Knicks curiously move away from using two point guards

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With Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni at their disposal, the Knicks successfully implemented sets during the regular season that took advantage of having two point guards on the floor. Still, New York used one or fewer point guard more often than not.

  • With at least two point guards: +264 in 43 percent minutes
  • With one or fewer point guards: +84 in 58 percent of minutes

That’s fine. The regular season is for experimenting, and smart teams take the information they glean and apply it in the playoffs. For their first nine playoff games, the Knicks seemed like one of those smart teams. In that span, the Knicks more than flipped the script, giving significantly more playing time to two-point-guard lineups. To do so, Mike Woodson probably had to pick less-than-perfect spots to play those dual PGs, which would lower their efficiency but was probably still worthwhile.

  • With at least two point guards:  +21 in 68 percent of minutes
  • With one or fewer point guards: +19 in 32 percent of minutes

But Woodson strayed from that strategy in Game 4 against the Pacers. First of all, the Knicks started Kenyon Martin in place of Prigioni, giving New York a lineup with only one point guard right off the bat. Martin’s size theoretically could have help against the Pacers, but that didn’t work. Instead the shift just set in motion a gameplan that marginalized the Knicks’ two-point-guard sets in Game 4:

  • With at least two point guards: -12 in 21 percent of minutes
  • With one or fewer point guards: +1 in 79 percent of minutes

At first glance, it appears Woodson made a wise move to use more single-PG lineups. But not all point-guard combinations are created equal – especially when Kidd can’t score. Here’s how each point-guard combination has performed in the playoffs:

  • Felton-Kidd: –37 in 148 minutes
  • Felton-Prigioni: +31 in 120 minutes
  • Kidd-Prigioni: +39 in 65 minutes

Woodson, of course, used Felton-Kidd for 70 percent of the Knicks’ two-PG minutes in Game 4 and didn’t play Felton and Prigioni together at all.

The Knicks have gone away from what works for them in a doomed attempt to solve the problems that have plagued them all season and will likely continue to plague them. Instead, they should stick with their strengths – including playing two point guards together.

Lakers exercise David Nwaba’s $1.3 million contract option

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers have exercised their $1.3 million contract option on guard David Nwaba for the upcoming season.

The Lakers announced the move Wednesday.

Nwaba earned a job with the Lakers after they called him up from their D-League affiliate on Feb. 28. The rookie averaged 6.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game while impressing Luke Walton’s coaching staff with his hustle and defensive play.

The Lakers signed him to a new contract with a multi-year component just three weeks after his NBA debut.

Nwaba is a local product, attending University High School in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica College before finishing his college career at Cal Poly.

Stephen Curry to play Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic

AP Photo/Eric Risberg
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HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) — Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry is set to test his golf game against the pros.

The Web.com Tour said Wednesday that Curry, coming off his second NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors, will play in the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae on Aug. 3-6.

It’ll be the first PGA Tour-sanctioned event for Curry, who has competed in various celebrity events and pro-ams. The top 25 on Web.com Tour’s regular-season money list will earn PGA Tour cards.

Curry will maintain his amateur status, competing on an unrestricted sponsor exemption in the event that benefits the Warriors Community Foundation.

Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice played in the event in 2011 and 2012. He missed the cut in 2011 with rounds of 83 and 76 and withdrew in 2012 after playing 27 holes in 23 over.

Also Wednesday, Nissan’s upscale Infiniti brand announced that Curry would be its new global brand ambassador. The point guard will be featured in ads for the Q50 sports sedan beginning this summer.

Report: Clippers never committed to offer Chris Paul five-year max contract

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The Clippers projected to be able to offer Chris Paul a five-year, $201 million contract that would have culminated with a $46 million salary in his final season.

Did they offer that much before sending him to the Rockets?

Just as one side is trying to pin all the Clippers’ problems on Doc Rivers and Austin Rivers, the Clippers surely want to spin Paul’s exit to another way – that they shrewdly chose when to part ways rather than that they lost the best player in franchise history due to nepotism.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

If Paul really wanted that five-year max, he could have pushed harder for it by bringing counter offers to the Clippers in July rather than engineering his way to Houston before free agency even began.

Would the Clippers have eventually relented and offered the five-year max? We can never know for certain.

But it’s pretty clear why the Clippers would want this version out there. Accurate or not, it makes them seem far more on top of things and is less likely to taint them with free agents they covet in 2018.

How Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza complicate Rockets’ pursuit of third star

AP Photo/John Raoux
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After pairing Chris Paul and James Harden, the Rockets are reportedly chasing a third starPaul George, Carmelo Anthony or someone else.

But Houston parted with significant assets to land Paul from the Clippers. And the Rockets will have a tricky time dealing two remaining players, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Unloading Ryan Anderson to sign Paul outright would have helped Houston keep one of their outgoing guards, but the market for the three years and $60 million left on Anderson’s deal was frigid. Not even the Kings wanted him for free. At least two teams would have demanded two Houston first-round picks in exchange for absorbing Anderson, according to several league sources.

The salary filler probably can’t be Trevor Ariza, by the way. Ariza and Paul are close after years together in New Orleans, and playing with Ariza factored at least a little into Paul’s decision, per league sources. The Clippers had tried to trade for him in prior seasons, sources say. Ariza is also still good at a coveted position, and his Bird Rights will be valuable to a capped-out Rockets team next summer.

Anderson would be dangerous as a stretch four in pick-and-pops with Paul and Harden. Even if he’s overpaid, might be better to keep him than surrender more assets to dump him.

Likewise, Ariza is a nice two-way player and can play small-ball four. There’s a use for him on this team.

But beyond them, Houston is left with Eric Gordon and Clint Capela as movable players. Gordon, with a higher salary and less obvious fit with Paul and Harden, would almost certainly be a key cog in a trade for another star. Capela is younger and more valuable, though the Rockets would probably want to keep him as a defensive anchor.

That might not be possible while trading for a third star, though. Houston can’t even guarantee sending out another first-round pick in a trade after sending a protected first-rounder to the Clippers. (The Rockets could agree to convey a first-rounder two years after sending one to L.A., which would is highly likely to convey next year.) Including Capela in a trade might be the only way to assemble a suitable package.

Even then, Houston would be hard-pressed to surpass an offer from the Lakers or Celtics for George. Plus, if Indiana is rebuilding around Myles Turner, Capela is an awkward fit. That trade might require a third team – causing further complications.

Hoping Anthony gets bought out by the Knicks then signs for the mid-level exception is much simpler – though that route returns the lesser third star.

But Daryl Morey just brought Chris Paul to Houston before free agency even began. Now is not the time to underestimate the Rockets general manager.