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NBA for SNY.tv


While I was watching the Oklahoma City Thunder battle the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of their first-round series, there were several things that come to mind and really jumped out at me.

First, after watching Russell Westbrook over the past few weeks, and the time he came to the Garden against the Knicks and calmly just missed a triple-double by a single rebound (31 pts, 10 assists, nine rebounds), I think that he's established himself in Derrick Rose's class in terms of guards on the cusp of superstardom.

Rose, the first overall pick from the 2008 class, really burst onto the scene last playoffs against the Celtics and worked hard on his jump shot this offseason. That work translated more in his mid-range game, not from behind the arc, where he managed just 26 percent (up from 22 percent last year), but Rose is clearly morphing into a very gifted scoring guard, a la Dwyane Wade.

Tags: NBA for SNY.tv
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Winning in New York is certainly memorable, but losing can be too. One of my friends joked with me the other day that we've been watching the Knicks since they were horrible. "Remember, when they had Pat Cummings?"

Remember Pat Cummings?

Cummings wasn't the smoothest of Knicks in his four years in New York, but he played hard and was, by all intents and purposes, a good NBA player. Still, Cummings represented the early Patrick Ewing years, which weren't the most successful the franchise has ever seen. Those teams were pretty bad. Cummings was guilty by association.

Tags: NBA for SNY.tv, Retro Knicks
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The huge rift between the Rockets and McGrady, I'm told by a source, began last year at the trade deadline. The Rockets had a deal in place to send McGrady to New Jersey for Vince Carter and other pieces, similar to the Nets-Magic deal on draft night. When McGrady's agent Arn Tellem informed his client he was about to be on the move, McGrady abruptly ended his season by saying he needed micro-fracture surgery on his ailing knee.

Unfortunately, McGrady didn't tell the Rockets until after his decision was made.

"My knee hasn't been right all year, and we can't seem to get the pain to go away," McGrady wrote on his Web site Feb. 18th, one day before the trade deadline.

Tags: NBA for SNY.tv
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As the discussion surrounding where Tracy McGrady will ultimately land, what's clear is that the Knicks seem to be the most logical destination. Last year, with the Knicks in a groove, Donnie Walsh made the necessary decision to trade both Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford, two contracts who exceeded July 1, 2010. The results on the court were horrid, and the team lost any momentum from November on.

Now as we head into the New Year, what will Walsh do? Yahoo is reporting that the Rockets are considering taking back salary, and the Knicks would love to include Jared Jeffries. But in order for the contracts to fit, it seems the Knicks would also have to include Larry Hughes in the deal as well.

"McGrady is making a league-high $23 million in the final year of his contract, and won't be easy to trade given his large salary and how little teams have seen him play this season," wrote Adrian Wojnarowski.

Tags: NBA for SNY.tv
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When looking at the Knicks, there are two things that stand out as reasons the team has struggled with consistency. First and foremost, Mike D'Antoni's offense is predicated on space and open shots. If you create space, you get open shots. You have to make them.

Other than Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks don't have consistent perimeter shooters. Career numbers always tell the truth, and here are the career 3-point percentages of the Knicks perimeter players currently in the rotation:

Larry Hughes - 31 percent

Tags: NBA for SNY.tv
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Here's what I know about Mike D'Antoni's offense: In 2007, when the Suns were essentially robbed of advancing past the second round of the playoffs, they were at their collective best, offensively, with Shawn Marion at the power forward position.But Marion struggled to guard the opposing team's four, causing for the Suns to really have to open up the game and not make it a halfcourt battle, something that the playoffs naturally become.

People like to reference the amazing play of Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, but Marion may have been the team's most important player. Second to him may have been Boris Diaw, whom the Suns acquired from Atlanta along with draft picks for the disgruntled Joe Johnson.

Diaw allowed Marion to move off guarding the four position, and focus more on spotting and perimeter defense, where his length was more effective in getting out in transition on tips and steals.

Tags: Danilo Gallinari, David Lee, Mike D'Antoni, NBA for SNY.tv, Wilson Chandler
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- With Eddy Curry missing in action from the Knicks' lineup until he gets himself in shape (again), one guy who could stand to benefit is Darko Milicic.The 7-foot Milicic, obtained in a draft-day trade with Memphis for Quentin Richardson, is practicing with the first unit and could see additional minutes as David Lee's backup at center.

