young players experience at the USA National Team level, and getting them into our pipeline," USA Basketball National Team managing director Jerry Colangelo said in a statement. "Again this summer, as was done in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012, the members of the USA Select Team will play an important role in helping prepare the USA National Team for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

"Being chosen for the Select Team is an honor and an important step in becoming involved in USA Basketball's National Team program in the future. In the past, current national team players like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, as well as many other outstanding players got their USA National Team start through the Select Team."

The Select Team will train with Team USA from July 28-31 in Las Vegas. The FIBA World Cup runs from Aug. 30-Sept.14 in Spain.
video

New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith impressively soared through the air in an attempt to swat a fast-break dunk at the Drew League. But not high enough to avoid getting posterized.

Sacramento wins summer-league title

July, 21, 2014
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LAS VEGAS -- Ray McCallum had a few big moments toward the end of last season for the Sacramento Kings.

After a summer like this, he might have shown he's ready for plenty more.

McCallum scored 29 points and helped key a big Sacramento rally in the final minutes, as the Kings topped the Houston Rockets 77-68 Monday night to win the NBA Summer League championship game.

"It means a lot," said McCallum, as he held the tournament MVP trophy. "I've been trying to put in a lot of hard work this summer."

The Kings went 6-1 at Las Vegas, and McCallum more than saved his best for last. He scored a total of 55 points in his first six games in the tournament, then connected on 9 of 15 shots from the floor in the title game.

Ra'shad Jones scored 12 points and Nik Stauskas added 10 for Sacramento, which closed the game on a 27-10 run before a crowd of 7,603.

"This is a great way to start off an NBA career," Stauskas said.

Nick Johnson scored 17 for the Rockets, who got 16 from Donatas Motiejunas and 15 from Isaiah Canaan.

McCallum -- who appeared in 45 games for the Kings last season and made 10 starts late in the year, with three games of 22 points or better in the season's final weeks -- had just one point in the first quarter, and the Kings trailed 17-8 early.

But once he got rolling, the Kings followed suit.


(Read full post)


[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony already has a good grip on basketball and is now trying his hand at being a venture capitalist.

Signed to the New York Knicks for another five seasons, Carmelo Anthony is already looking to life after basketball.

On Monday, Anthony announced the creation of M7 Tech Partners, a venture capital firm whose only partners are Anthony and Stuart Goldfarb, the former CEO of Bertelsmann, the world's largest direct marketer of music, video and books.

"For as long as I can remember, I've been interested in technology," Anthony said in a statement. "We are actively looking for ventures with strong leadership that resonate with consumers."

Anthony noted that he was particularly intrigued with wearable and connected devices.

"Carmelo is in his prime right now," Goldfarb said. "He has built an incredible global brand and is now interested in building his future while his brand is on the rise."

Goldfarb said the two haven't put a minimum or maximum on how much they will invest in the coming years, though the firm's announcement was accompanied by news of its first investment. M7 has become an equity partner in Hullabalu, an interactive children story company.

Goldfarb said that the firm's interest could gravitate to sport on occasions, but will mainly be focused on "investing in companies that have products that deeply resonate with us."


(Read full post)


[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesThough LeBron is taking his talents back north, big-named free agents like Carmelo Anthony stayed put.

The most successful offseason of any NBA team didn't involve a news conference or an as-told-to story. It quietly reached its conclusion in the form of an email from the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday morning that announced the re-signing of Boris Diaw.

If the immediate goal is to win the 2015 championship, there's no better place to start than preserving the 2014 champions. No, the Spurs didn't make the eye-grabbing move of the summer -- the return of LeBron James to Cleveland snagged that honor -- but they made a series of low-key announcements that four main components of their championship squad are coming back: Diaw, Tim Duncan, Patty Mills and coach Gregg Popovich.

Put it this way: Would you rather have a team with LeBron adapting to a new group of players, or a team that just beat LeBron by a total of 70 points in five NBA Finals games? The Spurs epitomize the underrated story of the 2014 NBA free-agent fest, which is that retaining is the new improving.


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Source: Knicks open to dealing J.R., Shump

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
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Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, Shane LarkinGetty ImagesThe Knicks are willing to trade Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Shane Larkin. But who should go?
Working to clear the logjam in the backcourt, the Knicks are discussing their potential trade options with guards J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Shane Larkin, a league source said Sunday.

“They’re working on trying to make a move in the backcourt,” the NBA source familiar with the Knicks’ thinking said Sunday.

