Don’t look for Knicks to make many offseason moves, just big one

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Before the first jump ball tipped off the season on Christmas, this was the season everyone thought the Knicks would take a step forward. Maybe only to the second round of the playoffs, but they were going to be good. At least the third best team in the East.

Instead, they had to fight their way into the seven seed, landed the Heat in the first round and got pushed aside pretty easily in five games.

It wasn’t always pretty. However, through the roller coaster of a season an identity and winning basketball emerged near the end. They played good defense, they ran the offense through Carmelo Anthony but there were shooters around him and it work. And for one playoff game ‘Melo and Amare Stoudemire worked together.

There are some Knicks fans looking for big changes — if ‘Melo and Amare don’t work then trade Stoudemire; bring in Phil Jackson to coach; go get Steve Nash.

I think you will only see the last thing on that list.

I believe the reports that the Knicks are in talks to make Mike Woodson the permanent coach. Woodson was 18-6 to close out the season, he is a college teammate of GM Glen Grunwald, he has the backing of Isiah Thomas who is whispering in owner James Dolan’s ear, and most importantly of all he has the support of Carmelo Anthony. Put simply, ‘Melo played hard for him where he would not for Mike D’Antoni. I still believe that Jackson does not want to return to the sidelines — not even for the Knicks job — and if Dolan can’t have him he’ll go with Woodson.

After that the core of the roster is basically set. Iman Shumpert is the starting two guard (once he returns from knee surgery), ‘Melo at the three, Stoudemire the four and Tyson Chandler the five. I don’t think they can move Stoudemire even if they wanted to (too big an uninsured contract) so Woodson needs to find a way to make him and ‘Melo work together. Jeremy Lin is a restricted free agent but he is a marketing cash cow for the team (plus a nice player) and they will not let him go. J.R. Smith may be gone and the bench needs to be filled out (expect Steve Novak and Landry Fields to be retained) but those are bench role players, the core starters are set.

Except they need a veteran starting point guard to go with them.

New York will go hard at Steve Nash. They can’t offer him a big contract (they are already over the salary cap) but they can say if he wants to contend he makes these Knicks a contender. Nash already lives in New York in the offseason.

The only question is one of fit — if you have the ball in Nash’s hands to set up the offense it is not in Anthony’s hands. And Anthony is only happy when the offense runs through him. Asking him to work off the ball while Stoudemire runs the pick-and-roll with Nash is how D’Antoni lost ‘Melo (just with a different point guard). You can still give Anthony the rock when Nash sits or call his number some trips down, but either way the fit can be strained.

However, this is Nash coming in, not Jeremy Lin or Mike Bibby. This is a two-time MVP. Woodson can push ‘Melo to share, and Nash’s three point shooting would provide spacing when Anthony does drive from isolation.

Nash can work in New York. It will take some sacrifices by everyone, but it can. If Nash decides to play elsewhere, look for the Knicks to go after Jason Kidd or try to trade for another veteran point guard. But Nash is the big fish, the one guy still playing at an elite level who might come for less money and be able to push this team forward.

It’s not a lot of changes — next season’s Knicks may look a lot like this season’s version. But there could be one change at the point and if so the Knicks become very interesting.

This summer in New York will be interesting either way.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Kendall Marshall, Marshall Plumlee headline Team USA’s AmeriCup roster

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AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.

But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):

  • Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
  • Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
  • Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  • Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
  • Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
  • Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
  • Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
  • Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
  • Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
  • C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
  • Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)

The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.

This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

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In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?

Report: Nerlens Noel hires Rich Paul as agent, looking for big deal from Mavericks

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It’s been a rough year for restricted free agents (and plenty of unrestricted ones). After NBA teams spent like drunken sailors on shore leave last summer, this time around — with the cap not rising as much as had been expected — the market got tight quickly, and few questionable contracts were handed out. A year ago the Brooklyn Nets were making the Miami Heat pay big to retain Tyler Johnson and the Trail Blazers pay big to keep Allen Crabbe. This year teams were not biting the same way on restricted free agents.

Which left guys like Nerlens Noel, who expected to be maxed out by the Mavericks (or someone), still looking for a deal. Noel was frustrated enough to switch agents, picking up Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

Paul is LeBron James‘ agent, and in recent years has done well getting Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe good contracts as extensions to their rookie deals. In both cases, he showed a fearlessness in holding out longer and being willing to push the envelope. That had to appeal to Noel.

But it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics at play — and not just with Noel. Paul also represents restricted free agents this summer Shabazz Muhammad — who has yet to sign a deal — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had to take a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million (well below his max). Throw in Noel’s injury history, and teams were not eager to jump in with a big offer for the athletic big man.

At this point, no team has the money to offer Noel a max contract right now — the Bulls have the most available money at $17.3 million, the Sixers and Suns have about $15 million and $14 million. Noel’s max is $24.7 million a year. Dallas is playing hardball because they can — without another offer on the table, Noel’s only real threat is to sign the qualifying offer (about $6 million) and play the season for that, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That’s possible, but a guy with Noe’s history of injuries may want to be careful betting on himself like that.

With Paul in the negotiations, expect them to drag out. That’s about the only sure thing.