"I think [he] and Eddy were competing for playing time a little bit here," Lee said. "If Eddy's not playing right now, I think Darko's going to get his shot. Hopefully he'll make the most of it, but we are also waiting for Eddy to come back as well."

The 7-foot, 317-pound Curry was forced to leave training camp on the first day last week with a torn right calf muscle. Knicks President Donnie Walsh said Tuesday that Curry would be held out of action until he proves he can run up and down the floor. He could potentially miss the season opener Oct. 28 in Miami.

Tags: Eddy Curry, NBA for SNY.tv
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While some Knicks fans wished for the team to make offseason moves, the end result is a summer of relative silence. Whether one thinks that adding Ramon Sessions and dipping into the 2010 piggy bank was a move that Donnie Walsh should have made, it is a rather moot point.

The fact that Walsh didn't pull the trigger to try to sign the restricted free-agent point guard seemingly had more to do with economics more so than how the organization felt about the 23-year-old floor general's on-court ability. A source close to the situation told me that Mike D'Antoni seemed "gung ho" about the idea during the summer, but in the end Walsh was determined not to cut into the 2010 budget, especially after a July memo from the NBA hit the wires noting that the salary cap could come down even further next summer.

There are sentiments from fans who believe it is imperative that the team makes the playoffs if it has any chance to lure a big-time free agent over the summer. I agree and also feel that it's important to keep the Utah Jazz, owners of the Knicks' 2010 first-round draft pick, out of the lottery and a playoff berth would obviously assure that. Plus, it would give the young players on the roster valuable experience and showcase for the first time in a while just how loud the Garden can be during important games in the spring. More.

Tags: 2009 Season, Donnie Walsh, Mike D'Antoni, NBA for SNY.tv, Toney Douglas
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I remember heading to Shea on a summer day in 1983 with my dad and my brother, and watched as Mike Torrez gave up hit after hit, run after run. The poor guy didn't get out of the 4th inning and left the field to a chorus of boos. Yep, another young, impressionable Met fan set to embark on lifetime journey of frustration and pain was born that day in Upper Level 25.On Saturday Oct 25,1986, while a young man in possession of every Met baseball card from the '86 team, every piece of Mookie Wilson flair and the number 16 proudly displayed on my back every time I took the mound in little league, my family got a phone call that we had tickets to Game 6 of the World Series.

Now I had been allowed to stay up late to watch the first five games of the series: the Teufel error, the Gooden shellacking and the heroic performances by Bob Ojeda and Ron Darling on the brink in Beantown. So, when we came to Shea trailing 3-2 there was a confidence in the air that we could bring the whole thing home.

And we all know how that turned out, and I turned out a Met fan for life.

Tags: LeBron James, NBA for SNY.tv
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Thanks to the economy, this is easily the strangest NBA offseason I've ever witnessed. As far as the Knicks are concerned, the obvious plan is to improve for this season without compromising the ultimate goal of 2010.It seems that the organization is intent on improving and what's on top of Mike D'Antoni's wish list. Judging by the interest in Jason Kidd, Andre Miller and Steve Nash from afar, those desires include an upgrade at point guard to share time with Chris Duhon. The Knicks' actions also have made clear that D'Antoni doesn't want the ball in the hands of Nate Robinson to make decisions during possessions.

Robinson, as well as David Lee, are hanging out in no-man's land trying to figure out what their next career step will be. As restricted free agents, both have said the right things about wanting to be Knicks. But it's hard to envision them being comfortable with the organization, especially when their futures in New York are as clear as driving in a blizzard.

And it has to frustrate them. Yes, they are well-paid and they play basketball for a living, so it's hard to feel too bad. But all the hard work they put in last offseason was to put themselves in position for a big chunk of the pot of gold that is free agency, which has all but disappeared thanks to a rotten economy. You have to imagine that it's affecting their focus in becoming better basketball players both physically and mentally. It has to be like studying for the bar exam and coming a few points short because the bar made the test harder to filter the number of new practicing lawyers.

Tags: David Lee, Donnie Walsh, NBA for SNY.tv
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Give Mark Bartlestein credit, the guy knows what being an agent is all about. Rumors have swirled that the agent for David Lee has been campaigning to try and get his client top dollar. In essence, that's his job.

