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NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving

Six Offers For Kyrie Irving Not Enough For Delusional Cavs

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in a pickle. They don’t want to trade All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, but Irving wants to go and the whole league knows it. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski six teams have made offers, but so far nothing has happened. If the Cavs think what’s been put on the table isn’t reasonable, they’re delusional.

The San Antonio Spurs, LA Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and Miami Heat. There were approximately 20 teams that inquired …, but far fewer have registered legitimate proposals… many simply don’t have the assets to make a deal happen.

What Wojnarowski isn’t saying is some GMs wouldn’t replace their current starting point guard with Irving who isn’t a great playmaker, doesn’t play defense and whose numbers and reputation has almost certainly been juiced by playing along side LeBron James.

No one believes Irving isn’t a worthy All-Star. His handles, shooting and flash is elite. He’s worth all of his $18.9 million salary and he’d get more in today’s market, but let’s not go crazy here. Irving isn’t about to carry any team to the postseason as their top player. He needs to share that load or play with someone better.

The Heat have made a solid offer, one that probably makes the Cavs better than last season, but politics may be getting in the way. This deal should have gotten done.

The Heat are willing to part with Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow as centerpieces for an Irving trade, league sources said. With the Cleveland-Miami history, there’s little chance for a deal unless the Heat offered an overwhelming package.

Aside from taking 4.3 fewer shots per game, Dragic has nearly identical shooting percentages from the field and from three, they had the same number of assists and steals plus, Dragic is half a rebound better. Then there’s Dragic wasn’t playing beside anyone of note to divert attention away from the fact he was his team’s leading scorer. Imagine how much better those numbers could look with James setting him up for open shots and ISO plays driving to the hoop.

Sure Irving is six years younger, that’s why the 21-year-old Lottery Pick Winslow was included in the package.

Dragic will be at least as statistically good as Irving for the two years the Cavs can force Irving to stay in Cleveland and will keep the Cavs as the heavy favorites to come out of the East again this season.

If you’re looking for a REAL REASON the Cavs are balking at this trade, look no further than the luxury tax. This trade would add almost a million dollars to the Cavs payroll with a luxury tax cost approaching $5 million.

Then there’s the five other teams Wojnarowski says have made offers.

San Antonio would be interested with Tony Parker injured, but aside from LaMarcus Aldridge, they don’t have a lot to trade until December 15th. It’s laughable to think the Spurs would trade Kawhi Leonard for anyone on the Cavs including James. Even Aldridge’s departure would leave a hole in the roster that would not be compensated by acquiring Irving.

The Clippers might be interested in building a package around DeAndre Jordan and would be pretty happy if they could knock a million or two off their payroll in the process. Most any other deal would have to wait until December 15th. The Cavs wouldn’t be too excited at the prospect of increasing their already huge tax bill though.

The Suns have assets including a protected first round pick from the Heat and could include Eric Blesoe plus a young player in a deal. The fly in this ointment would probably come from the Irving’s camp. He wouldn’t be too excited about joining a projected Lottery Team that would still be a projected Lottery Team with him on it and he’d almost certainly let the Suns know that.

The Timberwolves are an interesting landing spot. Logically this team doesn’t need Irving as they just signed free agent Jeff Teague to a $19 million per year deal, but there sure is a lot of speculation. Irving would be a big upgrade over Teague, although a trade couldn’t be made until December 15th. What makes this especially intriguing is if the T-wolves and Andrew Wiggins can’t come to terms on a max contract extension. A Teague plus Wiggins for Irving plus Shumpert would be a home run for the Cavs.

The Knicks want to do something around Carmelo Anthony and its a good trade for the Cavs even if they don’t seem all that excited about it. Irving plus Shumpert for Melo knocks almost $3 million off the Cavs payroll and saves almost $15 million in tax. Not sure what the holdup is?

The Cavs can trade Irving before the start of the season for a solid return as long as they don’t get so delusional about Irving’s value that they get in their own way. A deal with either the Heat or the Knicks would leave Cleveland at least as well off on the court after the trade as they were before it next season and likely the season after that. Expecting much more probably means waiting until after December 15th and taking all kinds of needless risks.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony and Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving

Will The Cavs Trade Irving For Knicks Carmelo Anthony?

Okay, so the blood is barely in the water, but assuming ESPN has this right and Kyrie Irving wants to be traded, the Cleveland Cavaliers may as well get on the phone with the Knicks and get a deal done for Carmelo Anthony.

It’s very possible per the ESPN trade machine.

There is no way a deal like this would have been on the table before Irving’s agent talked to the Cavaliers management, but the likelihood of getting a better deal done under duress isn’t all that good and the Knicks will be at least as desperate to deal as Cleveland.

Who else can the Cavs trade for that might help smooth over this pending disaster with LeBron James? Let the rampant speculation begin.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image(s) courtesy of Larry Millson and Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 

NBA Houston Rockets Ryan Anderson

Which NBA GM Will Risk Their Career On Ryan Anderson?

The Houston Rockets want to trade for the Knicks Carmelo Anthony in the worst way. The only problem seems to be they want to off load Ryan Anderson and the $61 million remaining on his contract to do it and for perfectly obvious reasons, New York isn’t interested. So, is there another NBA GM willing to risk their career to help facilitate this trade?

Other than the season-ending neck injury in 2013-14 and the typical 10-20 games he’s missed each season since then, Anderson is a reliable stretch-four. Sure he rebounds like a guard and his defense is suspect, but he does stretch the floor.

Last year he averaged 13.6 points per game, right about his career average, but is that enough production for a $20 million per year player? How many first round draft picks should a team with salary cap space be demanding to absorb a contract of this – even by today’s standards – massive proportions that doesn’t go away for three years? It’s hard to imagine just one first round pick would be enough for a third team taking on what would be almost certainly be considered a salary dump.

A big problem is the Rockets traded away their 2018 first round draft pick to the Clippers when they acquired Chris Paul and the Knicks were thinking they deserved a draft pick as part of this trade, not give a pick away to be rid of Melo.

While no one should ever be surprised by an off the wall decision from an NBA GM, taking on a contract like Anderson’s is usually something one would expect the Knicks would do and they’ve already said no. The Nets got a first, a second and dumped a small contract back when they absorbed DeMarre Carroll and his $30 million remaining over two years from Toronto. They are going to want a lot more to fit the bulk of Anderson’s contract into their remaining space.

Trading Anderson to a team over the cap means the Knicks have to want the players another GM was willing to give up. It’s almost certain, that’s just shifting the problem further out and for maybe the first time in a long while, the Knicks aren’t going to be the team that gets fleeced.

When you sign a one-dimensional stretch-four to an $80 million contract, generally speaking, he’s yours, right to the end. If the Rockets really want Melo, unless they can find a (few) GM(s) willing to risk his career to help out, they are going to have to dig a little deeper and sacrifice some players other teams might actually think are on good contracts.

Daryl Morey is really going to earn his salary working this deal.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside

 

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Knicks Carmelo Anthony trade 2017

Can Raptors Be A Third Team In A Carmelo Anthony Trade?

There are still a few options/ long shots out there for Raptors president Masai Ujiri to make a move before the season starts, but perhaps none more exciting than attempting to squeeze into the rumored Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets or Cavs trades as a third or fourth team, assuming the Knicks might be interested in Valanciunas?

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Knicks aren’t all that interested in older players with years left on their contracts and that has stalled out the process as all sides are looking for partners to facilitate a deal.

the Knicks and Rockets are confident that they have a willing third-team trade partner

The fourth team was needed to move a particular player contract that neither the Knicks nor Rockets could or would accept in the deal

The Knicks’ front office has been privately saying that the organization’s marching orders are now focusing on players 25 years old and younger

Three team deals are tough enough, but adding a fourth team dramatically boosts the complexity and likelihood nothing gets done. However, Toronto has a 25-year-old starting center they’ve been rumored to be shopping and an apparent motivation to reduce payroll that should make the Raptors easier to deal with.

(using the ESPN trade machine)

A move like this wouldn’t change the direction Ujiri is taking, but it would help re-balance the roster, cut $8 million off the payroll this year and $16.5 million next season.

It’s pure speculation, but the 32-year-old 6’8 Trevor Ariza could be the perfect veteran to mentor the Raptors young forwards and upgrade the team’s starting unit.

In New York, where nothing ever seems to go their way, landing Eric Gordon and Valanciunas for Carmelo Anthony should be seen as hitting one out of the park. (At least it shouldn’t be viewed as embarrassing.) Assuming Dolan can get over the fact he’s been burned by trading with Ujiri in the past?

In the extremely unlikely event the Cavaliers would entertain a trade including their conference rivals, the Raptors would almost certainly be interested in doing a deal.

