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With Anthony and Billups, does the Knicks offense really get better?

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On a very basic level, the question seems almost absurd.

Does the Carmelo Anthony trade make the Knicks offense better? The gut first reaction is “Of course it does. ‘Melo is a scorer going to a system where they just ask guys to get out and score. Match made in heaven.”

Then you look at the devilish details, and you look at Chauncey Billups… and maybe this isn’t going to be so smooth.

Sebastian Pruiti at the fantastic NBA Playbook notes that what Anthony likes to do and does well — isolation plays and post ups — are things the Knicks don’t usually highlight.

With the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony was ISO’d 36.9% of the time, while posting up 15.7% of the time.  Anthony has success in both of these spots, posting a PPP of .853 when ISO’d (110th in the NBA), and a PPP of  .941 when posting up (54th in the NBA).

While ISO plays are at least part of the Knicks’ offensive game plan, running ISOs 13.4% of the time, they simply don’t post their players up, only running Post-Up plays 5% of the time.  So right off the bat, the Knicks’ offensive system takes away something that Carmelo Anthony does very well.

Go read the post, because with video evidence Pruiti shows how the Knicks in general — and Stoudemire specifically — shoot themselves in the foot with spacing on isolation and post up sets. Stoudemire in particular tends to shade to the ball, bringing an unwanted defender into the area.

But you just kind of get the feeling Stoudemire and Anthony are going to find a way to coexist. Will Mike D’Antoni adjust his system to fit Anthony (he would warrant it)? There may be rough patches this year, but they will get it figured out, it feels like.

The bigger issue may be at point guard.

I’ll grant you that Chauncey Billups is a better player than Raymond Felton. At this point in their respective careers (Billups is 34) it’s closer than people want to admit, but for the sake of argument we’ll grant that Billups is the better overall player.

But he is not the better point guard for the Knicks offense, where the point guard runs a lot of pick-and-roll, as Pruiti points out.

When coming off of ballscreens, Felton is looking for his teammates than he is his own offense, passing it to a teammate 55.8% of the time (looking for his own offense 44.2% of the time).  Out of those passes, he hits the roll man 43.1% of the time while hitting a teammate spotting up 52.7% of the time….

While Felton is more pass oriented coming off of screens, Billups is more interested in looking for his offense.  According to Synergy, Billups looks for his offense 51.3% of the time when coming off of ballscreens, passing it just 48.7% of the time.  Out of those passes, he hits the roll man 38% of the time and a player spotting up 48% of the time.  The rest of the time (14% to be exact) Billups is hitting cutters.  To me, this means that Billups has a tendency to hold the basketball when coming off of screens (he is penetrating looking for his own offense and a teammate cuts off of that).  A point guard who dominates the basketball when playing the pick and roll game doesn’t work unless you are Steve Nash (Billups isn’t pass first like Nash).

I can hear the New York counter argument now, “Billups is just a placeholder until we get Deron Williams or Chris Paul in a couple years. We can live with him for now.”

We’ll ignore the possibilities of the Knicks getting D-Will or CP3 in two years because there is no way of knowing what the rules will be under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Does this mean New Yorkers will quietly sit by and not complain about D’Antoni and his offense because he has been given ill-fitting pieces? You going to cut Melo and Amar’e slack because they are not getting the ball when and where they like it.

Of course you’re not. You’re New Yorkers.

The offensive transition in New York well may not be as smoother and effortless as some expect. Still, with all that firepower they will still put up points. Defense? That’s another story entirely.

Kobe Bryant basks in All-Star spotlight one final time

Kobe Bryant All-Star
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TORONTO — Kobe Bryant is the center of attention one last time.

To get to his final All-Star Game in his final season in the NBA, Kobe received more fan votes than Stephen Curry or LeBron James or any other player. Now that he’s at the 2016 All-Star Game, more people want a piece of his time. More media were crowded around him on Friday than any other player at the NBA’s equivalent of media day. Even the other All-Stars could count on getting peppered with Kobe questions (to their annoyance at times).

Kobe is at peace with his decision to walk away from the game. This weekend he wants to savor being in the All-Star spotlight one final time.

“I’m happy,” Kobe said. “This is pretty cool. I’m looking around the room and seeing guys that I’m playing with that are tearing the league up that were like four during my first All-Star Game. It’s true. I mean, how many players can say they’ve played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three, four generations, you know what I mean? It’s not sad at all. I mean, I’m really happy and honored to be here and see this.”

Does that mean Kobe has plans to chase the All-Star MVP one last time?

