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.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.