The idea that the Knicks are trying to make a trade to balance the roster isn’t earth-shattering. President Phil Jackson and GM Steve Mills have mentioned the Knicks have a surplus in the backcourt, with Mills saying last week the Knicks are “heavy” at shooting guard.

The issue for the Knicks, of course, is deciding whom to send out in a trade and figuring out what they can get in return in such a transaction.

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Tim Hardaway Jr. has been deemed virtually untouchable, per a source.

Smith, the 2012-13 Sixth Man Award winner, has a player option in his contract for $6.4 million for the 2015-16 season and is coming off what he called the worst season of his NBA career. As such, it is unclear how much interest he could draw on the open market.

Shumpert is viewed as a strong defender but couldn’t find his comfort zone on offense last season. He was made available in several trade proposals throughout the season. His value at this point in the trade market is also unclear.

Larkin was recently acquired from the Mavericks in the trade that also netted Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert.

The Knicks tried to include Shumpert in deals earlier in the offseason in an effort to unload the contracts of Andrea Bargnani ($11.5 million) and Amar'e Stoudemire ($23.4 million). No deal materialized for either player. It is unclear if such packages are still being discussed or if the guards are being offered individually at this point.

The Knicks have four shooting guards on the roster. They also haven’t ruled out re-signing free-agent PG/SG Toure' Murry. He has drawn interest from the Utah Jazz and Miami Heat, according to a report Sunday from the Salt Lake Tribune.

Question: If you were Phil Jackson or Steve Mills, would you trade one of the Knicks' guards? If so, who and why?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Is Melo's contract worst among 2014 free agents?

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
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One metric ranks Carmelo Anthony’s contract as the worst that’s been handed out so far in NBA free agency.

ESPN Insider Tom Haberstroh has a metric to measure the value –- or lack thereof –- of contracts agreed to so far this summer.

He compared the player’s average annual salary to the amount expected based on the player's age and 2013-14 production.

Carmelo’s deal -– worth $124 million over five years -– ranked worst in Haberstroh’s ranking.

Writes Haberstroh:

“According to the metrics, Anthony will be one of the most overpaid players in the game.

Like most, RPM sees Anthony as a below-average player on the defensive end. As such, he needs to be otherworldly on offense to warrant a $125 million commitment. Anthony's a great scorer, but he rated as only the 18th-best offensive player in the league last season. That's probably a bit unkind, but Melo's age and defensive struggles make this contract a dubious one by any estimation.”


Habrestroh ranks Chris Bosh’s deal with Miami and Utah’s deal with Gordon Hayward as the second and third worst of the offseason.

Anthony, for what it’s worth, has an early termination option for the fifth and final year of his contract and also has a no-trade clause.

For more on Haberstroh’s methodology and which contracts he rates highest and lowest, click here.

Question: Do you think Carmelo’s contract is the worst of the free agency season thus far? Or do you think it will work out well for the Knicks?

Andrew Bynum ponders knee therapy

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
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[+] EnlargeAndrew Bynum
AP Photo/Mark DuncanAndrew Bynum is contemplating undergoing the Regenokine knee therapy program, which would result in him missing the 2014-15 season.

The 2014-15 NBA season could be another one without Andrew Bynum.

The oft-injured No. 10 pick in the 2005 draft is considering sitting out next season in order to undergo the Regenokine knee therapy procedure, his agent, David Lee, told the New York Post.

The non-surgical procedure uses injections to help grow new cartilage, and requires an extra-long rehab.

Lee said Bynum is considering doing the program with German doctor Peter Wehling, who has worked with Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez in the past.

The procedure is not approved in the United States.

If Bynum successfully completes the program, he could return in 2015-16, according to Lee, who said the Knicks potentially would be interested in the 7-footer.

"If he's healthy, Phil [Jackson] will be interested," Lee told the Post, referring to the Knicks team president who coached Bynum while with the Lakers. "Phil knew how to tap into Andrew. They got along famously."


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Playoffs? Here are 3 keys for Fisher, Knicks

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
3:09
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Carmelo Anthony, Derek Fisher and Jose CalderonGetty Images, USA TODAY SportsDerek Fisher believes his Bockers will be a playoff team next season. Here are three things that must happen for the coach to be right.
Derek Fisher stirred the emotions of some Knicks fans when he said earlier in the week that he thought New York would be a playoff team next season.

