Stoudemire promises to return to old self, Knicks to contend

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Amare Stoudemire has struggled this season.

He has not been nearly as explosive going to the rim, his midrange shot has fallen off (he shot 44 percent from 16 feet out to the arc last year, 36 percent this year) and he finds himself having to play off the ball now rather than being the focus of the offense (which means more spot-up jumpers, not his strong suit). Also, Stoudemire added 15 pounds of muscle last summer as he tried to strengthen his back and body so he would not wear down in the playoffs as he did last year. Throw in the untimely death of his brother and it has been a rough first half of the season for Stoudemire.

But he told Newsday things are going to be different in the second half of the season, he is shedding the weight and looking to attack more.

“All of that might have played a factor,” Stoudemire said. “There’s no excuse for that. I wanted to get stronger. I wanted to definitely heal my back. From a health standpoint, I feel great, but now it’s time to tune it up a little bit and play great basketball.”

He adds that the Knicks have a team that should be a threat in the East.

“We feel that we have enough on this team to win a championship,” Stoudemire said after practice Tuesday. “We have the right personnel, the right players and the right mind frame. It’s a matter of us going out and playing the right way. And if we do that, we can do something special.”

The Knicks need to get Stoudemire some touches in isolation and use him more as the roll guy in pick-and-rolls. Right now they have been using Tyson Chandler heavily in that role because he and Jeremy Lin have developed a fast chemistry (and Chandler is very good as the roll man) but the Knicks need to find a way to diversify the offense and use all their weapons.

And Stoudemire has to just start knocking down the midrange again.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.