There is a lot of motivation on the Knicks, Rockets and even the Cavaliers to find a way to make a very difficult trade happen. They might just have to swallow hard and allow a team like Toronto to squeeze in there to get it done.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony

Phil’s Gone, Knicks Carmelo Anthony Puts Himself In Play

Now that Phil Jackson is gone, Carmelo Anthony took the biggest impediment to trading him off the table putting himself in play. Adrian Wojnarowski reports Melo will waive his no trade clause for Houston or Cleveland, the two teams closest to knocking off the dynasty in Golden State.

The Cavaliers have desperately been searching for another star to play beside LeBron James. What James has got has got him to the NBA Finals for three straight years, but realistically, he can only expect to beat the Dubs with what he’s got if something goes seriously wrong for his rival.

The Rockets went all-in by trading for Chris Paul, but to beat the Warriors, they are going to need a third superstar scorer and Melo could give them a real chance.

The Knicks want to go young and need draft picks, something that both teams should be willing to part with. The big issue is going to be finding enough salary to send back to make the trade math work with Anthony’s $26.2 million salary.

To get young guys and picks, the Knicks are going to have to absorb a big ticket player they probably don’t want as well, but, with a little luck, they’ll be able to flip the player(s) they don’t want elsewhere by the trade deadline.

After all, the Knicks are rebuilding, so what’s the rush. They just need to get some assets that can fit for the long term as the dump an asset that obviously doesn’t fit and is finally willing to leave.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA New York Knicks Joakim Noah

What Is Phil Jackson Trying To Do To The Knicks?

By Frank McLean

Phil Jackson, the 70-year old hippie who is seems to be intent on wrecking the New York Knicks, is at it again and this time it could be the finishing touch.

In a story that was published in the New York Post, sources confirmed that Jackson was looking to move his first round pick from two seasons ago Kristaps Porzingis because, are you ready for this, he did not attend his exit meeting with Jackson at the end of the season.

The only reason he hasn’t pulled the trigger on a deal is that he has not found something that piques his interest.

An exit interview is professional sports way of doing a performance review like employers do in the real world. You sit down with the coach and general manager and you go over what you did good, what you did bad, and what you need to work on. Sometimes a physical exam is required but otherwise it’s a glorified performance review.

In an interview with MSG network, Jackson let his frustration show.

“We’re getting calls,’’ Jackson said. “You know as much as we value Kristaps and what he’s done for us, but when a guy doesn’t show up to an exit meeting, everyone starts speculating on his duration or movability from a club. We’re listening, but we’re not intrigued yet at this level. But as much as we love this guy, we have to do what’s good for our club.”

Sure Phil, you have to do what’s good for the club, but really here is the real reason Jackson is crapping all over his only good young up and coming player on his roster. Jackson will not admit that he has done a poor job running this team, I mean he has done a great job running it into the ground, but he needs a scapegoat and Porzingis, and you can count his treatment of Carmelo Anthony as well, fits the bill.

If you are Knicks fan you probably couldn’t help but roll over on the floor in pain on hearing this nugget from Jackson.

“I think we know what we’re doing. That’s all I can say, even though it hasn’t been apparent in our record the last couple of years. We’ve grown from within, gotten young players that are on the move up. It takes time to rebuild with youth and I think they have confidence in the fact that we are going to have good players, a good team and be competitive on the court.’’

Jackson went on to say that in 25-years this has never happened to him,  that a player did not come to an exit interview, but apparently Shaquille O’Neal did it to him when he was with the Lakers.

If the Knicks had responsible ownership, and Madison Square Garden boss James Dolan is not, he would bite the bullet and fire Jackson’s ass ASAP. (Anyone else feel that just maybe this is what Phil wants?)

Playing in the NBA is every young basketball players dream and New York is the mecca of pro basketball, but no one, no draft pick or a potential free agent will want to come to the Knicks when management uses their players as scapegoats for their own shortcomings.

And if players don’t want to come to your team, well you will be like the Los Angeles Clippers when Donald Sterling ran the show.

The Knicks are one of the original flagship franchises in the NBA and they don’t deserve to be Clipperesque.

Jackson has to go.

 

   

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

   Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

New York Knicks Phil Jackson meme

Aging Hippie Phil Jackson Has Lost His Mind In New York

By Frank McLean

On Friday for only the second time since the beginning of training camp, September 23rd to be exact, the aging hippie that has finished the job of running the New York Knicks into the ground Phil Jackson spoke to the New York media to tell one and all why the Knicks stunk this past season.

In a 49-minute ego driven speech to the masses Jackson used the not recommended defense of “it’s not me it’s everyone else” as to why the season didn’t go right.

He claimed at first that yes as President of the team its failure is his responsibility, but then he went on and blamed everyone else.

His coach Jeff Hornacek, his moody and often injured guard Derek Rose, owner James Dolan , the fans and yes the media.

But the most of it was the finishing touches of his campaign to run Carmelo Anthony out of New York City because he is not on board with Jackson’s love of the triangle offense which has gone the way of the rotary dial telephone as a viable NBA offense.

Their end of the season exit meeting this week was not friendly to say the least.

Jackson started his rip job with, “Right now, we need players who are really active and play every single play. Defensively and offensively that’s really important for us. We faced resistance and we faced resistance at the top. We got rid of some guys early on that resisted, weren’t willing to be learners.”

That’s a hint that the reason the triangle didn’t work was because of Anthony.

But here is the problem that Jackson has with Anthony it’s that contract extension he gave him in 2014 which has two years left on it and 54-million dollars with a no-trade clause in it.

One of the worst kept secrets in the NBA was that Jackson was trying to move Anthony at the trade deadline in February. In order to move him Anthony would have to waive that clause and if he doesn’t like a specific trade option he can tell Jackson to “take a hike”.

It was believed that the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers where kicking the tires about a possible trade.

Jackson did admit that it’s going to be difficult to pull off a trade.

“Some teams called that weren’t amenable to Melo and his group,’’ Jackson said. “Some teams called that were but weren’t willing to give up core groups or members of their team which is understandable at that time of the year. So we said no.”

Jackson is hoping some team’s failure in the playoffs made make them want to try and make a deal.

“You’ve got teams going into the playoffs who could be eliminated right away and say, ‘That’s not good enough. We’re not good enough. We’ve got to go somewhere else,” Jackson said.

Jackson then went on to praise Anthony because like every used car salesman knows when trying to make a deal you have to point out all the good things about the car and not go on about the fact it has 150,000 miles on it.

“Carmelo has been great. He is who he is,” Jackson said. “He’s just, he’s an elite scorer, guy will be a Hall of Fame entry at some point, 10-15 years down the road.

“He has always carried the basic load for this team. I thought he stood up well this year in a lot of tough situations. I can’t regret it. I can’t go back and regret that. Obviously, it hasn’t worked out. This partnership together, somehow or the other didn’t click here with this team. But he has done his role and played his role quite well.”

Jackson needs to look in the mirror, if his ego will let him, and realize it’s his fault why the Knicks have regressed and not progressed.

He hired the coach, he traded for Derek Rose, he singed a broken Joakim Noah to a 72-million dollar contract, he accepted the job from James Dolan and realize the fans and the media don’t wear a uniform and play basketball for him.

His press conference all but proved that this aging hippie has lost his mind.

 

 

 

   DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

NBA Washington Wizards Brandon Jennings / New York Knicks

Why The Knicks Fell Apart This Season Phil Jackson

By Frank McLean

Thursday night the Washington Wizards hosted the New York Knicks for the NBA’s latest version of guaranteed win night which is what a team gets when they host the Knicks.

The Knicks didn’t disappoint as they lost 106-103 to drop their season record to 30-wins and 49-losses leaving them with only three more agonizing games left in their regular season schedule for their battered and bruised fans back in New York City.

If you remember back on December 22nd the Knicks were 16-13 and they looked like they were on their way to their goal of making a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

So what went wrong? How did the train fall of tracks?

Before Thursday’s night’s game the Wizards Brandon Jennings weighed in on what went wrong with the New York media saying that once the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors started from Phil Jackson in January it all fell apart.

Jennings started the season with the Knicks after signing a deal with the club in the offseason.

After playing just 58-games averaging 8.6-points a game he was waived by the Knicks on February 27th and then signed with the Wizards on March first for the remainder of the season.

Anthony as we all know has a no trade clause in his contract and it’s known that Jackson was actively trying to move Anthony before the trade deadline. Jennings said that it definitely was bothering Anthony.

“It definitely took a toll, I think, on the team. Because it wasn’t even about basketball anymore, it was more about what was going on with Melo,” Jennings said. It was one of the wildest situations he has been in during his eight seasons in the league.

Jennings added that it was “cool” playing with Anthony, but went on to say that Anthony had “a lot of pressure on him dealing with stuff with Phil.”  Jennings went on to say that it just wasn’t fair what Anthony had to go through.

“I think it was just a roller coaster, an emotional roller coaster for him this year with everything he had to deal with, which isn’t fair,” he said. “For a player to wake up every day and you’re hearing trade rumors and you might be gone and this and that. It was like a two-week span where everybody was hitting your phone about Melo leaving.”

