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Tag:Mike D'Antoni
Posted on: March 29, 2011 12:35 am
 

Melo puts Knicks out of their misery

NEW YORK – Hours before the game, after the Knicks’ first home shootaround of the season, Carmelo Anthony called it “almost a must-win game.” When it was over – the game, and the Knicks’ six-game losing streak – Melo took the liberty of upgrading it to “definitely a must-win.” 

Forgive him that bit of revisionist history, since most of Anthony’s first month as a full-time resident of New York since he was 8 years old has been a nightmare. 

“Tonight was the starting point for us,” said Anthony, who scored at will to the tune of 39 points – 33 in the second half and overtime – in the Knicks’ bizarre 113-106 victory over Orlando. “We got that monkey off our backs.” 

The Knicks didn’t solve the world’s problems, or even figure out how to get consistent offense from both Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in a game they won. They did find out that with supreme effort and intensity, they can defend well enough to win even without personnel built for, you know, defending. And they learned that as cruel as the basketball gods can become, they can be just as charitable. 

“We showed that when we play with energy, we play with intensity, and we just play hard, a lot of things fall into place for us,” Anthony said. 

And so the most compelling train wreck of the NBA season north of South Beach is over. Move along; nothing more to see here.

It took Orlando being without starting point guard Jameer Nelson and reserves Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon (who left the game with a jammed finger) for the Knicks’ chemistry experiment gone awry to snap a skid in which they had lost nine of 10. (Orlando, of course, also was without J.J. Redick, who missed his ninth straight game with an abdominal injury.) It took Gilbert Arenas to shoot a miserable 2-for-11, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range. It took Dwight Howard missing the final 1:17 of OT after recording his sixth personal foul of the night and 17th technical foul of the season – putting him one tech away from a second one-game suspension with eight games left in the regular season. 

And finally, it took Jason Richardson’s offensive foul for tripping Anthony, waving off what would’ve been a tying 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu with 51 seconds left and the Knicks leading 109-106. This after Anthony had first tripped Richardson after the two had scrapped for a loose ball. 

“That’s what happens in life, man,” Anthony said. “The second guy always gets caught.” 

At least Melo was honest about that one. A significant weight lifted from his shoulders, he finally could smile again Monday night. 

“I’ve seen him score 40 and 50 points before, clutch baskets and all that,” Chauncey Billups said. “But I just think that he was so locked in. The kid was rebounding, he was all over the place – grabbing extra rebounds, doing extra effort plays, steals, blocked shots. You know that he wanted to win this game.” 

Before Anthony and the Knicks could win it, of course, they had to almost lose it. And the end of regulation was a near catastrophe that would’ve sent the panic meter to new heights. 

Out of a timeout with 10.2 seconds left in regulation and the Knicks leading 100-97, coach Mike D’Antoni opted – as he always does – to defend Orlando’s search for a 3-point shot rather than foul. Some coaches are dead-set against fouling in that situation, while others believe that’s the only way to play it. This time, the Knicks got burned when Richardson drilled a tying 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left. 

“I played with him,” Stoudemire said of his former Suns teammate. “He makes shots like that all the time.” 

With the pressure building to win a game with his newly assembled All-Star duo, D’Antoni didn’t show it on the sideline as the Knicks prepared to inbound the ball for their final trip of regulation. As the Knicks were assuming their spots on the floor, D’Antoni was engaged in what looked like a good-natured and spirited debate with several fans behind the bench – presumably over why he didn’t opt to foul. 

“It’s kind of a tricky situation,” Richardson said. “If I was a coach, I wouldn’t do it, either.” 

On the Knicks’ final possession of regulation, the ball went to Anthony – as it did nearly every trip after he checked into a tie game (80-80) with 8:49 left in the fourth. He drove the lane, got up in the air and had to double-clutch. Realizing he had to clear shot at the rim, he said he deliberately tossed the ball off the backboard to himself – but missed the putback at the buzzer. 

