Celtics look to Garnett, Knicks look to ball movement to spark offenses in Game 2

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Game 1 of the Celtics vs. Knicks played to form — the Celtics’ physical and aggressive defense made it hard for the Knicks to score, but Boston struggled even more on offense putting up just 8 points in the fourth quarter and falling 85-78.

But for the Celtics there was one real reason to be positive — their defense set the tone for the game. They took the Knicks out of their game, but the Celtics couldn’t capitalize. Boston is counting on its defense to do that again, and to combine that with an offensive spark from Kevin Garnett (and maybe the bench would be nice) to even the series.

The Knicks want their offense to set the tone in Game 2 and are counting on the return of Pablo Prigioni and a healthier Tyson Chandler to make that happen in concert with Carmelo Anthony.

And a win for either side would be huge — if this series heads back to Boston for Game 3 tied 1-1 we could be in for a full seven-game slugfest. If the Knicks go up 2-0 Boston will have to find a way to win 4-of-5 to get the series, and that seems daunting. At best.

Boston is going to try and get their offense by establishing Kevin Garnett early and often — he had 8 points on 4-of-12 shooting in Game 1. In Game 2 the Celtics want to go to him first and work inside-out in the half-court. With the Knicks able to throw the size and defense of Tyson Chandler at KG, Boston is going to need counters — and they are going to need floor-spacing shooters to knock down shots and open the floor up. As a team the Celtics were 5-of-20 from three in Game 1. Paul Pierce was 1-of-7, Jason Terry 0-of-4. Shoot like that again and the results will be the same on the scoreboard.

Terry and Courtney Lee in general have to be better than a combined 0-for-7 for four points. Those two were a mess. Boston isn’t deep, Doc Rivers doesn’t have a lot of options, he needs these guys to play.

Also, the Celtics will need another appearance by the aggressive Jeff Green that had 26 points. If he has a “good game, invisible game” pattern the Celtics are in a lot of trouble. And they already don’t have much martin for error.

The Knicks need to get back to ball movement and floor spacing they had during their win streak near the end of the season.

In Game 1 the Celtics and their aggressive defense did a good job of taking away the Knicks first option off the pick-and-roll — Garnett and other bigs showed out and cut off Raymond Felton’s drives and the team’s recovery and rotations closed off passing lanes.

When their first option went away, the Knicks seemed to have no Plan B. They just gave it to Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith and had them create largely in isolation. And Anthony was 7-of-21 shooting in isolation sets, Smith 5-for-14 according to Hoopchalk.

The return of crafty guard Pablo Prigioni from an ankle sprain should help with the ball movement. So should a better conditioned Tyson Chandler (remember he missed 16 of the Knicks last 20 before Game 1, and the rust showed). Chandler is a great roll man, if the Knick set their picks high enough he should create space as he rolls in. And if the ball swings better to shooters the Knicks will have better looks.

We know about the defenses in this series — Boston is always good, the Knicks can play solid ball when Chandler is healthy. What the Knicks had were options in Game 1 — Chandler struggled but Kenyon Martin stepped up in the paint. We’ll see if the Celtics have the options to counter.

Report: LeBron James being hands off, letting Cavaliers front office handle Irving trade

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Okay, Koby Altman — the Cavs interim general manager about to have the first part of that title removed — and Dan Gilbert, the ball is in your court.

Kyrie Irving has told the Cleveland Cavaliers he wants to be traded, and he’s given them a list of preferred landing spots. Normally in this kind of situation, the team’s biggest star would not only be informed but consulted and asked his opinion, however this time around LeBron James is going to be hands off, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

LeBron James intends to let the Cleveland Cavaliers front office and owner Dan Gilbert take the lead in dealing with Kyrie Irving’s trade demands, sources told ESPN.

As the Cavs consider their options, sources said James has expressed to the team that he is focused on his offseason workout regimen and is planning to report to training camp with the intention of leading his teammates to a fourth consecutive Finals — no matter who those teammates are.

