Mike Woodson, Amare Stoudemire

Amar’e Stoudemire still thinks Knicks’ front court trio can work

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Amar’e Stoudemire just dealt with one of the more frustrating seasons of his career. A variety of injuries limited him to only 29 appearances and 23.5 minutes per game when he was healthy enough to suit up. And while he made a return to the Knicks’ lineup in the 2nd round against the Pacers, he saw limited action and was benched in the 2nd half of games 5 and 6.

The question for Stoudemire now, then, is where he fits in a crowded Knicks’ front court that has big money and long term commitments to not only himself, but to both Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler as well. This past season showed that Carmelo is best suited to palying power forward and that Chandler, while struggling in the playoffs, is still one of the game’s best defensive centers. That doesn’t necessarily bode well for the player who was once the face of the Knicks’ franchise.

However, if you listen to him tell it, all he and his front court partners need is more time and that they can make it work:

“We never gave it a chance,” Stoudemire said after Indiana’s 106-99 victory eliminated the Knicks from the postseason. “So I think just the opportunity of allowing them to understand exactly what my style of play is and what I bring to the table is something that I think I’m going to have to sit down with Coach Woody and express to him.”

If Amar’e is talking about this season, he has a point. The Knicks trio of him, Anthony, and Chandler only shared the court for 222 minutes and were a +36 in their time together. They boasted an elite offense (115.5 points per 100 possessions) in those minutes and were able to show enough diversity to keep defenses off balance.

Of course, that’s not the entire story. What those minutes also showed is that the Knicks were horrid defensively when all three shared the floor, posting a defensive efficiency of 107.6 in that span. With Anthony back on the wing guarding small forwards and Amar’e — who’s never been known for his defense — asked to defend the pick and roll or serve as a secondary rim protector, the Knicks’ defense floundered. Not even Chandler’s presence in the middle could make up for it.

If you go back to the 2011-12 season, the numbers weren’t as bad defensively, but the team struggled to produce on offense consistently, scoring a meager 98.5 points per 100 possessions when all three were on the floor together. Some of that was related to the dysfunction that was the Knicks’ season and the change in head coaches, but mostly what we saw was an overlap in role between Stoudemire and Chandler along with Anthony struggling to find space to attack in isolation from his pet spots on the floor.

Moving forward it’s unclear what the Knicks will try to do with this trio, but it’s doubtful that this group will ever fully sort out their issues. Carmelo has shown that his best position on the floor is power forward while Chandler has proven that he can be the anchor of an elite defense from the pivot. That leaves Amar’e as the odd man out and the player who will have to sacrifice his game the most in order to be part of this particular Knicks’ outfit.

That likely won’t sit well with him as he laments not being on the floor even though he acknowledges it is “the coaches decision.” But in reality, there’s really nothing to he can do but accept a role where he’s no longer a feature player — or at least not a starting one. He can still have value as a back up who can terrorize 2nd units with his ability to score. As he continues to improve his post game, he offers the team versatility in their attack and can be an anchor for the offense.

He just shouldn’t expect to provide these skills or serve in that role when paired with Anthony and Chandler. Because even though he says they never gave it a chance, the results tell us there’s really not a reason to.

Larry Sanders considering making NBA comeback soon

Larry Sanders
Associated Press
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It was one year ago that Larry Sanders came to terms for a mutual parting of the ways with the Bucks, a buyout of his contract that let him get away from basketball. He had personal demons to deal with. Sanders had played just 50 games the previous two seasons for the Bucks, had been a nightclub brawl left him with an injured thumb in need of surgery, been charged with animal cruelty, had been suspended a couple of times by the league for marijuana use, and the list went on. It was best for both sides to walk away.

Sanders checked himself into a hospital program for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. At the time, he wrote he still loved basketball, but he needed better coping skills to handle the pressure and lifestyle.

“If I get to a point where I feel I’m capable of playing basketball again, I will.”

We may be reaching that time. From Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports:

After accepting a buyout from the Milwaukee Bucks to step away from the NBA last season, Larry Sanders told The Vertical he plans to pursue a return to the NBA once his off-court ventures stabilize.