“I should’ve thrown it on the other side (of the rim),” Anthony said. “There was nobody there.” 

Then came overtime, and the Howard foul and tech, and the curious case of J-Rich getting caught for doing what Melo had done to him – costing Orlando Turkoglu’s tying trey. But if you were expecting Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to have his usual fun with the league’s officiating and disciplinary system, you would’ve been disappointed. Asked three officiating-related questions in his postgame media session, Van Gundy each time responded with dead silence. Commissioner David Stern, who’d promised we wouldn’t be hearing from Van Gundy anymore on such issues, was right. 

And for one night, so were the Knicks. 

“They played really hungry,” Richardson said. “They dove, they hustled. It was a must-win for them. You lose six in a row, you start getting hungry. You start feeling that starvation kicking in.” 

Making the Knicks’ first victorious post-game meal in nearly two weeks a must-eat.
Posted on: March 25, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 1:40 am
 

Time for Knicks' Melo-dimensional offense to end

NEW YORK – In the uncomfortable quiet of a losing locker room, Chauncey Billups perked up and spoke up when asked about the issue that ultimately will determine the success or failure of Carmelo Anthony’s shotgun wedding with the Knicks

Billups had just played another poor game and once again could not orchestrate the Knicks’ offense down the stretch in the team’s fifth straight loss and eighth in nine games, a 102-96 loss to the Bucks on Friday night. Billups and Anthony had checked in with 7:15 left and Milwaukee leading 91-88. With Billups, Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the floor together, the Knicks proceeded to miss their next nine shots from the field and made only 3 of 15 the rest of the way. 

“Tough times,” Anthony said. 

“Everything is so hard,” added coach Mike D’Antoni. 

Billups and Anthony have been a painful fit with D’Antoni’s triple-threat, pick-and-roll offense, which should be unstoppable with a point guard of Billups’ skill and leadership and two scorers like Anthony and Stoudemire. But like the opening weeks of the season, when offensive juggernauts LeBron James and Dwyane Wade couldn’t get out of each other’s way, the Knicks cannot do the one thing they’re currently built to do – score – when it matters most. Most puzzling of all, it’s more difficult for them to score when their three most accomplished offensive players are on the floor together. 

So I asked Billups in a quiet moment in the locker room if the offense is going to have to change to fit Anthony, or if he will adapt to a system he’d thrive in if only he’d embrace it. 

“Yeah, I think that’s in his makeup,” Billups said. “I think he’s probably done it before. The problem is, he’s always been so good that the system has always been just whatever he kind of wants, you know what I mean? He’s always been so good that he’s always been able to just do that and they make the system up around his strengths. I think now this is the first time he’s coming into this system and the system is a little different than the way that he plays. But he’s so good that he can be effective in any system, I think.” 

When Billups said Anthony has done it before, he meant when he played with multiple stars with USA Basketball. The offense didn’t always run through Melo with Team USA, and he didn’t always score the most points. It’s what Anthony needs to embrace now, more than he’s ever needed to embrace anything in his eight-year career. 

“He’s done it before,” Billups said. “He’ll do it again.” 

Anthony got his 25 points Friday night, and Stoudemire got his 28. But they combined for only four baskets and 12 points in the fourth quarter – and only one basket each during the horror show that was the final 7:15. 

“It’s so not fluid,” D’Antoni said. “It’s almost like mud in your engine. We’re just chugging, and it’s tough to play that way, in my opinion. We’re not spacing the floor real well, and the ball’s not moving. And it gets more pronounced in the fourth quarter.” 

With the Knicks 7-11 since the Anthony trade, D’Antoni unsurprisingly is facing the brunt of the criticism. It has not been a honeymoon for him in New York. After two years spent tearing down and cleaning house, D’Antoni finally has been given multiple All-Stars to coach for the first time since he left Phoenix. The problem is, this has been given to him with a quarter of the season left – on a team with no center, and on a team whose depth was badly depleted by the trade. 