Despite the perception — and some reality, the team did try to make him happy — LeBron has not wanted to play GM of the Cavaliers in recent years. He has wanted to be more hands off, but has let his feelings be known at times. Part of that was he grew to trust David Griffin to make decisions. With Griffin out of the way, a lot of things feel different in Cleveland.

Consider this part of the crumbling of the foundation in Cleveland. LeBron is acting like an employee, one who shows up to do his job and that’s it — which is what he is, but stars can take on a larger role in the franchise. LeBron has, and does still to a degree, but he has scaled it back after his experiences over the years. Things feel like they are closing in on the Cavaliers, the only question is how fast?

Report: Cavaliers unhappy Kyrie Irving news leaked because it hurts trade value

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The news Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland came as a bolt of lightning to a finally slowed NBA offseason. Speculation about the future of LeBron James had been rampant, but discussions of Kyrie Irving’s future were usually tied to LeBron (if he left the Cavs, Irving would go, too).

Cleveland wanted to keep it under wraps, because it’s easier to do business that way. Now the word is out — including that he prefers to be traded to San Antonio, Minnesota, Miami, or New York — and the Cavaliers are not happy, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

It means that there will be a lot more leaks — teams that want to look like they are trying to do something but have no real interest/assets will make a call then leak it so it looks like they are trying. It will mean a lot of distracting headlines.

However, unlike Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks, the Cavaliers have leverage here. Irving doesn’t have a no-trade clause so the Cavaliers can take the best offer. Irving is an All-Star level point guard, one of the five to eight best in the NBA (depending on how much you knock him for his defensive lapses, and who you classify as a point guard). He also has two seasons left on his contract, so teams that trade for him have a chance to win him over to stay.

That said, leaked info or not, they are not getting equal value back. It doesn’t work that way with stars generally. That said, everyone knowing he wants out doesn’t help the Cavaliers cause here.

Kyrie Irving’s reported preferred trade destinations: Knicks, Heat, Spurs, Timberwolves

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Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers.

He even apparently provided a list of teams he prefers to join.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

That’s quite an eclectic mix.

The Knicks play in a major market near Irving’s native New Jersey, but they’re lousy. The Heat have a merely good team, excellent basketball culture, beautiful weather and a state with no income tax. The Spurs also offer a great basketball culture and no state income tax – plus Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard. The Timberwolves are an up-and-comer with multiple players – Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler (a friend) – on Irving’s timeline (though one would likely have to be traded for him) and a coach in Tom Thibodeau who worked with Irving through USA Basketball.

But Irving doesn’t possess a no-trade clause. Cleveland can trade him anywhere – or not at all.

Teams that Irving greenlights might offer more than teams he doesn’t, believing he’d be more likely to re-sign when his contract expires. But his free agency is still two years away. It doesn’t seem that will play a huge factor.

For Irving to work his way to a team he prefers, it will take a little luck in which team offers the Cavs the best package – or impressive finagling by his agent.

Report: Spurs re-signing Pau Gasol to three-year contract

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Even after Pau Gasol opted out, there it nearly certain he’d stay with the Spurs.

Now, a deal is done.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised San Antonio guaranteed Gasol’s salary next season. By rule, it must be within 5% of what he’ll earn this year.

The Spurs could have major flexibility to chase free agents next summer, making keeping the books clean a priority. Their only constraints with Gasol this year are paying him up to 120% of his prior salary (which comes out to $18.6 million), the hard cap ($125,266,000) and whatever expense ownership would endure. So, if Gasol were willing to play ball, San Antonio could have paid him a sizable salary this year and far less – the room exception or even the minimum – next year.

Instead, Gasol’s compensation will be more balanced between the seasons. We’ll see how much he’ll earn.

Gasol remains an effective scorer, in part because he increased his range beyond the 3-point arc. He rebounds well in his area, and his length and basketball intelligence make him a passable defender given his other skills. His immobility can be a major defensive liability in certain matchups, though.

He’s also 37, an age where players can drop off quickly – another reason a one-year deal would’ve been preferable. At least the partial guarantee in the third year will help San Antonio.