Amare Stoudemire, Jeremy Lin, Mike D'Antoni

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.

Report: Nuggets received $2.85 million from Trail Blazers in Mason Plumlee-Jusuf Nurkic trade

Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee is congratulated after making a basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Denver. Plumlee was appearing in his first game for the Nuggets since being acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers for center Jusuf Nurkic. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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The Nuggets traded Jusuf Nurkic and the Grizzlies’ first-round pick to the Trail Blazers for Mason Plumlee and a second-rounder — a deal that didn’t appear to provide Denver enough value.

But it seems we omitted a key piece of the Nuggets’ return.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

Teams rarely trade that much in a single transaction. They’re capped at both receiving and sending out $3.5 million this season.

But this is the advantage of an owner willing to spend. Paul Allen is allowing Portland to assemble a more-talented roster.

Denver still got the best player right now in the trade, and Plumlee will upgrade the bench and maybe even fit OK starting with Nikola Jokic. But it’s hard to overlook owner Stan Kroenke’s cash influx.

Rumor: Kings have reignited trade talks for DeMarcus Cousins

AUBURN HILLS, MI - JANUARY 23: DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings looks on while playing the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills on January 23, 2017 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Sacramento won the game 109-104. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Sacramento Kings may be looking to move center Boogie Cousins. Stop me if you’ve heard this rumor before.

According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Kings management has reportedly engaged in talks during All-Star Weekend to move the talented, fiery center.

If moved, Boogie would be the biggest player dealt thus far this season.

Via Twitter:

That would be a huge change of directions for the Kings organization, but one they may need to consider. The Kings have said they would offer Cousins the “designated player” max extension (likely around at $213 million over five seasons), and Cousins has said he would sign it. If the Kings really wanted to make him happy, they could do a Russell Westbrook style renegotiation of his contract for the coming season, then have the extension kick in after that (Boogie would sign that, too). However, do that and they have no cap space to bring in players around Cousins, they stay the same team they are right now for years.

The Kings have been reluctant at times to even engage in discussions with teams, in part because owner Vivek Ranadive doesn’t want to move the big man knowing they will go a decade before getting a player that talented on the roster again. The Kings were frustrated when former coach George Karl was insistent on moving him, and they dismissed interest from both the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.

But there’s also been recent talks around Boogie and the Phoenix Suns, and the situation from an outside-of-California view seems to be ripe for a split.

Cousins, for as good as he’s been, has not shown he’s enough to take the team into the playoffs. Kings management, meanwhile, has been an absolute disaster during his time there and has not done much to compliment him. The relationship seems to have soured, even as owner Ranadive has backed Cousins.

Whatever the outcome, if Cousins gets traded by the Feb. 23 deadline it will go down as one of the biggest mid-season moves this season. It’s going to be hard for Sacramento to move on from a franchise player like Boogie, but perhaps it’s time to look for a different path. For Cousins, a breath of fresh air and a little help might put his career in a new perspective as well.

Report: 76ers sat Jahlil Okafor because they were close to Trail Blazers trade

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 26: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers controls the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Wells Fargo Center on October 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Thunder defeated the 76ers 103-97. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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The 76ers sat Jahlil Okafor for two games last week, openly acknowledging they were discussing trading him. Then, they played him in their final game before the All-Star break.

That prompted speculation that no deal fell through, but that Philadelphia was bluffing being close in order to drum up interest.

But maybe there actually was a near-trade.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

On the surface, this makes sense. We know the Trail Blazers were interested in a cost-controlled center, because they traded for Jusuf Nurkic.

But that trade also makes Portland perfect cover if the 76ers are just trying to deflect from a gambit gone wrong. Not only were the Trail Blazers plausible trade partners, they already made their deal. So, there will be no questions about revisiting discussions.

Locker room drama? Player recruitment? Paul Millsap, does that go on All-Star weekend? “Rarely ever”

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 17:  Paul Millsap #4 of the Atlanta Hawks speaks with the media during media availability for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans on February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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NEW ORLEANS — Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant spreading tension throughout the locker room. Players trying to convince Carmelo Anthony he should agree to a trade to their city. Players coming up and trying to recruit free agents to be this summer like the Hawks’ Paul Millsap.

It’s how some fans picture it is inside All-Star weekend locker rooms, all sorts of palace intrigue playing out like a soap opera.

“Rarely ever,” Millsap said of these kinds of things coming up. “For us, we get away from regular season basketball. It’s not about our respective teams, it’s about what’s going on now. You may share some stories, but we’re not talking about (regular season drama).”

Fans can be deeply invested in what happens during the regular season — heck, Eric Gordon heard boos from frustrated Pelicans fans before he won the Three-Point Contest Saturday.

But for the players, it’s a vacation. A chance to get away from all that drama.

“No, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter at all,” Millsap said of the regular season minutia that can dominate the league. “Once you get down here we’re all teammates. That’s how guys treat it. To get here, we’re enemies, but while we’re here everybody’s teammates and are fun to have in the locker room. It’s just a good time.”

They’re more likely to talk about the parties around town.

“Some,” Millsap said with a laugh. “But it’s just more general conversation, almost nothing about the season.”

Most of the recruitment comes in the summer, and most via text. Some players don’t like each other, just like nearly everyone reading this has someone at their office/job they don’t like working with (except me, all my bosses should be canonized they are such good people). Come the office Christmas Party, people put that aside and just get along. Same thing All-Star weekend for the players. Everyone just gets along and tries to enjoy the experience.

When play starts up again next week, the drama can return.