D’Antoni on way out? Trade ‘Melo? Welcome to Knicks implosion.

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It was just more than a year ago, near the trade deadline, when the Knicks — specifically owner James Dolan — decided to trade away key players who kind of fit Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system to get Carmelo Anthony immediately. Couldn’t wait until the off-season, it had to happen right then. Following that up, last summer they let Donnie Nelson walk out the door (or pushed him out, depending on who you want to believe).

This is the Knicks those decisions hath wrought.

A franchise that has lost six in a row and eight out of 10, where the players have tuned out coach Mike D’Antoni, some players want the coach gone, there are cliques in the locker room and among team brass, and there is even talk of trading Anthony in some offices of Madison Square Garden.

Just what this trade deadline needed — Carmelo Anthony trade rumors.

Multiple reports across multiple publications have the Knicks imploding. They are a team put together without regard for how the pieces might fit together and now that the square pegs will not go in the round holes the entire Knicks organization is on edge. The season is collapsing. Ugly losses will do that to you. Here are the highlights.

• The players have tuned out Mike D’Antoni, according to Chris Broussard at ESPN.

The players like Mike as a person,” one source said. “They think he’s a good guy. But he doesn’t have the respect of the team anymore.”

D’Antoni is in the last year of a four-year deal and all indications are that he will not be brought back after this season; that is, if he survives the rest of this season…. In addition to questioning D’Antoni, players are complaining about playing time, and confused about the offensive and defensive schemes.

It is lost on no one that the Knicks’ free-fall coincides precisely with the return of Anthony. While Anthony was out with a groin injury, the Knicks won 6 of 7 games, including victories over the Los Angeles Lakers and defending champion Dallas Mavericks. With Lin leading D’Antoni’s offense, the Knicks played fast and free, spacing the floor, hitting the open man, and even improving defensively.

• Anthony — the guy Knicks fans and owner James Dolan just had to have — is at the heart of everything. And according to the New York Post, ‘Melo is frustrated too and is putting together an exit strategy.

According to a person familiar with his thinking, Anthony’s disillusionment stems most from a belief coach Mike D’Antoni and interim GM Glen Grunwald do not trust him. He is surprised that after all the Knicks gave up to trade for him, he has not been asked for more input on personnel decisions, as Deron Williams has with the Nets.

“The organization makes believe his opinions don’t matter,’’ the source said.

However, Tuesday night, a source said Anthony and D’Antoni spoke in an attempt to reconcile their differences and made headway. On Monday night, Anthony only wanted to remain a Knick if he had assurances D’Antoni wouldn’t be back next season.

• Anthony is not going to request a trade, according to multiple reports.

But that has not stopped some people in the Knicks organization from talking about it, reports the New York Daily News.

According to a team source, at least one member of James Dolan’s inner circle wants to trade Anthony for the same reason the Knicks acquired him 13 months ago: money.

Part of that thinking is Jeremy Lin’s meteoric rise from anonymous bench warmer to international phenomenon. “Linsanity” has created a financial windfall for the Knicks unlike anything they’ve seen before….

There is a feeling inside the organization that it makes business, and to a lesser degree basketball sense, to severe ties with Anthony, the perennial All Star who has struggled since returning from a groin injury.

The lesson here folks is NBA team building 101 — you can’t just throw a collection of stars together. There has to be a grand plan. The Knicks, from the moment they hired D’Antoni as coach, chose the path to be a “seven seconds or less” team — then they went out and got few pieces to fit that style. And the ones they had that did work (like point guard Raymond Felton and forward Danilo Gallinari) had to be traded for ‘Melo.

The Knicks need someone to come in with a plan and — without ownership interference — put the train on some tracks. Doesn’t matter that much what the system is, just pick one and go with it.

You know who could do something like that? Donnie Walsh. Oh, yea, forgot. Sorry.

Of course, this is Dolan’s Knicks, so they are probably closer to bringing back Isiah Thomas…. nah, it can’t be that bad. Can it?

Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash headline 2018 Hall of Fame finalists

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LOS ANGELES — It’s a good year for guards.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced the Finalists for the class of 2018, and you could put together one heck of a modern NBA lineup: Steve Nash and Jason Kidd in the backcourt, Ray Allen on the wing with Grant Hill as your small-ball four and Chris Webber at center.

They were five of the 13 North American nominees for the Hall, men and women. Also very deservedly being honored with the 2018 Curt Gowdy Media Award: longtime and iconic NBA photographer Andy Bernstein, and ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke. There are not two more deserving — or better — people.

The Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be announced at the Saturday of the Final Four in April.

Here is who voters will be choosing amongst:

RAY ALLEN. Jesus Shuttlesworth should be a lock in his first time on the ballot, he has as pure a jump shot as the league has ever seen. Allen is a two-time NBA Champion (2008 Boston Celtics and 2013 Miami Heat), was named an All-Star 10 times, and (for now at least) is the NBA career leader in three-point field goals made. Before getting to the NBA he was a 1996 First Team All-American at UConn. Just to add to the resume, he has an Olympic gold medal (2000). But when you think of Allen, you’ll think of this shot.