He has also been given one of the most gifted scorers in the NBA, a player whose existing game happens to clash with the system that he runs. There are those who will follow the simplistic script and say D’Antoni is no good for the talent he has, and that the Knicks should start over again with another coach who will let Anthony do whatever he wants. 

Doing this without giving D’Antoni a realistic timeframe to break some of Anthony’s bad habits would be too silly to spend much time addressing. But more to the point: Has everyone forgotten that the Knicks gave $100 million to Stoudemire, who has played his entire career in the very system that people want to scrap after 18 games? 

The solution, which obviously isn’t going to come easily, is for Anthony to do what Billups suggested he’s never had to do before: adjust his game to the talent and system around him. He and Billups obviously have spent some time thinking about this, if not talking openly about it, because they said all the right things Friday night. 

“It’s an open offense – a lot of movement, a lot of pick and rolls, a lot of just spacing the court out,” Anthony said. “So that’s something that I have to adjust to. I will adjust to it. I’m not worried about that. And that’s something that I knew coming into this system, that I will have to adjust my game to fit into what’s going on.” 

But this wide-open system that Anthony and Billups keep describing bears no resemblance to what they do when they’re together with Stoudemire on the floor. Stoudemire’s pick-and-roll opportunities, the bread-and-butter of the offense, are nonexistent. The ball movement and spacing fall apart when Anthony touches the ball, sizes up his defender(s), and makes his move. 

“I don’t really think we can say the offense has to go through me or the offense has to go through Amar’e,” Anthony said. “In this offense, everybody touches the ball. Everybody gets open. … Everybody is a part of the offense. So for me to sit here and say the offense has to go through me or Amar’e … Chauncey has the ball. He coordinates all that, and we feed off him.” 

Billups described D’Antoni’s system as “different than any other system out there. … I’ve always pretty much been kind of a fast learner, but it is more different than any other system I’ve played in.” 

Not to belabor the Miami comparison – because we’re clearly talking about different caliber players – but LeBron and Wade have gone back and forth in trying to decide whose turn it is to score and to lead. Through 18 games, Anthony has been the focal point of the Knicks’ offense. That’s right, the player whose game fits the system the least has been the one getting the most opportunities. 

It is time for the Knicks to remember why they brought Stoudemire here, and what he does best: score easy baskets on pick-and rolls, and if not, create wide-open shots for someone else. Facing a far bigger challenge than he imagined when he got here, it is time for Anthony to embrace that, too. He’ll get his opportunities to do what he does best, and in some ways they’ll be better and higher-percentage opportunities than he’s ever had before. 

“Me personally, I’m gonna try to figure it out, and we’re gonna try to figure it out as a team,” Anthony said. “And when that happens, those times are gonna be fun. Basketball will be fun again.” 

He has no idea how much.
Posted on: March 5, 2011 12:12 am
 

Melo takes leading role from Amar'e in loss

NEW YORK – Twice in the final minute-and-a half when the Knicks needed a basket, Carmelo Anthony had the ball in his hands. Exactly what the Knicks want, right? 

Most of the time. But not all of the time. And as it turned out, not Friday night against the one team above all others the Knicks can’t beat – the team with the worst record in the NBA. 

The Knicks were barely a .500 team when they traded for Anthony, and that’s exactly what they are since the trade – 3-3. The one constant, going back to the days when LeBron James wore No. 23 Cavs attire, is that the Knicks can’t beat Cleveland. The old Knicks were 0-1 against them this season, the new Knicks are 0-2, and Knicks of all shapes and sizes are 0-11 against Cleveland since Dec. 19, 2007. 

“It’s a tough loss,” Anthony said. “I don’t want to say it’s embarrassing, but it’s a tough loss.” 