"I believe in our guys," Fisher said Monday. "Even if nothing else changes, we’re good enough to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but we have to go out and prove it."

Fisher, we should point out, said exactly what he is supposed to say here. Did you expect him to say he didn't think the Knicks would make the playoffs? That would have left some Knicks fans in hysterics.

But at the same time, Fisher has some very real reasons to be optimistic.

Below, we take a brief look at three things that need to happen (in addition to avoiding injury) in order for the Knicks to make the playoffs.

1. Five-man commitment on defense: The Knicks’ defense was one of the most charitable in the NBA in 2013-14. New York ranked 24th of 30 teams in points allowed per possession and was routinely torched by opposing point guards. This was due to a combination of porous perimeter defense, an inability to defend the pick-and-roll consistently and an overexposed interior.

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All of these issues are related, which is why we mention team defense as one of the Knicks’ biggest issues heading into 2014-15.

The Knicks don't currently have an individual interior or perimeter defender the other four players on the floor can rely on to get stops.

So Fisher's team needs to establish a cohesive, collaborative approach on the defensive end that can mask individual weaknesses and stem the tide of penetrating guards who burned New York last season.

One issue here is that both Jose Calderon and Pablo Prigioni have reputations as spotty on-ball defenders. So help on the perimeter from the off guard and well-executed pick-and-roll defense on the opposing point guard is crucial.

The Knicks were last in the NBA in points allowed to both the ball handler and roller in pick-and-roll situations last season. They also allowed point guards to score 22.7 points per 48 minutes.

So it’s fair to assume that number needs to drop for the Knicks to qualify for the postseason. That’s primarily on Fisher, who also needs to figure out the best way to use Samuel Dalembert and Jason Smith to defend the paint and rim.

2. Improved point guard play: As anyone who watched the Knicks last season can tell you, the departed Raymond Felton struggled on both ends of the floor. He averaged a career-low 9.7 points and hit just 39 percent of his shots (31 percent from beyond the arc). He also was one of the main reasons the Knicks struggled to defend the opposing point guard (see above). And as a byproduct, Felton was cited (rightfully so in some instances, wrongly in others) as a contributing factor in the Knicks’ struggles.

On paper, New York upgraded at point guard with Phil Jackson’s offseason trade for Calderon.

Calderon is widely regarded as one of the top shooting point guards in the NBA -- and the numbers support that. Calderon is a career 48 percent shooter who hit 45 percent on 3-pointers last season. So the veteran 1-guard should be a big upgrade on offense, particularly if the triangle offense provides him with open shots -- as it should.

But Fisher will need to find a way to help Calderon on defense.

Per ESPN’s Real Plus/Minus stat, Calderon ranked 45th among 83 NBA point guards at a minus-1.70. That's not good.

(Real Plus/Minus measures a player's estimated on-court impact on team performance and is measured in net point differential per 100 offensive and defensive possessions. It takes into account teammates, opponents and additional factors.)

3. Improved ball movement: The Knicks were heavily reliant on isolation last season. Carmelo Anthony led the league in isolation scoring, averaging 6.6 isolation points per game, according to Synergy Sports. That was more than 11 NBA teams. As an example of the teamwide isolation the Knicks espoused, New York ended the season ranked 24th in touches per possession and 25th in points created by assists per game.

The Knicks also ranked 24th in points per possession. Maybe there is a correlation there.

Needless to say, New York should move the ball more frequently this year thanks to the implementation of the triangle offense.

If the offense is run properly, open shots should be created on the perimeter and the midrange.

And if the Knicks can knock down jump shots at the same rate as they did last season, the triangle should make Phil Jackson's club much more effective on the offensive end.

Last year, the Knicks were second in catch-and-shoot field goal percentage and second in field goal percentage on shots within 12 feet off a pass.

So if the Knicks can increase open looks created by the pass, they should be an improved team on the offensive end. Which, we can presume, should lead to more wins and a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Question: What do you think the Knicks need to do to make the playoffs next season?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

Phil details how Dolan removed doubts

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
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Jackson
Jackson
Before Phil Jackson decided to try to lead the Knicks to the Promised Land, he and Jim Dolan had “a meeting of the minds” in the desert.

In an excerpt of his book “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty” which appears in the New York Daily News, Jackson details how two meetings with Dolan led to his return to the Knicks as team president.

