Knicks are bringing back Isiah Thomas as a consultant. No, it is not April 1.

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Thumbnail image for ithomas.jpgUPDATE 3:44 pm: The NBA is officially looking into this deal — where a college head coach consults with an NBA team and is considered a player “recruiter” — to see if it violates league rules.

Those league rules include that a team representative cannot have contact with college underclassmen. Which is essentially the core of Thomas’ college job. So there are some questions.

If it is ruled legal by the NBA, it is a slippery slope. What is to stop Boston from setting up a
similar deal with Roy Williams so they can get the inside scoop on North
Carolina players? Or use him to lure former Carolina players who are
free agents. Sure, that will not be part of the official job description
— it won’t be for Thomas either — but you can see the potential for
trouble.

The NCAA has signed off on the deal, according to reports.

What are the odds that Knicks ownership would push forward a deal for a friend without thinking about the legality of it? Oh, yea, pretty good.

1:49 pm: The New York Knicks are bringing Isiah Thomas back as a part time consultant to the franchise.

That sound you just heard, the screeching one that sounded like a hellmouth opening? That was Knicks fans.

He has been brought back after the Knicks suffered through two painful years on the court pulling themselves out of the hellmouth that Thomas left the team in on the court and against the cap from his term as team president. Thomas will work on a part-time as consultant and a player recruiter but not have to give up his job as head coach at Florida International University.

“Isiah Thomas brings unique experience as a Hall of Fame player, coach, executive and owner, and we believe having him as part of our organization will be extremely beneficial to the team’s success,” Dolan and Walsh said in a joint statement.

Unique. Well that’s one word for it.

“I’m excited to once again be a part of the New York Knicks organization. I was honored to have been asked to help during the recent free-agent recruiting process, and believe that this new role takes full advantage of my skill set as an evaluator of basketball talent,” Thomas said in a statement released by the team. “

Honestly, this is not that big a surprise. It should be — you should never bring back a former employee who cost you $11 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit. But it isn’t in this case.

Knicks owner James Dolan loves Thomas, they remain good friends. How do you think Thomas kept his job so long the first time? Plus remember this summer Thomas was the guy the Knicks sent to talk to LeBron’s people last minute and off the record. Thomas was specifically called out for his work in luring Amare Stoudemire to the Knicks.

If he were only to consult on the draft, this might not be a bad deal. That was the one thing Thomas always did well.

What has to be the biggest concern is this: Donnie Walsh is expected to step down in the next year or two. When he does someone like current Knicks man Allan Houston or just released Denver executive Mark Warkentien should be the next in line.

But now Thomas has his foot in the door and the ear of the owner. And that more than anything should scare the crap out of Knicks fans.

Report: Knicks grumbling about Jeff Hornacek’s lineups and rotations

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 17: Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the New York Knicks watches as his team plays the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on December 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. 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 Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek has seemingly steered clear of the Phil Jackson-Carmelo Anthony feud. Hornacek has even avoided Jackson, one of the greatest coaches of all time, overly interfering.

But Hornacek hasn’t sidestepped every fissure in New York.

Veteran Knicks are reportedly frustrated with the defensive scheme, though some of that resentment could be pinned on assistant coach Kurt Rambis. Derrick Rose has reportedly been increasingly frustrated with Hornacek. And apparently he’s not the only one.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

Privately, players have been grumbling about lineups and rotations during the recent losing skid, according to sources. Brandon Jennings hinted at this after Monday’s loss when he spoke with frustration about the inconsistent nature of the Knicks’ recent lineups.

“Every day is something new. So just got to be ready I guess. You never know when you’re going to play,” he said.

Jennings was asked if the inconsistent rotations make things difficult for players.

“Yeah, when you come in here you don’t really know what’s going to happen, so it’s kind of no consistency and it’s really tough right now,” he said. “Right now, you come in here you don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m struggling. It’s difficult for me, because I don’t really know what’s going on. Just take it one day at a time.”

