Knicks may force D’Antoni to hire defensive coordinator

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Everyone agrees that the Knicks didn’t play much defense last season.

Whether you go points per game (28) or the superior points per possession (22) the Knicks were near the bottom of the league in defense. Part of that is that the roster is not exactly loaded with guys who think defense first and then having undersized Ronny Turiaf as your best choice as a big man trying to defend the paint. But part of it is system — Mike D’Antoni has never coached great defensive teams.

The Knicks front office wants that to change, according to the New York Daily News — they may force him to hire an assistant coach who will take over the defense. A defensive coordinator, if you will.

According to several sources, the front office will encourage D’Antoni to revamp his coaching staff to hire a defensive coach. In the past, D’Antoni has been reluctant to seek outside help, most famously refusing Steve Kerr’s request four years ago to hire Tom Thibodeau in Phoenix.

There are some assistants known for the defense who may be available, including Lawrence Frank, the Boston assistant and former Nets head coach (his contract is up this summer, although he is considered a head coaching candidate a few places, including Boston if Doc Rivers steps away).

This could be an issue on two fronts. One is autonomy of decisions — D’Antoni isn’t going to want another chef in the kitchen, he wants to make his own decisions.

Secondly, how does a new defensive system mesh with his seven-second-or-less offense? A defensive system like is run in Chicago and Boston (the Thibodeau system) has a team of guys deep in protecting the paint, which will slow their push up court. The Celtics and Bulls were 22 and 23 in the league in pace this season for a reason.

Walsh is in the middle of a couple of days of meetings with owner James Dolan. It is expected that at the end of this Walsh will be retained as team president for two more seasons. As much as anyone can expect logic from the Knicks owner, anyway.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.

LeBron James: Reporter warned me about question on Gregg Popovich’s wife before live TV interview

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In her on-court interview with LeBron James following the Cavaliers’ Game 2 win over the Pacers last night, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked him about the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife.

LeBron appeared emotional as he gathered his thoughts.

That prompted some to criticize LaForce for ambushing LeBron on a sensitive subject on live TV. But that’s not what happened.

Uninterrupted:

LeBron:

I’m not on social media right now, but I was made aware through some friends through texts that a question was asked to me postgame, and a lot of people feel I was blindsided. That is absolutely false. Allie LaForce told me that she was going to ask the question and if it was OK.

And once I started talking about it, once we were on air, actually my emotions kind of took over. And that was just my emotions coming straight from my heart about the late Erin Popovich.

It’s unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss. My thoughts, my prayers, once again goes out to the Popovich family, to Gregg, to the Spurs family, to the whole Spurs fan base.

And also guys, please get off Allie LaForce’ back, because she followed the proper protocol and she warned me. So, get off her back, man. She’s very professional, and she does a great job at her work.

Like I said, thoughts and prayers to the heavens above. We all know the man above never makes mistakes, even when we question it. But it’s a sad, tragic time right now for the NBA family, and we’re all praying and hoping for the best.

It would have been surprising if LaForce hadn’t done that. Somewhere between nearly nobody and absolutely nobody in her position is trying to embarrass players.

PBT Extra: If Portland is going to turn series around it starts with Damian Lillard

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This was the year the Trail Blazers were going to break through. They were defending better as a team. There was some depth on offense. And Damian Lillard was playing at a level that will get him on many voters’ MVP ballots.

Instead, they are down 0-2 to Anthony Davis and New Orleans, having dropped both games at home to open the series. Portland is on the verge of being bounced in the first round for the third time in four years.

If Portland is going to turn this series around, it starts with Lillard, something I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. C.J. McCollum needs to get more buckets, Jusuf Nurkic needs to contribute more on both ends, but for Portland it all begins and ends with Lillard and it’s on him to start the turnaround.