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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?

Carmelo Anthony on talk with Jackson: “We didn’t break bread….It was a short conversation”

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 25:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on during the game against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on December 25, 2016 in New York City. 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 Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t long. It wasn’t outwardly contentious. But you can bet it was colder than the weather outside Madison Square Garden in January.

Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony sat down and talked about Anthony’s future with the Knicks Tuesday, with Anthony reiterating again he doesn’t want to be traded. And since he has a no-trade clause and two years on his deal after this one, he has the power.

Anthony seems done with the entire topic and is ready to move on. From Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“The conversation was not that long. We didn’t break bread,’’ Anthony said. “We didn’t have hours of conversation. It was a short conversation.”

This entire topic came up when Phil Rosen — a Phil Jackson confidant who swears he’s not a surrogate — penned an article saying Anthony was willing to accept a move to the Cavaliers or Clippers (or maybe the Lakers). The move felt like a classic Jackson mind game move where Anthony was forced to respond to it — and Anthony seems done with the drama.

“I’m done asking why,’’ Anthony said. “My focus is playing ball at this point. My focus is these guys. That’s all I care about at this point. Making sure these guys stay strong and positive and have their head on right and not be a distraction to them.

“I’m committed [to the Knicks]. I don’t have to prove that to anybody. I don’t have to keep saying that and keep talking about it. I know for a fact people know that and people see that.”

Anthony is ready to move on, is Jackson? Or do we see another mind game move coming?

Anthony isn’t going anywhere, not in the short term. Even if Anthony would entertain a trade to those mentioned, markets, you think the Cavaliers would like to give Kevin Love‘s minutes and some of LeBron James‘ touches to 33-year-old Anthony? You think Doc Rivers would swap 27-year-old Blake Griffin for ‘Melo? Anthony is expensive and while he can still score the other limitations in his game make it very hard to trade him.

Jackson is the master of convincing guys to do what he wants and think it’s their own idea, but I have a hard time seeing that happening with Anthony.

Kevin Durant reflects on “AAU basketball” of Durant/Westbrook/Harden Thunder

Derek Fisher, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden
Associated Press
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If MVP voting took place today, James Harden and Russell Westbrook would be in a photo finish for the win — they are the clear first and second choices in that race. Third could well be Kevin Durant, who is having a strong and efficient season in Golden State (it’s who Dan Feldman and I said we would pick third during the PBT Podcast, although certainly guys like LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas, Kawhi Leonard and others are in the mix).

Remember when Durant, Westbrook, and Harden were all on the same team? The NBA’s ultimate “what if?”

Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News got Durant to reminisce about those days (the Warriors play the Thunder and Rockets this week).

“It’s easy to say we were supposed to be together for the rest of our careers, but it didn’t play out like that,” Durant said. “I think all three of us will have memorable careers. And it’ll be a journey we’ll always remember, something that’s different and unique, playing with two different guys who are doing incredible things in the league right now. But when you look back, think about the fun times instead of what could’ve been.”

Could they have ruled the NBA for a decade?

“No. We never looked at it that way, like we could be best of all-time,” Durant said. “It was really AAU basketball, man. We were just having fun. We weren’t listening to anyone on the outside, media, none of that. It was just pure fun. When we did hear something about the group, it was like, what is this? That was so foreign to us because we never paid attention to it.”

It was Harden that was traded — he wanted and deserved the max, the Thunder has spent on Durant, Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka. They weren’t willing to pay the costs — the luxury tax bill would have come calling — to keep all three. The other side of that debate: Could Harden have continued happily in his sixth man role? This guy dominates the ball now (he leads the league in time of possession this season), would he have stayed coming off the bench to win?

“I think he’d have stayed in that role. I think so,” Durant said. “He’d have still been a really great player. You look at it, a lot of people wouldn’t have looked at him as a Sixth Man. He’d have been better. I think he’d have been better. Obviously I’m sure he loves what he’s doing now, but if we would’ve won a championship, I think the perception of him would’ve just been as a great player. ‘He’s the heart, he’s what makes us go.’ That’s what his label would’ve been, instead of just Sixth Man. He would’ve probably been the best Sixth Man that ever was.”

Maybe, and maybe that would have been enough. It’s all moot now.

But what if?

 

European star point guard Milos Teodosic says he wants to play in NBA. Eventually.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  Milos Teodosic #4 of Serbia reacts in the second half while taking on the United States in the Men's Preliminary Round Group A match on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Milos Teodosic is the best point guard not in the NBA. Unless you’re not a fan of CSKA Moscow and Euroleague Basketball, you most likely remember him as the point guard for the Serbian team that won the silver medal at the Rio Olympics last summer — they guy who torched Kyrie Irving for 18 points and six assists, plus ran the offense beautifully in a group stage game against the USA.

Next summer he is a free agent and there is a lot of speculation he is finally going to come to the NBA (there have been reports the Grizzlies and other NBA teams have already reached out). Speaking with Mozzartsport, Teodosic said he may come but nothing is set in stone. Via Sportando:

“2016 was my best year” Teodosic told Mozzartsport (he won EuroLeague, VTB League and a silver medal at Olympics). “I will go to the NBA for sure, but I still don’t know when, in which club and on what terms. We’ll see. CSKA Moscow certainly has an advantage in the negotiations of a new contract “ the point guard added. “Offers from Grizzlies, Jazz, Spurs or Rockets? I did not get any offers from them. I don’t know who said that”.

Teodosic was asked his thoughts about the young European players that are “rushing” to the NBA even if they know they won’t have playing time: “For me this is an error. I like to play and I don’t like to sit on the bench and I would not agree on any contract if I have to sit on the bench. This is my condition for going to the NBA.”

And it becomes the challenge for a team looking to sign him.

Teodosic is a good offensive player — smart passer and he can shoot the three. He certainly knows how to run an offense (especially one with ball and player movement). He’s also a defensive liability. Watching him at the Olympics, I was thinking he’d be a great sixth man and fill-in starter when needed. But if he doesn’t want that role, what team is willing to give him more? Not a good one, or one with an established NBA point guard.

Mike Krzyzewski called Teodosic “one of the all-time great players internationally” and said they did game plan for him in the Gold Medal game (where the USA athleticism overwhelmed Serbia). The guy can play, and as well paid as he may be with CSKA Moscow he could make more in the bloated NBA. The only question is can he find a fit?

The only question is can he find a fit?

Brandon Ingram with the steal, slam (VIDEO)

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Very little has gone right for the Lakers of late. They have dropped five in a row. Around Los Angeles, the talk has gone from “this team could make the playoffs” after a 10-10 start to “they need to tank and try to keep the pick” after going 5-21 since. (The Lakers pick this draft is top-three protected, if it’s outside that it goes to the Sixers. The Lakers currently have the fourth worst record in the NBA.)

The Lakers young players look… young. D'Angelo Russell admitted he just started trying to follow a game-day routine, then said Tuesday night he didn’t focus and deserved to be benched down the stretch. Brandon Ingram shows flashes, he’s smart and sees the game, but he’s still physically pushed around.

But those flashes, like the steal and dunk above are fun.

Lakers fans, welcome to the process. This is what rebuilding is like. It’s a roller coaster, you just hope the trajectory generally remains up.