The Knicks bench could win them some games. No, I mean it.

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Thumbnail image for D'antoni.jpgWhile you were busy talking about how the Knicks missed out on LeBron and Wade but got that Amare guy and he’s not that bad, you missed something.

Donnie Walsh put together a pretty deep team.

Not deep with name guys in the Lakers sense, but similar in one way — deep with guys who fit the system. The Lakers, Celtics (mostly, we’ll see about Shaq), Spurs, Suns have all been very good at this, getting role players who really fit in with what they want to do.

The Knicks did that this summer.

Let’s assume a starting five of the Knicks tall lineup: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Anthony Randolph, Amar’e Stoudemire and Ronnie Turiaf. (Nobody knows who will actually start, not even Mike D’Antoni at this point, maybe Wilson Chandler starts at the two, Gallinari at the three and Randolph comes off the bench, but we’ll go with the tall lineup for now.)

Off the bench would come Toney Douglas, Wilson Chandler, Kelenna Azubuike, Roger Mason Jr., Larry Fields, Eddy Curry and Timofey Mozgov.

That is not a lineup of All-Stars. But it is a lineup of guys who are athletic, who can run, who can drain the three, who can score. Guys who fit the system. It’s sort of like what the Suns had last year — a group of guys who hustled and blended with what the Suns wanted to do and could put up points. That Suns group won regular season games — it also won a Western Conference finals game. It was a big part of what the Suns did.

Douglas can run the point a little and is we learned one thing about Mozgov at the World Championships it’s that he can set a good pick, roll to the hole and finish. You can picture a drag screen with them being effective. Mason could bounce back to the form that made him a supersub in San Antonio — picture him sprinting down the court to an open spot on the arc and draining the transition three.

Once he really gets healthy and his strength back, Azubuike may be the starter. He is more dynamic than Chandler. In the short term Azubuike is going to be explosive off the bench. And Wilson Chandler showed last year he can ball in this system.

Eddy Curry… let’s not bet on it. But if he can even return to the 15 PER guy he was two seasons ago — a league average guy — at the five off the bench? Huge boost for this team.

Mike D’Antoni’s system is built in part on conditioning and wearing another team down — they are going to run and run and run and you will not be able to keep up. You will wear down. They will break you.

To do that takes more than five — it takes nine or 10 deep. The Knicks have that now.

There will be a lot o playing around with lineups and matchups. It may take a while to figure out the rotations. But the Knicks have depth now, they have athletes deep on the roster.

And that could win them some games.

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.

Kristaps Porzingis on Knicks: “This is where I want to stay… this is where I want to win”

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There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:

He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.

We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.

With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.

“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”

The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.

But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.

Report: LeBron James won’t waive his no-trade clause

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They Cavaliers have had a frustratingly lousy offseason.

They ousted trusted general manager David Griffin. Since, they’ve watched Golden State load up while their roster stagnates, as stars like Paul George and Jimmy Butler have landed elsewhere. Now, Kyrie Irving is requesting a trade and reportedly blaming LeBron James for that leaking.

LeBron has practically thrown up his hands and left ownership and management to figure out everything.

But LeBron – with rumors swirling about him leaving in 2018 free agency – won’t take an earlier exit.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause for any teams at any point during the 2017-18 season, league sources tell ESPN.

Cleveland essentially has two options with Irving:

1. Trade him for better, older players

2. Trade him for worse, younger players

No. 2 becomes much more palatable if the Cavs can also flip LeBron (and Kevin Love) and launch into a full rebuild. But as long as LeBron is around, it’s hard not to contend for a title.

But if they trade Irving for immediate help and LeBron leaves next summer, the Cavaliers could be left with a ghastly roster. That might be the risk they’re forced to take now.

It’s hard to believe the Cavs would trade beloved LeBron, even if he didn’t hold veto power. It would turn owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman into Cleveland villains, co-conspirators in LeBron leaving again. If Gilbert and Altman dare LeBron to leave in free agency, LeBron would have to own the decision himself.

Still, if LeBron and Irving would return incredible hauls of younger players and draft picks – I can’t even imagine what LeBron would draw in a trade – Gilbert and Altman should at least consider it. It just doesn’t seem the Cavs will have that option.