Carmelo Anthony with his best Ryan Anderson impression. I give it a solid 7.5 out of 10.
At the behest of those who enjoy watching beautiful people doing beautiful things, Ben Wallace has announced he will retire at the end of this season. One of the hungriest underdogs to ever play basketball, Wallace hammered himself into a niche with unprecedented brute force, becoming known for much, much more than a scraggly afro.
He was respected, beloved, and, to some degree, feared. Wallace was a rare breed: SO good as a rebounding defensive presence and SO bad as an offensive threat. In his honor, I’ve decided to rank all the modern day one-dimensional players, with Ben Wallace in mind as the Godfather of them all. The league has very few players who’re equally effective on offense as they are on defense, but one doesn’t have to overshadow the other (for example, the 2008 Kevin Garnett tilted the entire league with his defensive intensity—it became apart of his identity as he forced the Celtics to keep up on their way to a championship—but it wasn’t like he struggled on offense); this list highlights 14 guys who excel on one end of the floor while leaving much to be desired on the other. Read more…
First things first. It’s absolutely fantastic to have the NBA back in our lives. Today’s game at Madison Square Garden between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks paints a beautiful, gritty picture explaining why. Heading in, both teams had major questions to answer, and both—one would assume—are poised for a bloody battle over the Atlantic Division’s crown. In what will be a new feature coming to Shaky Ankles this season, here are some quick hit points of interest delivered in the always awesome, easily readable bullet point format. Merry Christmas! Read more…
Recommended Reading is a daily (occasional) rundown of truly superb NBA related literature, pictures, and videos. Some is brand new, others are timeless. Enjoy!
Yahoo: Caron Butler is smart. Choosing between Dallas and Miami in free agency next year? What a lucky guy.
News OK: A very interesting piece by The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry on James Harden, and how he has more to lose than the average NBA player.
NBC ProBasketball Talk: The Boston Celtics bringing on Josh Howard would be…what? Helpful? Crucial? Desperate? Pathetic?
HoopsWorld: Kobe Bryant talks about his love and admiration for Carmelo Anthony.
Sports Illustrated: A little throwback joint. Tony Kornheiser’s revealing 1983 masterpiece on Rick Barry.
Grantland: Rudy Gay talks with Jonathan Abrams about his shoulder injury and being an athletic Almighty, among other things.
The loss of five Nuggets a couple weeks ago was met with several different reactions: Carmelo Anthony (knife in the back), Chauncey Billups (insult to injury), Renaldo Balkman (happy face), Anthony Carter (…), and Shelden Williams (multiple backflips on a trampoline). A couple weeks ago when the Denver Nuggets pulled off the type of franchise revamping trade that can cause mass revolt, people were upset. Their GM said they got “killed” in the deal, and instead of waiting, calling Anthony’s bluff, and hoping he’d sign a three-year extension for the only professional team he’s every known, Denver shipped Carmelo to New York for some really young, really interesting players. The results for both team so for have been telling. New York is 3-2, with legitimate wins over Miami and New Orleans, but a loss to Cleveland; Denver is 5-1 with their only defeat coming at the hands of a Brandon Roy miracle three-pointer. So what gives? How can the Nuggets keep rolling people over without a true “superstar”?
This quote by Nuggets coach George Karl in an interview on the The Dan Patrick Show:
“You guys must think I’m crazy but I think we’re good. I had one practice with them, and I’m going ‘whoa!’ What always kind of mystifies me about this world of basketball is there’s so many brilliant minds in basketball; there’s so many guys that believe in the zone or believe in the triangle-and-two, or believe in the slow-down offense, or believe in the fast passing game offense — there’s so many ways to build a philosophy and win. But it seems like in the NBA you can only win with super stars. And I don’t believe that. I’ve always coached kind of doing what everybody else does, I do different. When I went to Seattle, nobody trapped and nobody did anything, so we fronted the post, and we double-teamed post-ups, and we doubled 40 or 50 percent of possessions a game and that worked. I just think why can’t you build a team where you don’t have a top-five player, but maybe a top-20 player at every position. That’s kind of what I’m thinking we’re going to be. We might not have an All Star, but at every position and maybe even have a bench that has more versatility and explosiveness than anybody else. So you have six or seven weapons, you might not have a superstar weapon, but you have good weapons. And then play hard, play defense, and be the most unselfish basketball team that you can be, because team wins more often than talent in this league anyways.”
What I really like about this team is their point guard play. With no Carmelo Anthony serving as the team’s offensive focal point, Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton are able to play together and really force the issue in transition. In the very first game after becoming a permanent starter, Lawson scored 21 points to go along with five rebounds, seven assists, and six (!) steals. His only two 10 assist games of the year have come in the past two weeks, and brighter things look to be on the horizon.
