New York Knicks v Phoenix Suns

Knicks are no playoff lock, Mike D’Antoni warns

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Life is good when you’re a New York Knick and you are winning.

And they are winning, more than nearly everyone expected. We thought we here at PBT were a little optimistic saying in our season preview they would win 38 this season. Right now, the Knicks are on pace for 44-45 wins. Their point differential is that of a 42-win team. Amar’e Stoudemire has played his way into the MVP conversation. They are currently the six seed in the East, with a comfortable six-game cushion between them and falling out of the playoffs.

And they have played comfortable the last week. Which is bad — this is not a team with the depth of talent to coast. The Knicks have lost four of the last five and coach Mike D’Antoni went through the press — the New York Post, for example — to remind his team they have earned nothing yet.

“We don’t look at standings and say, ‘We’re OK,’ ” D’Antoni said. “No, we’re not OK. I think guys have to have a more sense of urgency. Instead of a wakeup call, [it’s a] call for urgency. We played with that all year and lost it.”

“I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” D’Antoni said. “I think we are what we are right now. We’re trying to make the playoffs. We need to make the playoffs. Toward the end of the year, I expect us to be a very good team. The last two games we haven’t been. We blew two games at home.”

The second of those was a 129-121 loss to the Phoenix Suns where, without Ronny Turiaf in the paint (due to injury), the Knicks didn’t bother with defense.

The Knicks would have to fall pretty hard to fall out of the playoffs. But with Raymond Felton playing through a sore hand and struggling a little during this losing streak, it’s easy to see how fragile this roster is. D’Antoni is going to cajole and kick to keep them focused, to make sure they make the playoffs. Once they are in the playoffs, then everything is gravy.

LeBron says “get it done” message was for both Cavaliers, Thompson

LeBron James
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Everything LeBron James does and says gets magnified and scrutinized.

So when he put out this photo on Instagram standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Tristan Thompson and the caption “get it done” it seemed a message to the Cavaliers.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron clarified that on Sunday, saying this has become a distraction, and the message was for both sides to bend, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN and Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer.

When Thompson didn’t sign the qualifying offer he surrendered a lot of leverage, the Cavaliers don’t have to raise their five-year, $80 million offer — but reportedly they still would, a little. Thompson and his agent Rich Paul have pushed for a max contract, but that’s not happening.

At some point, the two sides will come to an agreement. For the Cavaliers, this is a distraction, their star is unhappy with that, and ultimately if they are going to make a title run they need the energy and rebounding Thompson brings (even if it is just off the bench). For Thompson, he can’t make up a year of lost salary, he has to come in and start getting paid at some point.

The two sides will get it done. Eventually. Likely before the season tips off.

China basketball qualifies for 2016 Olympics

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China has secured the ninth and final Olympic men’s basketball berth awarded this year.

China earned the bid to the 2016 Rio Games with a 78-67 win over the Philippines. 2016 first-round draft prospect Qi Zhou had 16 points and 14 rebounds, setting up the Olympics to be his big introduction to American fans.

Former NBA player Yi Jianlian won tournament MVP by averaging 16.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 blocks per game.

This will be China’s ninth straight Olympic appearance.

The Philippines, who got 17 points from Andray Blatche in the final, will still go to an Olympic Qualifying Tournament next summer with a chance to reach Rio.