Jennings has a point. The Knicks were in Toronto playing the Raptors in January just a couple of days after the first Anthony to be traded out of New York started when a story came out attributed from a former Jackson colleague that Anthony has to go because he can’t play the triangle offense.

By the time the Knicks came back to Toronto in March you could see that the rumors had taken their toll in the locker room and on the court.

Other factors have to be considered too. The roster mix just didn’t fit, they couldn’t play a simple defense and the fact they couldn’t or wouldn’t play the triangle.

But Jennings hit it on the head that once the Anthony trade rumors started that pretty well killed their season.

Of course the rumors won’t go away as speculation has it that the Knicks will pursue a trade in the offseason and Anthony has hinted he may agree to one.  Meanwhile things have worked out well for Jennings.

When he was waived by the Knicks it was a mutual parting of the ways by both parties.

“I’m on my contract year so I didn’t want to go home in April,” Jennings said about the matter. “I have a chance to go to the playoffs, so I’m really excited about that.”

Who wouldn’t be excited (to leave the Knicks this season)?

 

 

   DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

  

 

 

 

NBA New York Knicks Derrick Rose by Larry Millson

Can Things Get Any Worse For The Knicks?

By Frank McLean

Last week was not a banner week for the NBA’s most dysfunctional franchise, the New York Knicks. The news surrounding Phil Jackson, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah was worse than all the losing. So, let’s work our way backwards and review the week that was for the embittered team.

On Saturday, not letting a deficit of 19-points at halftime deter them, the Knicks hung on to lose in San Antonio 106-98 and complete a perfect 0-for-4 west coast road trip and extend their losing streak to five games.

The Knicks have gone into complete tank mode, looking to get the best pick in the lottery and find a savior in the NBA draft to start their 100th rebuild since they won their last championship back in the early 70’s.

In the bizarre world of the Knicks, losing is good and losing big, even though they look like they are trying to follow the failed team building method of the Philadelphia 76ers, is “trusting the process.”

Meanwhile the guy running the show, Phil Jackson, might be expected to, you know, attend NCAA Tournament games for an up close and personal look at that one special player who might be able to play within his out dated triangle offense. Nah, that makes too much sense for the “Zen Master.”

Instead, when the Knicks left Los Angeles, Phil stayed behind to be present for the Shaquille O’Neal statue unveiling outside the Staples Center Friday night. Better to have your ego stroked and remind everyone you used to be a genius coaching all those championship teams in Chicago and Southern California and not the dummy you are thought off in New York.

Saturday saw the Knicks lose Joakim Noah to a 20-game suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy. It seems that Noah took an over the counter banned performance enhancing substance. It’s seems Noah decided not to pick the brains of the team doctors who can tell you what supplements you can take and which ones to avoid.

Noah took a supplement with androgen that help’s with testosterone. It tends to act like an anabolic steroid and hence is viewed as a performance-enhancing ingredient because it “provides many of the muscle-building and therapeutic benefits of testosterone.’’ An NBA source told the New York Post that some items have been removed from the list in the new CBA for next season, but this one remained.

Noah is on the injured list, so his suspension will start when he comes off and is healthy enough to play. He is expected to be eligible to return this season so his suspension will cover the end of this season and the start of next totaling 20-games.

Almost overshadowed were the comments from Derrick Rose. Acquired in an offseason trade from Chicago with one year left on his contract, Rose hinted he is not considering coming back to the Knicks.

“I’ve got more than enough money saved. If I stopped playing basketball now, I’ll be all right. I want to win. I want to be happy and feel at peace with myself wherever I’m at. But being at the negotiating table, you never know. I’m not going to negotiate with people where money is the number one thing I’m asking for. I want to win.”

It’s hard not to read between the lines that he is saying, “I’m out of here.”

“This will be the first time I’ll be a free agent,” Rose added. “I don’t know how that process goes. After the season, me, my agent, my brothers, family will have to talk about it. Of course I want to be here, just being in this environment, being in New York, being at the Garden every other night, it’s a blessing. But, again, I have to really talk it over with my agent and my brothers.”

Give him credit, he made sure he did not insult the city of New York. It’s just that the Knicks as a team to play for sucks.

That was the week that was for the Knicks. It will be fun to see how they can screw things up this week and next and next. Winning any more games might be the biggest mistake at this point. Oops, what was the point in beating the Pistons on Monday?

 

 

   DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

   Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony

Knicks Can’t Polish Up The Decline Of Carmelo Anthony

Anyone want an aging former superstar? The rumors about the Knicks shopping Carmelo Anthony hard are coming fast and furious. but with each reported fantasy trade the anticipated return is dropping as Phil Jackson can’t polish up the the nearly straight-line decline of the once formidable forward. It’s hard to make any deal when you don’t have faith in what you are selling.

Don’t be fooled by his 22.7 points per game this season. Anthony signed his new four year deal coming off of seasons of 28.7 points in 2012-13, 27.4 points in 2013-14 and 24.2 points in a knee injury shortened 2014-15. Apparently the NBA head coaches aren’t fooled. Anthony is about to miss the NBA All-Star Game for the first time in a decade, and his recent sore knee is nothing to be concerned about (sarcasm) as reported by Stefan Bondy of the NY Daily News at the start of the month, just ask him.

“I was contemplating if I was going to give it a go, give it a shot,” Anthony said. “Then the more that I played, the sorer it got.”

Anthony wasn’t concerned about missing Monday’s home game against Magic.

“No, I don’t think it’s that serious,” he said. “I think it’s just the fact that it happened (Friday night), and I tried to go out there and play on (Saturday). I don’t think it’ll be an issue.”

Assuming away potential knee problems in a soon-to-be 33-year-old player (good luck with that Phil), the biggest problem the Knicks face in shipping Anthony out of town on a rail is he has a no trade clause and has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to go. Then there’s his massive $24.5 million salary escalating over the next two seasons to $27.9 million when Anthony could opt out (he won’t) and a 15 percent trade kicker just to make the numbers even worse.

It’s hard not to compare the Anthony situation to what happened recently between the Celtics and the Nets when Brooklyn went all-in for a couple of aging former superstars, gave away a boatload of talent and futures, and sent their team into the abyss for a brief shinning moment in the second round of the postseason. No one would do that again so soon after that lesson?

The signs of a player in decline are everywhere. He’s playing the fewest minutes per game of his career (33.6) and this will be the third straight year of decline. His offensive rebounding has almost fallen completely off the map at under 1 per game, again for the first time in his career and less than half of what it was four years ago. His ability to grab any rebounds was never all that great and has fallen to 129th among NBA forwards. Of course, his scoring has also dropped since signing that new contract as well.

If Anthony can stay on the court and the team that takes him doesn’t give up too much, preferably including contracts they’d like to dump to make the trade math work, then sure, Anthony could help the right team in the right situation this year. But does an aging offensive-minded player owed +$54 million over the next two seasons after this one sound like a bargain just waiting to be picked up?

Is there an NBA GM desperate enough to try saving their job by sending actual difference-making talent back to New York in return for a couple of seasons of Anthony or will Jackson allow his New York legacy to be that of the guy who sent Anthony packing for some role players and a bag of magic beans (a.k.a. salary cap relief)?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

NBA New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah

The Clock Is Ticking On Phil Jackson’s Time In New York

By Frank McLean

Phil Jackson has to be hoping that this week is better than last week. Heck it couldn’t get any worse and you have to wonder with Jackson’s invisible act, if maybe the clock is ticking on him staying on as the New York Knicks President of Basketball.

It started (sort of) when Derrick Rose went AWOL hours before the Knicks were to play the New Orleans Pelicans. The players did not know where Rose was. Coach Jeff Hornacek did not know where he was and neither did the team’s PR staff. Afterward it was learnt he had went home to Chicago to attend a family issue regarding his mother.

There was not a peep from Jackson and you had to feel sorry for Hornacek as he had to address the media as to what happened. He had no answers.

Oh and let’s not forget that the Knicks, supposed to be a playoff team, have just kept losing. Counting the one point loss to Atlanta the Knicks have only celebrated a victory thrice in their last 16-games and have slipped to 19-26 good for 11th-in the East and three games out of the last playoff spot.

The cream came in Toronto when the Knicks were taking a 17-point beatdown by the Raptors where at one point the deficit reached 34-points.

A so called 30-year friend of Jackson, a guy named Charley Rosen wrote a column for FanRagSports.com that Carmelo Anthony’s time in New York is numbered.

Rosen alleged Anthony’s “legs are going, going gone’’ and wrote. “The only sure thing is that Carmelo Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York. As ever, he’s still a dangerous scorer but resists any offensive game plan that limits his one-on-one adventures.”

Rosen on Monday wrote that he has never talked to Jackson and that his comments are his not Phil’s.

Anthony has a no trade clause in his contract so any trade can’t be made unless he agrees to it and to his credit he has not asked for trade. He’s 32 (until May) and his time to get a shot of winning a championship is running out.

