Knicks target Joe Johnson out of the gate


Sure, the Knicks want LeBron James. And they’ll make their pitch. But they’ll need more than the King to contend, and will need other players on roster to lure James anyway. And there’s always, you know, the simple fact that they should probably look into some backup plans in case their best pitch isn’t good enough for James to swing at.

Target acquired: Hawks shooting guard Joe Johnson.

ESPN reports that Knicks GM Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni will fly to the west coast on Wednesday in anticipation of the Thursday midnight EST start of free agency. They’ll meet with Joe Johnson at 9PM Pacific time, then hop on a flight and catch up with Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix.

So, yeah. Two players who excelled under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix will be the first two visited by the master of “Seven Seconds or Less” within the first three hours of the free agency period. Later in the day, they’ll meet with LeBron James.

If we’re examining realistic possibilities, the Knicks have an outside shot at James. Their roster isn’t in a place to contend, and other bidders will have that luxury. But Johnson and Amar’e present an interesting alternative. Both would likely be impressed with being stars of a New York team. Both have played together under D’Antoni in the past. Both can get buckets in efficient ways (though Johnson’s efficiency has begun to plummet).

Is Johnson worth the max contract? No, not at his age. Is this a championship contending core? Probably not. But it is a monumental step forward for a franchise that literally only recently finished up digging itself out of the hole Isiah Thomas put them in.

While D’Antoni’s system would be greatly improved with a dynamic point guard like Steve Nash, Johnson and Amar’e could run the pick and roll with devastating results. Johnson would need to adjust to being more of a facilitator, but hey, D’Antoni has been known to get through to players.

Johnson and Amar’e aren’t the biggest fish out there. But they’re still good catches, and if things were to fall just right, one or the other could help land LeBron.

Watch Hassan Whiteside beat the Pistons at the buzzer with tip-in (VIDEO)

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The Miami Heat took until the final moments on Tuesday night to beat the Detroit Pistons, but it was worth it. With just a handful of games left to play, the Heat need to stave off the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Thanks to a tip at the buzzer by Hassan Whiteside, they’re one step closer to achieving that goal.

The play game with just seconds left in the fourth quarter. James Johnson missed a shot with six seconds to go, and the Heat grabbed the rebound. Goran Dragic then tried his hand, but he couldn’t get it to go, either.

That’s when Whiteside came back with a tip at the buzzer that ended the game.

Via Twitter:

Miami now sits at 36-38, a game above the Bulls for the No. 8 seed.

Whiteside, meanwhile, is never going to wash that hand again:

Kobe Bryant says LeBron James has earned the right to take a rest (VIDEO)

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Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.

Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.

Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”

Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.

Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.

“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.

The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

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New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.