At the same time, what you have to love about Knicks president Donnie Walsh is his patience, and the gamesmanship between the two has been something to watch over the past year. Walsh's experience, it would seem, has given the Knicks great positioning.

Walsh knew that his focus when he took the job in New York was going to be clearing cap space so the team could be players in the 2010 free agent market. He also knew that he had some talent here, particularly in Lee and guard Nate Robinson, and his job was to evaluate them moving forward. Without question, their play -- along with their free agent positioning -- would have an impact on the Knicks.

Tags: David Lee, NBA for SNY.tv
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Poor free-agent signings, bad draft picks, awful trades for brutal contracts. Sure, there are plenty reasons the Knicks have missed the playoffs in almost every year this decade. Having to watch the playoffs sans the Knicks really stings, and for a Knicks fan who still need a hoops fix, nothing should bother you more than having to watch Phil Jackson cruise towards an NBA record 10 championships.Jackson was a Knick and always seemed interested in some day coming back to the Garden when he was done in Chicago. Phil famously flirted with the Knicks in 1999 before the Knicks made a historic run to the NBA Finals. Isiah Thomas even called Jackson back in 2005, but they -- and you may find this hard to believe since Isiah was involved -- never seemed to reach the stage of seriousness.

As a famous Knick once told me on the golf course one day, Jackson is no dummy. His legacy is often wrapped around Tex Winter's triangle offense, much like Mike Ditka's Super Bowl defense is descended from Buddy Ryan's innovated 46 approach. And as we know, especially his doubters, Jackson has had supreme talent throughout his career. Even his supporters will admit that he's not really an X's and O's guy as much as he is a kindred spirit that gets the most out of the best. Heck, anyone remember when Michael Jordan was shown drawing up a last-minute play during the NBA Finals?

But this is not to knock Jackson; he's a great coach. This is an attempt to give credit to former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, who went toe-to-toe with the then-Bulls coach both on and off the court. Both men have a sense of humor and an even greater sense of how to needle people (see Van Gundy's calling Jordan a "con artist". Their constant bickering was a big part of the Knicks-Bulls rivalries from 1995-1997. I remember listening to the comments from both coaches where Van Gundy would constantly refer to Jackson as "Big Chief Triangle" and Jackson, in obvious disdain, couldn't seem to manage to get Jeff's name right, instead referring to him as "Gundy."

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Brandon Hoffman of realgm.com shares relatively similar sentiments as yours truly when it comes to Lebron James' supporting cast.
"...Two years ago, I was fairly certain that James would sign with the Knicks or Nets in 2010. Now I'd say there's a 70% chance he stays in Cleveland. But there's one thing that everyone seems to overlook when trying to predict James' future. Yes, the Cavs have surrounded James with a championship-caliber supporting cast, and the Knicks and Nets are still toiling away in mediocrity. But the Cavs aren't built for the future. They're built for this season and next. Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are running on fumes. Neither player will have much left in the tank beyond this season, which means Cleveland will have to replace two of their top three frontcourt players in order to remain in title contention. Minus James, and without Wallace and Ilgauskas, do the Cavs really possess more talent than the Knicks or Nets? Don't underestimate Wallace and Ilgauskas' importance to the Cavaliers. Wallace is a terrific team defender, while Ilgauskas may be Cleveland's best mid-range jump shooter.

It's not as if James will be faced with the option of walking away from a young, talent rich team like the Lakers or Blazers. Are Mo Williams and Delonte West enough to keep James in Cleveland? (Williams and West will be free agents in 2011.) Or will the Cavs have to sign someone like Chris Bosh? If there's one thing the Knicks or any other team hoping to sign James must possess, it's a strong commitment to defense. LeBron has continually praised his team's effort on that end of the floor this season. He's also been quick to credit Coach Mike Brown for establishing a defensive-minded culture..."

Now I think chemistry has a lot to do with it and it's a funny thing. Sometimes I don't think there's anything as overrated as adult, professional players being asked to come together for a common goal. Other times I believe that players who are very tight together can overcome any obstacle. In the end, I think it comes down to trust and execution and that's occurred plenty of times where players didn't speak to each other.

