D'Antoni convinced his system works just fine

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New York media don’t believe it. Knicks fans are not convinced. But Mike D’Antoni knows it down the core of his being.

His system can win.

And because he believes it, he is not changing the coaching staff or the system. Not one thing.

“We’re not throwing anybody under the bus,” D’Antoni said. “That’s not going to happen.”

The real question is what team president Donnie Walsh believes.

However, sources close to the Knicks president say that Walsh is concerned about the team’s defensive woes. The best way to solve the problem is to acquire defensive-minded players. But the culture also needs to change, and yesterday D’Antoni, who has a reputation for being rigid, made it clear that his system works.

With the Knicks on pace for a second straight 50-loss season under D’Antoni and the team struggling defensively, the assumption is that the defensive-minded Walsh will want to address the issue during the off-season.

You have got to love the way this glosses over the crappy Knicks roster to get to the “real problem” of the system. As if there is a system out there that could make this roster good.

Let’s be clear — the Knicks defense does suck. The best measure is points given up per possession (look at it this way: at the end of the game each team is going to have had the same number or trips up and down the court, it’s the team that is most efficient with them that wins).  The Knicks are 24th in the league in points surrendered per possession. (Their offense is a middle-of-the-road 18th in the league by this measure).

D’Antoni’s teams have never been great defenders, but they have been okay. His 06-07 Suns team was 13th in the league in defense by possession. His teams continually lived within a few spots of the league average. They were not good, but they were not bad — and with an overpowering offense that was good enough.

Good enough to win a title? Maybe, maybe not (Steve Kerr ended the experiment prematurely). But the defensive problems stem from a roster of terrible athletes and the fact they have to start 6’9″ David Lee at center. It’s about matchups, about players. Bring in a defensive coach if you want — you give John Wooden these players and their defense will suck.

Fix the roster and then you can fairly judge the coaching staff. Right now, how can you tell?

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.