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Mike Woodson confident in his ability to coach any player, including Metta World Peace

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LAS VEGAS — Knicks head coach Mike Woodson is with the team in Las Vegas for Summer League, and with reports of mutual interest between New York and Metta World Peace now that he’s cleared amnesty waivers, Woodson was asked if he thought he might have a knack for coaching players with, shall we say, a more unique outlook on things.

Woodson was especially successful with a similarly quirky player in J.R. Smith, who had a monster year for the Knicks last season that resulted in him taking home Sixth Man of the Year honors. Woodson said it’s all about getting a player to know their place on the team in order for them to be successful.

“I know his name has been circling out there,” Woodson said of the World Peace-to-the-Knicks talk. “I can coach anybody. I’ve coached guys from 18, 19, 20 year old young men and built the team in Atlanta, and that’s tough for a first-time coach. So I experienced that. I don’t think there’s a player I can’t coach if he’s going to be willing to be coached. I think it’s just a matter of pushing the right buttons and getting guys to understand their roles.”

Woodson likes what World Peace is able to bring to a team, but reminded that it’s a little early in the process to be putting him in a Knicks uniform just yet.

“I like his skill set a lot,” Woodson said. “I think a lot of teams have liked his skill set over the years. He does a little bit of everything, but again, it’s a moot point until he’s available if that may be the case.”

Woodson would seem just fine with adding World Peace, or any player that could help his team for that matter — just as long as they share the same vision in achieving the ultimate goal that he does.

“If anybody comes to this team, they’ve got to understand it’s all about team, man,” he said. “It’s not about individuals here. It’s not about me as a coach, it’s about the New York franchise trying to win an NBA title. If you understand that, we’ve got a chance.”

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Some additional Knicks notes from Woodson’s few minutes with the media:

– Woodson knows how good Carmelo Anthony was when playing the power forward position last season, but he’s at least willing to entertain the possibility of playing newly-acquired big man Andrea Bargnani alongside him in the lineup.

“They could [start together],” he said. “We’ll evaluate everything. It’ll really be a little bit different this year because I know we’ve been great with Melo at the four, but Bargnani — he brings a different dimension to our team, I think.

“I’ve got to get him up to speed defensively, but just like Melo’s a nightmare for people at the four, [Bargnani is] a nightmare for players at the four and five,” Woodson said. “I’ve just got to get him in and get him acclimated to what we’re doing, and get him comfortable — that’s the key with him. I’ve got to get him back to feeling good about himself. I think he’s an excellent ballplayer.”

– Kenyon Martin played valuable minutes for the Knicks last season, and is currently an unrestricted free agent. But that doesn’t mean that New York has ruled out bringing him back for next season.

“Kenyon is still majorly in our picture,” Woodson said. “I like everything about what Kenyon did for our ball club last season, so we’re still in that evaluation stage, as well.”

– Woodson said he has been impressed with the play of both Toure Murry and Jeremy Tyler with the Knicks’ Summer League squad, and wants to try to bring them both to training camp before next season.

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.