• If Carmelo Anthony qualifies as a superstar, he's a heavily conditional one. Building around Anthony is not easy; he requires very specific, largely expensive pieces around him in order to be successful, to the point where his own salary becomes cost-prohibitive. And, as Howard Beck unpacks in his latest for Bleacher Report, that conflict between Anthony's on-court needs and financial demands could only grow more problematic under his next contract:
Here is the thornier equation: whether Anthony is worth the five-year, $129 million investment it will take to keep him. And just as critically, whether the Knicks can construct a title contender before Anthony goes into decline.
The answer in both cases: Probably not.
Unless Anthony offers to sign for less—and his history indicates he will not—it is hard to see the Knicks building a contending team around him. It is abundantly clear now that Anthony is too limited and too single-minded to be a team’s leading star. He needs a strong point guard to keep him in check and to make the passes he won’t. He needs strong defenders to take the assignments he can’t. The Knicks cannot buy all of that help with Anthony occupying so much of the cap.
If you knew a kid in high school who walked around barefoot and pledged to walk all the way up the Pacific Coast–some sort of dude who really sucked the marrow out of life–it would be jolting to learn that he’d donned loafers and become an accountant. Amir Johnson is a real adult now and, wild as his basketball childhood was, he is now that accountant. It’s not a bad thing.
• Charismatic though his playing style may be, Russell Westbrook's dealings with the media have long since crossed the line from charmless to hostile.
• We need some kind of league ordinance forcing the Mavs to play a game in these fake mustaches:
• A promising omen: Sacramento brings in the new year with a players-only meeting. (For what it's worth, Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty has two big-picture prescriptions.)
• There's a lot to consider in how the soon-to-be acquired Courtney Lee might fit in with the Grizzlies long-term, but Lee's acquisition could also suggest an additional move to rectify Memphis' finances and roster situation. Joe Mullinax considers the possibility at Grizzly Bear Blues:
The main reason the Celtics agreed to this deal, aside from liking Jerryd Bayless and reportedly being interested in signing him for years, is eliminating Courtney Lee's contract from their books. Lee is owed a little over $11 million over the next two seasons, while Bayless' contract is expiring this season. The Grizzlies were able to absorb Lee's contract with the Rudy Gay trade exception they got last season, but this move, while filling one need, amplifies another at back-up PG. Lee may also be in the plans as a starter; if that is the case, what does it mean for Tayshaun Prince, or even Tony Allen? With the roster getting healthier...and the Grizzlies having to always be cap conscious, another deal may be in the works to make use of other trade exceptions that were created in moves last year and the depth that exists in the Grizzlies front court.
• Norris Cole went from being one of the worst rotation players in the league to a fairly dependable reserve, all through the wonders of player development. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra and HEAT.com's Couper Moorhead walk us through Cole's evolution and what it took to get there. • Why the Spurs and Jeff Ayres were a perfect marriage in free agency: San Antonio is one of the few teams that can get by (and even improve slightly in terms of offensive efficiency) when incorporating a non-scorer into its rotation. Ayres will be stepping into an even larger role with Tiago Splitter sidelined for 3-5 weeks by a shoulder injury, the likes of which could test the Spurs' ability to account for his offensive limitations.