Mike D'Antoni

Prepare for apocalypse, Mike D’Antoni is dipping into the bench

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Mike D’Antoni hates the bench. That’s the been the common assessment  for years, as D’Antoni’s rotations have almost never extended past eight. Not in Phoenix, not in New York. He trusts veterans and that’s about it. It has been a constant refrain of criticism as D’Antoni’s teams have been unable to hold leads after establishing them with his blitzkrieg style. Yet he’s stuck with it, until now

The New York Post reports that while over in the Old Country, D’Antoni hinted that he’s considering going up to eleven deep, based on the talent and focus of second round draft picks Landry Fields and Andy Rautins. Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor. From the Post:

D’Antoni first mentioned the 11-man concept in Milan. And as he left Paris, it’s still in play. D’Antoni said he wants to press and run so fiercely, he needs bodies. The skeptical view is no eight-man unit has stood out, and they are showcasing guys for a Carmelo Anthony trade.

“We can play a lot of guys,” D’Antoni said. “We’re going to have to press, run and use more guys this year because they can obviously play.”

The skeptical view is probably off-target, because D’Antoni is unlikely to be willing to just cough up minutes in pursuit of a trade that is unlikely to occur. A move to an eleven man rotation could help considerably with defense. You know, that thing that everyone says D’Antoni’s teams suck at. It could also reflect an element of D’Antoni recognizing the success that Alvin Gentry has had with a more platooned approach. Energy and defense has their place, even if shooting the lights out isn’t on the docket.

If this is a legitimate change in philosophy and not just lip service (it is the preseason after all), it could help the Knicks a long way into getting to the playoffs. Getting rest for the starters and being more versatile in their matchups will just make them a better team. And D’Antoni is right. These rookies look a lot better than Jason Collins or the other marginal players he’s had at the ends of benches over the years.

 

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.