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.

 

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

AP Photo/John Raoux
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The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat value.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.

LeBron James still striving to surpass Michael Jordan

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LeBron James has discussed chasing Michael Jordan’s “ghost,” motivating himself by trying surpass Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history.

Just 27 points behind Jordan for the all-time playoff scoring lead – a record he could break in Cavaliers-Celtics Game 5 tonight – LeBron is again discussing that pursuit.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“It’s just a personal goal of mine,” James said Thursday before Cavs shootaround in preparation of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. “It has nothing to do with passing the rings, passing the points, passing MVPs. It’s just my personal goal to keep me motivated — that’s all.”

“You guys are going to have the conversations about who is greatest of all time and things of that nature,” James said. “It doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day, it’s so funny that the conversation is always talked about in the NBA about who is the greatest but it’s never talked about in the NFL about who is the greatest quarterback. It’s just like: [Dan] Marino, [John] Elway, [Peyton] Manning and [Tom] Brady. All great quarterbacks, you know — and it should be the same for us.

Jordan or LeBron? Save your hot takes. LeBron just burnt them all.

The greatest quarterback of all time is never debated? Claiming that is now the hottest take in the entire realm of the Jordan-LeBron debate.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving feeling ‘good’ after ankle injury

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BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.

Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.

The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.

Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.

Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.

Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.