Offense wasn’t the problem for the Knicks Friday night, not when they shot 55 percent from the field and lost 119-115. But the most telling sequence came at the end, when the ball was in Anthony’s hands twice with the game on the line – and twice, one of the most feared clutch scorers in the game didn’t deliver while another feared clutch scorer could only watch. 

With the score tied 110-110 after J.J. Hickson’s driving layup with 1:41 left, Anthony brought the ball up and had it on the wing. Amar’e Stoudemire, who had 36 points at the time, started coming over to set a screen. Anthony threw up a stop sign – the Knicks’ new leading man waving off the old leading man with the game on the line. 

In the pre-Melo days, this would be time for a pick-and-roll for Stoudemire – one of the great finishers in the game and the NBA’s leading fourth-quarter scorer. But these are the uncharted waters the Knicks are wading in now that they’ve added Anthony, who is cut from the Kobe Bryant cloth when it comes to crunch time. 

Ultimately, Anthony made the right basketball play – kicking to Shawne Williams for an open 3-pointer that went in but didn’t count because Anthony was whistled for an offensive foul. What would’ve happened if Stoudemire had come over to set that screen and rolled to the basket for a potential layup, Mike D’Antoni will never know. 

“They’ve got to figure that out,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll figure it out, but an iso with Carmelo is one of the best in the league. Look at the stats – last quarter, fourth quarter over the last 10 years, I think he’s No. 1 in percentage of making shots, so that’s good. Amar’e having the ball in his hands is good. That’s not going to be a problem.” 

Anthony said he waved Stoudemire off because the Cavs were in the same defense they were in on a prior possession, when they ran pick-and-roll and kicked out of it for a missed jumper. But it was a problem again on the Knicks’ final possession, when Anthony drove the lane, missed a layup, and got called for another charge. 

“I guess it was an offensive foul,” Anthony said. “He called it. I saw the lane, and I wasn’t going to settle for a jump shot at that point. I saw a path, I went, and he took a big charge.” 

In that situation, with seven seconds left and the Knicks trailing 117-115, it’s all Anthony, all the time. There’s no time to wait for a Stoudemire pick-and-roll to develop. So when you have one of the best one-on-one scorers alive, you put the ball in his hands and take your chances. Unlike some so-called superstars in this league, Anthony will never shy away from that moment. 

The earlier situation could’ve gone either way. And that – along with something called defense – is what the Knicks (31-29) are trying to figure out with 22 games to go. 

This being New York, some hysterics already are plunging off the bandwagon as if the bandwagon just hit an enormous pothole. That’s just silly. It’s preposterous to expect a scorer of Anthony’s stature to do anything but try to score with the game on the line in the last two minutes – especially considering he took exactly half as many shots from the field as Stoudemire. Anthony’s 29 points came on 10-for-16 shooting, while Stoudemire equaled his season high with 41 points and was 16 for 32 from the field. 

Is it panic time for the new Knicks? Hardly. They’re about as mediocre and inconsistent as they were before the trade, except they now have not one, but two of the best scorers in the game -- and, by the way, didn't have Chauncey Billups Friday night. They have to figure out who’s turn it is, and when. But if anyone was expecting it not to be Anthony’s turn in the final two minutes of the game when the Knicks need a basket, they’re going to be disappointed again and again.
Posted on: February 22, 2011 5:53 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 6:07 pm
 

Walsh doesn't care about Isiah's role

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The obligatory question didn’t come until the end of Knicks president Donnie Walsh’s session with reporters Tuesday, but it had to be asked. 

What role did Isiah Thomas have in the Knicks’ successful pursuit of Carmelo Anthony

"I have no idea,” Walsh said, understandably reacting testily to the incessant drumbeat about Isiah’s role. “Only what I read in your papers. … I’m assuming Isiah’s getting ready for the NCAA Tournament. That’s what I’m assuming.” 

Maybe in the office pool, but not on the court. Thomas’ Florida International team is 9-17. 

