Miami Heat v New York Knicks - Game Four

‘Melo says he’ll play the four until Stoudemire returns. It should be longer.

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The challenge of getting Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire to mesh on offense — to get the Knicks playing well when the two of them and Tyson Chandler are all on the court — remains the key to the entire season on the island of Manhattan.

But not the start of the season. With Stoudemire out at least the first week or two of the regular season, the Knicks plan to slide Anthony to the power forward spot — where he was a force last season and was for Team USA this summer.

In the past Anthony has said he didn’t want to play the four, but the question was did he mean that because he thought it would take him off the wing or was it because he was trying to protect Stoudemire. Looking at his quote via the New York Daily News, sounds like Anthony was thinking protection.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll be there,” Anthony said on Sunday about the power forward spot. “I don’t have no problem. I’ve played it last year. I played four-five the whole summer. I have no problem playing that position. It’s just a matter of us having guys at that position with Amar’e being healthy and things like that and Kurt Thomas and Rasheed (Wallace). So now I guess it’s back to the drawing board with me at the power forward position.”

The Knicks are going to have to deal with the political issues of playing Anthony at the four and what to do with Stoudemire, because if it’s about putting guys where they play their best and winning, there has to be more Anthony as the power forward. All season long, not just with Stoudemire out. This has to be a regular part of the rotation.

Zach Lowe did a fantastic post on this at Grantland, a must read for Knicks fans, breaking down the numbers and video of Anthony at the four spot.

Considering only lineups that logged at least 15 minutes last season, the Knicks scored 110.6 points per 100 possessions and allowed 104.6 with Melo at power forward — a net plus-six, a margin typical of one of the league’s five or six best teams…. Remove two qualifying lineups featuring Steve Novak and Tyson Chandler, thus isolating lineups in which Melo played with three traditional guards, and you get a stingier result: 108.3 points per 100 possessions/102.3 allowed.

Anthony is at his most dangerous when he gets the ball out on the wing and drives the lane, resulting in him getting to the rim, getting fouled or shooting a midrange shot which can be very effective. The theory is he is more likely to drive on a slower power forward defender than a quicker small forward. What you want to avoid is Anthony settling too often for getting the ball on the wing and just taking the 20-foot jumper.

It’s still not a perfect solution because Anthony is not a great defender, especially help defender, so you need Chandler out there to cover some of his mistakes. And then there remains the Stoudemire questions — do you bring him off the bench? Maybe play him some at the five with a small and speedy lineup (although an Anthony/Stoudemire front line would be a defensive disaster).

I expect as the season wears on the Knicks are going to find Anthony at the four is their best, or at least one of their best, lineups. And they are going to have to find a way to use it a lot. Whatever the challenges it creates in the locker room.

Cavaliers sign forward Derrick Williams to second 10-day contract

Cleveland Cavaliers' Derrick Williams, right, drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers' Rodney Stuckey in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed forward Derrick Williams to a second 10-day contract.

The NBA champions have been impressed with Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, and it’s likely they will sign him for the remainder of the season when his current contract expires. The Cavs announced Wednesday they signed Williams again. He has averaged 9.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Cavs, who have been bringing him off their bench with their second unit.

Before signing as a free agent with Cleveland on Feb. 9, Williams played for Miami this season before being released.

The Cavs returned from the All-Star break Wednesday and will practice before hosting the New York Knicks on Thursday, just a few hours after the trade deadline.

Hornets’ Miles Plumlee out at least two weeks with leg injury

Charlotte Hornets' Miles Plumlee (18) dunks against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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The Hornets are essentially two different teams with and without Cody Zeller.

They’re 22-17 when he plays and 2-15 when he doesn’t. They play at a 62-win pace with him on the floor and a 29-win pace when he sits.

So, with Zeller banged up, Charlotte traded for Miles Plumee. But Plumlee hasn’t provided much, just 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game in five contests.

And now he’ll add even less.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that center Miles Plumlee underwent a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), which revealed a second-degree calf strain in his right leg. Plumlee will be out for Charlotte’s game tomorrow at Detroit and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

The Hornets incurred significant long-term costs ($37.5 million over the next three years) to use Plumlee as a short-term bandage. Without him providing even that, this situation looks bleak.

Depending on Zeller’s health, this could turn Charlotte — 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position — into sellers before the trade deadline. At minimum, it makes the Hornets less likely to buy.

Report: Bulls pushing to trade for 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 14: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.

After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.

Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.

Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.

Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.

Report: 76ers trading Ersan Ilyasova to Hawks for Tiago Splitter, picks

Atlanta Hawks guard Mike Dunleavy blocks the shot of Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 110-93. (AP Photo/John Amis)
AP Photo/John Amis
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The 76ers have played like a 64-win team when Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova share the court and a 20-win team otherwise, using data from nbawowy!.

That’s helpful for Philadelphia, which is learning what type of player — a stretch four — works best with its franchise player.

But the Hawks can use more than just a lesson in the idea of Ersan Ilyasova. They can use actual Ersan Ilyasova.

And Atlanta will get him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:

Atlanta stills sound intent on keeping Paul Millsap, so Ilyasova will likely back him up. Ilyasova should work particularly well with Dwight Howard, whose interior play was a key factor in ushering in this stretch-four era by covering for the lighter power forward next to him.

In the last 21 months, Ilyasova has been traded five times: from the Bucks to the Pistons to the Magic to the Thunder to the 76ers and now to the Hawks. They can probably count on the veteran to settle in quickly as they try to improve their position in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Atlanta is fifth, closer to third than sixth.

Both Ilyasova and Splitter have expiring contracts. The advantage of Splitter, who has missed the Hawks’ last 90 games, is that his full compensation counts toward the floor apparently without Philadelphia actually having to play all of his salary.

Plus, those picks could help the 76ers in a season where they can win something meaningful — like the Hawks have decided this season is for them.