NBA free agency: These bright lights may or may not inspire you

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Thumbnail image for Knicks_logo.gifThe team that plays in the World’s Most Famous Arena in the Greatest City on Earth is not exactly having a blockbuster start to free agency. They had their meeting with LeBron in Cleveland, a location they obviously would have preferred to avoid. Showing James the glitz and glitter of New York would have been much more advantageous for Donnie Walsh and company, but alas, they did not get homecourt advantage.

Worse yet, they were upstaged by the Nets. The New Jersey (Brooklyn) Nets. Jay-Z, a trusted mentor, stuck around to chat with LeBron after their meeting. Reports say James came away very impressed (I know, I know, reports have said everything including James is actually a cockatoo). Conversely, Brian Windhorst reports that he wasn’t blown away by the Knicks, and multiple reports indicate the Knicks are now pursuing Amar’e hard to try and lure LeBron. Their big pitch yesterday centered around how New York could make him a billionaire if things which are unlikely go just right, and that Mike D’Antoni’s system is the answer.

I’m a huge fan of Seven Seconds or Less and even I know pitching offense-all-the-time to a guy looking for championship rings who has been ousted by top defensive squads every season for the past five years is a bad idea.

The most damning thing about the way the first 36 hours of free agency have gone for the Knicks is that the big pitch, the ultimate trump card, the grand reveal has not worked. The key to LeBron James wasn’t supposed to be that complicated. That’s why with the Nets offering a clothing line from Jay-Z and Russian business connections from Mikhail Prokhorov, with Pat Riley slinging the words “it takes three to win” as his core component, and with Cleveland bombarding James with words and images of what he would emotionally do his home area, the Knicks’ whole concept was pretty simple.

“New York rules.”

That’s it.

That was the whole idea. To be fair, they had little other choice. The Knicks were so decimated by Isiah Thomas’ screwed-up reign at the helm that they just recently had the last draft pick he swapped out used by the Jazz. And in order to get rid of all the contracts he picked up they had to swap with Houston for the next eleventy billion years. And they cleared all their cap space specifically to sign multiple top free agents. But the problem is, what’s left?

D’Antoni is selling a system which didn’t win him a championship. That’s fine, the triangle at one point was unproven and sketchy. Eventually, D’Antoni may reach the promised land with the run-and-gun. And he can win games, that’s always been true. The issue is that you have to bring the whole house, the kitchen sink, and your gold tooth to James. That’s what the Nets did, laying out a comprehensive marketing plan built around people he knows and respects. You have to convince him you are 100% dedicated to building a dynasty with him and you know how. The Heat are doing that today with a pitch that says “You can be the icon of the greatest combination of talent in the modern era.”  The Knicks?

They had to say “Our city is really big, and really rich, and really awesome.” That was the pull. And it’s a relevant point! They weren’t wrong to go with that approach. But it says a lot about where the Knicks are and where they think they are for that to be their approach. They pushed on their best issues: D’Antoni and New York. But even that’s been compromised by the Nets’ Brooklyn relocation looming.

Again, the Knicks didn’t do anything wrong here. They relied on the things that best speak to them. And there’s still a great chance for them to come out winners here, if they can swoop in and get Amar’e now that the Suns have elected to let him walk (signing Hakim Warrick was a pretty big goodbye card) before the Rockets come dashing in with a sign-and-trade. They could still get LeBron.

But it does say something about this market, about the times we live in. Simply pitching the greatest city in the world isn’t enough. You have to have the best talent, be willing to spend the most, have a great city, great management, great coaching, and pitch all those things the right way.

Come to think of it, makes that yellow and purple tint to the championship rings make more sense, doesn’t it?

Russell Westbrook’s sixth straight triple-double leads Thunder past Hawks 102-99

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ATLANTA (AP) — Russell Westbrook extended his streak of triple-doubles to six games, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 102-99 victory over the skidding Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.

Westbrook scored 32 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and doled out 12 assists, giving him the NBA’s longest streak of triple-doubles since Michael Jordan had seven in a row in 1989.

Westbrook’s run has sparked a six-game winning streak by the Thunder. He’s now reached double figures in all three categories in half of the Thunder’s 22 games.

By contrast, Jordan had 15 triple-doubles for the entire 1988-89 season.

Westbrook kept his streak alive with plenty of time to spare. Despite a poor start shooting, he already had 15 points and 11 rebounds when he picked up his 10th assist with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

Scooping up a loose ball after a turnover by the Hawks, Westbrook led a 2-on-1 that ended with a pass to Victor Oladipo for a layup that gave the Thunder a 69-59 lead.