Jackson wrote about how Irving Azoff, a music industry executive who manages The Eagles among others, set up his meeting with Dolan at Azoff’s birthday party. Jackson says he and Dolan spoke about “the plight of the Knicks for an hour or so” in early December before deciding to pick up their conversation again after the holidays at Jerry’s Deli, a New York style deli in Marina Del Rey, Calif.

There, Jackson and Dolan spoke about what exact role he would want if he joined the Knicks and how he’d “need to know what was happening on a daily basis.”

Jackson writes that Steve Mills flew to Los Angeles and the two devised a plan for how they could work together as team president and general manager.

What intrigued me about the job was the opportunity to re-create the culture from the ground up, much as I had hoped to do with the ill-starred franchise in Seattle. Jim had pledged to give me full authority over the basketball operations and a free hand to make whatever changes were necessary to bring another championship to New York.


Jackson though wondered about the Knicks’ dismal situation with high-priced salaries that hampered their salary cap situation and a lack of assets like first-round picks.

Before Jackson signed on, he decided to take Dolan and Mills on a ride through the desert near Palm Springs. Dolan asked Jackson to “design an outdoor adventure” for the three and Jackson had a guide lead them through “a wild chase across the desert in all-terrain vehicles to see how much future colleagues would respond to hostile territory.”

That trip removed any doubts I had about moving forward. Under the clear desert sky, Jim and I had a meeting of the minds and we set a date in mid-March for my return to the Knicks.

When I arrived in New York, my first job was to stabilize the direction of the Knicks and get everybody in the organization speaking in one voice about where we were headed. I wasn’t talking about making a quick turnaround, but building a strong, sustainable future for the team based on the principles of teamwork and selflessness outlined in this book.

For me, the key is building trust. I don’t want to be the kind of president who huddles privately with the GM and keeps everyone else in the dark. In my new role, I’m not going to be as hands-on with the team as I was as a coach, but I can open up the circle and make sure everybody with good ideas gets a chance to be heard.

We have some talented people in this organization, but they need more direction. Our scouts and analysts also need to align the tons of information on potential prospects they churn out every day with our long-range vision for the team. To that end, we’re planning to analyze every team in the league and figure out as a group what’s driving them, so that we can make moves now that will make sense three to five years down the road.


Jackson said he also wants to address the “team’s culture of indifference” and “re-establish the sense of professional responsibility.”

Resilience isn’t the Knicks’ biggest problem, however. When I talked to the players in the postseason, many of them said that they really liked their teammates off-court, but not everybody was on the same page when they hit the floor. And, contrary to media reports, they didn’t blame the coach for their lack of harmony; they blamed themselves. They hadn’t been willing, they confessed, to make the sacrifices necessary to join together as a team.


Jackson knows the task that lies ahead of him is as tall as the Empire State Building. And he knows the good feelings created by his arrival to New York will soon disappear if the Knicks don’t turn things around.

No question, I have a big job ahead of me. Now that we’ve hired Derek Fisher as the new head coach, we need to bring in a some new players to complement Carmelo (who has decided to stay with the Knicks), change the team chemistry and give the team more of the grit and character New York is famous for. Derek was an exceptional leader when he played for me on the Lakers and I’m certain he’ll inspire the players to meld together and play the game the right way.

Soon, the honeymoon will be over. I can already sense the sharks circling in the water. But that doesn’t bother me. What matters now is waking up every morning and getting a chance to do something I’ve always dreamed of: re-awakening the team that Red Holzman built, the team that changed my life forever.

Melo takes $124 million for the team

July, 16, 2014
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Carmelo Anthony has been one of the more polarizing figures in New York sports over the past three years.

At the beginning of his Knicks career, Carmelo was criticized for the way he arrived in the Big Apple (blockbuster, three-team trade instead of signing as a free agent).

Now, he’s being critiqued for the way he chose to return to the Knicks.

Anthony signed a $124 million contract with the Knicks on Sunday, opting for a return to New York instead of opportunities to play in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Anthony took $5 million less than the maximum contract ($129 million) offered to him.

Since Anthony’s contract figures came to light on Tuesday, Anthony’s been ripped on social media and in other corners for the total amount of his contract. But calling Anthony “selfish” for his new Knicks deal is misguided.

Here’s why:

He still took less: Carmelo first said back in February that he’d be open to taking a pay cut to help the team he signed with acquire more assets.

"Without a doubt," Anthony said while in New Orleans for All-Star Weekend. "Any opportunity I have to build that up in New York, I'd do it.”