“If that’s the case, if that’s where it’s coming from, that side, I guess it’s a conversation we should have,” Anthony said Sunday. “If they feel my time in New York is over, I guess that’s a conversation we should have.

“Listen, if that’s how they feel, if that’s coming from that side, then that’s what’s coming from that side. I haven’t thought once about that. I hear it, hear all the rhetoric going on out there. I still come to work every day, play and bust my ass and try not to worry about it. ”

Anthony isn’t pouting. The problem with the Knicks, all the dysfunction with this team, points to Jackson.

He is the boss and he has gone into hiding. Yes you see him and General Manager Steve Mills sitting in their seats during games in Madison Square Garden, but he has not spoken public about anything since December.

In that Jackson talked about how Anthony clogs up the flow of his sacred triangle offense.

He should have been the frontman when Rose went missing. He’s the boss, the top man, if one of your employees is missing you have to be the one answering questions. Instead he sends out Hornacek to answer questions. That’s not his responsibility.

The roster is a mess.

Yes they are missing second year center Kristap Porzingis with a sore Achilles periodically, but the Knicks don’t play defense. Joakim Noah all of a sudden can’t score and Rose is upset that the team can’t get it together.

You have to think Jackson’s time with the Knicks has to be coming to an end soon.

The roster is all on him, it’s not working and his insistence on the outdated triangle offense is not helping.

The problem is he really doesn’t know how to be a good manager. There is no communication with the players. Normally management and employees talk all the time because in every business, to be successful, everyone has to be on the same page.

Jackson should have been talking to Anthony on Sunday to say ‘hey I did not make those comments or yah I did I have a problem of the way you play and we need to talk.’

ESPN reported that sometime the two will meet. Sometime is not a day on a calendar.

If Jackson’s head is not in this job he needs to go and the Knicks need to find someone who is familiar with 21st century basketball on how to build a proper roster and run things in a professional manner. And not have your friends act as your unofficial PR guy letting the world know what you think about your team.

It looks like Phil Jackson has lost his employees trust and as a result his time in New York is running out. Perhaps the real question should be, what’s taking so long?

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA East

Playoff Contenders And Pretenders In The NBA East

As NBA teams prepare for New Year’s celebrations, their coaches and general managers have to start facing up to some tough realities. Are they playoff contenders or pretenders in the East? Is it time to tank for the best possible NBA Draft Lottery ticket or go all in for one of the readily available last four playoff spots?

Currently there are eight teams fighting for the last four playoff spots in the Eastern Conference: Hawks, Wizards, Knicks, Bulls, Bucks, Pacers, Magic and Pistons and the 12th place Pistons are only three games back of the fifth place Hawks. Whoever can get and keep their act together over the final 40-odd games left in the season is in.

Just for perspective, ESPN Eastern Conference predictions have the Hornets, Celtics, Raptors and Cavaliers at better than 95 percent certainty of making the postseason. Although only the Raptors and Cavs are given any chance at advancing to the NBA Finals. Miami, Brooklyn and Philadelphia are already relegated to just playing out the string. ESPN also provides Strength of Schedule and the usual standings details to help round out where the teams in the East stand.

NBA East

The teams, their opponents, the fans or anyone else for that matter is under no obligation to just accept ESPN’s predictions. These eight teams are so close that the right move could solidify, boost or reverse (if the tank is in) the fortunes of any one of them.

Atlanta Hawks – ESPN 6th

The Hawks have made the postseason in each of the past nine seasons and if any organization has shown they can pull out the stops necessary to get back there again, this is it.

This team is full value for their .500 record. They have shown an ability to beat anyone, like the Raptors and Cavs and then lose to anyone as they did to the Timberwolves and Magic recently.

With fully half of this roster expected to hit free agency in July, one might expect the Hawks to do the rational move and cash in a high value player who will be tough to keep for a very mediocre team to get future assets, but pending free agents haven’t produced much in trade talks in recent years and it’ll be easier to just try to ride this group to a 10th in a row postseason appearance.

At this point, it wouldn’t be safe to go against the ESPN prediction.

Washington Wizards – ESPN 9th

The Wizards have reversed a terrible start to the season, but they did it playing a somewhat soft schedule that included a couple of wins over the Nets in December.

The best arguments for not just blowing up this roster are the two wins over Milwaukee and the wins over Charlotte and Detroit this month, all of whom ESPN has finishing ahead of Washington.

The Wizards financially committed to winning this season and should be actively looking for trades over the next six weeks to upgrade their roster, especially that terrible 29th ranked (worse than the Nets) bench. It wouldn’t take much to keep them solidly in the playoff picture.

If the Wizards don’t make a move, ESPN has got this prediction right.

New York Knicks – ESPN 10th

Will the Knicks break the hearts of their long suffering fans once again? Probably and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s challenging to project any team giving up nearly 108 points per game making the playoffs.

They are getting outscored by their opponents by the second biggest margin in this group of eight teams. They can’t beat good teams and the much anticipated string of injuries to this rather brittle roster has yet to really happen.

It’s easy to see the Knicks trying to turn draft picks into players that could help now and it might work – for this season, but hasn’t this organization had it’s fill of being taken advantage of by other teams for possible short term gain?

The Knicks making the postseason would be a real “feel good” story. However, the competition for one of those spots might just be too tough unless a few of their competitors decide to tank.

Chicago Bulls – ESPN 8th

Underachievers sums up the Bulls season and it might just cost head coach Fred Hoiberg his job, but if that happens, just throw out the ESPN prediction of 8th place. This team would be headed back to the Lottery and looking to retool for next year.

The Bulls have enjoyed the easiest schedule in the NBA and they are blowing it. Worse, they don’t seem to know why things aren’t going better and can benching Rajon Rondo in the second half of games really be the answer? Throw out the all the fancy ESPN stats on this one, since beating the Cavs on December 2nd, they’ve lost to every team that matters to go 5-10.

If any team needs to make a deal, the Bulls are it and they have assets other teams should be interested in. Assuming management can keep its focus, but this is one team that seems destined to return to the Lottery.

Milwaukee Bucks – ESPN 5th

A young Bucks team hasn’t fared so well thru a rough patch in the schedule, but they still hold the largest points differential of the teams in the group while playing the second toughest schedule. A 7-8 December includes losses to the Spurs, Raptors and Cavs twice.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker are the present and the future of this team and any tinkering with this roster has to take these two future (all?)-stars into account. Plus Kris Middleton could return from his hamstring injury after the All-Star break, so the pressure is off in terms of needing to add another impact player.

Sorry Greg Monroe, but the Bucks aren’t under any pressure to move you, but if any team has a point guard they’d like to swap for a big man?

This team is going to the postseason.

Indiana Pacers – ESPN 11th

Tied with Chicago for the easiest schedule in the NBA, a team featuring Paul George should be competing with Toronto for second place in the East instead of owning a spot in the Lottery. There were consequences to shaking up the roster and firing the head coach after what should have been considered a successful season last year.

A team that used to be known for playing big is getting crushed on the glass to the tune of almost 12 offensive rebounds given up and a rebounding differential approaching 5. Add that to the third worst bench in the NBA and what’s become a middle of the road starting group, and even a superstar isn’t going to save you.

A trade for a shooting guard that could score would help as would a big that could rebound, but the Pacers don’t have a lot to offer in return. Unfortunately, ESPN’s prediction of 11th place is looking to be rock solid.

Orlando Magic – ESPN 12th

Apparently someone forgot to mention that the NBA is a guard driven league these days?

The Magic have trouble scoring, they aren’t much of a three-point threat and they could use upgrades at both guard spots. Other than that, this team could be really good. Maybe a trade would help?

Bringing in Serge Ibaka on an expiring deal without the guard play necessary to get the most out of him could easily turn this into a terrible trade for the Magic when he walks away in free agency in July. So sooner rather than later, the Magic have to either trade Ibaka to get something back or trade someone else to get the help needed to turn this sinking Titanic around in hopes of convincing Ibaka to re-sign.

Either way, go with the ESPN prediction. The Magic’s plan for this season didn’t work.

Detroit Pistons – ESPN 7th

Stan Van Gundy is a really good coach, but even he seems flustered by the play of this group. Although, playing the second toughest schedule in the NBA could do that to a team expected to finish somewhere between 5th and 8th before the season began.

The Pistons have played 20 games against teams with a .500 record or better. The Bulls have only played 12, the Wizards 13, and the Hawks and Pacers 14. Van Gundy has his excuse for being in 12th place at 15-20 on the season (not that he’s using it.)

A middle of the road group of starters is supported by the East’s 4th best bench, so slipping into a playoff spot is well within reach and Van Gundy isn’t above rolling the dice on a trade. Although, all the Pistons may need to do is to wait on the schedule to turn in their favor and they’ll meet or exceed ESPN’s prediction.

In Summary,

Contenders: Hawks, Bucks, Pistons

Pretenders: Knicks, Pacers, Magic

Let’s Make A Deal: Wizards, Bulls

 

Who do you think can grab one of the final four playoff spots in the East?