National pundits are salivating over Denver. At first I figured it to be some manifestation of pity, but after watching the team’s hidden, talented bench pieces (Arron Afflalo) step up and compete alongside the young, more than serviceable newcomers (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler) I was convinced. This trade didn’t make the Denver Nuggets a motionless fringe playoff team, it propelled them in a positive direction. And now, despite having no consistent 20 point scorer and no person on the roster who can close out tight games in the final seconds, the Nuggets are dangerous, unpredictable, and a squad able to run the table in a wide open Western Conference.
As you are likely well aware, the New York Knicks now have Carmelo Anthony in their possession. In bigger and more meaningful news, Isiah Thomas is once again their general manager. What does this all mean? For the Knicks? For the league? For Donnie Walsh’s health insurance?
Let’s start with the obvious: New York received one of the 10 best players in the league. How much they gave up in order to get him has unflatteringly been compared to Minnesota’s Herschel Walker deal. While that may be a slight exaggeration, the Knicks decision to give up two quality NBA players, a 22-year-old wild card who could someday be an All-Star, three draft picks, Anthony Randolph, three million dollars, and Timofey Mozgov (I guess we’ll throw in Eddy Curry’s expiring contract/dead body for technical reasons) for Carmelo, Corey Brewer, a one-legged Chauncey Billups, and three dead bodies is damn near highway robbery.
What else do we know? That whole thing about no team in recent memory winning a title with their best two players masquerading as defensive underachievers should ring a bell. While I personally don’t believe Carmelo deserves the amount of slack he receives for his lack of defensive ability and effort, Amar’e Stoudemire is a completely different beast. When you factor in his knees being one unlucky landing away from certain death, the Knicks aren’t quite ready to battle for a championship. And without Chris Paul or Deron Williams, it isn’t likely they could ever get past Miami, Chicago, or Boston in the next five years. See, the CBA’s future is a tricky thing. Right now nobody knows if there will be franchise tags (think angry NFL stars), the mid-level exception (the general manager’s best friend), if the salary cap could turn hard or how low it’ll drop. Isiah might think he has it figured out, but he doesn’t. As Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated’s Point Forward points out, working Carmelo, Amar’e, and a top three point guard into New York could be a financial impossibility:
With about $40 million tied up annually in just two players (Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire), the Knicks have taken themselves out of the Howard/Paul/Williams 2012 free-agent derby.
Perhaps that’s true. We don’t know what the salary cap will be in 2012 (though it figures to be lower), and we don’t know what the sign-and-trade possibilities will be for New York in July 2012 — or whether trade rules will be broadened so that incoming and outgoing salaries won’t have to match quite as closely. The Knicks have certainly made the pursuit of those players more difficult today, but who knows what the CBA will look like in a year or whether any of those players will want to come to New York.
More input on the Knicks getting hosed and their tragic managerial situation, by way of New York Magazine’s Will Leitch:
But the Knicks never needed to trade Gallinari, or Mozgov. If the Knicks would have held their ground, would Chandler/Felton/first-rounder/Curry for Carmelo/Billups worked? (With some salary cap flotsam here or there.) At first blush, you’d say, “Oh, the Nuggets wouldn’t go for that,” but why? What choice did they have? The only reason the Knicks offer looked uncompetitive was because the Nets—knowing Anthony likely would never agree to an extension to make the trade happen—could “offer” to give away Derrick Favors and Devin Harris and four (four!) first-round picks for Carmelo. The Knicks’ side of the trade only looks meager compared to the Nets’ imaginary scenarios. Compared to what teams usually get when their backs are against the wall, when they have to trade a superstar or risk receiving nothing at all, that initial Knicks haul seems low, but not shockingly so. Maybe Walsh blinks and gives up Mozgov then, as a final “Okay, let’s make it happen.” But Gallinari was never supposed to be in this in the first place. It wasn’t Walsh who made Gallinari a part of this: It was Dolan. When you don’t know how to negotiate, you lose ground you never realized you were ceding. When you toss out Gallinari when you absolutely do not have to, it’s just a tiny step to, “Well, you’re not gonna let Mozgov stand in the way of this trade, are you?” At that point, you’ve already lost.
And on the other end of the spectrum, the Denver Nuggets are the ones who find themselves with fixed financial flexibility and optimism: Chris Broussard recently tweeted this about some possible Gallinari movement, and Raymond Felton’s arrival in Denver looks to be a mysterious one, but they got something for nothing; that’s what matters. This from “All Things Nuggets”, The Denver Post’s NBA blog:
In mid-January, Nuggets coach George Karl opened up about Lawson’s growth: “Ty is doing a good job, but Ty’s got to mature too. He has a laid-back mentality that drives me a little crazy at times. My big belief and approach to leadership is that you lead by example, you lead by attitude and you lead by approach. You don’t lead by words. And his laid-back attitude probably stops him from being the leader I’d personally like him to be right now. But I think we can change that.”
And privately, Karl is pretty excited about his point guard situation. Karl is a proud North Carolina alum – he even went back to Chapel Hill during the all-star break – and both Lawson and Felton are Tar Heel point guards. In fact, both won the national title.