In the weeks leading up to Anthony’s free agency, Phil Jackson challenged Anthony to take less than the max to help the Knicks.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
AP Photo/Rick BowmerCarmelo Anthony put his team before self and took a pay cut. Now cut him some slack.
"I think [there is] a precedent that's been set," Jackson said shortly after the end of the regular season. "... So we hope that Carmelo is true to his word, and we understand what it's going to take and we will present that to him at that time."

Neither Anthony nor Jackson mentioned a specific number when talking about a potential pay cut.

Anthony ended up accepting $5 million less than the maximum of $129 million.

No matter how you rationalize it, Anthony still took a pay cut to help the Knicks.

The pay cut can help next summer: The initial reaction among those who wanted to crush Carmelo for taking $124 million was this: How does this help the Knicks?

Well, Anthony was eligible for a 7.5 percent raise in the second year of his contract. Instead, he took a microscopic raise. According to the ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Anthony has a raise of $400,000 in the second year of his contract rather than the $1.8 million raise he was eligible for.

So that will save the Knicks $1.4 million in the summer of 2015, when they hope to be able to attract another star to play alongside Anthony.

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Is Melo selfish or unselfish for accepting a $124 million contract to return to the Knicks?

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Anthony’s salary combined with the projected salaries of the rest of the roster -- Jose Calderon, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert (qualifying offer), Hardaway Jr. (team option), Shane Larkin (team option) -- the 2015 first-round pick’s salary and five cap holds equals $47.3 million.

The cap this season was set at $63 million, a significant increase from the previous season. So let’s assume the 2015-16 cap will be $65 million, a conservative estimate.

This means that the Knicks would have $17.7 million in cap space to spend on free agents that summer, thanks in part to Anthony’s pay cut.

So Anthony’s pay cut in 2015 could be critical for the Knicks because a player like Memphis’ Marc Gasol will be eligible for a max salary of at least $16.4 million in the summer of 2015.

Phil was fine with it: If you still see Anthony’s pay cut as meaningless, read what Knicks president Phil Jackson had to say about it on Sunday:

"He did exactly what we kind of asked him to do. Give us a break in the early part of his contract so that when we have some wiggle room next year, which is hopefully big enough wiggle room we can exploit it, provide a more competitive team for our group," Jackson said.

Now, if you think this is just Jackson’s way of spinning a bad contract for the Knicks, that’s OK. But there are two sides to every contract negotiation.

Melo accepted what the Knicks offered him. Faulting Anthony alone for accepting a contract worth $124 million is faulty logic.

Remember, the Knicks made the contract offer. So if you are mad at Melo for making $124 million, you should direct some of your ire at Jackson and the Knicks’ front office as well. The Knicks could have offered Anthony a $115 million contract and told him to take it or leave for Chicago.

That didn’t happen. Instead, they offered Anthony the max contract they seemed dead set against offering him. And some people are mad that he signed up for $124 million. Doesn’t make much sense.

All of the above, by the way, doesn’t even address the idea that most people critiquing Melo’s pay cut probably wouldn’t accept a lower wage from their employer to benefit the company. But that’s another argument for another time.

Question: Do you think Carmelo was selfish for accepting a $124 million contract to come back to the Knicks?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.

J.R. 'wouldn't blame' Phil for trading him

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
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J.R. Smith is confident the Knicks can win the Eastern Conference this season, but is he confident he'll be a part of the team?

Smith appeared on ESPN2’s "First Take" on Wednesday, talked about the Knicks’ glut at shooting guard and said he "wouldn’t blame" team president Phil Jackson and the Knicks if the team had decided to trade him last season.

"No. Absolutely not. The way I was playing, I was playing like a person who didn’t want to be there," Smith said. "Not looking as focused as a person should be in that situation that we were, in the trenches. I wouldn’t blame them at all."

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If the Knicks deal one of their three shooting guards, who should they move?

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Of course, the Knicks didn’t deal Smith by last season’s trade deadline, but the Knicks this season are a bit overstocked at shooting guard with Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert on the roster.

Hardaway Jr. and Shumpert were mentioned in recent trade discussions between the Knicks and other teams that were centered around Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, according to sources.

Smith said on Wednesday that he’s "cognizant" one of the shooting guards on the roster could be traded before the start of the season.

