Carmelo Anthony, Thaddeus Young

Knicks continue impressive start by taking care of Sixers

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A tip-off time of 12 noon in the NBA can often be trouble for both teams. It’s a quirk in the schedule for a league whose players are used to gearing up to perform at their peak sometime after 7:30 p.m., so the broken routine can result in some rough basketball during those early afternoon starts.

That certainly wasn’t the case Sunday afternoon for the Knicks.

New York seemed to pick up right where it left off after its season-opening blowout win over the Heat, and got big performances from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith on the way to a 100-84 victory over the Sixers — one that really seemed to come fairly easily.

Anthony was aggressive on both ends of the floor from the very start, scoring efficiently from inside and out while busting it on defense at the same time. He had a vicious blocked shot early on, and was seen diving into the stands to chase down loose balls.

The Knicks had excellent ball movement on offense, thanks to Jason Kidd playing alongside Raymond Felton in the starting lineup. And when they needed a little extra firepower, there was J.R. Smith lighting it up from deep off the bench.

Anthony had 15 points by halftime, and finished with 27 on just 18 shots. Smith had 20 points and nine rebounds, and drained four of his five attempts from three-point distance.

The ball movement, spacing on offense, and team defense — all of which have been great for New York consistently through its first eight quarters of the season — are pleasant surprises from a team that hasn’t showed positives there regularly in even one of those categories in a very long time.

The absence of Amar’e Stoudemire due to injury has helped Anthony’s efficiency so far, as he has the space to operate on the wing from mid-range without having a power forward who demands touches on the low block getting in his way. Yes, right now the Knicks are better without Stoudemire, but if he can return as a healthy contributor, Mike Woodson will find a way to integrate him into the offense.

On the Sixers’ side, maybe this was just one of those tough early starts where they were out of sync, or maybe the talent level of the Knicks, along with the energy level they brought this afternoon was too much to match for them at this point. It didn’t help offensively that Jason Richardson left the game just two minutes in with a sprained left ankle, and did not return. Jrue Holiday kept this from being a complete blowout with his 27 points and seven assists, while hitting five out of his six three-point attempts.

Philadelphia will improve greatly whenever Andrew Bynum is able to get back on the floor, but there’s no telling when that might be. In the meantime, these same Sixers will get another crack at the Knicks Monday night at home in Philadelphia to complete the home-and-home series, where it wouldn’t at all be a surprise to see a similar result.

Reports: Kevin McHale withdraws from Kings coaching search, could join Pacers

Kevin McHale
AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports wrote a few weeks ago about the Kings coaching search:

Kevin McHale is steadily gaining internal support, league sources told The Vertical. If Cousins truly is the future, the Kings have to hire a coach he will buy into, and McHale, a respected voice and one of the game’s all-time great post players, certainly seems like a good fit.

They won’t get him, of course

McHale indeed emerged as a candidate, and though it took him a little longer than other prominent former head coaches, McHale also came to the conclusion Mannix foresaw,

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This is part of the reason Sacramento talking to everybody. The Kings don’t know whom they can get.

An owner who has changed course too often in Vivek Ranadive, a general manager with too little experience in Vlade Divac, a top player who repeatedly feuds with coaches in DeMarcus Cousins – who’d want this job? Probably not someone who could get one of the NBA’s other 29 head-coaching gigs, and that might apply to McHale.

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

Frank Vogel is still twisting in the wind, but it seems unlikely the Pacers keep him.

There’d definitely be something intriguing about former Celtics teammates Larry Bird and Kevin McHale teaming up in Indiana. McHale’s experience with the Rockets could help him install an up-tempo offense, too.

Cavaliers throw pass off Mike Muscala’s head, set up 3-pointer (video)

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The Cavaliers were making so many 3-pointers, they didn’t need a lucky bounce.

But they got one, anyway.

Mo Williams‘ pass to Richard Jefferson bounced of Mike Muscala‘s head – right to Iman Shumpert for a 3-pointer.

Report: Rockets owner would consider Kenny “the Jet” Smith as head coach

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Kenny “The Jet” Smith is the next Steve Kerr?

I’m with you, I don’t see that either. But apparently in the Houston Rockets’ broad search for a new coach — we know it will not be J.B. Bickerstaff — owner Leslie Alexander would consider Smith, a member of the Rockets’ championship teams in the 1990s. From Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources tell ESPN.com that TNT’s Kenny Smith, who like (Sam) Cassell is a former Rockets player, could also land an interview. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander remains close to many players from the team’s highly successful Clutch City era, which delivered two championships, and holds them in high esteem.

As seen in the video above, Charles Barkley asked Smith about it on Inside the NBA Wednesday and Smith tap danced around the question, saying “anything basketball is me.”

The Rockets need a defensive-minded coach and someone who can help guide and build a good locker room culture, two things that held the Rockets back this season. Someone who can get the respect of James Harden and get him to do things such as show up to training camp in shape.

That’s what makes Jeff Van Gundy an interesting fit, same with Frank Vogel if he is let go by the Indiana Pacers as it more and more seems like he will be. Both of them have experience doing what the Rockets need. Can The Jet coach? Who knows. But with Harden in his prime and some other quality role players on the roster (Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Clint Capella, and the list goes on) why gamble on the unknown?

Report: Bulls telling teams they plan on keeping Jimmy Butler

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 14:  Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls warms up prior to action against the Toronto Raptors in an NBA game at the Air Canada Centre on March 14, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bulls defeated the Raptors 109-107. NOTE TO USER: user expressly acknowledges and agrees by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Bulls are trying to find their identity. They used to be a defensive team, but they went and got an offensive coach in Fred Hoiberg and by the end of the season had slid badly on that end of the floor. They are no longer Derrick Rose‘s team. They didn’t have the personnel to run Hoiberg’s system. The Bulls need to figure out who they are, then decide which players on the roster should be part of the team moving forward.

Expect Jimmy Butler to be part of that future. He’s the best player on the team, but he rubs some teammates the wrong way, and there have been rumors the Bulls would listen to trade offers.

That got teams calling to test the waters, but the Bulls are telling those teams they plan to hold on to Butler, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.

A league source tells CSNNE.com that the Bulls, while still open to listening to offers for Butler, are telling teams that are inquiring about his availability that their plan for now is to keep him in the fold.

And while there was some thought that a top-3 pick coupled with a few decent players might be enough to entice the Bulls to pull the trigger on a deal to trade Butler, CSNNE.com has been told such an offer would have to include at least one “legitimate, NBA starter” for the Bulls to even possibly consider trading him.

“And that might be a stretch,” the source indicated.

What is the hardest part of assembling a potential NBA title contender? Finding the elite, cornerstone player you need who can lead your team at both ends of the floor. The Chicago Bulls have that in Butler, and he’s locked up until at least the summer of 2019 on a good contract (a max contract before the TV deal money kicked in; there is a player option for a fifth season reaching into 2020). Why would they trade him?

Stranger things have happened, especially with the Bulls, but unless they want to tear it all down and rebuild — and they don’t — getting rid of Butler doesn’t make sense.

The better question is who will be around Butler come next fall?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                =