“Zero…” Kobe said. “But, no, I’m really just enjoying this whole thing, being around these players and talking to them one more time, going out and practicing and enjoying that moment in the game and enjoying that moment. So competitiveness in terms of me trying to establish something or prove something, that’s gone.”

What is Kobe’s best All-Star memory?

“My first one in Cleveland was pretty special because you had all the top 50 players,” Bryant said. “I think in ’98 (it was), it was pretty special too, being in my first All-Star Game and being in the locker room with greats, like [John] Stockton and [Clyde] Drexler and all those guys, that was pretty cool too.”

Kobe has a hectic schedule for his final weekend, but much as he has since he announced his retirement he is trying to soak in and fully enjoy this last go around in the NBA. He understands that the life he has known for two decades is about to change. He hasn’t given much thought to his first day of retirement.

“I’ll probably wake up and have some coffee and go back to sleep,” Bryant said.

I don’t think he understands why you drink coffee, but he’s got all of his retirement to figure that out. For now, he just wants to bask in the spotlight one last time.

Zach LaVine wins MVP, Kristaps Porzingis puts on show in Rising Stars Challenge

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TORONTO — Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins was the rock star of the night. “An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few dunks) leading a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

“An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few huge dunks), sparking a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

His Minnesota teammate Karl-Anthony Towns was going to have none of that.

“I gotta see Andrew Wiggins for a long time and I want to rub this in,” Towns said.

He got his wish, the USA beat the World Team 157-154.

It was a glorified pickup game for three quarters, and the level of defensive intensity will make Sunday’s All-Star game look like Tom Thibodeau teams are playing. That led to a lot of high scorers.

Zach LaVine — the other teammate of Wiggins and Towns — led the USA with 30 points and was named the game’s MVP, and said he wanted to steal Wiggins’ thunder at home.

“That’s what I was going for,” LaVine said.

Also from the USA, Jordan Clarkson (Lakers) had 25, Devon Booker (Suns) had 23 and was 5-of-8 from three, D'Angelo Russell (Lakers) had 22, and Towns chipped in 18 points and 7 boards.

Knicks sensation Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the building, and he had 30 for the World team.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess,” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Also for the World Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets) had 30 points, Wiggins had 29, and Mario Hezonja (Magic) had 19.

The intensity and defense did pick up in the end, although one wouldn’t call it a thing of beauty. What matters is the crowd in the Air Canada Centre enjoyed it, even if their team didn’t win. It’s an exhibition, and they got a show.

Report: Celtics, Cavaliers talking Kevin Love trade; could include Knicks, ‘Melo

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love holds the ball away from Boston Celtics' Amir Johnson during the second quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Associated Press
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The Celtics are looking for an elite player to improve their deep cast of role players. The Cavaliers are looking for depth. And Carmelo Anthony may just be looking to win.

All of that has talks between the Cavaliers and Celtics on a potential Love deal progressing, with the possibility of the Knicks as a third team also in the mix, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

The Daily News has learned that the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers have discussed a blockbuster trade centered around Kevin Love. There were very preliminary discussions about expanding the deal to include the Knicks and Anthony, who would have to waive his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a deal to the Cavs.

The Knicks would receive draft picks and players in return. One of those players is believed to be Timofey Mozgov, who five years ago was traded by the Knicks to Denver in the Anthony deal.

This is a longshot, but the report has some legs.

It’s not clear how far along these talks are. The trade deadline is Feb. 18 (next Thursday) and conversations tend to move past the theoretical/value judging phase and get real come All-Star Weekend, when many GMs and decision makers are in one place (and nobody can go outside because it is too cold in Toronto). This trade works for the Cavaliers if they get a quality stretch four in return — Kelly Olynyk? — plus some depth and a quality pick. The question for the Cavs is simply how much can they get back — this is a win-now team and Love helps that, so how does a trade make them better?

Would Danny Ainge move the unprotected Brooklyn Nets pick to get Love? Jae Crowder? How much would Boston surrender to get an elite star, especially one under a reasonable, long contract?

Carmelo Anthony wants a ring, if he could end up playing with LeBron and be much closer to it than he is now, he would waive his no-trade clause.

That said, this trade sounds like a longshot. At least at the deadline. Next Summer… who knows?

Watch Kevin Hart be Kevin Hart at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

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Kevin Hart has a movie to promote decided to come out of retirement to play in the NBA All-Star Friday Night Celebrity Game.

And, he did what Kevin Hart does.

Well, except win MVP of the game, that went to Win Butler (the Canadian lead singer of Arcade Fire). Butler led Canada to a 74-63 win over Hart and the USA.