"Yeah, because that’s just the way the numbers work, honestly," he said. "When you have so many people at that same position and you’re trying to juggle between 'Well, he’s got to play 20 minutes, he’s got to play 30 minutes, he’s got to play 25 minutes,' it’s tough to do. That’s why whenever I’m in the gym I try to do the best. [I’m] not worried about those guys [the other shooting guards], but [I want] to make sure I’m evolving my game so I can play multiple positions and keep my talent on the floor."

Smith also touched on several other subjects on "First Take."

[+] EnlargeJ.R. Smith
AP Photo/Jason DeCrowJ.R. Smith's sixth man hangover was a headache for the Knicks in 2013-14.
On how strongly he believes the Knicks, coming off a 37-win season, will win the Eastern Conference:

"Extremely. I’m confident. I don’t play to lose."

On what went wrong last season:

"For one, it was unacceptable the whole year. I’m not going to make any excuses for myself. Coming back from knee surgery is a tough thing to come back from. I didn’t expect to be at that top tier, where I was. We had a lot of confusion going on [regarding] what we were going to do as far as schemes and stuff like that. And some people didn’t agree with it. … And it just caused confusion, and, before you know it, some people were doing what they want to do and other people were doing what they want to do and there was just a lot of confusion. We just didn’t agree. We agreed to disagree a lot of the times.

"And everybody knows in order for five guys to be on the same page, like the Spurs were … everybody has to be on the same page, and we weren’t."

On whether focus was an issue for him:

"I put so much pressure on myself to come back, especially after [the] suspension and being hurt, to be back [to] where I was the year before, winning the sixth man [award]. But after that I put so much pressure on myself … [I tried] to try to take some of the pressure off and just have fun with the game. That’s where the shoe incident came into play and just [wanted to] try to ease the tension a little bit and it wasn’t working. None of the things that I had going on in my mind was working. And, unfortunately, it just so happened, I believe, to be the worst year I’ve had in the NBA, including my rookie year. So I’m just looking to bounce back."

On playing for Derek Fisher:

"I love Derek. I’ve known Derek since my rookie year when I played out in Long Beach. It seems like so long ago. Ever since the first day I met him to now, he’s been the same person. He’s probably one of the most consistent, professional people I’ve ever met in this business, and I can’t wait to play for him."

Question: If the Knicks deal one of their three shooting guards, who should they move?

You can follow Ian Begley on Twitter.
video

Sarah Spain sits down with Julius "Dr. J" Erving to get his take on LeBron James' and Carmelo Anthony's free-agency decisions and the state of the NBA.

Sources: Wade, Melo get no-trade clauses

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
4:20
PM ET
Miami's Dwyane Wade and New York's Carmelo Anthony are the latest stars to secure a no-trade clause rarely seen in the NBA, according to sources familiar with their new contracts.

NBA rules dictate that players can add a no-trade clause to a new contract only if they have a minimum of eight years of service time and four years with the same team.

Wade easily qualifies under those conditions after spending his entire 11-year career with the Heat, but Anthony is the beneficiary of a favorable rules interpretation to join Wade, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett in this exclusive club.

Anthony hasn't spent a full four seasons with the Knicks, but because he has finished each of the past four seasons in New York, it was ruled that Anthony qualifies to have a full no-trade clause added to his new five-year, $124 million contract with New York.

Bryant, Duncan, Nowitzki and Garnett were the only four players in the league last season to possess a full no-trade clause in their contracts.

Bryant and Nowitzki retained their respective no-trade clauses in their new deals, with the Los Angeles Lakers' star about to start a two-year, $48.5 million extension this season and Dallas' Nowitzki having finalized a new three-year, $25 million deal Tuesday.

Garnett's no-trade clause, meanwhile, carried over from Boston to Brooklyn after he waived the clause in July 2013 to allow the Celtics to deal him with Paul Pierce to the Nets in exchange for a package that included three first-round draft picks.

No-trade clauses are harder to secure in basketball than they are in other sports because they can be introduced into new contracts only. League rules preclude no-trade clauses from being added to extensions.

The star players with the leverage to negotiate a no-trade clause, furthermore, often sign lucrative extensions before they have the requisite service time. Had Wade, for example, signed an extension with the Heat in June instead of opting out, going onto the open market and then landing a new deal, he would not have been eligible to receive one.

In Major League Baseball, by comparison, players automatically earn veto power over trades through the "Ten and Five" rule, which stipulates that players with at least 10 years of service time and five in a row with the same team are granted the power of consent on trades.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsC. Anthony 8.1
AssistsP. Prigioni 3.5
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2