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.

Paul George says “I’m ready” to challenge LeBron James for supremacy in East

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 29: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks for a pass while under pressure from Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on February 29, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is the best basketball player walking the face of the earth. The only guy who could start to challenge that supremacy the past couple of years has been Stephen Curry, and last season’s NBA Finals answered that question for now.

In the Eastern Conference, for years now it has been LeBron James and his team then a step back to everyone else — LeBron has been to six straight NBA Finals, four in Miami and the last two in Cleveland. Most pundits (myself included) think that’s going to be seven in-a-row because the Cavaliers are clear and away the class of the East.

Paul George says he and the Pacers are ready to change that narrative. Here is what he told Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“Honestly, I look at us challenging them. I’ve been in the East and I’ve been No. 1 with LeBron being on a team,” George told The Vertical in a recent telephone interview, harkening back to when the Pacers finished with the best regular-season record in the East in 2013-14, the season before his gruesome Team USA leg injury….

“I’ve always matched up with him like, ‘I know he can do this, I know he can do that,’ ” George told The Vertical about James. “Not in an awe fashion, but it’s more so, ‘I’m not supposed to win these games. This is supposed to be the best dude in the NBA. I’m trying to challenge him. I know what I’m up against.’ Now it’s, ‘I’m ready. I’m ready for you. I’m a veteran. I know you, you know me. Let’s meet here, let’s get this job done.’ I’m prepared. I’ve had time to figure this out. I’ve had time to lick my wounds. I’m ready.”

Good for George — this is exactly what you want an elite competitor and top player to say heading into the season. He sees Everest in front of him, and he wants to climb it.

I’m also higher on the Pacers than most; I think they are a top-four team in the East that can finish top two. They upgraded at the point with Jeff Teague, plus they added the underrated Thaddeus Young (although they will miss Solomon Hill) and depth up front with Al Jefferson. I don’t get Larry Bird pushing Frank Vogel out the door at all, but Nate McMillan is a solid NBA coach to take his place. I think the Pacers are taking a step forward this season, maybe a fairly significant one.

But they’re still not in the Cavaliers’ class.

The East is still Cleveland then everyone else. Last season Toronto won 56 games and had its best season in franchise history, and they were still a step or two below the Cavaliers. No team in the East — not the Raptors, not the Celtics, not the Pacers — are making up those steps. Unless injuries or something else unforeseen brings the Cavaliers back to the pack, the Eastern Conference once again will look like Secretariat at the Belmont.

Russell Westbrook says he will not kneel for national anthem “as of right now”

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook spins the ball as he poses for photos during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Without question, some kneeling/raised fist protests of the National Anthem are coming to the NBA once preseason games start in a couple of weeks. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers has already come out saying “there’s no more American thing to do than to protest.” Teams are discussing the need for social change.

While the NBA has a rule that players must stand for the anthem, the NBA and players’ union are already discussing exactly how and if that rule should be enforced.

While some players will kneel, Russell Westbrook will not be among them. Probably. Here’s is what he told Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.

Obviously, Westbrook is leaving himself some wiggle room here. Also, if there is one NBA star you can expect to be blunt about the situation when talking to the media, it’s Westbrook (when he feels like opening up to the media, anyway).

I expect few if any of the NBA’s top stars — the guys with the biggest international brands — will join the protests. However, there certainly will be players taking part. For a league that sees itself as progressive — and has a more politically progressive fan base compared to other American sports — how the league handles this will be watched.

Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau thanks Kevin Garnett after retirement announcement

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics sits not he bench prior to Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the New York Knicks on April 28, 2013 at TD Garden 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 Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”

It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Pacers unveil 50th anniversary patch for their uniforms (PHOTO)

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 28:  Leandro Barbosa #28 of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center on March 28, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. 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 Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:

It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.