Asked if it would bother Walsh if Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan was keeping with his word and continuing to solicit Thomas’ views – as he said in a statement announcing the team was no longer pursuing Thomas’ employment as a consultant – Walsh said, “I could care less. There are a lot of people that talk to him, all right? I could care less.” 

The notion of Thomas working behind the scenes to help Dolan accelerate the Knicks’ pursuit of Anthony – part conspiracy theory, part urban myth, and part truth – has cast a shadow over one of the most significant days in Knicks history since their last championship 38 years ago. Dolan still leans on Thomas, whose mark as an executive – besides incompetence – was to make the big splash now at the expense of the future. Theories about Thomas pushing Dolan to get involved in the trade talks – speaking with the Nuggets’ Stan Kroenke and meeting with Anthony himself in Los Angeles – took on new life during All-Star weekend. The Knicks’ sudden departure from Walsh’s patient negotiating path seemed out of character for one of the best poker-faced negotiators in the league. 

But Walsh, toeing the company line like the pro that he is, said he and coach Mike D’Antoni were in constant communication with Dolan while he was in Los Angeles and that Dolan “didn’t put any words in my mouth or anything, or any thoughts in my head.” 

“Jim went out to L.A. to be at the owners’ meeting,” Walsh said. “Somewhere in there it developed that he could have a meeting with Kroenke and later with Carmelo. Which was good news. Before he even went out there, we had met and talked about this deal. When he was out there, at every stage he called me and Mike – he was talking to (Kroenke) – and he kept us apprised of it. We talked it out. I was on the phone the whole period with him or with other people about this trade. And it’s continued through (Tuesday). We were together. That’s why when this information came out that suggested we weren’t, we issued the statement. And it was a very truthful statement.” 

Asked if Dolan had to sell the deal to Walsh, who throughout the process was reluctant to gut the roster to get Anthony, Walsh said, “No, not at all. And he shouldn’t because I’m the one who knows basketball, all right? So my job is to advise him, that this is good for your franchise. And I did that.”

There has been speculation that Walsh was so displeased with Dolan's spearheading of the final push to give up four players and three draft picks for Anthony -- with Thomas pulling strings in the background -- that it could affect Walsh's desire to return for the final year of his contract, which is at the team's option.

"I haven't thought about my future, all right?" Walsh said. "I don’t think it’s time to think about my future. You guys are making more out of it than I’m making out of it."
Posted on: February 18, 2011 3:58 am
 

Welcome to the Melo free-agent summit

LOS ANGELES -- Amid revived discussions between the Nuggets and Nets on a blockbuster trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey, the tipping point remains as it has always been: Will Anthony take the ultimate deciding step and meet with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to indicate his willingness to sign a contract extension as part of a trade?

A possible three-team deal in which the Nets would give up a staggering haul of four first-round picks to lure the three-time All Star away from his preferred choice, the Knicks, cannot move forward without the Nets' owner finally getting his chance to sell Anthony on being the centerpiece of the franchise's move to Brooklyn. However, CBSSports.com has learned that Anthony personally has not agreed to such a meeting during All-Star weekend, despite reports that his representatives have already arranged it.

The New York Daily News reported Friday that Anthony is scheduled not only to meet with Prokhorov, but also Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan -- setting up dueling free-agent summits reminiscent of the teams' courtship of LeBron James in July.

A firm answer won't come until Friday afternoon, when Anthony will address the media as part of the scheduled All-Star interview sessions. The opportunity to meet with Prokhorov -- if, in fact, the Russian has changed his mind about ending his team's pursuit of Anthony -- represents the final step in determining whether the Nets' months-long pursuit of the All-Star can continue or not. After it became known that the Nets and Nuggets had re-engaged in talks after Prokhorov ordered GM Billy King to walk away from the negotiating table Jan. 19, Prokhorov's spokesperson, Ellen Pinchuk, told the Associated Press, "Mikhail has not changed his mind."

