Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your soft food diet.

Marc Stein and Chad Ford, ESPN: The Denver Nuggets' resistance to trading star forward Carmelo Anthony(notes) is fading away, according to sources with knowledge of Denver's thinking. The Nuggets still aren't aggressively shopping Anthony and haven't withdrawn their longstanding offer of a contract extension, but numerous sources told that Denver officials have in recent days let other teams know for the first time that they will listen to pitches after previously resisting such discussions. "I'm not sure how soon, but I do think they're going to trade him [between now and February]," said one rival GM. Said another source briefed on Denver's plans: "There's no doubt they are working on it. Eventually they're going to pull the trigger. " Reports have persisted for weeks that Anthony, who can become a free agent at the end of the coming season, wants out. ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported Aug. 16 that it was "a matter of when, not if, Anthony and the Nuggets will go their separate ways," while quoted "multiple sources" last week as saying that the 26-year-old "has not wavered in his desire to be dealt" and that the New Jersey Nets are making the hardest active pitch for Anthony. Although Anthony has not made any such declarations publicly, it appears that Nuggets management is growing increasingly resigned to the fact that they won't be able to change their franchise player's mind. (Note: This was first reported by Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski on Aug. 26, then refuted by Marc Stein on Sep. 2. It has now been "re-broken" by Stein which is not a real thing.)

Gary Washburn, Boston Globe: If the Celtics had fallen in the first or second round of the playoffs, exhibiting a feeble effort from an aging team, the decision would have been easy. Instead, they sliced through the Heat, pounded the Cavaliers, and jumped to a 3-0 lead over the Magic before winning the Eastern Conference finals in six games. So a decision to dismantle the Big Three and rebuild wasn't so simple, and the painful Game 7 loss to the Lakers gave ownership even more reason to retain the core of the roster. As the Celtics left the Staples Center on the night of June 17, they carried not only the disappointment of a disheartening loss but also an undeniable uncertainty. Doc Rivers was considering a respite, lured by the opportunity to watch his son play his senior year of high school basketball. Paul Pierce(notes) had an opt-out clause to ponder. Ray Allen(notes) was an unrestricted free agent for the second time in five years. And reserves Nate Robinson(notes) and Marquis Daniels(notes) were planning to search for new clubs after uneven stints in Boston. But Celtics management not only retained the coach and those players, it added Jermaine O'Neal(notes), Shaquille O'Neal(notes), Von Wafer(notes), and Delonte West(notes), and drafted Avery Bradley(notes) and Luke Harangody(notes). The idea of rebuilding was dismissed, at least for two more years, replaced by the desire to make another run at the Lakers and an NBA title. With little regard for the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax, ownership again exceeded the limit and has committed more than $78 million in salaries for one more chance (or maybe two) to sip championship champagne before it is time to rebuild. "When you are leading a Game 7 and then you lose, I think everybody on that team naturally wants to come back together, try to get back to the mountaintop,'' said principal owner Wyc Grousbeck. "So I was not that worried about bringing the guys back together. "I thought that the guys would want to come back. I thought that Doc would want to come back. So I played the hand that way.''

Brian Windhorst, Cleveland Plain Dealer: The Cavs have until next July to use the $14.5 million and their plan is to be patient and see what develops. You just never know which players will become available as events take place during the season. Most teams looking to dump a player for an exception are when they are in distress and teams aren't in distress right now. Fans should remain grounded, however. Do not expect the Cavs to be able to just trade for a star player with it. They can break it into pieces and, frankly, that is what is most likely. They may use it to absorb mid-level players in salary-cap clearing trades to pick up extra draft picks or prospects from teams looking to dump money. Also, there are a handful of teams out there with large trade exceptions created over this wild summer. There's more money in trade exceptions out there right now than there's been in a decade so it doesn't have as much value. But it is a valuable asset that can be used many different ways.

Jeff McDonald, San Antonio Express-News: On March 14, 2007, nearly all the 700 some-odd souls who call this flyspeck town straddling the Arkansas-Louisiana border home gathered in a small park near the high school football stadium. There, over plates of hot dogs and potato salad, they honored one of their most distinguished citizens. Junction City's inaugural James Anderson(notes) Day was equal parts church picnic and civic celebration. Unofficially, it would not be the last. Less than two weeks shy of his 18th birthday, and still months away from enrolling in freshman classes at Oklahoma State, the man of the hour - a tall, quiet teenager known the town over as "Humble James" - found the entire affair positively blush-worthy. "It was nice to see how much the community thinks of you as a person," recalled Anderson, a 6-foot-6 guard from Oklahoma State whom the Spurs selected 20th overall in the June NBA draft. "But I don't know if I deserved that." In Junction City, where Anderson led the Dragons to the 2007 Class 2A state championship as a senior before collegiate stardom in Stillwater, Okla., the locals respectfully disagree. March 14 - James Anderson Day - has become a de facto annual holiday, an excuse for the town to reconvene at the city park. And yet the depths of this small town's feelings for its first NBA player can't be confined by the calendar's constraints. "In Junction City, every day is James Anderson Day," says Jerry Brewer, the town's former mayor and public-address announcer at the high school basketball games.

