Are the Nets better off without Carmelo?

If their first game after owner Mikhail Prokhorov announced the team was backing out of negotiations is any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. Devin Kharpertian of NetsAreScorching writes that last night’s Nets looked confident in an upset of the Utah Jazz.

Now that the stink of the Melo saga has finally rolled off their shoulders, the Nets can focus on playing as a complete team instead of worrying about who might not be in practice the next day. It’s only one game, but the difference between the scurrying team on the floor during the previous 12 games and the confident one against Utah was staggering. Without Anthony, the Nets still have a young, solid core, which includes former All-Star point guard Devin Harris, cornerstone center Brook Lopez, 3-point machine Anthony Morrow and, of course, the prize of the no-deal, Derrick Favors.

Kharpertian goes on to discuss Favors’ progress in his rookie season:

Favors, the youngest player in the NBA, still has skyscraping upside and is playing surprisingly efficient basketball despite his inexperience and the swirling cloud of rumors. In just more than 18 minutes per game, he’s shooting 55.1 percent from the field while grabbing almost 16 percent of available rebounds. There has never been a teenage rookie in the history of the NBA who played up to that level. The closest? Some guy named Dwight Howard. Favors may never have the game-changing impact that Howard has, but that’s a pretty solid start to hang your hat on. I know the Nets are impressed.

Favors is averaging 6.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in just 19.0 minutes of playing time, which results in a slightly-below-average PER of 13.99. Considering he’s just 19-years-old and has a very raw offensive game, there is a lot of upside here. Maybe the Nets are better off seeing how he develops alongside the more polished Brook Lopez. The two could make a formidable power forward/center core in a few years.

This assumes, of course, that Carmelo was interested in joining the Nets in the first place. There have been mixed messages coming out of his camp and it sure seems like Anthony using the Nets offer as leverage to get the Knicks to make a move. If that’s the case, Prokhorov absolutely made the right move to pull out of the negotiations. He doesn’t want his team to be used that way.

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Bill Simmons argues that Carmelo should join the Clippers

Keep in mind that Simmons, a Clippers season ticket holder, made a similar case last year that LeBron should come to L.A. and look how that turned out.

Anyway, here’s his case:

Griffin is the most meaningful in-the-air player since Shawn Kemp. Throw in his competitive streak and he did the impossible — he made Baron Davis care about basketball again. As my friend Tollin said last week, “It’s amazing; it’s like Baron has a purpose again.” He’s Blake’s dunk muse. Now the Clips have the foundation of something special: Griffin, Davis, Eric Gordon (a future All-Star) and enough left to make a legitimate offer for Denver: lottery pick Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman, expiring contracts and the rights to Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 pick (nearly as valuable a trade chip as Favors) for Carmelo and Al Harrington’s horrendous contract that’s the Carmelo Trade Tax. Mrs. Anthony could live in Hollywood and make her next unwatchable reality show. And her husband could play with Griffin, Gordon, Davis, Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan … a situation that’s between five and 20 times more appealing than New Jersey. Even when you include Donald Sterling.

From a basketball/quality of living standpoint, you couldn’t do much better than the situation with the Clippers. Anthony-Griffin-Gordon would make an excellent trio to build around and I’ll agree that the building blocks the Clippers could offer (Aminu, Kaman and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 pick) are almost as good as what the Nets can offer.

But there’s one thing that stands in the way: Donald Sterling. The Nets’ owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, a.k.a. the Russian Mark Cuban, is infinitely more impressive and Simmons notes that LeBron thought that the Nets meeting was right up there with the Heat’s last summer.

It will be nice for Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton land in New Jersey with Melo, but only for a year or two, as both players are past their respective primes. It’s really about Brook Lopez and Mikhail Prokhorov versus Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon and Donald Sterling.

Nets appear to be closing in on Carmelo

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony (L) moves against the New York Knicks guard/forward Landry Fields during the first quarter at the Pepsi Center in Denver on November 16, 2010. UPI/Gary C. Caskey


As of late Sunday night, sources said, New Jersey was poised to receive [Carmelo] Anthony, [Chauncey] Billups and [Rip] Hamilton, with Denver landing two future first-round picks and six players. The Nuggets’ haul would feature Nets rookie Derrick Favors, former All-Star guard Devin Harris and Nets sharpshooter Anthony Morrow. In addition, the Nuggets would bring in the New Jersey threesome of Quinton Ross, Ben Uzoh and Stephen Graham included for salary-cap purposes.

Detroit, meanwhile, was to receive Nets big man Johan Petro and the expiring contract of Nets forward Troy Murphy, with the Pistons motivated to join in by the $17-plus million in long-term savings they’d earn by shedding Hamilton’s contract.

Denver threw a wrench into the works by choosing to play Anthony and Billups in Sunday night’s game against New Orleans. Generally, if a player is about to be traded, the team sits him down until the deal is consummated to avoid a deal-killing injury. The Nuggets’ move indicates that the trade is not as close to the finish line as some would like to believe.

If this deal does go through, it looks fairly equitable from all sides. The Nets get their man, and they also upgrade (in the short term) at point guard. Billups is getting on in years so one wonders if the inclusion of Harris was at the Nuggets’ request. Denver would get a young prospect at power forward (Favors) and a proven guard (Harris) whom they can plug in at the point or move to another team for another piece to the rebuilding puzzle. I suspect that Ty Lawson is the future at point guard in Denver, and Harris could potentially bring in more talent later. After what happened to the Raptors and Cavs this summer, getting Favors and Harris for Anthony and Billups isn’t a bad haul. I’m sure there will be a first round draft pick or two included as well.