The latest incarnation of the New Jersey deal has the Nets sending Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and Ben Uzoh to the Nuggets along with four first-round picks for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, and Renaldo Balkman. In addition, Yahoo! Sports reported that Troy Murphy and his $12 million expiring contract would be sent to a third team, which would receive compensation in the form of one or two of the first-round picks from New Jersey.

The Nuggets, who privately have expected to someday revive the New Jersey talks since Prokhorov ended them last month, prefer this deal to anything the Knicks have been willing to offer. One person connected to the talks described the New Jersey deal as a leverage play that would force the Knicks to come to the table with their best offer for Anthony, who has long been determined to agree to a three-year, $65 million extension only with the Knicks if traded before the Feb. 24 deadline.

"It's good pressure for the Knicks," the person connected to the talks said.

The Knicks have balked at Denver's demands for Anthony, believing their best chance to build a championship team around the All-Star tandem of Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire would be to sign Anthony as a free agent after he opts out of his $18.5 million contract for next season. Knicks president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni have remained steadfast in their belief that they cannot afford to gut the team to get Anthony and leave themselves without payroll flexibility to build around him -- flexibility Walsh spent the past 2 1-2 years creating after years of mismanagement at Madison Square Garden.

Indeed, Prokhorov won't be the only billionaire roaming the hotel hallways in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles Friday. Dolan's presence for league meetings and a collective bargaining session has further stoked speculation that he will overrule his basketball people and authorize a lopsided trade in the face of the Nuggets' renewed leverage with the Nets.

Anthony has delivered consistently mixed signals about his willingness to meet with Prokhorov, a necessary step in completing the trade to New Jersey. When stories broke prematurely last month that the Nuggets had given the Nets permission to speak with Anthony directly, Anthony reacted dismissively after a game in San Antonio and said, "I let the front office handle that type of stuff. ... That's not my job to do."

Days later, after Prokhorov pulled the plug, Anthony conceded, "I would've taken that meeting."

This weekend in L.A., it will be hard for this sought-after millionaire to hide from the billionaires courting him.





Posted on: January 30, 2011 10:51 pm
 

Warkentien could bolster Knicks' Melo chances

Revenge, as they say, is sweet. 

Back in August, Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien thought he was going to continue negotiating the two most important contract extensions in the organization's history -- those of Carmelo Anthony and coach George Karl. The fact that Warkentien had been ostracized in the very organization he'd positioned for a run to the Western Conference finals a little more than a year earlier, though, amounted to the writing on the wall. 

Warkentien, the 2009 NBA executive of the year, was let go along with fellow front-office type Rex Chapman in a complete purge of the Nuggets' management team. This was after Warkentien had been insulted with an offer to take a roughly 50 percent pay cut -- with some of the difference possibly to be made up through incentive clauses. (And maybe some Wal-Mart coupons.) 

Within weeks of owner Stan Kroenke's decision to turn the organization over to his son, Josh, and former Raptors executive Masai Ujiri, Anthony's camp began informing the team that he would not be signing a three-year, $65 million extension and wanted a trade. Nuggets advisor Brett Bearup subsequently was let go, and the Nuggets believed they had made a fresh start in their efforts to make the best of the Anthony situation. 

Only one problem: Warkentien, who knows where all the bodies are buried in Denver and has a strong relationship with Anthony, is about to be employed by the enemy. A person close to Warkentien confirmed a report Sunday night by Yahoo! Sports that the Knicks intend to hire Warkentien as a high-level consultant. The move, which has yet to be finalized, represents the first step in Knicks president Donnie Walsh's long-time efforts to hire a right-hand man. In the past, he had considered Warkentien, former Warriors executive Chris Mullin, and former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, while coach Mike D'Antoni had some other candidates in mind. 

After Garden chairman James Dolan's clumsy attempt at hiring former coach and president Isiah Thomas was thoroughly repudiated by Walsh, the decision to go with Warkentien is the strongest sign yet that Walsh -- whose fingerprints are all over the Knicks' revival -- will chart the course for the long-term future of the franchise, too. 

