New high-tech data shows challenges Knicks, Carmelo face

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I’m a big proponent of teams getting information — use traditional scouts, use advanced stats, both coaches and general managers should be getting as much data as they can to help inform their choices.

But that information doesn’t always provide easy answers. Just ask the New York Knicks.

One wealth of new information some teams have tapped into is from STATS LLC, the company that puts 10 cameras in an NBA arena and can track and record every move a player makes. Want to know how well a player shoots after two dribbles vs. a catch-and-shoot, they can give you accurate data and overlay it with spots on the floor. It can measure a player’s speed, leaping ability, everything and give a team good scouting information on an opponent.

And good scouting on a team itself. Which brings us back to the Knicks — STATS has cameras in Madison Square Garden and shared a slice of the information with Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated. Information that raises questions for how the Knicks run their offense with Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire all on the floor.

Of all players who drove the ball at least 40 times in camera-recorded games last season, Anthony proved to be the most efficient of anyone in the league. The Knicks scored 1.66 points per possession on trips that included an Anthony drive (from 20 feet out to 10 feet in) at any point in the possession….

But here’s the thing: Despite all those touches and more isolation plays than any player in the entire league (as a share of his total possessions, per Synergy Sports), Anthony only pulled off only 3.1 drives per game in the sample size. That mark was equivalent to the numbers for Chandler Parsons and Luol Deng, a bit below those for Kevin Durant (3.6) and Paul Pierce (3.7) and about half to one-third of the number that most point guards recorded.

Read Lowe’s entire piece but the numbers crystalize the problem — Anthony is better when he gets the ball farther away from the basket and drives than when he shoots a contested 20-foot jumper. Which is obvious, but Anthony takes a lot of contested jumpers.

As he did in the Olympics, Anthony was more effective as a power forward who could stretch the floor and drive the lane with the Knicks.

But there is not a lot of room for Anthony to drive into the lane when you have Tyson Chandler hanging out near the basket and now Stoudemire in that area after having worked on his post game all summer with Hakeem Olajuwon. Stoudemire struggled from the elbow last season so him going to post more makes sense for him.

It’s a question of spacing and getting guys the ball where they can succeed. Last season the Knicks scored just 95 points per 100 possessions when ‘Melo, Stoudemire and Chandler were all on the floor, and that was near the bottom of the league. That has to change for the Knicks to succeed. Change like more Carmelo at the four, except that is Stoudemire’s position and if you move him to the five what about Chandler?

Philadelphia coach Doug Collins loves puzzles (crosswords in particular) and loves to say that fitting NBA talent together is a fun and challenging puzzle on any team.

But Mike Woodson and the Knicks have a more challenging puzzle than most.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?