Knicks tried to trade Stoudemire, didn’t work. Now they have to fit him in.

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The Knicks are good. Top of the Eastern Conference, best offense in the land, getting fantastic play from Carmelo Anthony, steady point guard play from Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, solid defense thanks to Tyson Chandler.

And now they have to work in Amare Stoudemire. And everyone is a little usure what happens next.

Stoudemire is working out and could be back as soon as next week, maybe the Christmas Day nationally televised game against the Lakers (which is also likely when Steve Nash makes his return to the Lakers).

Nobody knows how this is going to go, but if you believe the Knicks think this could work you should read these couple paragraphs from Howard Beck at the New York Times.

This past summer, the Knicks offered Stoudemire to nearly every team in the league — “available for free,” as one rival executive put it. But they found no takers because of his diminished production, his health and his contract, which has three years and $65 million remaining (counting this season) and which is uninsured against a career-ending knee injury.

In February, the Knicks wanted to send Stoudemire to Toronto in a deal for Andrea Bargnani, a person briefed on the discussion said. But the proposal was vetoed by James L. Dolan, the Garden chairman, before it ever reached the Raptors (who would not have made the deal anyway, team officials there said). Before that, the Knicks tried to package Stoudemire and Chandler in a bid to land Dwight Howard.

From the day Mike Woodson took over as Knicks coach it was clear what direction he was taking the team — this is Carmelo’s team. He is the sun, everyone else is a planet in his orbit. To Anthony’s credit, he has stepped up his game to fill that role — he is more efficient on offense, he is getting his buckets in the flow of the offense (most of the time), he is defending, he is being a real leader, he is looking like an MVP player.

Stoudemire is the guy whose orbit could be hard to fit into the solar system — his skills are redundant with Anthony at the four, and if Anthony defers to him and plays more as a three way away from the basket he goes away from what has worked in New York this season. The Knicks front office knew it, they tried to solve the problem by trading Stoudemire, but with that failing Woodson will bring Stoudemire off the bench and try to make it work somehow. We could end up with a situation where Stoudemire and Anthony are rarely on the court together.

But if they can find a way to make it work — if Stoudemire, Anthony and Tyson Chandler can all be on the floor together and the Knicks keep their offensive spacing and make good on the threat of all that talent — then the Heat should be worried. At the quarter mark of the NBA season Miami and New York are the clear best teams in the East, but if Woodson can get this to work this could be the Knicks year.

But based on their actions this summer, doesn’t sound like the Knicks are at all confident that can happen. And as they can’t trade him.

It’s going to get interesting in New York.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.