Jennings isn’t the only player expressing dissatisfaction beyond anonymous leaks.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Rose and Hornacek yelled at each other after Rose – who called on Hornacek to coach defense harder – got beat by Dennis Schroder on this play:

Berman reports Kyle O'Quinn also glared at Hornacek after being subbed out during the Knicks’ loss to the Hawks.

After the game, Courtney Lee – whom Hornacek removed the starting lineup – posted and deleted photos of Dumb & Dumber on Instagram. Lee then followed with this caption:

I posted a pic of dumb n dumber cuz that was my mood, no jab at no1. It’s dumb that we have a talented team and we’re in position to win games n keep losing by 1 possession. We’ll figure it out collectively as a team but that was my mood after the game. Has nothing to with any change, rotation, system, players, coaches, so let that be clear.

Are we reading too much into vague social media postings and distant body language? That is a real risk.

But Hornacek still appears to have issues with these Knicks. The debate should be a matter of the depth of the problems, not whether they exist.

This is what happens when teams lose 11 of 13. Players get frustrated and grumble.

The coach also often adjusts the rotation, which Hornacek has done, including starting Ron Baker. Jennings and co. haven’t earned stability in their roles. When they had that, they were losing.

The question now: Can Hornacek reclaim the players’ trust, which would help the team break its skid? Or does the griping – and, partially as a result, the losing – continue in a season-destroying snowball?

PBT Extra: Carmelo Anthony/Phil Jackson rift just adds to Knicks stagnation

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Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson had a chilly talk, and Anthony told Jackson the star forward wants to stay in New York. Which, based on the mind games we’re seeing, is not what Jackson wants — although you get the feeling Jackson wants to move Anthony to bring in more stop-gap, win now pieces rather than try to build a future around Kristaps Porzingis.

Which all speaks to why the Knicks have made the playoffs just three times in 13 years. What is the Knicks long-term plan?

I discuss it all in this latest PBT Extra. Well, except the long-term plan because nobody knows what that is.

Rajon Rondo strangely runs behind Rick Carlisle during play (video)

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This would be ignored – still odd, but ignored – if it weren’t for their history.

But Rajon Rondo running behind Rick Carlisle during the Mavericks’ win over the Bulls raised a couple eyebrows in curiosity and drew a few chuckles. What was Rondo doing?

At least Carlisle explained why he didn’t call timeout before Wesley Matthewsgame-winning 3-pointer. The Dallas coach had Rondo in mind.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Mike D’Antoni: “James Harden was the perfect superstar for how I would like to coach”

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 07: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets looks on against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Verizon Center on November 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. 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 Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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It’s not exactly Seven Seconds or Less Part 2 in Houston, but it may be closer to Mike D’Antoni’s ultimate vision.

The Rockets are 32-12 with the third-best offense in the NBA (Toronto and Golden State), and it’s an analytics wet dream of threes and shots at the rim. It’s all come together because James Harden bought in. Steve Nash ran the offense brilliantly but differently — Harden is as good or better with his style (which gets him to the line more often).

The brilliant Howard Beck at Bleacher Report got everyone to talk about the Rockets rapid rise and how it all came together. It’s must read. Plus there are some brilliant quotes, starting with Harden about D’Antoni pitching the move to point guard:

“I thought he was crazy,” says Harden, who earned his stardom at shooting guard….

Or as D’Antoni put it, “James Harden was the perfect superstar for how I would like to coach.”

“People always ask, ‘You traded for him; did you know he was this good?'” (Rockets GM Daryl) Morey says. “I’m like, ‘F–k no!’ I mean, we thought he was extremely good and better than other teams probably did.”

But not top-five good or, say, top-three, which Morey would make the case for today.

Harden is MVP-level good. What’s more, the Rockets are knocking on the door of contender good. The pedestrian defense isn’t there yet (18th in the NBA for the season, 15th for the month of January), questions about depth and if young key cogs like Clint Capela can grow into the roles the Rockets need them to, and there are the health concerns considering the histories of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.

But the Rockets are dangerous right now and could reach the Western Conference Finals this season if healthy and things break right (their style and athleticism would be a tough test for the Spurs).  And the story of how it all came together is fascinating.