Mike D'Antoni, Toney Douglas

Is Mike D’Antoni’s job now in danger in New York?


Donnie Walsh, the consummate professional who never speaks ill of ownership in public, said all the right things in his phone conference call Friday about him leaving as president of the Knicks. Well, the right things if you’re Knicks owner James Dolan. Nobody bought a word of it, but Walsh went through the motions, as you would expect.

But there was a vibe off his call that left many thinking changes were coming. And Mike D’Antoni as coach may well be one of them.

Walsh never said that. He said he gets along well with owner James Dolan. He said it wasn’t a disagreement about his autonomy to make trades and not have Dolan step on his toes (which is the opposite of what every off the record source will tell you). Walsh said at age 70 he couldn’t make a multi-year commitment to do this job with the energy needed, so he decided to step away. He tried to say he wasn’t pushed. Nobody believes him. Mike Kurylo — one of the great OG NBA bloggers — of Knickerblogger tweeted the quotes:

“[Autonomy] had nothing to do with it. I don’t understand why people make a big deal about an owner getting involved with negotiations.”

Walsh said Isiah Thomas was not involved as far as he knew. If you believe this, I have some land in Florida I’d like to sell you.

Kurylo and others noted that Walsh seemed to feel for the situation D’Antoni would be left with.

“I love working with Mike [D’Antoni] as a coach.”

“Mike & I like each other… we knew the 1st 2 years would be difficult…. I put him in a position where he didn’t have a chance to win.”

“I know [D’Antoni] can take this team to the next level.”

D’Antoni was given an impossible task his first two seasons with the Knicks, the roster sucked and needed to get worse to undo all the bad contracts Thomas left them with. Last season he had the team playing well before the Carmelo Anthony trade, afterwards it was hit and miss. As you expect with a team that got thrown together midseason with no good role players.

D’Antoni is in the middle of a clearly divided Knicks upper management. Some love his entertaining, fast paced style of play and think it will work with the right players. Others think he doesn’t make defense enough of a priority and that they can never win with him as coach.

Walsh was clearly a D’Antoni backer, but the new GM… who knows? If Dolan things — or can be convinced by friends and associates (*cough* Isiah Thomas *cough*) — that D’Antoni has to go, he will be gone maybe by next season.

Hazarding a guess as to what is next is a foolish exercise. But that leaves D’Antoni standing in a place that is not as solid as it was 24 hours ago.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. Dukie@yahoo.com or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that MisterDukie@yahoo.com, MrDukie@yahoo.com or Mr.Dukie@yahoo.com. Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.