JASON KIDD. Another lock to get in first ballot. Kidd one of the greatest point guards of his generation, he’s got an impressive resume as an NBA champion (2011 Dallas Mavericks), five-time All-NBA First Team, four-times All-Defensive First Team, a 10-time NBA All-Star, and the 1995 NBA Co-Rookie of the Year. At the University of California, Kidd was named Pac-10 Player of the Year and a consensus First-Team All American in 1994.

GRANT HILL. If all you remember is the post-2000, post-injury Grant Hill, you missed out. He was the 1995 Co-Rookie of the Year (with Kidd), five-times All-NBA, a seven-time NBA All-Star, and in college at Duke was a member of two NCAA national championship teams (1991, 1992). Hill also has a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games, and he’s been very active in philanthropic efforts off the court.

STEVE NASH. Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Nash is a two-time NBA MVP who helped revolutionize the NBA with the seven-seconds or less Suns. He’s an eight-time NBA All-Star, and three-time All-NBA First Team member. Hie is third in all-time assists and holds the NBA record for highest career free throw percentage (.904).

MAURICE CHEEKS. A lock-down defender for most of his 15-year career, Cheeks is an NBA champion (the 1983  Philadelphia 76ers) and a four-time NBA All-Star. Cheeks is still involved in the game and is currently an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

CHRIS WEBBER. Nominated again, we’ll see if he gets in this time, considering his college and NBA impact he should be. Webber is a five-time NBA All-Star, three-time All-NBA, and the 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year. In college at Michigan he was a key member of the “Fab Five,” that revolutionized the college game.

CHARLES “LEFTY’ DRIESELL. Driesell is the only coach in NCAA history to win 100 games at four different schools and just one of 11 coaches to lead four schools to the NCAA Tournament. He is remembered as the coach at Maryland for many years as well as the inventor of the “Midnight Madness” concept.

HUGH EVANS. He was an NBA referee for 28 seasons, officiating nearly 2,000 regular season games, 170 NBA Playoff games, 35 NBA Finals games and four NBA All-Star games. In the summer he used to ref at Rucker Park in New York.

RUDY TOMJANOVICH. Tomjanovich coached the Houston Rockets to NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995 and is one of three coaches to win an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold Medal. He led USA Basketball to a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

From the women’s committee:

KIM MULKEY. Mulkey has led the Baylor Bear to two NCAA National Championships (2005, 2012) and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances.

KATIE SMITH. The WNBA Finals MVP (2008) and a two-time WNBA Champion with the Detroit Shock (2006, 2008), she also has three Olympic gold medals. Smith played for the Ohio State University (1992-1996) and was the first female Buckeye athlete to have her number retired.

TINA THOMPSON. Thompson is a four-time WNBA Champion with the Houston Comets (1997- 2000) and a nine-time WNBA All-Star. She is one of the greatest WNBA players in the league’s history.

WAYLAND BAPTIST UNIVERSITY. Long before women’s college basketball became an NCAA sport in 1982, the Wayland Baptist University women’s basketball team won 131 consecutive games from 1953-58 and 10 AAU National Championships overall.

 

Joel Embiid having fun, will compete in three events All-Star Weekend

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LOS ANGELES — Joel Embiid is going to enjoy his weekend in Los Angeles. And his first All-Star Game.

Embiid played 9 minutes for the World in its dominating Rising Stars Challenge win (which is more than most people expected him to play). He’s scheduled to take part in the All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge, then is a starter on Team Steph in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

Like he always is, Embiid is just trying to enjoy himself.

“When I have fun, that means I’m dominating on the court, kicking someone’s ass, and I need that,” Embiid said Friday afternoon in Los Angeles. “Every time I have fun that’s what I do. One thing that I told myself when I came back (from injuries), just go out there and have fun because that’s another way for me to dominate the game. If I’m frustrated, usually it doesn’t go well. It can go both ways, but usually, it doesn’t go well.

“Social media, on the court, it’s all about having fun.”

When he returns to Philly, he’s got to focus on the fun of making sure the Sixers make the playoffs. But for a weekend, he’s soaking up the sun and fun in Los Angeles.

LeBron James responds to Laura Ingraham: #wewillnotshutupanddribble

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A month before the latest school shooting and mass killing in a Florida high school, Kevin Durant and LeBron James recorded a video for the Uninterrupted where they vented that president Donald Trump does not care about most people not does he try to unite them. That video dropped just after the school shooting, where the president took heat for his comments on the situation.

Taking a lazy intellectual path designed to fire up her base, Fox News host Laura Ingraham took the “stick to sports” argument to an  offensive level, saying LeBron and KD should “shut up and dribble.”

Jaylen Brown of the Celtics had already done an excellent job taking down Ingraham’s misguided attack, Durant had responded as well and called the comments ignorant and racist.

Now LeBron has responded on Instagram.

#wewillnotshutupanddribble

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron and Durant are citizens with the right to speak out, and they should.

Hopefully, this can be the end of this “controversy,” only because Ingraham isn’t worth it.

Team USA turned Rising Stars into dunking exhibition (VIDEO)

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Nobody tunes into the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Friday night to see a tight defensive shell and quick rotations to help the helper. We want the game’s great young players to entertain us with their skills.

Team USA may have gotten blown out in the game, but they put on a show — they were dunking everything. As you can see above.

The best dunk of the game? Had to be Donovan Mitchell‘s self alley-oop. Which a good sign heading into Saturday’s dunk contest.