Walsh's contract has a team option that must be picked up by April 1. While the addition of Warkentien as a consultant is viewed by those close to the situation as a prelude to an expanded and more permanent role, sources also say that not only is Walsh's option expected to be picked up, but his contract may be extended as well. Though Walsh has made no noise about wanting the extension, he has expressed to confidants a strong desire to see the Knicks' rebuilding through after overcoming a series of health issues in recent months. After returning to Madison Square Garden recently after undergoing hip replacement surgery, Walsh has been described by friends as especially enthusiastic and strong-willed about completing the massive restoration project. 

So while the addition of Warkentien, a shrewd negotiator with a reputation as a relentless scout, bodes well for a Walsh-driven front-office structure going forward, the natural question is as follows: What does this mean for the Knicks' pursuit of Anthony? On one hand, teaming Warkentien with Walsh on the Denver trade negotiations would make it a decidedly unfair fight -- combining Walsh's experience with Warkentien's direct knowledge of the Denver power structure and Stan Kroenke's tendencies and psychology when it comes to deal-making. Sources say that Warkentien long ago zeroed in on Kroenke's negotiating weakness in any Anthony trade: his obsessive pursuit of cost-cutting. As Warkentien learned in a negotiating class he recently took at Harvard, the best way to win a negotiation is to know what the opponent wants and where his weaknesses are. 

But it is difficult to predict how Kroenke, who is still ultimately calling the shots behind the curtain while his son and Ujiri handle the day-to-day business, will respond to the Knicks' hiring of Warkentien. It is possible, according to one source who understands Denver's still complicated organization dynamics, that Kroenke would stubbornly recoil from any talks with the Knicks and refuse to give Anthony his wish -- or give Warkentien the satisfaction. Also possible, the source noted, is that Kroenke would redouble efforts to once again engage the Nets in trade talks as a far more palatable option than dealing with Warkentien. Another person with direct knowledge of the Nuggets' trade discussions has told CBSSports.com on multiple occasions recently that the Anthony talks have not evolved since the Nets dropped out last week. One reason may have been the Knicks' impending hiring of Warkentien, which sources say leaked to some members of Denver's basketball operations. 

One way or another, it would appear that Warkentien will play a prominent role in the Knicks' pursuit of Anthony -- via a trade or as a free agent. Warkentien is believed to be on board with the notion that Anthony wouldn't lose nearly as much money as some pundits think if he were to play out the season and become a free agent under a new collective bargaining agreement. Estimates showing that Anthony would lose $40 million in such a scenario are nothing short of irresponsible. 

Imagine the irony, though, if Warkentien ultimately winds up signing Anthony to a contract with the Knicks -- a contract he thought he'd be finalizing with the Nuggets last August. The plot, as they say, thickens.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 11:21 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2011 2:15 am
 

Pop congratulates old foe on a beating well done

NEW YORK – After pulling his starters with three minutes left in a 10-point game Tuesday night, Gregg Popovich promised to be in rare form in the cramped hallway outside the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden. 

Oh, I’ll just get out of the way. Pop, your thoughts? 

“The New York Knicks kicked our ass,” Popovich said after the Knicks beat the team with the best record in the NBA 128-115. 

Met by stunned silence – and I’m not sure why, this was Pop, after all – the Spurs’ curmudgeon in chief said, “Do I have to think of the questions, too?” 

Oh, there were plenty of questions. Just not a whole lot of answers. Popovich had seen games like this for years when Mike D’Antoni was in Phoenix. He won more than his share and had nightmares about the rest. On this night, miles away from those Western Conference battlegrounds, the Spurs walked right into the Knicks’ up-tempo trap in what Popovich called a “pathetic” defensive effort. 

“It was the worst defense of the year for us,” Pop said. 