“Once my art, music and passions off the court feel stable, I will look into coming back,” Sanders told The Vertical. “I still love basketball. I want stability around me, and part of my mindset to leave was not to put all my eggs in one basket.

“I feel highly valuable on any team. There aren’t a lot of people who can bring my game to a team. I still play basketball all the time, staying in shape. I will need to make sure the situation is right for me.”

Sanders would draw interest from teams (he already has this season), there aren’t a lot of athletic 6’11” defenders in the league. In the 2013 season, before he signed his contract extension, Sanders averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks a game. Teams would be willing to roll the dice.

Sanders is now working on his music, plus running a management company for artists. His buyout from the Bucks will give him $1.9 million a season until 2022, so a return to the league is not necessarily about the cash.

If he does come back, I hope for his sake his head is in the right space and can handle it. He needs to take care of himself first.

Will Phil Jackson ultimately leave Knicks to run Lakers?

Phil Jackson Jeanie Buss
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Phil Jackson has been thrust back into the New York spotlight with the firing of Derek Fisher for not being ready to be an NBA coach — who could have seen that coming? — and speculation about what moves he’ll make next. While you can point to misfires as the guy with the hammer in the Knicks organization, he nailed the Kristaps Porzingis pick and no doubt this Knicks roster is in far better shape than the one he took over. Plus, he’s kept owner James Dolan out of the basketball decision-making process, which is a huge step forward.

But if/when he gets the chance, will he bolt New York to team up with fiancée Jeanie Buss and run the Lakers?

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports writes there is a “strong belief” in some quarters that it will happen.

Golden State assistant Luke Walton is closest to a legitimately coveted candidate with ties to Jackson and the triangle – and he’s still largely unproven, too. Walton intrigues Jackson, but truth be told: Why would Walton come East without an assurance Jackson is committed to the long run in New York? There’s still a strong belief Jackson will eventually find his way to his fiancée Jeanie Buss and the Los Angeles Lakers. Walton will be competing with Thibodeau for the Lakers job in the spring, and who knows: Jackson and Walton could be reunited there.

Would Jackson leave the Knicks? The better question is, did anyone think he would stay the entire five years of his contract? Not many around the league did. Knicks fans should be legitimately concerned about who is next.

Lakers fans would welcome Jackson’s return because it means no Jim Buss. Fairly or not, Buss has become a scapegoat for a healthy segment of the fan base.

But this would be far from simple.

Jim Buss is in charge of the basketball side of the Lakers’ operation as empowered by the complex trust his father Jerry Buss used to leave the team to his six children. They all have roles, they all have pieces of the team, and truth be told they all have big aspirations. It sets up like a Shakespearean drama. Jeanie Buss is the ultimate power and the person the league recognizes as the owner for official votes of the board of governors, but this is not like other ownership situations where she has ultimate power and can fire whomever she wants and replace them — she can’t just ax family members and sideline them. Again, it’s a complex trust with shared power and responsibilities.

Jim has said if the Lakers are not a contender by 2017 he would step aside, although how he defines that time (the end of the summer of 2017, at the earliest) and how Jeanie defines it (more like early 2017, before that loaded free agency summer) differ. Nothing that happens with the Lakers will be clean and bloodless.

But if Jim steps aside and lets Jeanie bring in her own basketball people, Phil Jackson could well return to L.A.

Then we can have a discussion if that’s really best for the Lakers’ brand.

Add Kobe Bryant to don’t change hack-a-player crowd

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant gestures after hitting a three point shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.

Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”

Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

Personally, I hate the “won’t somebody please think of the children” argument — plenty of people have said emulating Kobe’s penchant for isolation basketball and contested jumpers was bad for children growing up playing the game.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA  says “I hate to do it” they all do it with increasing frequency. There will be more than twice as many instances this season of hack-a-player fouls as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because those coaches are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.

Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.

Timofey Mozgov with maybe “best” missed dunk of the season (VIDEO)

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On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.

Ooof.

LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.