Which teams pull the trigger on a deal – to make it? – or tank?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA New York Knicks Derrick Rose by Larry Millson

Derrick Rose Is Fixing His Image In New York

Keep your head down, play well and help your team win is the proven formula for fixing a tarnished image in professional sports and Derrick Rose is following this playbook to a “t” in New York.

“I’ve been in the house ever since I’ve got (to New York),” Rose said. “I’m alone. I don’t need to go outside to be around people to have fun. Me having fun is just sitting in the crib watching documentaries or watching TV shows all day and resting.” (Rose is a big Westworld fan.)

It’s been a rough six months for Rose. Traded by the Bulls, the team that drafted him first overall in 2008, to the Knicks in June and then having his private sex life made very public by way of a civil trial, it would have been understandable if Rose was having trouble focusing on basketball this season. It doesn’t matter that last year was his best season since 2010-11 or the civil trial established he did nothing legally wrong, these kind of events hurt a professional athlete’s reputation and would be draining on anyone.

However, Rose has put his mind to his work and it’s showing. He’s having a good season and ESPN has even raised the question about giving Rose an extension as he is a free agent after this season.

While it is way too early for actual extension talks, the “feeling out” process going on between Rose and the Knicks is looking very positive. There’s just lots of time remaining before a call like this needs to be made by either side.

“I am trying to feel everything out,” Rose said. “I am not trying to rush it. I am just trying to win games. It’s different than actually trying to go out there for 25 to 30 (points), you got to figure out how to win as a group first before you start adding personal goals.”

As a .500 team, the Knicks are doing better than some of us expected before the season began and if they (Rose in particular) can stay healthy, there is no reason they can’t be better than this and Rose feels he’s built for the discerning and sometimes hostile crowd at Madison Square Garden.

“I think I’m built for (New York),” Rose said. “The way that I play and how hard I work, I think I’m built for that crowd.”

And Rose is definitely leaving the door open to extend his time in New York.

“In the summer, that’s when I tend to be out a little bit more, but this year I’m just focused on trying to win games and after that see how everything goes and I’ll probably experience the city a little bit more. As of right now, I’m just hooping.”

If his hooping gets the Knicks back into the postseason, the pressure will be on to get his name inked to a new deal to stay in New York and no one will care about the injury woes and publicity blunders of the past. Head down, play well and help your team win is the proven formula to fixing your image and getting that next big contract.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

Special thanks to James Jia for recording the audio

 

 


 

 

NBA Los Angeles Lakers D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle & Jordan Clarkson

Lakers, Knicks, Pelicans And Jazz Are Better Than Their Records

The top teams of last season remain the top teams through the first full month of this year, so after April maybe nothing changes, but last year’s Lottery Teams in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Utah and New York look a lot better and the early signs point to the Lakers, Pelicans, Jazz and Knicks being playoff teams this season.

As of the end of November NBA teams have played 16 to 20 games and the early rust or lack of chemistry has started to fade. The revamped Warriors and the consistent Cavaliers remain the best in the league with the Clippers, Spurs and Raptors not so far behind. These five sit atop their respective conferences and are the only teams in the Association with winning records against opponents with a .500 record or better.

Expanded NBA Standings 11-30-2016

This early in the season the NBA standings can be misleading as teams will not have all faced the same level of competition, so one way to level the playing field is to look at records against opposition that are .500 or better.

The big changes atop the conferences are the better than expected start from the Clippers who aren’t underperforming this year and the modest, but expected, decline by the Thunder sans Kevin Durant. However, the Thunder are just one of two teams with a .500 record against winning clubs, the other team being the surprising Lakers.

Only those wearing purple and gold colored glasses had pegged the Lakers as a playoff team prior to this season and their youth may yet betray them, but the 9th place Lakers (10-10) are 6-6 vs teams with a .500 record or better and the losses that have kept them below the playoff line were against the Mavericks (3-14), Timberwolves (5-13) and the improving Pelicans (7-12).

In contrast to the Lakers, the Grizzlies and the Trail Blazers are above the playoff line thanks to a very soft schedule and going 8-2 against sub .500 teams.

The oft injured Pelicans dug themselves a deep hole to start the season by going 0-8, but they’ve started digging themselves out by starting to win against .500 or better teams. They’ll need to stop losing to the sub .500 crowd (1-5) like the recent loss to the Mavericks, but this team should soon be a lot better than their 7-12 record.

The Knicks currently reside in 9th place in the East, right where some of us thought they’d end up, but they’ve had a tough schedule to start the season and going 6-8 versus teams that are .500 or better and 3-1 against sub .500 clubs suggests this is a playoff team if injuries don’t derail them.

The NBA is just starting to round the quarter pole of the season, so a lot of things can still happen to improve or decimate a team’s fortunes, but the early trends suggest that while the top of the league may be stagnant, there could be big changes to the rest of the playoff picture before this is over.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

 

New York Knicks Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis

Knicks Walt Frazier Talks Rose, Noah, Melo And Porzingis

By Frank McLean

Not long ago the Knicks were in Toronto for the first of their two visits this season to the Air Canada Centre and Pro Bball Report had a chance to sit down with former Knicks player Walt “Clyde” Frasier who for the last 25 years has been either the team’s radio or television color commentator and talk about the moves Knicks president Phil Jackson has made and the team’s start to the season.

Jackson remade the Knicks roster in the summer with one specific goal in mind and that’s make the playoffs come hell or high water.

The first big move Jackson made was raiding the Chicago Bulls of two of their stars from the last few seasons, trading for guard Derrick Rose and signing as a free agent center Joakim Noah to take the offensive load off forward Carmelo Anthony and improve the overall team defense.

“It was a great coup by Phil Jackson to bring these guys in,” Frazier said. “No one saw it coming. Rose will really help us, last year we were last in hoops transition. He gives us that type of quickness.

“In Noah he’s like Tyson Chandler who we had a few years ago. He was a former defensive player of the year and he plays that game.”

Frazier also loved another free agent signing guard Courtney Lee.

“He can play without the ball and gives you lots of energy because you have to be able to defend yourself”.

Even with the changes Frazier says 13-year veteran Carmelo Anthony is still ‘the man’ on Broadway.

“Melo is still one of the most lethal guys in the league in isolation,” Frazier said. “He has provided more leadership this year and he has taken more responsibility trying to galvanize the team.”

The man who is expected to become ‘the man’ sooner or later and likely sooner with the Knicks is second year center Kristaps Porzingis.

Porzingis started off slow this season, but he is getting 30-minutes a night laying time and averaging close to 19-points a game.  Frazier says he is on the “threshold of greatness.”

“He’s very precious,” Frazier said. “He came in a 20-year old, speaks fluent English. Says all the right things and wants to be good. His family is here, his older brother and his mother and he loves his mother’s cooking. He is going to be a force and going to be a superstar.”

“He’s not showtime,” Frazier added. “He is team oriented and a very conservative kid. When you talk to him he is aware of being on the biggest stage. It requires a lot of tenacity to play in the NBA.”

Since the loss in Toronto, Porzingis has averaged over 24 points per game, shot over 50 percent from the field, grabbed 8.8 rebounds, a steal and a block and has looked like a force on the court already. No waiting required.

One thing that Frazier is disappointed about is the play of the Knicks bench. Last year it was a strength and this year it’s a weakness.

Of course the biggest change Jackson made was behind the bench, where he fired Derek Fisher midway through last season. He then made assistant Kurt Rambis head man for the rest of the season, but decided to bring in former Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek to take over the club and hand Rambis the title of Associate Head Coach.

Frazier called Hornacek laid back, something that doesn’t usually work in the mega fishbowl that is New York City.

“He’s laidback,” Frazier said. “Now that can be a problem in New York. He is unflappable and he does not get excited, does not yell at the players. The guys respect him and they will perform for him because they respect him.”

The Knicks have gone three seasons without making the playoffs and going four years in a row will get a lot of people fired Frazier said. And it’s not just the owner of Madison Square Garden Jams Dolan who is getting impatient, so are the fans.

“The natives are getting restless,” Frazier said about the Knicks fans who have not had a championship team to cheer for since 1973.

When the Knicks left Toronto with a loss they were 3-6. Since then they are 5-1 improving to 8-7, beating the Mavs, Pistons, Hawks, Blazers and Hornets, so the ‘natives’ should be pretty happy.

However, there is still a lot of basketball left to be played. Many of the changes to this year’s roster are veterans who have been injured at one time or another and it will be interesting to see if these guys can stay healthy. But the real hope could be with Porzingis.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 


NBA New York Knicks Derrick Rose

Don’t Be Fooled, The Knicks Are Still Struggling

By Frank McLean

Stop me if you have heard this before. The new NBA season is almost two weeks old and as the saying goes, “some things just stay the same”, the New York Knicks are still struggling.