Westbrook, who missed eight of his first nine shots, suddenly found his touch in the third quarter. He made five of his next seven shots, three of them beyond the arc, and finished with 16 points in the period as the Thunder stretched a one-point halftime lead to 83-69 heading to the fourth.

Atlanta rallied down the stretch, but Westbrook closed it out for the Thunder. He finished with 27 second-half points to send the Hawks to their seventh straight loss and 10th defeat in the last 11 games.

It’s the longest losing streak for the Hawks since they dropped eight in a row in February 2014.

Coach Mike Budenholzer decided to shake things up, sending Kyle Korver to the bench and putting Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup. The Hawks also were bolstered by the return of Paul Millsap, who had missed three straight games with a sore hip. He led five players in double figures with 24 points.

It didn’t matter. Westbrook made sure of that.

Atlanta had a shot to send the game to overtime after Korver forced a jump ball.

The Thunder clamped down defensively off the inbounds play, and Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer failed to hit the rim.

MONSTER JAM

Oladipo wasn’t afraid to take on Dwight Howard in the lane.

During the second quarter, the 6-foot-4 Thunder guard drove the baseline and slammed one over Atlanta’s 6-11 center, rocking the rim and drawing gasps from the crowd.

Oladipo savored the moment, pumping his fists, stomping his feet and posing briefly in the lane even as the Hawks took off the other way.

RECRUITING DWIGHT

Billy Donovan made a recruiting pitch to Howard while coaching at Florida.

During his pregame chat with the media, the Oklahoma City coach recounted a visit to Howard and his father at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.

Donovan quickly gave up any hope of getting Howard to attend college.

“All I had to do was watch one AAU game and then I stopped recruiting him immediately,” he quipped.

Howard, of course, went straight from high school to the NBA in the days before the rules required at least one year of college. He was the first overall pick of the Orlando Magic in 2004.

 

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .

Al-Farouq Aminu active for Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 25: Al-Farouq Aminu #8 of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrates with a teammate after hitting a three point shot in the first quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center on April 25, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) — Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu is active for their game against the Chicago Bulls after being sidelined by a left calf injury.

Coach Terry Stotts says Aminu will be restricted to around 20 minutes Monday night “depending on how it goes.”

Aminu started the first eight games of the season before he got hurt Nov. 8 against Phoenix. He is averaging 6.4 points and 6.6 rebounds.

Victor Oladipo with the two-handed throw down over Dwight Howard (VIDEO)

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That. Was. Nasty.

After some good ball movement from the Thunder (which started with pretty much their entire team collapsing on Russell Westbrook), Victor Oladipo drove out of the corner aggressively, Dwight Howard tried to rotate over, but he was a step too late and… damn.

By the way, if your question is “did Westbrook get his sixth straight triple double” the answer is of course he did.

Report: LeBron James, other Cavaliers will not stay at Trump hotel in New York this week

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02:  A view of the Trump International Hotel on May 2, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
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There are a few regular hotels where NBA teams stay in the New York area, one of them is the Trump Hotel in Soho. It fits the general bill — high-end hotel that works to cater to the specialty needs of NBA players and teams, and it’s in a great location in the city.

It’s where the Cleveland Cavaliers were booked to stay when the team visited New York this week, but LeBron James and other Cavaliers have been excused by the team and will stay at another location, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

A group of Cleveland Cavaliers players have been excused from staying at the team’s planned accommodations, the Trump SoHo hotel in lower Manhattan, when the defending champions visit New York City this week to play the New York Knicks, multiple team sources told ESPN.com.

Other members of the team’s traveling party will stay at the 46-story luxury building opened in 2010 and branded through a licensing agreement with President-elect Donald Trump, as the Cavs have a contract with the establishment…

LeBron James is included in the faction of players who will not be staying at the Trump SoHo, according to multiple sources. James publicly endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton about a month before Clinton lost the election.

Richard Jefferson, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert have all expressed unhappiness with the election results publicly. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was a Trump supporter who conducted a fundraiser for the now president-elect.

These players are not the only ones making this move, and several teams have worked to shift away from Trump properties nationwide.

Of course, this is going to lead some people to freak out in the comment section — people who barely watched the NBA for the last decade will proclaim their boycott of the Cavaliers and league — but honestly, what LeBron is doing is what we should all do, support businesses and causes that align with our beliefs. Avoid those that don’t. If you don’t like the way they run their business and donate money, don’t eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. If you have issue’s with Donald Trump, don’t stay at his hotels and don’t golf at his courses. Speak with your dollars, it’s often the most efficient way to get a message across (hence the unending parade of “boycotts” of businesses across the nation).

So long as LeBron cleared this with the team and makes it to shootaround on time, this is no big deal. But, go ahead in the comments and tell us about how you’re disrespected.