Amare Stoudemire

Stoudemire says he is going to focus on defense. Again.


Under Mike Woodson last season (both as a head coach and “defensive coordinator” assistant) the Knicks were a good defensive team — fifth in the NBA at 98.4 points allowed per 100 possessions. That is why they made the playoffs with an offense that can sputter and has two stars that haven’t figured out how to meld their games yet.

This season, Amare Stoudemire wants in on the action.

In addition to post touches on offense, he wants to be part of the defensive identity of the Knicks, he told the New York Post.

“Defense is the key to win championships, that’s something I’m dedicated on also, to become a much, much better defensive player,” he said. “It’s going to happen. It’s a matter of preparation and practice and getting that chemistry down on that end of the court.”

Fine words. Heard them before. This time I look forward to seeing them in action. Not sure I will, but I look forward to it.

However, with Tyson Chandler as a backstop, the Knicks are going to be a good defensive team this season, regardless. Woodson will have them playing smart on the perimeter, funneling the other team to the help, the Knicks have the athletes to be disruptive. Their strong defense will continue.

How good the Knicks finish depends on how well Carmelo Anthony and Stoudemire can find an offensive groove together, and how Raymond Felton at the point can help facilitate that. With all the injuries and coaching changes last season, the Knicks can try to write off the offensive woes as fixable.

But this season they have a full camp and both guys there, this is when we see if the Knicks experiment really works, and how well. I’ve got a feeling we all know the answer, but this time of year is the season of hope in the NBA so we will give the Knicks their chance to prove me wrong.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.