Friday night the Knicks took a disappointing 1-3 record into Chicago where they took on a Bulls squad who had a 3-1 mark to start the campaign.

What made this a big early season match-up was the return to the Windy City of two former Bulls standouts, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Rose a Chicago native was acquired by trade in the off season where the Knicks parted ways with center Robin Lopez. Noah was signed to a $72 million free agent deal and neither player had been a factor heading into Chicago.

Noah was scoreless in two of the Knicks first four games of the season. He was brought in for defense, but was benched in this past Wednesday’s 19 point home loss to Houston.

Rose coming into Friday night’s game was averaging 15 points a game and shooting 47 per cent from the floor, but the knock against him is that he is not setting up his teammates. He only had 10 assists in their first four games.

“It sucks,” Rose said on Thursday of the 1-3 start. “I’ve been on teams where there’s a culture and we’re trying to build a defensive culture here and it takes time.”

“It’s us coming in with the right intensity and having the will to fight,” Noah contributed. “Obviously we have a lot of work to do. It’s not the end of the world. There’s a lot of talent on the team. We got to stay patient.”

“The defense has been taught and preached,” said Knicks new head coach Jeff Hornacek. “Sometimes it comes down to just taking it upon yourself to stop somebody and not look for help. We just can’t let the guy drive by and have two-step advantage and say: ‘Help me, help me.’ ”

The Knicks are desperate for help. They have given up at least 112 points in each of their three losses.

Hornacek also pointed out to the New York media on Thursday that he is not sure if the team is paying attention to the “scouting reports” they get on their opponents and also questioned their conditioning and if offensively the wrong players are asserting themselves.

Last season’s rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis is having a bit of an early sophomore slump. When opponents put a small line-up on the floor he is having a tough time defending smaller forwards who have quickness and speed.

Porzingis misses Lopez who was able to get the ball to the 7’3 forward. He went scoreless on Wednesday night which had Hornacek scratching his head. Why can’t his teammates get him the ball to exploit his size?

Guard Courtney Lee added his “two cents worth” with an idea as to why their defense stinks. He said it’s because they practice against triangle sets and not the pick-and-roll offenses most other clubs use.

Well you know in any discussion about the New York Knicks sooner or later the dreaded “triangle offense” would be brought out.

Two years ago Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan paid $60 million to Phil Jackson to turn this thing around. However, Jackson won his NBA titles with the Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers as a coach, not the General Manager which is his portfolio in Gotham.

He ran the “triangle offense” as a coach and he insists his coaches run it as well.

It worked for Jackson because he had Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to run it. It’s a scheme that does not seem to fit in 2016 because the game has changed, defenses are more complex.

However, Friday night in Chicago, the Knicks won 117-104 and their record is now 2-3.

Even though they pulled out a win, the Knicks are still 29th in the NBA for defensive efficiency and are giving up a brutal 109 points per game. They are also dead last at grabbing defensive boards pulling in just 70.1 percent of the available defensive rebounds. The median for defensive rebounding in the NBA is currently 77.9 percent. With just an average offense, this isn’t a formula for winning many games.

This team hasn’t made the playoffs in three seasons and Dolan doesn’t like to miss the extra revenue home playoff games at Madison Square Garden brings to his bank account. However, if Hornachek can’t get the Knick to defend, for the fourth straight year the Knicks will look like guaranteed win night when they show up on your schedule.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


 

NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant

Don’t Panic Over Knicks and Warriors Getting Crushed Opening Night

It’s just one game and we’ve all seen this movie before. A team makes a huge change(s) to their roster in the hopes of getting a lot better and falls flat on their face in the early part of the season. It really is true, team chemistry matters and it can take half a season for a new group of guys to figure out how to play together effectively, so don’t panic if you’re in New York or Golden State – ok, absolutely no one in panicking about the Warriors.

It wasn’t all that long ago that LeBron James in Miami with two other superstars took a while to figure out how to share the rock and it didn’t go any smoother on his return to Cleveland. Unfortunately the same issues can arise whether your team is striving to be a contender, trying make the playoffs or even just be better than last year. Team chemistry takes time to develop and you’re just lucky if it happens faster.

It’s safe to say James is pretty comfortable playing with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love after two trips to the NBA Finals and he coasted to his 43rd career triple-double as the current “Big 3” poured in 71 points in the 117-88 blowout of the Knicks on opening night. This matchup made for great pregame hype, but New York wasn’t ready for this and no one should have been surprised.

Derrick Rose has barely had anytime to practice, let alone build chemistry, with his new team as he was tied up in the ultimate distraction of a sex-based civil trial that would have most normal people curled up in a corner for months afterward. Joakim Noah could be the ultimate player in needing team chemistry to be effective as his 0-6-3 in 20 minutes stat line illustrates. 52 points out of your starting five isn’t going to win many games.

It was never going to be easy for New York to grab a playoff spot this season, but no one should be taking Game One as an indication of what this group can accomplish. They just can’t fall too far off the map in the first couple of months while everyone figures out how to play together. A season opener against the 76ers or Nets would have been a little fairer under the circumstances.

Spurs 129 Warriors 100 isn’t how the new “Big 4” were supposed to open the season at home and the loss wasn’t all on the Big 4 as Curry, Thompson, Green and Durant combined for 82 points. As was “slightly” feared this summer, adding Durant decimated the bench and the Spurs reserves outscored the Warriors backups 54-16. Aldridge and Leonard looked great combining for 61 points, but the big plus/minus numbers in this game belonged to the second unit guys (on both teams). The Spurs Patty Mills was +35 while the Warriors veteran Andre Iguodala was -28. Bench chemistry matter too.

Unlike the situation in New York, the Warriors are going to win a lot of games on pure talent alone while they figure out how to make this new bench mob an effective unit. Absolutely no one will be crying about any early struggles this super team has to go through.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll

Ranking The NBA Eastern Conference 2016-17

By Danny Thompson, Full Court Press Radio

Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers ended up defeating the Golden State Warriors bringing the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to the Eastern Conference, but the major question is what did the other 14 teams in the East do to keep the Cavs from repeating? Here’s an early season preview on each of the teams.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Key Additions- Mike Dunleavy Jr and Chris Anderson
Key Loss- Matthew Dellavadova

Outlook – LeBron James just re-signed and although J.R Smith hasn’t (he will), the Cavaliers are the defending NBA Champions with no major losses from last year’s team. Kyrie Irving has turned into a superstar point guard and could be best point guard not named Paul, Westbrook or Curry in the NBA. Dunleavy Jr. brings a solid 3-point marksman off the bench. Now the real question is will Kevin Love still be on this roster on opening night? If he is, then they should repeat with no problems.


2. Toronto Raptors

Key Addition- Jared Sullinger
Key Losses- Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola

Outlook – Toronto entered Free Agency with one major agenda and that was re-signing DeMar DeRozan as soon as possible. Well the Compton, California native didn’t entertain the chance to going back home and signed a huge contract to stay in Toronto. Playoff hero Bismack Biyombo got a huge payday from the Orlando Magic and the team lost a few spare pieces off a team that won 56 games and took the Cavaliers to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. So why do they stay at number 2? Well Jonas Valenciunas and DeMarre Carroll are both healthy and they added former Celtic Jared Sullinger to help in the forward rotation. Besides you have Kyle Lowry and DeRozan as your starting backcourt. There’s no need to go any further.

3. Boston Celtics

Key Addition- Al Horford
Key Losses- Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger

Outlook – Boston didn’t get Kevin Durant, but they got former Hawks All-Star Al Horford to come play in Beantown. The 31-year-old Horford, brings an interior presence, a solid team defender and inside/outside threat from the post. Armed with so many young players, they let Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger go in free agency, but 1st round pick Jaylen Brown should ease some of the load and remember the Celtics still have 1st time All-Star Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and All-NBA Defensive wizard Avery Bradley as your lead guard rotation. One can only wonder when will Danny Ainge pull the trigger on a big trade for one more big fish to chase Cleveland and Toronto in the East.

4. Indiana Pacers

Key Addtions- Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson
Key Losses- George Hill, Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi

Outlook – No team was more active in the early part of summer than the Indiana Pacers. They made Draft day deals for Teague and Young and during the free agency period and added Al Jefferson from Charlotte. With the additions Teague and Young, the Pacers potentially the best starting 5 in the Eastern Conference. Jefferson brings one of the best low post games to the bench while they still have All-Star Paul George, the always dangerous Monta Ellis and the improving 2nd year stud Miles Turner. Remember CJ Miles and Rodney Stuckey will lead the bench unit along with Jefferson. The major questions is how will new head coach Nate McMillan turn this group into a Eastern Conference contender.

