Linsanity should take Knicks above .500 tonight, but how much farther?

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Right now the Knicks are a .500 team, 15-15. Right now they are the eighth seed in the East.

Chances are that after Friday night Jeremy Lin — who will get credit regardless of how he plays — and the Knicks will be above .500 as they should knock off the Hornets (and move into a tie with the Celtics for the seven seed).

The question is, how far can they go after that?

First things first, the Hornets are a team ill-suited to play against the Knicks. They have the second-worst record in the NBA (6-23), and will be without Eric Gordon, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor and likely Jarrett Jack due to injuries. That would be four of their starters in an ideal world. The Hornets play at the slowest pace in the league and are 1-9 against the teams in the top 10 in the league in tempo (the Knicks are third) and New Orleans is 29th in transition defense. Plus, they struggle mightily with teams that are good on the pick-and-roll — they are 22nd in the league in stopping the ball handler and 29th against the roll man.

Jeremy Lin should have room to operate, both to create looks for himself and others. Look for Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire to have big nights. Look for a few big dunks. Linsanity should be 8-0. (We say should because the Hornets did just beat Portland.)

The real question for Knicks fans is how long this ride will last?

Adding J.R. Smith and getting Carmelo Anthony back makes this team a more serious threat — these are two guys who played well off the ball in Denver. While they both can be unrepentant gunners and ball stoppers, both could thrive in the D’Antoni system. There will undoubtedly be bumps in the process but the Knicks can have Stoudemire and Lin running a pick-and-roll with Anthony and/or Smith as weakside kick-out-options that will leave opposing defenses with impossible choices.

But the real test is the Knicks schedule starting next week — Atlanta and Miami — and continuing into March. They have eight of their first 12 in March on the road. They have Boston, Dallas, San Antonio, Philly (twice), Chicago, Indiana (twice) all in the first half of March. All that puts a dent in any team’s run.

What the Knicks have going for them is their defense. Seriously. Nobody really talks about the fact they are the sixth best defense in the league (if you use points per possession). They have been a statistically better defensive team with Lin in the lineup. That is the kind of thing that sustains success.

The reality is that the tough schedule and the challenge of fitting all the pieces together in a condensed schedule it’s going to be hard for New York make up the four games they are back of the Hawks for the four seed (or the five games they are back of the 76ers for the Atlantic Division crown). To have a chance at home court in the first round the Knicks need to beat those two teams in particular, and a lot better teams in general.

But this is also a team that should have its parts coming together and finding a groove when it matters most — heading into the playoffs. They may be a lower seed, but they are not the team anybody wants in the first round. They need to move up enough to avoid Chicago and Miami in that first round — the Knicks are not on that level yet — but if they do we could see the Knicks reach the second round of the playoffs this year.

And that would cause real Linsanity in New York.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.

Maryland star Melo Trimble declares for NBA draft

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Maryland guard Melo Trimble declared for last year’s NBA draft but withdrew.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun:

Trimble, less than three weeks removed from finishing his junior season with the team’s first-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament, announced Wednesday he will make himself available for the NBA draft.

Unlike a year ago, when Trimble went through the pre-draft process without signing with an agent and then decided to return to school hours before the deadline, the 6-foot-3 point guard will forego his senior season.

“The deciding factor was that I felt there was nothing more I could do,” Trimble told the Baltimore Sun from the Stamp Student Union during a lunch break. “I felt like I did everything I could for the program. We went to the [NCAA] tournament three years in a row, and I had the same amount of points three years in a row. I felt that if I wanted to hopefully get to the next level, I had to leave at this time.

Trimble’s scouting report hasn’t changed much in the last year. He’s a scoring guard whose size (6-foot-3) will require him to play point guard in the next level, but he hasn’t shown the necessary distributing skills.

The biggest difference: He’s now 22, not 21.

Trimble had a superb college career, but at this point, his range is second round to undrafted.

DeMarcus Cousins answers first several Kings-related questions same way (video)

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DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.

Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.

Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.

Justin Verrier of ESPN:

Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.

Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.

Report: Sweet-shooting 7-footer Lauri Markkanen leaving Arizona for NBA draft

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Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.

That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.

Evan Daniels of Scout:

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.

Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.

Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.

Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.

There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.

But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.