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The more Andrew Bynum struggles to find consistent minutes for the Lakers, the greater the chance the Cleveland Cavaliers have of winning the NBA championship in June.And if that happens, Knicks fans should feel really good about the chances of LeBron James landing in New York.

All year long I truly believed that, if Bynum could give the Lakers the inside presence they lacked against the Celtics last year, they would win it all. But even after the Lakers dismissed the Jazz in five games, Bynum has been limited to just 15 minutes per game and seems out of sorts. Big men always take longer to get back in the swing of things, so I'm not sure if Phil Jackson can bring Bynum along at a snail's pace and hope that he contributes in a few weeks should the Lakers get to the Finals.

Advantage: Cavs. More.

Tags: NBA for SNY.tv
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As we reported the other day, Lawrence Frank will return to the Nets as head coach, according to a report on WFAN. The note was published in the Post yesterday.

I understand people not familiar with TKB may have found it strange that such a note would appear on a "rival" blog, but when I sent the note to SNY, where my NBA column appears, it was linked to here.

What we knew, and was confirmed by our source is that Rod Thorn is a big fan of Frank's, although not everyone in the organization is. But the fact that they would have paid Frank a buyout may have been the overriding factor in the decision to keep him. Plus, it's Thorn's call.

Tags: NBA for SNY.tv, SNY
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In watching the first round of the playoffs, two players who have stood out for me are the Celtics' Rajon Rondo and the Lakers' Trevor Ariza. Both players have elevated their games in a way that few people, particularly draft scouts, ever imagined. Both of those players have been surprises primarily because of the biggest question that teams ask when they look to draft either a point guard or a small forward: "Can they shoot?"

Rondo's reputation coming out of Kentucky as the 21st pick in the 2006 NBA Draft was that of a combo guard who couldn't shoot from the perimeter. In fact, despite shooting 50 percent from the field, Rondo only made 28 percent of his 3-point attempts. He also only cashed in 58 percent from the foul line and averaged just 9.8 points for his career in Lexington. To say he was known as a playmaker and defensive specialist would be an understatement; just ask the fans at Rupp Arena who would groan every time the kid let a shot fly.

That reputation caused him to fall behind the likes of Randy Foye and Quincy Douby in an otherwise weak point guard draft. Rondo's skills eluded the scouting eye of then-Knicks president Isiah Thomas, who selected Renaldo Balkman right before Rondo was taken by Phoenix. The Suns would then ship the guard to Boston along with Brian Grant for a future pick.

Tags: NBA for SNY.tv
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Check out my awards for the season on sny.tv as they compare to those at Sports Illustrated where Ian Thomsen polled 6 NBA advance scouts. Apparently, none of them voted for Shane Battier or Stan Van Gundy.
"...Without further adieu, here are my 2008-09 NBA awards.MVP: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

It's tough to argue this one. King James has led the Cavs to the best record in the Eastern Conference and the league's best home record. When you look at LeBron's team, you realize that he has the ability not only to make everyone around him better, but also to make them feel like they are championship-quality players. That's a special power. Sure, Kobe Bryant has had an impressive year yet again, and Dwyane Wade was outstanding, but this is LeBron's trophy. The two (Kobe and LeBron) will meet in the Finals in June. Count on it.

Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

Tags: LeBron James, NBA for SNY.tv
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Here is my first column on the NBA for SNY.tv, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

"...Apologies to Hasheem Thabeet, who I don't believe will have an impact on the NBA -- if at all -- for several years, but there is a simple reason why the art of shot blocking has become almost extinct. Look at Yao. The guy is a polished post player, but it took the tutelage of one Patrick Ewing to get him to be in a position to be a post dominator. Now, if Thabeet falls to the Knicks and Ewing doesn't have an NBA head coaching job, well, pencil Ewing to a seat on the pine next to Mike D'Antoni..."
Just a few thoughts, also, on the Tournament.

I like Eric Maynor, and as Alvino noted to me he looks like Marbury a bit, but I was disappointed by his performance against UCLA. Then I realized that Jrue Holiday, once Darren Collison was out with fouls, spent a good portion of the night guarding him.? Holiday is going to be something, although I hope for his sake he stays a year and learns more under Howland.

Tags: 2009 prospects, NBA for SNY.tv, Patrick Ewing
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