5. Atlanta Hawks

Key Additions- Dwight Howard and Jarrett Jack
Key Losses- Al Horford and Jeff Teague

Outlook – I know when you look at this your wondering why are the Hawks rated this high? Well, adding Howard is going to be bigger than most think. Howard, in this writers opinion, will turn back into the Orlando Howard. Yes he’s a bit older and a lot of his athleticism is gone, that doesn’t mean Howard can’t go back to 18 points, 12 rebounds and at least 2 blocks a game. Howard spending more time in the post will allow Paul Millsap to be able to have more space on the floor on the offensive side. Resigning Kent Bazemore was critical to this team upcoming success especially if one of the draft picks Taurean Prince or DeAndre Bembry can step into the starting Small Forward spot and allow Kyle Korver to come off the bench. But the evolution of Dennis Schroder into an upper ensulion Point Guard is the key for the Hawks to stay in this spot.

6. New York Knicks

Key Additions- Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee
Key Losses- Langston Galloway, Aaron Affalo, Robin Lopez and Derrick Williams

Outlook – New York made some major splashes and took some major risks in the process. By adding Rose and Noah from Chicago they are taking a big risk with guys with no good great injury histories. Noah has had one season since 2009-2010 of playing at least 70 games and we already know about Rose’s history. Bringing in Lee adds another solid role player who knows his role and plays it very well. If the Knicks starting 5 can at least by 65 games together, this ranking might be a bit too low.

7. Charlotte Hornets

Key Additions- Roy Hibbert, Ramon Sessions and Marco Bellini
Key Losses- Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee

Outlook – Charlotte did lose a lot this summer from a team that was one game away from being in the 2nd round of the Playoffs. So after losing 3 key members off last season’s team, how can they stay in the playoffs? Getting a full season from defensive wizard Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the 1st reason. With MKG and Nicolas Batum manning the wings it allows for Kemba Walker to play the passing lanes, which creates more steals. Adding Roy Hibbert at center is a massive upgrade on the defensive side of the floor because Jefferson couldn’t really guard anyone in the post. The main problem once again is can this team score enough points to win. For Charlotte to take that step forward, it’s going to have to be a team effort and they have enough guys who can do that. Watch for Walker to be an All-Star this year.

8. Chicago Bulls

Key Additions- Dwayne Wade, Rajon Rondo and Robin Lopez
Key Losses- Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose

Outlook – The Bulls didn’t make the playoffs last year and they lost Pau Gasol among other players, but this team will end up outlasting Detroit to make the final spot in the playoffs. Any time you have All-Stars in Wade and Jimmy Butler it’s kind of hard to leave them out of the playoffs. Wade has something to prove as he was passed over for a major contract this summer. Now they are issues everywhere when it comes to the roster and the style of play that 2nd year Head Coach Fred Hoiberg wants to play. He wants to be a perimeter oriented team, well with Wade, Butler and Rajon Rondo you won’t get that at all. None of the 3 of them are close to being 3 point threats. Good news for Bulls fans is with the losses of Gasol and Noah, the #FreeBobbyPortis movement can finally see the light.

9. Detroit Pistons

Key Additons- Jon Leuer, Ish Smith and Boban Marjanovic
Key Losses- Steve Blake and Anthony Tolliver

Outlook – Detroit made the playoffs last year and this unit is still young so they miss the playoffs for what reason? Well, Chicago added Dwayne Wade, New York has a better starting 5 and Atlanta and Charlotte are just better teams currently. Someone had to miss the playoffs. The Pistons can easily make the playoffs if Stanley Johnson and Kentanvous Caldwell-Pope can exceed expectations. What Detroit really needs is that star that can take games over in the 4th quarter. Andre Drummond is a free throw liability and Reggie Jackson is not a closer.

10. Orlando Magic

Key Additions- Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, D.J. Augustin and Jeff Green
Key Losses- Victor Oladipo, Ersan Illavsova and Dewayne Dedmon

Outlook – Orlando made some interesting moves this summer to say the least. Good news is that they have the best shot blocking duo in the NBA, added a new Head Coach in Frank Vogel and they created a buzz in Orlando. Now here is the bad news, they don’t have a go-to-scorer, they have forced the potential face of franchise in Aaron Gordon to play out of position at Small Forward to get him playing time and have a serious issue when it comes to outside shooting. They added Jodie Meeks from Detroit, but he’s still hurt currently. Evan Fournier and Augustin are solid from behind the arc, but that’s really it. 2nd year Guard Mario Hezonja better make a tremendous leap or it’s going to be a long year in Orlando. To be honest, I’m not sold on the Biyombo signing, he’s needed but not at over $17 million per season.

11. Washington Wizards

Key Additions- Ian Mahinmi and Andrew Nicholson
Key Losses- Ramon Sessions, Nene, Gary Neal and Jared Dudley

Outlook – Washington has been going through the injury bug for years, especially with newly paid Bradley Beal. If All-Star Point Guard John Wall could finally get his main guys healthy long enough, this team has enough talent to potentially breakthrough and make the playoffs. New coach Scott Brooks is very good at getting the most out of his teams and if gets this unit in the playoffs, then he should be a serious candidate for Coach of the Year. If Beal and others can’t stay healthy, Wizards fans will be looking forward to next years draft.

12. Milwaukee Bucks

Key Additions- Matthew Dellavadova and Mirza Teletovic
Key Losses- Jerryd Bayless, OJ Mayo and Grievis Vasquez

Outlook – For a team that has one of the best groups of talent in the NBA and were in the playoffs 2 years ago, to be out of the playoffs for potentially a 2nd season in a row is head scratching. Lets be honest, the major hole on this roster was at point guard going into the summer. They went out and drafted Thon Maker (a 7’0 power forward/center) in the lottery, let Bayless and Vasquez go to other teams and went out and overpaid for Dellavadova from Cleveland. They would be better, if Michael Carter-Willams played with a pulse or the team could acquire a point guard for out of place Big Man Greg Monroe. Otherwise it could be a wasted year for young studs Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton in Milwaukee.

13. Miami Heat

Key Additions- Dion Waiters, Derrick Williams and Wayne Ellington
Key Losses- Dwayne Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson

Outlook – It could be a long year in South Beach in 2016-2017 for Heat fans. They have lost the face of the franchise in Wade, key veterans in Deng and Johnson and they still don’t know about the health of Chris Bosh. This spells a recipe for disaster for head coach Eric Spolstra and company. On a positive note, this youth movement will allow Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson to grow as the leaders with Hassan Whiteside anchoring the low post.

14. Philadelphia 76ers

Key Additions- Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson
Key Loss- Ish Smith

Outlook – For the 1st Time in years the Philadelpha 76ers aren’t the worst team in the NBA. They added Ben Simmons, Saric and Joel Embiid to the front court that already has Nerlens Noel and Jahil Okafor in the rotation. Now if they can either be bad for one more year and draft a guard of the future or deal a big man or two to get an established one, then we are talking something special in Philly. Simmons alone is one of the few players worth getting NBA League Pass for in the upcoming season.

15. Brooklyn Nets

Key Additions- Jeremy Lin, Grievis Vasquez and Luis Scola
Key Losses- Jarrett Jack, Thaddeus Young and Wayne Ellington

Outlook – It could get really ugly in Brooklyn this year. I mean REALLY UGLY. They tried and failed in free agency, offering contracts to Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe only to have them matched by their teams. Their previous 1st round pick went to Boston and their upcoming pick will in most cases head right back to Boston as well. Unless the Brook-Lin connection is the basketball version of wrestling’s Rock and Sock Connection, they will not get out of the cellar in the Eastern Conference.

 

 

Danny Thompson Full Court Press Radio hostDanny Thompson is the Creator and Host of NBA Full Court Press Radio and Lead Columnist for FULL COURT PRESS RADIO.

Check out more from Danny here.
Reprinted with permission.

 

 

 


 

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James and Kyrie Irving

NBA Eastern Conference’s Best Starting Lineups 2016-17

By Danny Thompson, Full Court Press Radio

Barring in major trades or injuries between now and the start of the NBA Season at the end of October, most teams across the league have their starting lineups pretty much in place.

Starting units are very important. Just ask the Detroit Pistons, who had one of the the best starting lineups last year by many metrics, which carried them to the playoffs despite having one of the worst benches by those very same metrics. Who has the best one currently in the Eastern Conference? Number one should be no surprise:

1. Cleveland – Kyrie Irving, J.R Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson

They are the defending champions, so why wouldn’t they be at the very top. With Thompson and Love, teams have a hard time grabbing rebounds against them. We all know that Smith can go off from behind the arc at any point in time and Irving has entered the discussion being a top 5 point guard. By the way they have LeBron James on their team as well.

2. Toronto Raptors – Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Jared Sullinger and Jonas Valanciunas

This unit made the Eastern Conference Finals without Carroll or Valanciunas being anywhere near healthy. DeMarre Carroll was brought in to be a defensive stopper and glue guy, and this will be the year he makes good on that reputation. Sullinger brings another scoring threat who can take pressure off the Eastern Conference’s best backcourt.

3. Indiana Pacers – Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner

So much talent here among this group of five. The three returning starters, Ellis, George, and Turner are very good. George is an MVP candidate, Turner could very well be the 2nd best player in his draft class, and Ellis is still a dangerous scorer. Now they add Thaddeus Young and Jeff Teague to the mix? This Pacer team has a group that could be very special.

