Knicks show their flaws, Nets get big win for franchise

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Games in November don’t have a playoff atmosphere… usually. But every once in a while there is an exception.

And this was it — Brooklyn’s first home game against the Knicks may have been in November but New York fans were treating this like a hockey playoff game. There was constant chanting like a Brazilian soccer game. The fans of both teams were into it.

And they got an entertaining, playoff intensity game. They got November execution — it was sloppy at points — but some real intensity.

And Brooklyn got a 96-89 overtime win.

For the Nets, it is really is just one-of-82 on the schedule but is a nice win for the psyche of the franchise as it works to establish its foothold in the New York market.

For the Knicks, the reasons they lost this game down the stretch are trends that have emerged at points this young season, things they need to clean up as the season wears on. These things are the difference between the Knicks as threats to the Heat and the Knicks that get in the first round again.

For one, there was bad shot selection — Raymond Felton kept gunning despite a Bargnani-like 3-of-19 shooting night. He had good moments setting up Tyson Chandler on the pick-and-roll, but as the game wore on the Nets dared Felton to take the shot and he did. And he kept missing — he was 1-of-10 in the fourth quarter and overtime.

It wasn’t just him taking and missing shots late, Carmelo Anthony had a nice line of 35 points (on 11-of-25 shooting) plus 13 rebounds for the game. But he had 9 points on 2-of-9 shooting in the fourth quarter and overtime as he went with more isolation plays that led to a couple key misses. He fell back into old habits. Oh, and he missed a couple key free throws.

The real bright spot in the Knicks offense Chandler, who had 28 points and 10 rebounds, running a great pick and roll with Felton and having a signature putback dunk. But if Chandler is your offensive bright spot it’s going to be a rough night.

Still, in the second half the Knicks shot just 7-of-24 in the paint as a team.

Then there was the Knicks defense getting exposed. The Knicks switched the pick-and-roll most of the night and Deron Williams made them pay to the tune of 16 points and 14 assists. The Nets did a great job of running a Deron Williams pick and roll with Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, getting the switch then having those guys back down Felton and get a good look. They did that all night and made runs with it, like the 9-1 one at the end of the third quarter that got them back in it.

The other thing that killed the Knicks was losing guys who cut off the ball — all night long Nets players got good looks just by cutting away from the ball and their defender losing them. Down three inside three minutes to go the Nets got a key bucket when Brook Lopez made a run, Chandler tracked the ball and the result was an easy layup. Lopez finished with 22.

There was also some bad Knicks pick-and-roll moments and apparently Jerry Stackhouse was wearing a cloak of invisibility because the Knicks didn’t see him get open for the corner three all night long (he was 4-of-5 from three and had 14 points). There also was terrible defensive rebounding as the Nets had 18 offensive rebounds (35.5 percent of their missed shots).

The Knicks are not crisp on defense like they were last season, and if they don’t get that focus back this year’s playoffs will look like last year’s. But there is a long time between now and then.

Same with the Nets, who had a rough defensive start to the season but held the Knicks to 96.2 points per 100 possessions. They keep that up and keep scoring and the playoffs could last a while in Brooklyn.

We’re a long way from that for both teams. But the Nets got the win they wanted and both sides got some lessons to work on for the months ahead.

Frustrated Kyrie Irving on another ring: “And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

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Since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked like a championship team. They have been in a malaise going 8-10 with the second-worst defense in the NBA during that stretch. The Cavs like a team that is just waiting for the games to have meaning again in the playoffs. It makes one tempted to say this will come back to bite them in the postseason, but which team in the East is going to beat them?

The Cavaliers players are frustrated with their play of late, too.  Kyrie Irving vented about it after practice, as reported by Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Obviously it was just a frustrating game and there have been a few frustrating games for all of us,” Irving said. “Just getting back to what we do, having fun with one another and being truthful with one another — we’ll be good…

And then Irving said: “You can’t rely on just thinking that one championship is enough. It’s natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a (competitor) you want two, you want three, you want four. And if you dedicate yourself more like you say you do, then you want more. And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

Injuries have had key players, most recently Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out of the rotation of late, and working them back in has not gone smoothly. Still, this is the same core from the team that won the title last season, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into a groove.

Cleveland is acting like a team that thinks it can flip the switch.

Maybe they can, but there are some powerful teams out West who seemed to have flipped theirs long ago.

 

Rumor: Bulls ready to move on from Jimmy Butler this summer

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Predicting what the Chicago Bulls front office will do this summer is a game of roulette — the ball can land anywhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Is Dwyane Wade coming back? Is Nikola Mirotic part of the future? Fred Hoiberg? What kind of team are the Bulls trying to build, anyway?

Then there is the biggest one: Is Jimmy Butler still part of the long-term plan? Or is he going to be moved to facilitate a rebuilding process?

Last summer when the Bulls had the chance to trade him, they kept Butler to build around him… then made some interesting choices in trying to do that. They didn’t get enough shooting, players didn’t fit well, and others didn’t develop, and the Bulls are struggling to even make the postseason.

So what do the Bulls do this summer? One exec told Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Bulls were going to move Butler.

Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.”

Paul George wanting to contend (or if not, be in Los Angeles) is not news, but whether the Pacers decide to be serious about trading him this summer depends on a number of factors that we’re not going to get into here. This article is about Butler.

Do the Bulls want to trade Butler? Some in the front office do, some don’t. There were reports the Bulls wanted an All-Star level player for him so the team did not take a step back, but nobody was giving that up. Everyone in Chicago from ownership through management is not on the same page, which helps explain some of the stop-gap team building moves by the team. Chicago needs to decide if it wants to go for the full rebuild, which is what happens if they trade Butler. The playoffs are out of the questions for a few years if they do, but that’s not a bad thing if they draft well and commit to the plan. However, there is a sense that ownership thinks “this is Chicago, we don’t rebuild.”

All of which is to say, if the Bulls trade Butler it’s not a huge surprise. If they keep him, it’s not a huge surprise. But other teams — hello Boston — may be prepping for him to come back on the trade market around the draft.

PBT Podcast: Future of Isaiah Thomas, Ricky Rubio, also award talk with Dan Feldman

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We asked for your questions on Twitter and Facebook, and you gave myself and Dan Feldman got some fascinating discussion points:

If the Celtics land a top two pick, what does that mean for the future of Isaiah Thomas in Boston?

Is Ricky Rubio‘s run of strong play mean he remains the point guard of the future in Minnesota?

How good is Devin Booker?

We discuss all of that plus the NBA end of season awards that we are still looking at and trying to make up our minds about.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.