“Ray was my tour guide when I visited there,” Lawson said. “He took me around the city, showed me a good time. It will be a little weird being on the same NBA team.”
The ripples of this deal will be known in hindsight, but based on snap judgments, New York remains slightly above average and still won’t get past the first round, and the Nuggets are bunkering down into a smart rebuilding strategy. Time will tell how this one turns out. Maybe, in an ultimate turn of irony, Deron Williams chooses Denver and Chris Paul goes to Phoenix. Wouldn’t that be something.
It finally happened. Carmelo Anthony was traded to New York last night for 75 percent of the Knicks’ contributors.
Donnie Walsh Isiah Thomas made a move that reeks of panic and hardly leaves the team with any young pieces to build around Stoudemire and Anthony. I like that they managed to keep Landry Fields, but moving Gallinari and Chandler and Felton severely hurts the team’s chances this year and next. Also, good luck signing either Chris Paul or Deron Williams under the diminished salary cap.
Regarding this crossover here, Vince Carter literally looks Isiah Thomas delusional. Like if he keeps running towards the basket, Anthony will too.
Today’s theme is tragic: Brandon Roy’s future. What could have been if injuries didn’t derail this brilliant basketball player is debatable. Perennial All-Star? Surely. Hall of Fame? Crazier things have happened, but probably not. Later today I’ll have an essay diving into what a team does when their best player isn’t completely washed up, but can’t possibly live up to his monster contract. For now, rejoice in the past as Brandon Roy absolutely destroys Carmelo Anthony.
“All teams go through tough times. We’re going to grow from this. At the end we’ll be the last team standing.”
This was Jason Terry, in an exuberant post-game interview, after downing the Lakers 109-100 last night. The game was played in Dallas, Andrew Bynum (more on him in a special guest post later) left early with a hyper-extended right elbow, and, for one night, Jason Kidd looked like an insulted and vengeful Larry Bird from behind the arc—he made five three-pointers. Basically, the statement made by Terry was a slight embellishment of reality. Given his team’s poor play as of late—they’d lost six straight heading into the game—and the Caron Butler injury/championship chances death blow which was announced a few weeks ago, the proclamation came off more like a threat than a prediction.
As I type this, the Mavericks are done. Flat-lining. Toast. The Charlotte Bobcats. Deceased. Buried under ground. No longer with us. They’re a veteran team with an MVP candidate, a Hall of Fame point guard, height, and a deep bench, so obviously they should and will make the playoffs. But are they elite? Can they win a championship? Not with these players; largely the same group that was easily eliminated by San Antonio in last season’s first round.
What Dallas needs, in no small order, is a resurrection. They need help. With Dirk an old 32, Butler done for the season, Kidd an ancient 37, and Shawn Marion having his least productive season in 10 years, the Mavericks are arguably more desperate to make a move than any team in the league.
I’m not talking about irrevocably altering human life as we know it with a Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter, and Mickael Pietrus for Earl Clark, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu type deal, but I am talking big names and big consequences. Should they roll the dice on the future with plans for today? I say yes. The Mavericks were built for the present ever since the Devin Harris deal was made, but while rumors of bringing the All-Star back into the fold are persistent, he isn’t the answer. Neither is Kevin Martin, Andre Iguodala, Antawn Jamison (who, if dealt, would officially become the league’s least excitable former All-Star mercenary), or Peja Stojakovic.
The answer to all their problems—a hybrid mix of guardian angel and heart defibulator—is, dare I utter thou’s name less I shudder furthermore; the one, the only, Carmelo Anthony. Dallas could throw together the incredibly juicy package of Rodrigue Beaubois (a 22-year-old Frenchman who’s drawn comparison to Rajon Rondo and is currently signed to a peanut butter and jelly cheap contract through 2014), the expiring contracts of Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson, and a 2011 first round draft pick. The deal makes too much sense for both sides. Despite already having Ty Lawson as a possible point guard of the future, Beaubois remains one of the league’s best kept secrets. His best case scenario: Tony Parker a la Rondo. The expiring deals of Chandler and Stevenson are a plus for obvious reasons, and so is the draft pick. Even if Anthony isn’t willing to sign an extension to stay in Dallas (which he could easily be talked into doing if he leads the Mavericks to a championship), the team would be a legitimate contender once again, if not a drastically improved, talk-of-the-league, offensively soul-crushing squad. Sure they’d lose a little size and some defensive intangibles with Chandler’s departure, but I’m sure the Mavericks could swing another deal for a big man before the deadline passes. They can’t worry too much about that component in a blockbuster season saving trade like this one. Pairing Carmelo Anthony with Dirk Nowitzki would be an unspeakable horror for everyone in the league except Jason Kidd. Defensively they’ll leave much to desire, but if I’m Mark Cuban, I cross that bridge when I get there.
As Jason Terry clearly stated, don’t count his guys out. When it’s all said and done they’ll be the last team standing. May I briefly interject with a few words of advice. Grab Anthony, then you’ll have the NBA by the throat