It was more than that. The 128 points were the most San Antonio has allowed in regulation in the Tim Duncan era. 

“They made us play their game instead of us making them play our game,” Duncan said. 

For the Spurs (29-5), who fell a game shy of tying the second-best 34-game start in NBA history behind the 1995-96 Bulls, it was merely a blip on the radar of a long season. Popovich dryly explained that pulling his starters with 3:13 left was a tactical move to save his veteran team for Wednesday night’s game in Boston. 

“It’s a long season,” Popovich said. “The chances of winning the game were not good.” 

But for the Knicks, it was far and away the most significant win in a season of revival led by the Spurs’ old foe from the West, Amar’e Stoudemire. It was’t just the Knicks’ franchise player who torched the Spurs Tuesday night, but also Wilson Chandler, who had 31 points on 13-for-19 shooting. Stoudemire had 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists. After falling short against the Celtics (twice), the Heat (twice) and the Magic, the Knicks (20-14) finally broke through against the elite. It’s the earliest New York has hit the 20-win mark since the 2000-01 season, when they achieved the milestone on Jan. 4. 

“I just know that they’re a very good basketball team,” Popovich said. “They’re not a dangerous team; they’re a good team, and there’s a big difference. A lot of teams can be dangerous on a night. But they’re sound. They’re playing their roles, they’re playing together, they’re communicating, and the physicality was impressive. … I’m happy for Mike. He’s had to go through some tough stuff and they’ve obviously turned the corner. They’re obviously going in the right direction.”

D'Antoni's teams have gone in this direction before -- as in, up against the Spurs. Only this time, he came out on top and has something to look forward to.
Posted on: January 2, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2011 5:05 pm
 

Gallinari: Knee sprain 'nothing to worry about'

NEW YORK -- The collective breath was knocked out of Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon when Danilo Gallinari crumpled to the floor holding his left knee. No, it wasn't Amar'e Stoudemire, but a serious injury to the guy they call Gallo would've dealt a major blow to the Knicks' playoff hopes -- not to mention any chance they might have of trading for Carmelo Anthony.

Gallinari quelled the concern on both fronts after the Knicks' 98-92 victory over the Pacers, saying team physicians told him the initial diagnosis was a Grade 1 sprain -- the least severe. 

"Nothing to worry about," said Gallinari, who added, "I think I will play" Tuesday night against the Spurs.

Gallinari went down with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter after the Pacers' Brandon Rush fell into the outside of his left knee on a drive to the basket. Coincidentally, Rush blew out his knee in a workout allegedly conducted illegally by Knicks scouting director Rodney Heard in 2007, as detailed in an investigative story by Yahoo! Sports. Gallinari was helped off the floor and was barely putting any weight on his left leg, but later said the pain subsided once he started walking to the locker room.


"I felt a stretch and I felt like a little click on the [inside] of my knee, and I felt a lot of pain right after the guy fell on my knee," said Gallinari, who went out with 19 points. "But when I started to walk, the pain started to go down. It went down to discomfort."


Coach Mike D'Antoni said, "Those strands in the ACL, they're made of spaghetti for Italians, so he'll be fine."

An MRI scheduled for Monday will determine the extent of the damage. The results will be monitored from coast to coast; not only do the Knicks need Gallinari's 3-point shooting to secure a playoff spot, but they'd presumably need to include him in any realistic trade proposal for Anthony.


The Nuggets are continuing to discuss scenarios with the Nets and other teams, and sources say they are not high on Gallinari -- or much of anything else the Knicks could offer, for that matter. But the Knicks have known from the beginning that they'd have trouble competing with the assets the Nets would be willing to offer with a guarantee that Anthony would sign an extension with them as part of the trade. If Anthony declines, Denver is back at square one and would have to entertain lesser offers from other teams or risk losing Anthony to the Knicks as a free agent after the lockout that is widely expected to occur after the season.



 
 
 
 
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