4. Detroit Pistons – Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris and Andre Drummond

Detroit had one of the best starting 5’s in the NBA after they traded for Harris at the deadline, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be in the top five now, giving the young age of this group. Caldwell-Pope is the real key for the Pistons this year.

5. Boston Celtics – Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson

This rating would be higher if they can find a way to replace Johnson without having to move Horford away from the Power Forward spot. Johnson is a talented defensive player, but he has a lot of issues especially with fouling that keeps this unit from being higher. Like last year’s Warriors, The Celtics best lineup may not be the starting one, given the strength of Boston’s guards.

6. New York Knicks – Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah

This team would be higher on this list, but there are so many injury flags with this group. If Rose and Noah can each play at least 65 games with this unit, Porzingis continues to develop, and Carmelo decides to lead this group like he’s leading Team USA this summer, then this rating is too low.

7. Charlotte Hornets – Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Ghilchrist, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller

Charlotte has one of the best defensive units in the league, especially with Kidd-Ghilchrist coming back off of injury. Batum, along with the departed Jeremy Lin, allowed Kemba Walker to play off ball a lot last season, which helped Walker to have the best season of his career. Williams is very underrated at Power Forward, and Cody Zeller has to step up and play at an even higher level if the Hornets want to back in the playoffs.

8. Chicago Bulls – Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez

Fred Hoiberg wants a team that can go up and down the floor and be able to hit outside shots. The major issue is, well, none of the five listed here can do that. Maybe a style change will be in order in Chicago.

9. Milwaukee Bucks – Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe

This could be worse, Jason Kidd still wants to run Giannis at Point Guard and then this unit would have to use Rashad Vaughn or John Henson in the starting lineup. But the current 5 here is solid, especially if Carter-Williams can go back to his 76ers rookie season numbers.

10. Atlanta Hawks – Dennis Schröder, Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore, Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard

Kyle Korver will start the season at the shooting guard spot until one of the rookies ( Prince or Bembry) can adjust to the small forward spot which will allow Kent Bazemore to move to shooting guard. Millsap and Howard are All-Stars and Schroder is going to be very good in his first year as a full-time starter.

11. Washington Wizards – John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Jr., Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat

The talent is there, but there are glaring issues. Bradley Beal hasn’t proven to be a consistent 70+ game a year player, but Markieff Morris should have a better season after looking lost after the trade to Washington. Wall is one of the top Point Guards in the league and Gortat was outstanding last year which was a good thing. Now, if Beal can live up to his contract and Porter can finally live up to his 3rd overall draft pick from a few seasons ago, then Washington could get back into the playoffs.

12. Orlando Magic – Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic

After a season of having poor paint defense, they traded for Ibaka to be able to play beside Vucevic. Payton has very good court vision, but still haven’t proven to be a good shooter. Fournier had a career year last year after being given starters minutes and will put up simlar numbers this year. The key for success is Gordon’s adjustment to the Small Forward spot.

13. Miami Heat – Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Chris Bosh* and Hassan Whiteside

I know there is an asterisk beside Bosh’s name; We don’t know if he is going to play at all this year. Whiteside is an elite defensive center and Dragic is a solid point guard, but the youth of Richardson and Winslow playing major minutes is going to be the key in Miami this year. Without Bosh, you’re looking at either Derrick Williams or Josh McRoberts at Power Forward.

14. Philadelphia 76ers – Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Ben Simmons, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel

The 76ers are so imbalanced right now; all of their talent is in the front court positions. If they can flip a big man or two for help in back court, then this rating is bit low. Simmons has so much star potential, it’s ridiculous. Having Henderson and Bayless off the bench is fine, but starting is not a good sign.

15. Brooklyn Nets – Jeremy Lin, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Trevor Booker and Brook Lopez

Brook Lopez is a very good center, and Lin is an upgrade over last years group of Jarrett Jack, Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan. Hollis-Jefferson is a solid wing defender, and Booker can provide a decent option at Power Forward. All five of these players are certainly fine on their own, but outside of Lopez, are all fringe starters.

 

 

Danny Thompson is the Creator and Host of NBA Full Court Press Radio and Lead Columnist of FULL COURT PRESS RADIO.

Check out more from Danny here.
Reprinted with permission.

 

 

 


 

NBA New York Knicks Derrick Rose

Can The Knicks New Super Team Beat The Raptors?

This season the New York Knicks will be better, a lot better than 32 wins and 13th place in the Eastern Conference, and it’s obvious just improving on last season isn’t what president Phil Jackson was shooting for when he found ways to add Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee this summer. The Knicks are now a self-described super team, but have they improved enough to stop the Atlantic Division winning Toronto Raptors from a four-peat?

Rose is showing an extreme level of confidence in his new team according to Lang Whitaker of NBA.com

Rose: “I mean, with these teams right now, they’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams, … And the expectations I think of us, we just want to win.”

It almost isn’t fair to rain on any team’s parade after what should be described as a pretty successful off season retooling effort, however, it isn’t going to be easy for the Knicks to make major strides in the Atlantic Division. The Celtics added a badly needed veteran star and they won 48 games last year and the 56 win Raptors shouldn’t be expected to take a step back. If the Knicks are going to make any inroads here, they are going to have to get things together really fast in October/November.

Rose: You’ve got Brandon who just signed for one year, he’s got to show why he’s there. I’ve got to show why I’m there. Joakim has to show why he’s there. Everybody’s trying to prove themselves.

Jackson already has a $100 million payroll for the upcoming season, but with both Rose and Jennings coming off the books in a year, if things don’t work out as well as hoped, he can try retooling again next summer. As Rose says, the pressure is on the players to show why they are there, so maybe he should have kept those “super team” thoughts to himself?

Derrick Rose

Rose was an MVP, but that was a long time ago in basketball terms and a seemingly endless list of injuries and setbacks have caused him to miss a lot of games over the past four seasons. Recent years suggest he’s closer to a 16-17 point 4.5-5 assist point guard than the 22-25 point 7.5-8 assist All-Star prior to getting hurt.

It’s not that the Knicks can’t win with Rose playing at this new lower level of production. He’s still very effective – when he’s on the court. The real concern is can Rose accept his new reality?

Will Rose play off the ball more to save his knees? Will Rose drive and dish before trying a risky move to beat that last defender? The former All-Star could be just one hard plant and turn away from another knee injury and if he doesn’t adapt his game to avoid putting himself at risk, he could prematurely end his career or from a Knicks point of view, just miss too many games and cause his team to fall out of the playoff race.

Rose seems to think he has to prove himself and he doesn’t. There are lots of things he can do to help the Knicks win without putting that kind of pressure on himself.

Joakim Noah

The Knicks signed the 31-year-old Joakim Noah to a four-year $72 million deal and if signing older centers coming off serious injuries has a familiar ring to it in New York, it should. The Knicks have been down this road before.

Noah had knee surgery two seasons ago and lingering concerns about knee soreness bled into last season, then shoulder surgery ended his season last year. If one looks at Noah’s basketball resume, he should have gotten $100 million over four years or more, so Jackson signed him at a big discount based on his talent, but there was a reason the Knicks got a bargain. Noah comes with some big risks.

If it wasn’t for the Knicks history of taking these kinds of risks in the past, it would be easy to dismiss any concerns with the assumption the team’s medical staff vetted the player’s health. However, it’s just hard to shake the thought they rolled the dice again.

Brandon Jennings

Jennings is coming back from a torn Achilles and history shows no one knows what to expect. It could take a couple of years for Jennings to regain the speed and mobility that made him a disruptive force – or not.

A role coming off the bench is perfect for Jennings. If he’s healthy, he should tear up backup point guards and if he doesn’t have it? Jackson only has him on a modest one-year deal. It’s a good risk.

Assume everyone shows up to camp healthy and stays healthy. The next big issue for the Knicks is simple chemistry. These guys haven’t played together. Even the Big 3 in Miami took half a season to figure out how to share the ball and be effective and no one should be comparing the risks the HEAT took putting together LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the risks Jackson is taking adding Rose and Noah to Carmelo Anthony and company.

Winning the Atlantic Division by overtaking two teams with solid winning records that are bringing back substantially the same rosters isn’t likely to happen, even if things go relatively well for the Knicks right from the start.

The Knicks focus has to be on the second half of the season and the playoffs. Stay healthy and figure out how to play together over the first 40 games without falling too far off the playoff pace and then push for the best playoff seeding that’s reasonably attainable.

Knicks fans have reason for optimism. This is more talent than they’ve seen on their team for a while. However, optimism shouldn’t be translated into pressure. Success for the Knicks isn’t becoming the next “super team” right away.

Success is building team chemistry, finding a way to keep their new found talent healthy and making the postseason. One step at a time. And somebody needs to convince Rose he doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. He just needs to make shots, facilitate the offense and stay on the court.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
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