Updated: December 7, 2012, 1:41 AM ET

Around The Association

So Far, It's Money Well Spent

By John Hollinger

One of the most nerve-wracking things a team can do is make a long-term commitment to a player. If it doesn't work out, it's left with negative value in the form of a contract nobody wants, often having to pay in cash or draft picks or taking on an equally unappetizing deal to be rid of it.

It's one thing if you're spending the money on a sure thing -- such as Miami with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Go ahead, set off some fireworks. But in most cases, it's not nearly as much of a slam dunk.

Nonetheless, the offseason becomes a groundswell of optimism in NBA offices, and every year, countless big-money deals go down for non-superstars. Two days ago I detailed how some of those already have gone horribly wrong, focusing on players getting paid for the first time.

The good news, however, is that the contract-year phenomenon isn't much of a factor for players who already have seen the big money. And the other good news is that some guys are immune to its effects. For that reason, we've seen several long-term deals that have worked out well for the teams handing them out.

Read the rest of Hollinger's column Insider

Analyzing Melo vs. LeBron

By Chris Broussard
ESPN The Magazine

He's an assistant coach on one of the top staffs in the league, not a rabid fan deluded by love for his team. So his words should be taken seriously. And after studying both the Heat and the Knicks, he told me this week he'd take the Knicks in a seven-game series.

When I mentioned this to a longtime Eastern Conference scout, the scout didn't fall out of his chair. While he wouldn't go as far as the coach, he did say the Knicks are "absolutely a legitimate threat" to dethrone the Heat.

The Knicks, who visit the Heat on Thursday night in Miami, have lots of things going for them but none bigger than Carmelo Anthony. One major reason the Knicks have a chance to beat Miami is Anthony, who is on my short list of early-season MVP candidates, plays LeBron James better than any other swingman in the league.

No one outplays LeBron, whose versatility enables him to affect the game more than any other player in the league. Most guys, in fact, get dominated by him. But not Anthony. While he may not pass and defend as well as LeBron, he comes closer than anyone else to matching James' production.

Read the rest of Broussard's column


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