If anyone is wondering why Carmelo has apparently become agreeable to signing an extension with the Nets, it’s probably due to the Knicks’ inability to offer the Nuggets something equitable. If Melo finishes the season as a Nugget, the uncertainty of the next collective bargaining agreement could mean that Anthony would leave a lot of money on the table by passing on the Nuggets’ extension offer. In other words, he’d like to lock up his contract now, and since the Nets and Nuggets have worked out a deal in principle, Carmelo can start counting his money. Certainly the prospect of continuing his career with Billups in New Jersey/Brooklyn also has to help.

If this deal does go through as described, the Nets could have a starting lineup of Billups, Hamilton, Anthony, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. That might be enough to turn the Nets into a playoff team despite the 10-27 start. After all, they’re only five games out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the East.

LeBron in favor of a less watered-down NBA, not contraction

LeBron is in some fairly hot water (…again…) after he spoke without thinking (…again). Here’s what he said about the idea of a less watered-down NBA.

“Hopefully the league can figure out one way where it can go back to the ’80s where you had three or four All-Stars, three or four superstars, three or four Hall of Famers on the same team,” James said. “The league was great. It wasn’t as watered down as it is [now].”

“[Contraction] is not my job; I’m a player but that is why it, the league, was so great,” James said.

“Imagine if you could take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the [league]. Looking at some of the teams that aren’t that great, you take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off these teams that aren’t that good right now and you add him to a team that could be really good. Not saying let’s take New Jersey and let’s take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid, I’m not stupid, it would be great for the league.”

Anyone who knows the definition of ‘contraction’ knows that’s what LeBron is talking about here. Some people believe that it would be good for the NBA if there weren’t so many teams because there would be more stars on each team and the quality of play would go up. The downside with this strategy is teams (like Minnesota and New Jersey in LeBron’s example) would no longer exist.

So LeBron is in favor of contraction. Wait — no he’s not:

“That’s crazy, because I had no idea what the word ‘contraction’ meant before I saw it on the Internet,” James said after the Miami Heat’s practice Monday. “I never even mentioned that. That word never even came out of my mouth. I was just saying how the league was back in the ’80s and how it could be good again. I never said, ‘Let’s take some of the teams out.’ ”

“I’m with the players, and the players know that,” James said Monday. “I’ve been with the players. It’s not about getting guys out of the league or knocking teams out. I didn’t mean to upset nobody. I didn’t tell Avery Johnson to leave either. I didn’t say let’s abandon the Nets, and not let them move to Brooklyn or let’s tear down the Target Center in Minnesota. I never said that.”

Welcome to Semantics 101, with Professor LeBron. No, he didn’t say that we should be “knocking teams out,” but he did say how great it would be if the league weren’t so watered down, which would absolutely require fewer teams. He didn’t say the T-Wolves shouldn’t exist, but he did say it would be great if Minnesota’s star player were arbitrarily moved to another team. What happens to the T-Wolves in his world?

Just because he didn’t say the word contraction doesn’t mean that he didn’t come out in favor of contraction.

I like the Sportress of Blogitude‘s take on this:

Aha! That is sound, logical reasoning right there. How can LeBron be in favor of something if he has never even heard of the word until he saw it on the internet? Allow me to illustrate: let’s say – simply for the sake of argument only – that some misguided pundit argued that killing some of the babies born into the world every day would be an effective means of population control. Obviously, such a deplorable opinion would generate a lot of controversy. But if someone later asked said pundit how they possibly could be in favor of infanticide, that person could potentially argue that if they have never heard of the word “infanticide” before, how could they be in favor of it? Unless a person can identify the exact word which perfectly describes some particular act, they cannot in any way support said act, even if that person previously stated they were in favor of exactly what that particular word means. It’s all about semantics, you see.

Well played, LeBron. Well played. Your keen mastery of logic mystifies us all.

That about sums it up.

Why is everyone so down on Michael Beasley?

Henry Abbott of TrueHoop poses one of the more puzzling questions that has been troubling me for some time.

How did one of the NBA’s more respected franchises, one with some strong characters like Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning on the case, give up on an affordable player with insane potential?

Remember that enormous mess his life became last summer? With the rehab and all that?

They got to know him for two years and, after shopping around for months and months and finding no takers, ditched him for almost nothing.

This in a league where players with far less going for them than Beasley get paid for their potential all the time.

That’s not good.

And it’s not like his play as been abysmal. His PER last season was in the top 100 of all players, above average in the 16s, one notch ahead of Luol Deng who has what was until this month the biggest contract in Chicago Bulls’ history. Also trailing Beasley in regular season production last season: respected players like Aaron Brooks, Lamar Odom, Anderson Varejao, Jameer Nelson, Kyle Lowry, and Ray Allen. Nobody thinks Beasley has even scratched the surface of his NBA potential, but even at last year’s level he’s a bargain for a guy still on his rookie contract.

There’s a story in there somewhere. But from what has been made public, it makes no sense at all that the Heat would have to give him away.

While most of the focus this season will be about his old team, I’m really interested to what Beasley does with a fresh start in Minnesota. On his databasebasketball page, two players that are listed with high similarity scores are Brook Lopez and Kevin Love, so Beasley is obviously a talented guy. He’s just 21 years old and in two seasons has averaged 14 points and six boards while shooting 46% from the field.

Something strange happened in Miami and hopefully one day we’ll find out exactly what it was.

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