Knicks start season in Toronto, and Azubuike may start there, too

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azubuike_dunk.jpgYour new-look New York Knicks — now with a real point guard! — will begin their season on the road in Toronto Oct. 27.

The first game at Madison Square Garden will be a good one with Portland in town Oct. 30, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. As for the other big games: New York will host Chicago on Christmas Day and the Miami Heat and LeBron James will get booed by Knicks fans on Dec. 17 and Jan. 27.

It should be an interesting season for the Knicks, who now have players much better suited to running Mike D’Antoni’s system. Amare Stoudemire is a legitimate star and one we know thrives in this system. Raymond Felton is a huge upgrade at the point for New York.

And while the Knicks bring back the hustling Wilson Chandler at the two, don’t be surprised if their fans fall in love with Kelenna Azubuike. As the brilliant Tom Haberstroh (of Hoopdata as well) points out in a piece at ESPNNewYork.com, Azubuike could start over Chandler once he fully gets over his knee injury from last season.

Why?

Simply put, Azubuike can shoot and Chandler can’t.  Azubuike boasts a career .409 3-point percentage in his four seasons in the league, giving the Knicks a far superior spot-up weapon on the perimeter than Chandler who had a miserable shooting campaign last season. Among qualified wing players, Chandler shot a league-worst 28.1% on his 89 open catch-and-shoot jump shots last season according to video data from Synergy Sports Technology (the average shooter posts about 42% in such situations).

In the D’Antoni system, spot up shooters are of high value. (See: Johnson, Joe.) Chandler is much more smooth off the dribble but that is not called for as much in the offense.

And when Azubuike starts draining open jumpers because the defense collapsed in to slow Felton and Stoudemire, Knicks fans will love him. Then overrate him. Then try to tear him down. Then doggedly defend him if people not from New York try to tear him down.

You know, the usual New York Star treatment.

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.