New York Knicks Stoudemire reacts after stuffing ball to score against Portland Trail Blazers in NBA basketball game in New York

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lots of ‘Melo, not much else for Knicks

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while breaking your New Year’s resolutions already….

Nuggets 92, Clippers 78: The Clippers win streak dies at 17on a night they were just ice-cold from the floor — 38.5 percent as a team, with leading scorer Jamal Crawford shooting 2-of-11. Denver played well but it was just one of those nights for Los Angeles. We broke it all down as our game of the night.

Trail Blazers 105, Knicks 100: Carmelo Anthony showed up to play — 45 points on just 24 shots, plus seven rebounds. J.R. Smith was trying to go with him, gunning his way to 28 points. The rest of the Knicks… not so much. They were a step slow on defense and for reasons unknown it took them to the third quarter to figure out that Portland plays J.J. Hickson at center and he can’t stop a Tyson Chandler roll to the bucket.

Portland pulled away with an 11-0 run in the second and held on at the end to get the win. Portland took at advantage of a sloppy Knicks defense to shoot 50.6 percent on the night. Nicolas Batum had 26, LaMarcus Aldridge had 18, J.J. Hickson 19.

And Amar’e Stoudemire was back. Not shockingly he looked rusty. He started 0-4 shooting and is a little ways away from being his old self. Lineups with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler together were +2 in five minutes of action. That is not indicative of much, just something to watch going forward.

Sixers 103, Lakers 99: And the Lakers fall below .500 again because they couldn’t defend. That sound familiar? It’s been like that all season and the return of Steve Nash and the better play of late didn’t change the Lakers narrative — this looked and felt like a lot of Lakers games this year.

Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner did the damage — both would shake loose of their perimeter defender pretty easily and get a good look then knock down the shot. This wasn’t some brilliant Doug Collins scheme, this was those two exploiting the Lakers defenders in isolation sets all night. Holiday had 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting plus had 10 assists. Turner had 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting, plus had 13 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Pau Gasol was 2-of-12 and Dwight Howard 1-of-7 shooting. Kobe Bryant was back to being a gunner who scored 36, Metta World Peace had 13 points and needed 17 shots to get them. As a team the Lakers were 3-of-22 from three point range.

Hawks 95, Hornets 86: This was the fourth game in five nights on the road for the Hawks, the kind of game where a lot of teams just roll over. Credit Atlanta, they found the energy for an 11-2 third quarter run to pull away for the win. That run featured a Kyle Kover three but the guy driving it was Josh Smith, who finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Al Horford pitched in 20 points on the night. Ryan Anderson had 23 for the Hornets. Eric Gordon looked like a guy who just came off knee surgery and is rusty and not in game shape yet — which he is — and was 5-of-17 shooting in 24 minutes.

Dallas 103, Wizards 94: The Wizards controlled the first half of this game and led by as many as 14 at one point, and it looked like Dallas could lose their seventh in a row. But Darren Collison sparked a 22-6 third quarter run for the Mavericks that gave them the lead and Dallas never looked back. Vince Carter led Dallas with 23 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki looked better, shooting 5-of-7 from the field as he plays himself back into shape. If Wizards fans are looking for a bright spot, Bradley Beal had a career-high 22 points.

Pistons 103, Kings 97: Detroit was in control of this game from the second quarter on until a 20-5 run by Sacramento in the fourth — fueled by Jimmer Fredette who had 13 in the quarter — made it close down the stretch. It was Austin Daye who knocked down the game-clinching three for Detroit. Greg Monroe had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons, who now have a three-game winning streak. Brandon Knight added 20. For the Kings DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 14 rebounds, but Sacramento fell to 1-13 on the road this season.

Dave Joerger: Kings will play more small ball

Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger talks to reporters during the Kings basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. Joerger, who was fired by the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of last season, was hired by Kings to replace George Karl, who was fired by the Kings.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Shortly after the Kings chose center Georgios Papagiannis with the No. 13 pick in the draft, DeMarcus Cousins tweeted, “Lord give me the strength.” Sacramento already had an abundance of centers with Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos. If Cousins wasn’t talking about yoga, Sacramento adding center Skal Labissiere with the No. 28 pick would’ve driven Cousins batty.

At least Kings coach Dave Joerger is accustomed to using two bigs, as he did with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis.

Joerger, via Cowbell Kingdom:

I anticipate us playing a lot more small ball this year.

I’m not playing big.

Oh.

This is going to lead to some unhappy campers in Sacramento. It won’t be Cousins (not for getting his role reduced, at least). But this will make it hard for Cauley-Stein and Koufos to get satisfactory playing time. It’ll also make it harder for Papagiannis and Labissiere to get minutes to develop.

Like with most things, winning is the best way to quash griping. The Kings have enough wings – Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Omri Casspi, Ben McLemore, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson – to theoretically play small effectively. If Joerger goes that route, he better find success with it. Otherwise, he could get plenty of heat – including from general manager Vlade Divac, who spoke incredibly highly of his first-round picks, the players most likely to get squeezed out of a small-ball rotation.