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel: There certainly is nothing wrong with open competition in training camp for a starting position. That, Mario Chalmers(notes) and Carlos Arroyo(notes) say, is all they want. Yet what if that starting position doesn't actually exist? That well could be the reality for the Miami Heat at point guard, where Chalmers opened last season as the starter and where Arroyo finished with the first team. With the ballhandling of LeBron James(notes) and Dwyane Wade(notes) in the lineup, the Heat already feature players who ranked Nos. 6 and 10, respectively, in the league in assists last season. Chalmers? He ranked No. 44 among those who qualified for a listing. Arroyo? He finished at No. 53. The wildcard is the Heat's "other" prime offseason signing, beyond the Big Three that also included Chris Bosh(notes). No, Mike Miller(notes) is not a point guard, but he is another option for the Heat starting perimeter rotation alongside Wade and James. The concern with such an alignment is containing speedy, undersized opposing point guards. But even Arroyo appreciates that such concerns might be overstated. "To be honest with you," Arroyo said, "I think we're going to be one of the best defensive teams in the NBA this year. That should be everybody's mentality, coming into training camp. I think we have the talent to do it and the mindset to be one of those top teams." And it's not as if Chalmers or Arroyo have in any way been defensive stoppers at the position over their careers. The counterargument is the team otherwise would be exposing Wade or James to early foul trouble. Chalmers is aware of the speculation of Miller supplanting a true point guard in the starting lineup. "I kind of take it personally," he said. "But, at the same time, Mike's been in the league 11 years. So he's proven himself. He's proven that he's a great player."

Jimmy Smith, New Orleans Times-Picayune: With just more than a week remaining before the start of training camp, the New Orleans Hornets on Friday added two players - guard D.J. Strawberry(notes), the son of former major league baseball player Darryl Strawberry, and center Darryl Watkins(notes). Their addition puts the New Orleans roster at 14. The first training camp two-a-days begin Sept. 28 at the Alario Center.

Howard Beck, New York Times: An envelope containing the N.B.A.'s referee schedule arrived in Steve Javie's mailbox the other day, as it has every September for the last 25 years. This one felt different. "It felt like Christmas Eve," Javie said gleefully. "I didn't know if I would get one again." Only a month ago, Javie was perched on the edge of retirement, unsure if his creaky right knee could endure another season of daily pounding. He missed nearly all of last season, including the playoffs. It appeared that the N.B.A. would lose one of its best officials. But a combination of treatments has given the knee some comfort and Javie some hope, and he plans to be back on the court, whistle at the ready, this fall. "I'm very cautious right now; I'm cautiously optimistic," the 55-year-old Javie said by phone from the Jersey Shore, where he was vacationing with his family. Even Javie is unsure how long his comeback will last. He has no cartilage left in his knee, a result of 30 years of wear and tear. When he runs, "it's bone on bone," he said. Javie could have reconstructive surgery, but it would require a year of recovery, and the prosthetics are not designed for the abuse of an N.B.A. schedule. So Javie has been working hard to strengthen his quadriceps and hamstrings to take some pressure off the knee. He has undergone platelet-rich plasma therapy, which some doctors believe could help regenerate cartilage. Javie also recently began receiving viscous injections that simulate cartilage and provide some buffer between the bones. He hopes the injections "can buy me another year or two."

Jason Jones, Sacramento Bee: The Kings winning more games would certainly attract more fans to Arco Arena. But six weeks before the regular season begins, the front office is already doing all it can to entice fans to buy tickets. The Kings will announce today they will introduce variable pricing when individual game tickets go on sale Oct. 2. That means ticket prices will be market-driven. So games likely to be in high demand - the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat - will be priced higher than games not so high in demand - the Los Angeles Clippers or New Jersey Nets. The Kings sought out consumers' opinions on how to bring them back to Arco, and variable pricing is the latest response to fans' concerns. "We've talked to our season-ticket holders at length, both in person and through a lot of surveys, and the NBA," said Kings vice president of marketing and communications Mitch Germann. "A lot of NBA teams are going to do (variable pricing), too. I know in Major League Baseball some teams have been doing it for a while."

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