Dwane Casey: Jared Sullinger has Raptors’ starting PF job to lose

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 05: Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against Patrick Patterson #54 of the Toronto Raptors in the first half at TD Garden on November 5, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Last year, Patrick Patterson declared the Raptors’ starting power-forward job his to lose.

Well, he lost it.

Luis Scola started most of the regular season before Toronto tinkered in the playoffs. Patterson claimed the job. Then, the Raptors turned to DeMarre Carroll with Norman Powel in a small-ball lineup. Finally, Toronto reverted back to Scola.

A year later, there’s still no clear, great option at the position. Scola went to the Nets. Patterson returns. Pascal Siakam and Jarrod Uthoff are rookies. First man up: Newly signed Jared Sullinger.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:

“I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind,” Casey said, citing the need to see how that group reacts defensively.

If Sullinger’s bar is defensive, he’ll have a tough time clearing it. He neither protects the rim nor moves well on the perimeter – making him similar to Scola. But Scola got the job last year with similar contributions.

Sullinger rebounds well, and he has some shooting range, though he hasn’t been selective enough with it.

Patterson’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll might make him a better fit next to Jonas Valanciunas, especially if Patterson has confidence in his 3-point shot.

There should be a place for Sullinger in the rotation, but if he’s starting at power forward, that speaks to a lack of quality options.

Report: Cavaliers giving championship rings to 1,000+ workers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 20: The Cleveland Cavaliers mascot Moon Dog cheers on the fans prior to the arrival of the Cavs players return to Cleveland after wining the NBA Championships on June 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Cavaliers will reportedly give David Blatt a championship ring, and Anderson Varejao also has one available.

They aren’t the only two unexpected ring recipients.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Majority owner Dan Gilbert and his partners decided to present rings to more than 1,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization, employees who’ve been fitted for rings told cleveland.com.

A conservative cost for distributing rings to employees is more than $1 million.

This is very cool by Gilbert. Obviously, lower-level team employees won’t receive the same blinged-out rings the players get. But this is a nice way to reward their hard work.

Not to go all Jerry Krause, but organizations win championships. Some pieces – LeBron James – matter much more than others, but everyone plays a part. Security guards keep players safe, preventing a dreadful incident that could derail a playoff run. Public-relations staffers ease the burden on players. Ushers improve the fan experience, which increases revenue and helps Gilbert afford a massive luxury-tax bill.

It all adds up, as Gilbert clearly recognizes.

Mike D’Antoni: Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony rejected my system, but new (old) approach with James Harden

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with Kkobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 after the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 95-90.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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I can’t understate how revolutionary Mike D’Antoni’s offense looked with the Suns. In his first full season, 2004-05, they scored 110.4 points per game – the most anyone had scored in a decade. And it wasn’t even close. Phoenix played fast and scored efficiently.

That offense eventually got D’Antoni jobs in the NBA’s biggest markets and with two of the league’s best scorers, Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) and Kobe Bryant (Lakers).

Ian Thomsen of NBA.com:

But his coaching relationships with Anthony and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles did not turn out so well. The last two stars essentially rejected his system.

“They did,” acknowledged D’Antoni. “And they were paid 20-something million dollars for it — they were successful. So I don’t blame them. Nothing’s been proven up to that point.”

The Warriors had yet to show that D’Antoni’s offense could thrive in late May and June.

“They’re thinking, like, he’s crazy,” D’Antoni said of Anthony and Bryant. “So I don’t blame them at all. This is a much better situation.”

With the Knicks and Lakers, D’Antoni edged back from his own offensive principles in part because he wasn’t sure, either. He was in a lonely place as the proponent of a style that was rejected by NBA fundamentalists. In New York and L.A., D’Antoni lacked the proof that would be provided years later by the Warriors of Kerr, who when serving as GM of the Suns had himself objected to D’Antoni’s point of view. The inventor didn’t believe fully in his own invention.

“I wasn’t that confident,” D’Antoni insisted. “It was a little bit before analytics. Everybody was telling us that we couldn’t do it, no one was telling us we could. Analytics came in and said, hey, you can do this — this is good, actually. So now you’ve got (GM) Daryl Morey with the Rockets and how they play and different teams trying to do it, and now it’s kind of caught on.

This bucks the narrative that D’Antoni’s offense can’t work with a score-first star. If D’Antoni compromised his scheme for Kobe and Melo, we haven’t yet seen it full bore with a player like that.

We will this season in Houston, where D’Antoni has turned score-first James Harden into the Rockets’ point guard.

As D’Antoni said, it’ll be easier to sell his scheme now that it has been proven to work. But as other teams adopt elements of it, he’ll have less of a strategic advantage.

The best coaches have revolutionary ideas AND get their players to buy into them. D’Antoni’s methods are no longer as cutting-edge, but he’ll have an easier time selling his players. That’s a justifiable knock on D’Antoni’s overall coaching prowess, but he still brings positives.

We’ve seen D’Antoni’s system at full throttle, and we’ve seen him coach generational scorers. To get both simultaneously will be a fun experiment in Houston this year.